Who (wrote it)?: Jes Baker, activist and blogger at The Militant Baker, a site that, in its words, “offers fresh and colorful perspective on what is presented as normal to those immersed in our gender bent, body loathing society.”
What (is it)? Subtitled “A Handbook for Unapologetic Living,” this book aims to be a guide for (primarily) women to accept and love their bodies and live better, more fulfilling lives. It felt like series of quasi-academic essays from the blog mixed with a healthy dose of self-help and a dash of personal memoir.
When (are we)?: Published October 27, 2015. This book feels VERY mid-2010’s (what are we calling this decade, anyway?).
Where (are we)?: This book is so deeply rooted in a very particular activist/feminist/millennial corner of the internet that I feel like the answer to this question should actually be “Tumblr.” I know that might come off sounding a bit dismissive, which, I promise, is not my intention.
Why (read it)?: I picked it up (or, more accurately, checked out the audiobook through the Hoopla app on my phone) because, well, I qualify as a “fat girl” and was curious. My exposure to the movement was pretty minimal, but the idea that hating our bodies because they do not conform to beauty standards is crap and counterproductive seemed pretty reasonable to me.
How (did I like it)? Honestly… meh. I was a little disappointed with this book, and I’m struggling to put my finger on why. As a person who has struggled with her weight her entire life and who has internalized a whole lot of shame because of it, I thought I was this book’s target market, but it didn’t feel like that as I listened as Baker recommends selfies as self-esteem therapy, urges me to diversify my Tumblr feed, and asks the reader to tackle the “Fat People Do All The Things” challenges such as “swing” (as in at a playground) or “jump.”Now… Baker goes out of her way to make the book inclusive, intersectional, and non-judgmental as possible, and I am not trying to say that I am part of some marginalized population whose needs she doesn’t address. But…
She espouses a sort of in-your-face-with-my-fabulous-fat-ass brand of empowerment that leaves me cold. Wear what you want, she says. But what she talks about is wearing crop tops, bright colors, and mini-skirts. Don’t put up with fat-shaming, she says. But what she talks about is aggressive confrontation. Learn to love and accept your body, she says. But what she talks about is taking selfies and getting nekkid for strangers.
I am not saying that any of these things are bad, but they are not for me, whatever size I might be. I am all for unapologetic living, but after a while, it felt like I was being told that the only way to get there was to get on board with Baker’s aggressive, in-your-face, Fat and Fabulous™ approach.
None of this is to say this is not a good book. Baker is doing important work, and there is tons of useful information here. It’s just not the book for me.