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I recently had a conversation with my partner about safe spaces and it got me thinking. What would it be like to have fat positive safe spaces? Do they already exist?
What Are Safe Spaces?
Let’s start by talking about what safe spaces even are. You might have seen one of these stickers on your guidance counselor’s office in high school, at a women’s resource center, or a youth social service agency:
Safe Space’s were created to allow queer and trans students in schools to know their identities would be respected in that space. Sounds pretty reasonable, right? I think so.
Well, there’s actually been some serious push back on Safe Spaces from non queer and trans folks. Some people seem to think we are asking for something that’s unattainable.They argue that we demand a place with magic fairy dust sprinkled around the borders, keeping anyone from saying anything negative about a person in that area. Which, yeah, might seem a bit much.
Except that’s never what I expected of a Safe Space, and I don’t think others do either. When I saw that pink triangle I thought to myself, “Oh good, someone here cares about me.” Its not that I thought people should expect to be banished from the face of the Earth if they said something negative about me in that area. I just felt like someone in a position of power would hear me and make me feel safe if someone was making me feel otherwise based on my sexuality/gender. My identity would be respected in a case of bullying and the perpetrator would be called out on it, instead of letting it slide like the rest of the world does.
Not A Concept For All
Think about how meaningful that could be for a person. Imagine feeling unsafe in the world because you know that people around you wont correct someone who uses hateful comments. A world where no one stands up for you.
Imagine seeing that safe space sign for the first time. The relief you’d feel. Imagine knowing that someone would combat oppressive language with something like, “hey, that’s not a cool thing to say here,” or “that phrase is inappropriate and hurtful, please don’t use that language here. It is harmful to x, y, and z.” That would certainly make me feel more safe.
Safe Spaces are meant to be a place where those who are bullied can know that their safety will be prioritized when the inevitable intolerance happens. Its not that we think the bullying won’t happen. People of oppressed groups often even expect it out in the world. We just hope that someone will stand up for us and use their voice of privilege to educate others. That seems to be a difficult concept for folks who’s identities are rarely invalidated.
Why is this important though? Safe Spaces are important because oppressive language, intolerance, and bullying needs to stop. Most people who are “on the right side of history” have agreed that gay people should be allowed the right to marry. That’s certainly not the end of the fight, as we are still trying to get our identities recognized and our rights to be respected all over the country. But I believe that despite the setback of who we have in the office right now, we are moving in the right direction! More and more people are jumping on the equality train.
And guess what, fat folks deserve that too.
Fat Positive Safe Spaces
What would it be like to have Safe Spaces for fat folks? Places where fatties could take risks like dancing in public or even just eating in public? Spaces where plus size people could feel sexy, try clothes on, work out, and be vulnerable without risk of ridicule? Venues that keep us in mind when even just designing seating options?
At first I was afraid that it might be too radical to ask the straight size majority for space for such a thing. But guess what? The fat community is already doing it y’all.
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We have spots left for tomorrow's class at @theplusbus! Repost from @queerfatfemme – The rain in LA (and the residual sweat of @ponysweat) made the move studio like a rainforest last night but the spirits were high and joy burst off everyone as they left! We tried out a new disco number for the new year that I'm also bringing to Wednesday night's invite only class @theplusbus! Check your inboxes now if I have your email. If I don't, DM me with your email so I can put you on my list! #fatkiddanceparty #highfiveforselfcare #newfitspo #lalifestyle
A post shared by Fat Kid Dance Party (@fatkiddanceparty) on
Fat Kid Dance Party is a dance/aerobics class for people of all sizes! Based in Los Angeles, FKDP raves about “healing body shame through fun dance moves,” and works on overcoming body oppression by having a place to comfortably move your body! Don’t worry, if you live elsewhere, you can totally buy workout downloads.
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Enjoy another image of us living out our lingerie dreams at @windycitypinup with all three of us in @glamoryhosiery thigh highs 💋 . . Carina's h&m is by @beautybyweetzie And bra/garter belt are @vivavoluptuous.uk. photo by @windycitypinup . . #chicagoburlesque #burlesque #plussizeburlesque #plussizelingerie #plussize #bodypositive #thickthighs #thickthighssavelives #bigbellycrew #cellulite #effyourbeautystandards #bigarmnoharm #happyfatgirl #fatandfree #curvesreign #plussizepinup
A post shared by The Femme FATales (@thefemmefatalesburlesque) on
The Femme FATales are a burlesque troupe focused on body positivity and fat activism. They are a space for plus sized women and femme-aligned folks to feel safe to express their sexuality and redefine how fat bodies are allowed to be celebrated in the world. How amazing is that? A safe space for beautiful fat babes to feel sexy and dance the night away. LOVE IT!
ALLGO is a review app which gives fat people the opportunity to rate places that are or are not fat friendly. You can rate on comfort and accessibility, which is INCREDIBLE. How many times have you been, as a fellow fatty, afraid to try a new place out because the fear of inaccessibility was just too much? No more y’all. This app is a game changer.
I am so thrilled that these spaces exist! I want fat folks, allies, and the general public to take note of the ways in which these spaces are beneficial. Look at the sense of community and happiness you can foster when you create space for people to thrive. Fat people are out there searching for classes, resources, and groups where we can build connections. I want feminists to bring fatties into their intersectionalist practice. Lets get out there and make more of these spaces, and make them accessible to all. Make the world more comfortable.