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Posts Tagged ‘body shaming’

As a rule I generally don’t feel compelled to respond to articles I read, but this one made me cringe with every paragraph.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathleen-brooks/being-fat_b_6097544.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

What upset me most was the undertone of self-loathing and helplessness.  It devastates me that people walk by this delightful human being and don’t recognize her humanity.  It’s a basic feeling that everyone needs and deserves…to be recognized for our inherent human dignity.  I am not skinny.  I haven’t been since high school.  I look in the mirror and most days I am comfortable with what I see.  Yes, I’d like to lose weight, but I don’t think weight defines my personhood.

I have called myself fat.  At times I still call myself fat.  And I am fat, by society’s standards.  My mother is underweight, significantly so, and is the first person to notice any weight gain.  It bothers me, but I don’t see her every day so I can usually shake off what she says.

There are times when I get looks from people, but I don’t care.  I know skinny people who have body dysmorphia, the same as me.  I am a food addict and I work at making healthy choices every single day.  Some days are better than others.

But I am more than what the scale tells me.  I am a gifted preacher and pastoral presence.  I connect with people on a spiritual and individual level.  I am an attentive and mindful listener.  I work hard at what I do.  God has blessed me in many ways.

I have curves, I have cellulite, I don’t like having my picture taken because I have not learned (yet) how to smile without looking artificial.  I am not as active as I should be.  I know I should get off my ass and move more than I do.

Yet I refuse to be judged because I cannot shop the petite section of a store and my dress size is in the double-digits.  I like my curves (for the most part).  I like how a dress hugs my hips and shows off my breasts.  I like feeling sexy.  And sometimes I actually do feel sexy.  I don’t think I would if I was as skinny as I was in high school.  Back then, I was built like an ironing board…and ironing boards are not sexy.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud women of all sizes.  I know women who have struggled with  and are currently struggling with eating disorders.

Being fat is not a sin.  While it may be seen as socially unacceptable, so is smoking in public places.  So is child abuse.  So is ignoring the homeless and refusing to see them as anything other than a nuisance and burden on society.

To Kathleen Brooks, know that you are a beautiful and remarkable woman.  Stop projecting what society is saying and making it baggage to carry around.  it is not your burden or cross to bear.  You are a talented, remarkable warrior woman. You have curves and hopes and dreams.  You have lived a remarkable life.  You have an incredible story to share.

Live your life out loud.  Don’t wait for someone else to make it okay.  Please stop putting yourself down.  You have a great life NOW.  You are successful and have survived kidney disease and transplantation!  That is no small feat.  You are woman, learn to roar…and share that roar.  Live your life larger than life.  And live it out loud.

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This is my second week back to work after a four-week medical leave. I actually was back a few days before my official return, simply because there were things that needed my attention, such as the death of a parishioner.

Last Wednesday we had her Celebration of Life at the Church and it was incredible. The parish family, her friends and family gathered to say farewell. Four years prior we had gathered to say farewell to her husband. There were many references to G’s celebration of life as we honoured S. Her three grandchildren took part; the eldest wrote a eulogy and the younger two assisted with communion.

On Saturday I joined a couple together in marriage. D and A met at a bereavement support group and over the next year or so they became friends and then even closer. At the beginning of their service five candles were lit. The outer two candles represented their late spouses and were lit by the children. They then lit the next candles for their parents. The parents took their candles and lit a unity candle. All five candles burned during the service. It was a wonderful way to remember the late spouses, who really were the reason for their meeting.

Yesterday I buried a 34-year-old woman who leaves behind a 13-year-old and a 9-year-old daughter. G and E were baptised at the Church two years ago. Their mum, grandma and aunt were baptised the week after. Both were glorious celebrations. The gathering at the funeral home chapel was very somber and sad. L’s husband R wrote and delivered a eulogy, as did G and E. By the time the eulogies were finished the entire chapel was in tears, sobbing, wailing, it was awful. Open and raw grief.

I wasn’t sure what to do.

So I told the story of how I met L, through her daughters. And people laughed. And laughed some more. The readings chosen were very poignant and during my homily there were more tears, but this time they were tears of acceptance, of love, of understanding.

We know that L is gone from our sight, but she remains in our hearts. She will live on through her family. And with a family of the size it is, her legacy will last for generations.

It was, bar none, the most challenging celebration of life I have ever presided. Seeing the faces of her parents, her husband and her daughters made my heart ache. Then hearing the stories during the reception, people seeking out people they did not know, and sharing stories of L made the grief feel bearable.

It will take a while for the dust to settle. E told me she wants to come back to Church. Her father agreed, and so did her sister. It will be wonderful to welcome them home; that we may bear some of the load for them, as their parish family.

Days like these describe humble me in ways that defy description. Knowing I have had the opportunity to journey with so many families is such an incredible honour.

The phone rang recently with the news of another young person, dying unexpectedly in Halifax. Nine months ago we buried his father, and six months ago we buried his mother. I cannot imagine how his brother is feeling. But once F comes home to be laid to rest, we will do our best to keep his memory alive.

Moments like this remind me of the frailty and fleeing nature of life. We do not know what the future holds and should live each day to the fullest. But we also need to refresh and refill ourselves. That is a lesson I am learning.

During my time off I decided I would honour myself better than I have been. I would take my day off, and would not push myself too hard. I turned the page on negative thinking, and negative self-talk. I decided I would begin after my leave by starting over, loving myself and those I encounter. It will be an ongoing journey, and I am confident I can do it. One step at a time.

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Lately in the media there’s been a lot of body shaming. It’s likely always been there and its only recently that I’m noticing it. There’s the magazine cover shaming where the headline teaser is about losing weight and being the best you can be. There’s the unhealthy images that exploit women, regardless of size, to be thinner.

Dove has recently launched a series of ads touted as “real beauty”. True confession time…I sent in a head shot of myself nearly a year ago. I got an email asking to send more photos of myself, which I did. Then I was called and asked to attend a photo shoot. The date that was chosen was the same date as a wedding I was presiding so I politely explained, and withdrew from the contest.

I wondered, for a long time, if I had been chosen because of my profession…as an Anglican priest. How cool would it be to give a face to “real beauty”. I was extremely flattered that I made it to the final 50 and I received a lovely gift basket with Dove products that the entire family was able to enjoy.

And now the most recent ad, featuring a forensic artist, is being touted as both excellent and exclusive. I like the message, that we are all beautiful. And I do believe that, I preach about it often enough. But the ad featured young women, the only women who were shown in the final cut of the ad were white. There are a few faces of beautiful women of colour, but they don’t get to speak in the ad. That concerns me.

This Sunday in the city next to the village where I live, there is a “Slut Walk”. While the title of the event makes me cringe, it is something in which I will participate. I have friends who are transgender, both men and women. Recently one of my female friends was walking with her partner in the city and they were jeered and heckled. Both women felt frightened, but maintained their dignity through their fear.

NO woman or man should have to feel this way. NO man or woman has the right to judge those who are different.

I am participating in the Walk on Sunday afternoon. I’m thinking about wearing my clerical collar in order to show support as a woman of faith. I have been uncomfortable walking to my car after an evening meeting. Not so much in the village where I live, but definitely when I am in the city. And it’s not right. And it’s not fair.

So I’m going to stand with my sisters and brothers in solidarity. I will wear my clerical collar and comfortable shoes. There will be pants and a jacket, just not sure which ones. I will walk for those who have been hurt. I will sing for those who feel their voices silenced. I will dance with those who have lost the joy in their lives.

I’m going to speak out against body shaming. Regardless of how much we weigh. Regardless of how we choose to dress. Regardless of what we might have said or done. Nobody deserves to be hurt.

In the wake of the Boston bombings people are more anxious then ever to join in a crowd. As a strong introvert I have a hard time being in a crowd, but I will be there with my friends. And we will look out for each other.

Because it’s time to put an end to the violence. It’s time to stand together, shoulder to shoulder and speak out for those who cannot speak. To remember those who have given their lives. We will dance, we will sing, we will laugh. We will remember. Always.

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