Last weekend I was in Tucson, AZ speaking at the Body Love Conference. I don’t know how to express how life changing the experience was for me. I’ve written this blog post a few times this week and keep changing things. As my regular readers know, I’m a big fan of lists so here’s my “Top 10 List of Things I Learned at the Body Love Conference” (Trust me this list could be 1000+ things but it would take too long to read)
1. Leadership isn’t determined by age, gender, race, religion, or anything else you can think of
The Body Love Conference was the brain child of Jes Baker, aka The Militant Baker, and a crew of volunteers. The majority of these volunteers were all under 30, female, and few had any event planning experience. Regardless, they took their passion for the Body Love Movement and turned a 1st year event into 400 attendees, 35 speakers, multiple sponsors, and an international event. This crew rocks! I’m returning a changed woman and it’s because of their visions, leadership, and kick ass attitudes. To my BLCOG’s I LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!!!
2. “Moxie” is a word I will be bringing back
There’s an old family story that my great great grandmother lobbied Congress prior to even having the right to vote to have make train engineers stop to help the sick (she was a midwife) in West Virginia. My grandfather Minks, the man who first taught me about feminism, clearly adored his grandmother and often tells me I remind him of her. “You’re both pushers, dear. You get things done.” It’s so easy to think that people get tired of my “pushing” and always advocating. This weekend I was reminded that a girl needs a little moxie (aka courage and determination) to make changes in this world. My determination to bring about change has been refueled. With a little luck, my tombstone will one day read “She had moxie”
3. Sometimes the best lesson you can learn is what you’re not good at.
There were so many women I had the pleasure of spending time with in Tucson. Julie Jakolat (a rockin’ cool DJ, feminist, and all around great friend) was interviewing many of the speakers at the conference and I have to tell you it was an honor to be interviewed by her. An interview with Julie is quite a bit like therapy and was a great way to prepare for the sessions I was leading. She shared a piece of wisdom that has stuck with me, “Sometimes the best lesson you can learn is what you’re not good at.” We spend so much time trying to avoid life’s difficult lessons and yet some of the best lessons come from failure. That one was a game changer!
During Jes’s opening presentation, she asked the group of 400 how many people could say they loved their bodies completely. 20 people raised their hands. For the mathematically challenged, that’s 5%. I’m betting in a setting outside of the Body Love Conference, the numbers would be even lower. Loving your body is a journey that we’re all on. For me, I can say that I love my body completely. I’ve not always been able to say that and I’m going to have to continue working at it to continue loving my body. Thankfully so many great speakers at the Body Love Conference instilled me with tools that will help me stay on top of this journey.
5. Bad shit happens, turn it into something GREAT
My friend Kelly turned me on to The Militant Baker Blog a year or two ago and I’ve loved it from day 1 (THANKS KP!). This gave me a front row seat to her response to the Abercrombie CEO’s hateful comments and her stellar open letter & amazing photo shoot proving that people of all sizes & shapes can be sexy. During her opening speech, Jes shared that Mike Jefferies hateful words spurred her into action that ultimately created the Body Love Conference. When bad stuff happens and it will, take action and do something GREAT with your frustration, anger, and hurt.The photos will take your breath away and are the art work of Liora K Photography. She’s an amazing photographer. Travel to Tucson to work with her. You wont be sorry! Liora, one day…one day we’ll make it so he has to move into the basement!
It’s why I spoke on “Learning to Love Your Body After Sexual Assault”. Yes, it was horrible but the woman who told me my talk was meant for her and it “altered the course of her life” made every moment of living through the hell worth it. To every survivor of whatever you’re surviving, you got this! This is your time to turn it into something so much greater.
6. You’ll know when you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.
Doing this kind of work is exactly what I’m meant to do. It’s sincerely where I’m at my best. It drains me mentally, emotionally, sometimes physically yet all I can think about is getting back out there and doing more work to advance body positivity and survivorship. When you find what you’re meant to do, how you’re meant to impact the world, it comes with a certainty that can’t be explained. I spent the weekend with so many great leaders who are exactly where they’re meant to be. Ladies, you kick ass & I’m proud to be part of such a great group!
7. Paying forward an act of kindness makes room to experience even more kindness
In the hours after I was assaulted, my best friend made me say out loud I’d been raped. She changed my life and set me on a course for survivorship that has brought me to this point in my journey. I do my best to make her proud of how I pay it forward & what I’ve realized is that every time I pay forward that act of kindness, I open myself up to receive even more kindness. The kindness I gave away in sharing my story and volunteering my time, impacted people and gave them hope. In return, I received so much love and support from the sisterhood that is BLCOG. It fuels me to continue.
8. The best days occur when you completely screw up your travel plans
I made a giant mess of my travel plans and ended up staying an extra day. When I first learned of this I was a mess. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and wanted to be home with the hubz. However, an extra day in Tucson gave me a day to relax and enjoy this sisterhood I’ve become a part of. Some amazing food (Tucson is a total foodie town), the kindness of great friends who took me along even though I wasn’t scheduled to be there, and the fresh air and sunlight made for a perfect day.
9. If I try to return to the weight I was before my first diet I’d be 16 pounds
One of the sessions I attended was Reclaiming Body Trust: Improving Your Relationship with Food,Body, Self by Be Nourished. This sessions was a great discussion on our relationship with food and how to intuitively trust your body. Hillary and Dana are amazing. Such wisdom and courage. In the words of Dana, “We don’t know what you’re supposed to weigh and we’re the only ones who have the balls to tell you so.” Love the honesty these women bring to their work. They also shared that many clients often wish to be the weight they were when they first started dieting. This made me think of the first time I was on a diet. I was 4 months old when the pediatrician told my mother that I was 3 pounds over weight and she needed to put me on a diet because otherwise she’d raise a fat daughter. Seriously????? This doctor not only set the course for a continual struggle with food but also made my young mother feel like she was a failure. I left Tucson with a new commitment to discover what was healthy for me without an obsession with food and a desire to be whatever weight is right for my body. Hillary and Dana you rock!
10. It’s time to expand our definition of beauty.
The other session I attended was Pia Schiavo-Campo’s “Expanding Definitions of Beauty: Redefining the Thin White Ideal.” Pia pointed out what many of us already know but don’t acknowledge, all of the beauty examples put before us by the media now look alike. All of the images seem to contain very thin, tan, straightened hair, caucasian features, and bright white teeth. People around the world are surgically altering their bodies to make this possible. Skin lightening, eyelid surgeries, cheekbone implants, and extreme diets have become the norm. Why on earth are we putting up with it? This doesn’t represent beauty, it represents an industry taking us for millions of dollars. On the way back from Tucson, I opened an issue of Style Magazine only to find that any information on fashion for plus size women (that’s a size 12 or higher by the way and over half of American women) is written in small print, in corners, or on a back page of an article. This by the way was in the SHAPE issue. Pia, your message was heard loud and clear, my subscription has been cancelled. For the next 30 days I’m sharing on my facebook page images of women who don’t fit “the thin white ideal” in hopes of showing new forms of beauty that others can relate to. Pia calls it #radicaldiversity. I call it brilliance!
There are so many more wonderful stories I could tell and so many amazing people to thank/honor. Bottom line: YOU need to be at the Body Love Conference 2015! I’ll be sharing dates as soon as they’re available!