It’s finally here: My interview with Jes Baker, known to the world as The Militant Baker! Jes was in Rochester last week to give her talk, “Change the World, Love Your Body.” I was thrilled to be able to hear her speak, and she did not disappoint. She talked about her theories on why and how fat became the worst thing a person can be, offered us ten ways to learn to love our bodies, and explained how individual body love can change the world. I hope you get a chance to see Jes speak live one day, because it will change your life in the best way. (Check out her TEDxTuscon talk here.)
Pretty soon, you’ll be able to bring Jes home with you in the form of her new book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, which comes out in September. In the meantime, see what she had to say when I had the chance to ask her some questions after her talk. It’s a long post, I know, but totally worth your time. Bonus: fabulous fatties photos!
BLS: What is the best part about what you do?
JB: I think that speaking has turned into my favorite part. Because it’s really nice to reach millions of people online, but there is something really special about meeting people in person. And afterwards, a lot of people come up and they ask you questions, but really they just want to tell you their story. Because we know we don’t really have many people we can have these conversations with. So that is really wonderful, and I’ve heard a lot of really touching stories, and met a lot of really amazing people, and can’t believe I get paid to do this.
BLS: What’s the hardest part?
JB: I hate dealing with the amount of hate that comes towards me, the bullying. It’s just terrible, there’s no way around it. I’m not gonna pretend like it doesn’t exist, I’m not gonna pretend like it’s not hard to deal with. But what’s really lucky, that I just realized, is that there comes a point where it’s so extreme, and there’s so much of it, that it just turns into noise. And I finally hit that part where I will never please everyone, I will always be hated by some – loved by many, hated by some – and it has no bearing on me, my worth, my job. And so that was really liberating.
BLS: Do you think that one day fat people will truly be treated as equals of thin people?
JB: No. Not necessarily. I know it’s not 100% likely, because anger, hate, violence have been around forever. There will always be bullies. You know, my generation’s obsessed with diversity, so we’re seeing a lot of progression, which is very exciting. But there will always be a scapegoat. And I don’t know if it will be a body shape, or if it will be something else, but I know that hate, anger, bullying, will never go away. Because it’s, unfortunately, human nature. So I don’t know where it’s gonna go, but I do think, gradually, we see it getting better. As far as getting rid of body stigma, we obviously are seeing huge improvements. So I think it will continue to improve, but if you’re asking if it will go away 100%, I can’t say that it will.
BLS: What advice do you have those of us who are already involved in the body acceptance/love movements?
JB: Well, I think there’s a lot of requests for Body Love 201, and I think that’s a fair request. But I don’t think it’s fair to request it of other people. My role in this movement is not to come up with anything new. My role is to bring the message to people who are still in pre-body love and translate it into their language and meet them where they’re at. It’s kind of like I’m the gatekeeper, where I meet people in the very beginning and then you can progress. Because there’s lots of academics who have done a lot of research, and you can learn so much from them, but that’s not my job. So when people ask for 201, I would just encourage them to do it themselves. We need somebody to bring 201 to the masses.
BLS: What does Body Love 201 mean to you?
JB: I think it gets more radical. I am fully progressing that way. I think that health is a really great place to start. Our culture’s obsessed with health. We say ‘healthy is the new skinny.’ And so there’s a lot of learning that can happen there, there’s a lot of revolutionizing that can happen there. I used to say, “Well, my body’s healthy,” and that was radical to me. And that’s what I would talk about. I thought it was really justified and very important. And to a certain extent, there’s people who don’t believe that. And it is [very important]! The level up from that is, “It’s none of your f**king business! I am not less worthy because I’m unhealthy.” And so that’s where I’ve progressed to. I refuse to quantify my health for people, because it has no bearing on me as a person, and my worth. And it’s none of their business. Stacy Bias is a really great person to follow. She does 201. She does this whole comic of good fatty archetypes, and it’s fascinating… and really offensive to a lot of people, because we define ourselves as good fatties, right? And we’re like, ‘Ah! You can’t be talking sh*t about me!’ But she’s not. She’s just breaking it down to things we never think about. So that’s kind of what I’m talking about.
BLS: Okay, these are the two most important questions: What is your favorite movie of all time?
BLS: What’s your favorite TV show? Because you haven’t watched Friday Night Lights yet, so that’s not the answer… yet. [Jes laughs.]
BLS: Anything else you want to say to my one hundred readers?
JB: Yeah! Well, first I’m gonna share this [on Facebook], so that’ll be fun, so don’t misquote me and tell people to lose weight.
BLS: Honey, that would never happen in five million years.
JB: I know, I’m just teasing. I think it’s just really important for people to do their own research. Especially in our social media culture, we see something, we make assumptions, we like it without reading it. And I think that’s relevant because we do the same thing with health indoctrination and all of that. And the information’s out there, so people shouldn’t necessarily believe me. They should do further research and make their own opinions. And I think once people start that, it becomes intoxicating, and that’s where a lot of change happens, in doing the research yourself instead of just listening to other people.
BLS: That word is great, intoxicating. Because when I started on this path, I had no idea where I would go. And it’s been the most amazing journey, and I’m glad it’s still going. I’m glad there’s not an end in sight. I mean, I marathon, so you say, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” And I feel that way about body love and acceptance. It’s just gonna keep going on and on. And even knowing people like you and Ragen Chastain and Marilyn Wann and many of the people that you’ve mentioned tonight, this community that’s out there – and I had no idea these people were out there, and it’s just amazing to know that there’s that community. And to feel a part of it.
JB: I remember just discovering body positivity. It was an accident. [Jes describes finding the now-defunct blog The Nearsighted Owl, which was written by a “super fat” woman whom Jes describes was “like me.” You can find Rachele online now over at Lady Bits.] I remember clicking out of it, because it made me uncomfortable, and then going back, out of curiosity. I eventually kept reading, and then it hit me – and I feel so sad that had to be this moment, but there was a moment where I had that realization, “Maybe I don’t have to hate myself for the rest of my life.” And it blows my mind that some people have never had that realization. I did, and once you know that, you can’t unknow that. And the excitement that comes from blog hopping, and following more and more people, and realizing there’s so many people involved. There is a culture and a community there that you can find. And everyone belongs, and it’s so cool.
BLS: I think that’s one of the most powerful things that you talked about tonight, that I’ve talked to other people about to, is that it is revolutionary to realize that you don’t have to hate yourself. [Jes laughs.] And it’s ridiculous to even say that’s revolutionary, but it is. I’m so grateful for people like you, and I’m just gonna grab on to your coattails and ride along with you, if that’s okay.
JB: Yep, sounds good. We all gotta do it.