Have you ever confronted fat prejudice actively? You know, put yourself out there…and confronted someone who you know will not like you simply because you’re fat?
I don’t know about you but I’ve never done it. I’m proud of the way I am but you know, I’m not sure if I want to go argue with someone or justify to them why it’s okay to be me at my size.
But Raina Lee, a plus size Australian got involved in a Living Library project at her university to confront fat prejudice.
photo by jamescridland
What is Living Library?
As the website describes it, “The Living Library is an innovative project designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices and thereby encourage integration. Visitors to the Living Library are given the opportunity to speak informally with “people on loan”; this latter group being extremely varied in age, sex and cultural background. The Living Library enables groups to break stereotypes by challenging the most common prejudices in a positive and humorous manner. It is a concrete, easily transferable and affordable way of promoting tolerance and understanding.”
To put it simply, you could become a “book” for a day, and people will “borrow” you to “read” you the way they would read a book. The point is to get people to “borrow” a person they wouldn’t normally have interacted with – and do away with prejudice.
What did Raina Do?
As a BBW, Raina volunteered to be a book for people to read and understand that the stereotypes they project on fat people might not necessarily be true.
The Autobiography of the Fat Book
Read her story here. She writes it in three parts, taking us through the various stages and emotions involved in her being this book.
The first part of the book is about her introduction to Living Library and her decision to volunteer as a book. For her introductory blurb she wrote, “FAT PERSON - "I think one of the biggest 'light bulb' moments in my life was when I realized that I am not a broken thin person. I'm a person with feelings, dreams and aspirations - and those don't all revolve around the size or shape of my body." In an atmosphere of hysteria about the obesity crisis, what is it really like being a fat person today? Have a read and find out.”
The second part is about her preparatory meeting. (Not) surprisingly enough, even in anti-discrimination project you will find “books” already prejudiced about ‘Fat Person’ and not even interested in reading it.
She says, “When it got to me, some of the other books had a really strong reaction to my comments - some of them were nodding vigorously and turned around towards me, but some crossed their legs away from me, folded their arms, refused to even look at me, shook their heads, etc.”
This is the part about the actual experience of being “borrowed” and “read” and she talks about her experience.
“One of the women who talked to me was talking about stereotypes, and I said that people had assumed that I was dirty, smelly, un-organised, out of control and unintelligent. Her response was, "Well, I can understand the first things...but you are so not unintelligent!" and then she realized what she said.”
It was an interesting read for me and more so because we all understand what it’s like to be stereotyped, being insulted, or simply being ignored because of our size. So have a read, and let me know what you think.