Fat and proud

By |2005-02-10T09:00:00-05:00February 10th, 2005|Uncategorized|

ANN ARBOR – OK, let’s start here: What is “fat liberation?” Admit it, you read the subhead and wondered, right? Well, worry not. Heather MacAllister has an answer for you.
“It is the radical concept that people can be healthy, happy and sexually attractive at every size, large or small,” she said. “That’s not to say that everyone is healthy. There are people who have health issues. But that’s thin or fat. It’s not inherently unhealthy and – more importantly – no one deserves to be discriminated against and fat liberation is about ending discrimination.”
Now before you size threes out there throw this story down and move on, consider this:
“Ultimately, fat liberation helps everyone with any kind of body because it flies in the face of the billion dollar industry that supports people being dissatisfied with their bodies – the weight loss industries, cosmetic surgeries and fashion,” said MacAllister. “I love fashion, but the industry holds up an ideal that very few people can obtain so we spend our time focused on how we look rather than how we feel.”
These are radical concepts, right? Well, MacAllister revels in her rebel status. In fact, her stage name is RevaLucian. Stage name, you say? What sort of performer could she possibly be? MacAllister, a native Detroiter who identifies as “queer,” is the founder of San Francisco’s Big Burlesque – The Original Fat Bottom Review. MacAllister quit her job as a field organizer for the Triangle Foundation in 2002 to move west and open shop.
“I knew that if I came to San Francisco not only would I have a bigger audience for what I wanted to do but I’d be able to find more dancers,” she said. “The Bay Area is the epicenter for fat liberation. If you want to do anything concerning fat liberation, in my experience, this is the place to be.”
Gee, up until a few moments ago you’d never known there was such a thing as fat liberation. Now you find out that the movement has an epicenter, too! What is the world coming to? Acceptance of people of all sizes, MacAllister hopes.
“I’m a political progressive, to say the least, and in the progressive community there is a lot of mention made about the over-consumption of the American public,” said MacAllister. “Unfortunately that gets conflated into ‘Americans are fat’ and that is bad. That’s problematic. You can’t put the two together. There are a lot of people who eat. You can be a thin person and have the same eating habits and consumption as a fat person. No one should be shamed for the way they look. If you want to shame someone’s behavior, that’s different. We need to problematize behavior not bodies.”
Some people are going to be fat no matter they eat, said MacAllister. That’s just a fact of life.
“But no one makes the distinction between someone’s behavior and how they look. There are a lot of people who genetically are going to be bigger no matter what they eat. I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years.”
So, you’re still not ready to slap a Fat Liberation bumper sticker on the back of your car? Well, come out to MacAllister’s program, “Real Bodies: A Bodylove Workshop,” at the University of Michigan next week, and maybe she’ll make a believer out of you yet. “Some of the people at the university are uncomfortable with including the burlesque aspect in the workshop and I understand that because they don’t understand what burlesque is,” said MacAllister. “We’re not all going to be getting naked in the workshop. So if that’s what you’re coming for, you’re going to be disappointed.”
MacAllister said the workshop is divided into two parts. The first is a lecture on body image complete with resources and information on health and size. Part two relates to her work in the burlesque field and reinforces the information learned through a physical demonstration.
At the end of the workshop, it’s MacAllister’s hope that attendees will begin looking at their bodies in a different way.
“People get obsessed over five pounds,” she said. “Their biggest fear is getting fat, not getting cancer, but getting fat. We’re going to look at that and how to really radically alter your perception about what your body should look like.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.