This issue of Dimensions is very late because we relocated from New York to California and grossly underestimated the complexities of a cross-country move. But it was quite an experience. I'd have never thought that Ruby and I accumulated 25,000 pounds of stuff in five short years in our old location. I also didn't know they made trucks big enough to swallow two cars and 25,000 pounds of furniture and office stuff. Traveling across country was an unbelievable experience. I've flown over it many times and have seen the vast expanses of open land, but it's not like driving through it, mile after endless mile. We took the New York Throughway, briefly stopped at Niagara Falls, then picked up Interstate 80 in Cleveland and stayed on it for over 2,000 miles. Nothing prepared me for the almost Tolkien-esque beauty and lushness of Iowa, the endless, yet never monotonous corn fields of Nebraska, the gradual appearance of bluffs and buttes in the landscape, the haunting grandeur of Wyoming, the great (albeit rather odorous) salt lake in Utah, and then the infinite stretches of Nevada. None of it was boring; every mile was incredibly beautiful. And everything is so huge and empty. You could take New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago , dump them into Nebraska, and no one would even notice they were there. Most of us who live in metropolitan areas are concerned about pollution, crime, running out of space, and overpopulation. If that's how you feel, take a drive through this incredible country of ours. There is plenty of space, plenty of totally untouched land. On this trip, I've seen the future of our land.
Just a few days after we arrived in our new home, I had to fly back east to attend the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance's 25th Anniversary Convention in Washington, DC. As you can imagine, this wasn't very convenient, but, apart from being sworn in again as a NAAFA board member after a one year sabbatical, I really didn't want to miss the celebration of a quarter century of fighting size discrimination.
And what a convention it was. Just like a drive through the country can forever change your perception of our land, attending a NAAFA convention can, and will, forever change your perception of yourself and your place in life. Those who have ever gone to one know what I mean. This was my tenth NAAFA convention, and it still felt as if it was my first. Sally Smith, NAAFA's executive director, and many other NAAFAns had worked very hard to make this event extra-special, including a couple of panel discussions about size acceptance in the 90's and beyond. Sadly, one panel with Dick Kelly from the Federal Trade Commission, Jim Goodman from the Persons with Disabilities Law Center, and leading size acceptance theorist Lynn McAfee, was attended by a grand total of 20 people out of the 600 at the conference. Others didn't fare much better. The pool parties and dances, on the other hand, were smashingly successful. This convinced me again that the size acceptance movement must develop an effective two-pronged approach. There should be social events to provide fat people and their admirers much deserved and much needed outlets for personal interaction. But there must also be a part of the movement that focuses on political action and activism alone. Many activists will not attend a big convention that they know is primarily social in nature. And many of those who seek a good time with friends resent being told to go picket.
For several years, NAAFA itself has considered refocusing into an activist arm (political NAAFA) and a social services arm (business NAAFA) and, in the process, convert NAAFA members (as in "what do I get for my money?") into supporters (as in "how can I help you?"). It's been more difficult to implement that change than expected, but it's painfully obvious that it must happen in some form if the size acceptance movement is to prosper. I don't hold a crystal ball. One extreme might be to seek a clean split into dedicated entities, the other to simply mark social and activist events so that everyone understands what they're attending. Opinions, anyone?
It's interesting to see how movements often spend a lot of time processing their inner problems and controversies. Witness the recent NAACP power struggle. There are no such monumental struggles in the size acceptance movement at this point (we're still too busy putting ourselves on the map), but lots of stuff is percolating close to the surface. For example, a case can be made that fat admirers should develop a stronger self image and deal with their own issues rather than simply blend into NAAFA. It's been said that a size acceptance group is perhaps the worst place in the world for a budding FA because the prevailing political correctness sensitivities prevent FAs from finding true acceptance and affirmation of their sexuality. In this issue, NAAFA's executive director herself addresses this issue (see page 34). Overall, this is certain to be a controversial issue (are there any others?). Sociologist Karl Niedershuh makes a strong case for an indictment of lipophobia and, as usual, he doesn't pull any punches. Ruby Greenwald talks at length with Dr. Moe Lerner, and the result is an interview between two fat people that may not fit the happy-go-lucky partyline. Paul Feine talks to Joy Stone, a young woman who had weight loss surgery, but then reversed the procedure in horror and is now looking forward to living life to its fullest. We also have more personal ads than ever before. ß
Editor at Large