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4 Body positive books to read right now

Author:
bopo1

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

Body positivity – or ‘bo-po’ – has been gaining mainstream momentum in this past year. In some moments, this has seemed wonderful. It is heart-warming and inspiring to be able to scroll through Instagram and see people showing their bodies some appreciation. Conversations have been started in publications and between people that wouldn’t be expected. More people have started to see the problems with the ‘clean eating’ movement, and started saying ‘fuck you, I eat what I want’ to diet culture.

Unfortunately, the body positive movement that has sprung from Instagram has a huge problem – pun intended. The issue is that fat positivity and fat liberation is a movement that has existed for several decades, and it is now being swept aside. The work of fat activists has been overlooked and undermined, and the radical faces of the movement have been replaced by those already privileged in society. The bodies of white, thin or curvy cisgender women are more palatable to the wider world than those of fat people, queer people, and people of colour – but ‘body positivity’ that doesn’t include marginalised bodies isn’t doing the necessary work.

Reading is my favourite tool for learning and growing, as well as something I enjoy as entertainment. Reading anti-diet culture books, fat positive memoirs and feminist fiction has been instrumental to me in reprogramming my brain. I wanted to share some of my favourites, in the hopes that others will support the work of fat activists and learn from them too.

Every Body Yoga – Jessamyn Stanley

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I love yoga and believe in its value, but I recognise the problems with the mainstream movement. It has turned into a competition, a fitness trend, and something which can feel very exclusive. I love Jessamyn because she isn’t afraid to explain how that doesn’t fit with the philosophy of yoga. She makes it feel like something that everyone and anyone can practice, should they want to – because anyone and everyone CAN. This book provides easy to follow basic yoga poses and routines which are focused on emotional healing. She details how a practice can be done from home – making it accessible to those without the funds for classes at a fancy studio – and shows that yoga isn’t about being ‘good at it’. She is honest about her own challenges with some poses, and provides encouragement and wisdom throughout. It’s wonderful. Jessamyn is wonderful.

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls – Jes Baker

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Jes Baker – aka The Militant Baker – is my favourite person on the internet. She’s honest and vulnerable about mental health. She posts gorgeous and fabulous outfit posts. She’s unapologetic about living her life, and gives the middle finger to anyone who has a problem with it. She is funny and smart and thoughtful, providing a platform for other marginalised folks through her own work. Her first book is basically a bible, one that I pick up again and again when I need a boost and reminder to not give in to the bullshit. It’s one for people new to fat liberation, and for those who are more familiar with the movement. Read it. It’ll tell you what you need to hear.

Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got A Life – Kelsey Miller

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You may have heard of Kelsey Miller. She writes for the popular site Refinery29, and started a column called The Anti-Diet Project. You should check that out, too.
Her memoir is astonishingly funny as it is painful and relatable. For me, personally, it was the first book I read that put intuitive eating into context and helped me to understand it. Reading about a real person – someone who had been in a similar headspace to me – and their journey was invaluable, as it showed it to be imperfect and complicated and ever-changing. It made the journey tangible, and feel more possible.

Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion – Virgie Tovar

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This is an anthology of essays and stories from a diverse group of people about their experiences in their bodies. There’s pieces on learning to love your fat body, finding fat community, fashion as power, sex and pleasure, giving up dieting, and so much more. It’s all well written, and it provides a window into experiences we don’t hear enough about – even though they’re hardly uncommon experiences.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There’s great fat-positive fiction, there’s academic work in fat studies, there are memoirs and essay collections galore. Fat liberation isn’t a small movement, just an overlooked one. These books are good places to start. They will show you the way to other activists, other work, and more fat babe radness.

Happy Playland webseries review

Author:
happy playland

By Anna Hill

Do you like musicals? And stories that centre women loving women? Then oh boy is this the webseries for you!! Made by the incredible Candle Wasters who have also made great and queer inclusive adaptations of the Shakespeare plays A Midsummer Nights Dream, as BRIGHT SUMMER NIGHT, Much Ado About Nothing as Nothing Much To Do and Love’s Labour Lost as Lovely Little Losers. Their latest creation is the brightest and most charming of them all!

Happy Playland is the story of 3 people (Billie, Cris & Zara) who work at a children’s play gym – one of those ones you might have played in as a child; with a ball pit and obstacle courses and climbing nets. The story is told in multiple ways – from social networks outside of youtube (namely Cris’ Instagram) as well as within the episodes themselves. Sometimes we glimpse Billie’s internal monologue, or her dream. In another episode Cris is on skype but she’s present within the shot and it works really well – Cris even has a whole song in another episode where she orchestrates some romantic entanglements and narrates them, dancing the whole time. The webseries also shows a really sensitive and accurate representation of what anxiety looks like for some people, which was a bittersweet surprise!

For someone who is interested in arts I found a lot that reflected my experience in terms of chasing my own dreams. I am currently part of an art collective, so when Billie says her parents said that “anything with the word collective in it wasn’t a real job” it hit pretty close to home! How do you “follow your dreams” without losing people you love? And the discussion of success and anxiety was really pertinent too – the idea that you have to “be successful to make it worth it” has made me consider how I approach my own artistic success (whatever that means!).

The characters are so enjoyable to watch and the dialogue is funny and relatable. Zara and Billie are a lot more fleshed out than Cris but in some ways that’s refreshing because Cris is the token straight character in the series. She’s helpful in furthering the development of the two queer women together and is also some comedic relief – mimicking the way that queer characters are often used (and dehumanised!) in mainstream plots.

The aesthetics of the show are super fun! A riot of colours! With each character loosely wearing one of the primary colours (so Billie is yellow, Zara is red and Cris is blue), the clothing and colours make the whole show even more alive and vibrant (plus I have fringe envy over Billie’s cool punk pink/black hair).

The music in the show is melodic and varied and there are some really intense moments that show how talented everyone involved is! The harmonies are really great and the lyrics are generally painfully relatable and/or funny. You can listen to the music here. My favourite songs I think are I’ll Be Here and For Once and also maybe Stop and Think!! (this is hard, they are all so good and fun)

One of my favourite lines comes from Zara: “she talks in all lowercase letters, do you know how sexy that is? that’s like the modern day equivalent of Marilyn Monroe breathing too much when she talks”. This show was probably made for me – a lowercase writer, a queer femme musical lover; its so incredibly awkward and enjoyable (I think lots of us will have felt like the “stakes are too high forgotten how to flirt”). The bittersweetness of the way it represents relationships is what has brought me back to it to watch over and over again.

The literature of hope #2

Author:
hope-painting

By Anna Hill

Sorry for the 8 month break this series took, but hope is a pretty scarce resource when the whole world is on fire. But I’m back and ready to share some hopeful bits and bobs with you. Hopefully you can find something that nourishes you and renews your faith in yourself and your community.

Happy playland – webseries

If you like musicals and queer girl love this is the webseries for you!! Made by the incredible candle wasters (who previously have made adaptations of the Shakespeare plays a midsummer nights dream and much ado about nothing), it explores billie, cris and zara’s relationships as they work at Happy Playland – a kids playground in its last few weeks of being open. Its also about anxiety and following your dreams and is so wholesome! Definitely an incredibly cute relief to the absolute horror that being alive is.

Amandla Stenberg’s video on Teen Vogue – “You Are Here”

Amandla has made this really sweet and calming video. It’s a very soothing thing to watch. Its also a lovely reminder to check in with yourself about how you are and how your body is doing. A space for you to listen to Amandla’s voice and remember that you deserve self kindness and comfort.

W.I.T.C.H. PDX

W.I.T.C.H PDX is a branch of an international witch conspiracy fighting against oppression of all kinds, inspired by the 1960s group of the same name. From their website:

A SINGLE WITCH IS A DANGEROUS OUTLIER. A COVEN IS A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH. AN INTERNATIONAL CIRCLE OF WITCHES IS UNSTOPPABLE.

WE AIM TO USE OUR POWER TO FIGHT INJUSTICE IN ALL ITS INTERSECTIONAL FORMS, AND HELP DISMANTLE THE WHITE SUPREMACIST PATRIARCHAL SYSTEM THAT PERPETRATES IT.

WE WILL NOT CONFORM. WE WILL NOT OBEY. WE WILL NOT BE SILENT.

They even have information about how to set up your own W.I.T.C.H. group, with three simple rules: you must be anonymous, intersectional and differentiate your group with the name of your city – so if that sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to do it! There is so much power in witchcraft and community!

On top of their general inspiring amazingness they also fairly recently came out with a zine which I proceeded to print and stick to my walls! I would definitely recommend you do so too!!

radical softness by soofiya

this tiny poetry book is full of vulnerable, poignant poems and inspiring images. It’s about survival and self love, post traumatic stress disorder, resistance, domestic violence, gardens and swimming and much more. Its also funny too – one of my favourite poems is this one:

I prayed to Allah

to make me special.

I wanted superpowers

Telekinesis.

God gave me a hormonal imbalance

I think if you like rupi kaur’s book milk and honey that you will enjoy this collection too!

Audre Lorde – A litany for survival poem

(it’s the first poem in the pdf file this link takes you to)

my favourite lines are the last three, but the whole poem is a glorious reminder of how we have survived and how resilient we are. How we can get through this because we have!!

So it is better to speak

remembering

we were never meant to survive

I hope you found these helpful! Sending you resistance and power!!

You can read the first literature of hope post here.

Summer reads 2017

Author:
sophia3

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

It’s that time of year again. If you’re lucky, the sun is out and shining gloriously down on you. If you’re British, it’s occasionally poking through the clouds a bit – and you’re chasing the patches of light whilst simultaneously groaning about the ‘heat’.

Oh yes. It’s Summer.

The best thing about Summer – in my humble opinion – is that there’s time to read, and no restrictions on what it is that you read. It makes me nervous that in a few years, my life won’t be structured around academic years, and I won’t have this open space to dedicate to lounging around, reading book after book. But I’m trying not to think about that too hard – I’ll save the breakdowns about my impending adulthood for more convenient times, such as exam season.

I’ve just finished my first year at university, where I study English Literature. I have read a few books for pleasure here and there, but I’ve found that when I’ve had free time I’ve wanted to spend it on other pursuits – by which I mean Netflix. I never thought I’d say this, but I haven’t wanted to read that much. I’ve been excited by new books and blew my student loan in Waterstones at the beginning of each term, but I haven’t read many of them. I’m generally very content to spend 85% of my time reading, but when I have no control over my TBR pile and said pile is full of pretentious essays that make little sense, and unsatisfying poetry written by white men I’m less keen. I love my degree, but it does suck some of the joy out of my favourite hobby.

However, now that I’ve had some time to decompress – and exhausted everything of interest on Netflix – I’m ready to read again. And I’m excited about it. Hopefully, you’re also feeling excited about it. It’s exciting. Books mean that not going on holiday doesn’t matter – you can travel all over the universe and across time, from the comfort of your home.

If you’re looking for some summer reading recommendations, you’re in the right place. I’m not going to patronise you and suggest nothing but novels about romance, shopping, and chocolate (which can be great fun, of course, but I’m tired of the assumptions that these kinds of lists tend to make). There are plenty of places you can go to for that. Powered By Girl is here to give you an alternative.

If you’re a fan of graphic novels, try….

PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi. All of Marjane Satrapi’s work is wonderful, but this is definitely the place to start. It’s an autobiography of her childhood and young adulthood, depicted in a beautiful and distinct style. Marjane grew up in Iran, during and after the Islamic Revolution, and PERSEPOLIS provides a great insight into what that was like. It is situated in personal experience but it also reveals a lot about the history and politics of the time. If you’re looking for something more lighthearted, EMBROIDERIES is fun and engaging, and is a completely unique work. It’s also a personal favourite of mine, just saying.

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If you’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale, try…

THE POWER by Naomi Alderman. This book has the greatest concept ever. Women can kill men with touch. If that isn’t the ultimate superpower, I don’t know what is. I also love ONLY EVER YOURS by Louise O’Neill, a novel heavily influenced by Margaret Atwood’s feminist masterpiece. It thoroughly critiques beauty standards and diet culture through compelling storytelling. It’s dystopian and yet hits incredibly close to home – it reflects the reality of our world and that is disturbing. If you struggle with an eating disorder, please be careful as it is brutally honest and does use numbers. Look after yourself and please reach out for support if you are triggered.

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If you’re pissed off about bi-erasure at Pride, try…

BI: NOTES FOR A BISEXUAL REVOLUTION by Shiri Eisner – a validating and thought-provoking manifesto for bi babes, everywhere. Reading this will make you feel powerful. It will remind you that it is not you that is wrong. They are.

If you miss One Direction and those solo careers aren’t quenching your thirst, try…

GRACE AND THE FEVER by Zan Romanoff. In case you’d forgotten, I love One Direction. And yes, I’m enjoying their solo careers, for the most part. But I miss them being THEM. To fill the void, I am reading a lot of boy band related fiction. YA authors sure do know how to fulfil a gal’s needs. GRACE AND THE FEVER DREAM does fangirls justice. It doesn’t patronise us. It doesn’t laugh at our expense. It is written FOR us. It is an ode to us and the way that we love wholeheartedly. It is fun. It is wonderful. I’m so completely obsessed with it. I think anything that I can relate back to One Direction is something I’m going to be obsessed with, but this book stands on its own in its brilliance.

Here’s to a summer of thousands of pages. Enjoy!

The literature of hope – a new series

Author:
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By Anna Hill

What exactly is hope? And how can we use it to keep going in the face of oppression, fear and trauma? I don’t have a solid answer for the first question (except maybe the words “warm yellow light” like physically, but also in ur soul), and as for the second I think there are a lot or resources that discuss this very topic! In this new series, created in response to my own rising hopelessness (coupled with my mental and physical illnesses) in the face of Brexit, Donald Trump and the continuing rise of fascism throughout Europe, I am going to highlight different texts (including films, books, articles, paintings and so on) that focus on Hope.

To start the series here are some emergency hope pills in the form of a comic, a non fiction book, an article and a twitter thread:

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

This book was offered for free after the American election and so has sprung up again, although it was written during the Bush administration (so around 2003/4).

Solnit explores what is powerful about hope and I think its important to cultivate that – even if hope feels like lipstick you don’t like wearing, or an uncomfortable jumper, its in the interest of the political elite [those who benefit and uphold the current structures of power [like Donald trump]] to keep us hopeless. Because without hope there will not be energy or vigour in our protests, in our resistance. You can start with a baby step towards hope, you can start by looking after yourself, by hoping for a kinder world, for justice, for peace.

“Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.” – foreward to the third edition, 2015

How To Be Ungovernable

I recently read this article and I thought I would mention it because it’s important – I think I sometimes forget what noncompliance can and does look like, so this was a good reminder. Share the article as much as you can so you can be ungovernable too. Fascism shouldn’t be given a platform and we need to do our best to disrupt and fuck it up as much as we can. It’s amazing how people are organised. You can do this. You. Can. Resist.

This Fuck Theory Twitter Thread

This twitter thread made me do a 180 on my own approach to hope, political action and queer theory! This is, in part, because I am a massive theory dork, especially with queer theory – but anyone who has read queer theory can tell you it’s a pretty dismal world view.

Queer theory hinges on futurity – that is that queerness will only be redeemed in the future, that we will always strive for queerness but never get there and the death drive i.e the will to die – that is such negativity that death and loss and pain are the only queer things and the only pure resistance to heteronormativity that you can put up with. Theory is only useful if it can be used on the streets – but if this theory is used politically on the streets then queer people are in even more danger than usual. Being invested in your own survival and happiness is not “buying into” heteronormativity and capitalism, it’s necessary if you want to stay alive. Glorifying death, loss and horizons is theoretically interesting but in the present day it fucks over a lot of people and discourages them from taking part in politics and imagining a world that we CAN get to that allows more of us to be free and to cared for. Your joy is radical! Cultivate it! Share it!

The Movement by Gail Simone and [readable in full here]

This comic book series is one of the best I have ever read! It has, in true DC fashion, been stopped only 12 issues into the series, HOWEVER, what we do have is wonderful. The comic is about 6 homeless teen vigilantes who care for a neighbourhood in coral city. They call themselves the Movement and are basically fighting against police brutality – the issue starts with a policeman being sexually violent against a young girl, who is then protected by The Movement and who then try to take the policeman and put them on trial on their own court.

The lead members of the movement are a great mix of people (which is basically accuracy tbh) – some of the group are survivors of abuse, some are physically and/or mentally ill, many of them are queer, some are immigrants, some are poor, most of the group are women! The group as a whole is lead by an incredibly powerful, wondrous black girl named Virtue. Plus there is an Aromantic, Asexual character!!! Cannonly!! This is what a resistance team actually looks like! And I think that’s why it gives me such hope – rather than shifting a story of fighting against evil through a white cis middle class straight boy (looking at you Harry Potter), it is a story we can legitimately dream ourselves into. When I wrote my notes on why I loved this I wrote in capital letters: JUSTICE, REVENGE, COMMUNITY. Which I think sums it up nicely!

(As I said this series does start with sexual violence which is alluded to/replayed throughout the first six or so issues – so if you can’t deal with that I would skip this. The comic is also, on the whole pretty bloody and violent, so stay safe and stay away if you need to.)

That’s it from the first instalment of the literature of hope, hopefully some of my fellow PBGers will contribute so we can create a bank of warm yellow light for each other when our own resolves are low.

What gives you hope? Let me know! I’m on twitter @_lily_luna_

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