Dutch Treats For Love Your Body Day & Breast Cancer Awareness Month

One of Susan Ruiter's Paintings

One of Susan Ruiter’s Paintings

Each year I take great pleasure in helping to spread the word about the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) Love Your Body Day campaign.  (This year it is on October 14).  Of course in “Dr. Deah’s Hollywood” every day is Love Your Body Day !  Women and men, girls and boys can live their lives in harmony with their bodies and appreciate them for all of the marvels they accomplish for us each and every day!  In “Dr. Deah’s Hollywood” the norm is accepting that variety in our bodies is as magical as the variety we find in the natural shapes and sizes of other creations of Mother Earth.   But sadly, that is not yet the reality for most people for a variety of reasons.  One of NOW’s primary reason for the toxic body hate that infects so many of us is the media and the visual images they use that dictate not only the importance of physical beauty but a narrow definition for what is considered beautiful.  This definition typically does not include people who are “too fat” with the criteria for “too fat” being an impossible standard to attain without engaging in dangerous and unhealthy lifestyle choices regarding food and exercise.  And lest we think this is just an American obsession, we don’t have to look very far to find that this mandate of thinness has crossed the borders into other continents as well.  But along with the oppression comes the rebellion and in my opinion there appears to be a wonderful trend of size acceptance activism also crossing into other parts of the world.

In my recent post, Oceans Aweigh, for the Fierce Freethinking Fatties website I wrote about the Fat Acceptance Movement in Europe and had the pleasure of introducing the readers to Gisela Enders, founder of the fat acceptance group Dicke e.V. in Germany.  Gisela reminded me that although Europe is a single continent each country within Europe is a unique, separate entity and she couldn’t speak for all European organizations that are challenging the cultural pressure on women to be thin.  And so, with that in mind I began a project to seek out and interview people throughout the world (starting with Europe) who are involved in promoting a diverse representation of body types as positive whether it be through their artistic expression or political activism.  Needless to say what started off as a summer trip to Europe and a speck of curiosity has now snowballed into a treasure hunt for me as I find more and more people who are working at changing paradigms and helping people feel better about themselves.  So over the course of the next few weeks, in honor of Love Your Body Day, I will be introducing you to some inspirational women doing wonderful work in the UK and in Holland.  Today I would like you to meet Susan Ruiter, an artist in Holland.

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Susan Ruiter with one of her Big Beautiful Women

Dr. Deah: Hello! I saw your wonderful work in the Galerie van Eijck over the summer. I am fortunate to be able to visit Holland in the summers for the North Sea Jazz Festival but the rest of the year I live in California and write a blog about body image and size and fat acceptance.  I was wondering if I could do a short interview with you about your work for my blog?  I look forward to hearing from you and hope you say YES! Thanks for your time!

Susan Ruiter:  How nice that you come to Holland every year and enjoy it so much! Maybe next year you can visit my studio (near Rotterdam).

Dr. Deah:  I appreciate your invitation and would love to!  And thank you so much for taking the time and participating in this interview.  If you don’t feel like answering all of the questions, I understand.  Time is a precious commodity for all of us these days so please feel free to choose which of these questions you would like to answer or if you have something else you would like to say/share with us about your path as an artist please feel free to add it.

Q1:  One of the hats I wear is as an Art Therapist.  When did you realize that art was important to you as a means of expression.  Was there a specific aha moment; or was it a gradual process?

A1:  It was a gradual process. I was, from an early age, engaged with creating clothing and art. The style that I am making now was gradually formed. I have been painting these ladies now for 14 years.

Q2:  The art work you do is so beautiful, who were some artists who influenced your style?

A2:  Thank you! I am most inspired by the world famous artist Ferdinando Botero from Colombia. Only I use round shapes for the colorful ladies and my paintings are always cheerful.

Q3:  The shapes and sizes of the women you paint are big and beautiful and feel very positive. Has the subject of body acceptance or size acceptance been a part of your work intentionally? Why do you choose to do paintings of big curvy women?

A3:  Why curvy women? My whole life I love to draw and paint people. The preference for women is because they have beautiful curves. A lot of women have beautiful curves somewhere. I like to emphasize them, In a positive way. The women in my paintings are cheerful and positive in life. It is very important to be happy with yourself.

Q4:  Do you have any opinions about how the media depicts women’s bodies?

A4:  I think it would be good to show more, well-dressed, fuller women in the media.

Q4a:  When you wrote that you think it is good for people to be happy with themselves and that the media should draw fuller well dressed women, Do you see yourself as defiant or radical because you are challenging the images that are usually shown of women?

A4a:  No, I absolutely do not see myself as a radical, but I think that a more realistic picture of society should be displayed. Whether you’re big, small, slim or full.

Q5:  Do you think that Holland has a more accepting attitude towards diversity of body size for women than The United States?

A5:  I can not really give my opinion on that. I think that it is becoming more accepted in Holland. There is more attention for it, even in the clothing industry. There is a difference between beautiful shapes and obesity. It is very important to pay attention to your health.

Q6:  There is some research that shows that sometimes an obese person can be healthier than a thin person.  Have you heard of anything that supports that theory at all?

A6:  Of course, heavier persons are not necessarily unhealthy and there are many unhealthy thin people. Think about smoking, alcohol, etc.. For all these risk groups, special attention is important. It is important that in every person, any size whatsoever, there is something beautiful and does not need to be distracted by the image that the media (often) displays. Self-confidence is one of the best things someone can have.

Q7:   Where can people find out more about your work?

A7:  People can find information about me, my work and exhibitions on my website www.susanruiter.nl or my Facebook Page  

Q8:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

A8:  Almost all of my work consists of original paintings and are constructed with high quality acrylic paints and mediums on heavy linen. There are a few screen prints for sale. This makes my paintings quite scarce and is each painting unique.  Three weeks ago I opened my own gallery with new studio space!  To celebrate this new beginning I created a number of works that acknowledge Breast Cancer Awareness month, my Pink Ribbon Collection!   These will be auctioned off through my website.

Thank you so much Susan.  Your work is important and adds some much needed joy to the world!  I look forward to visiting your new gallery this summer!


 I hope you enjoyed my “chat” with Susan Ruiter.  I find her paintings absolutely delightful, what do you think?  In the upcoming weeks I will be sharing the works of several other Dutch artists and two activists from the UK!

If you know of anyone you would like to let us know about please share!!!Til next time,

Dr. Deah



I will be presenting along with: Sonya Renee Taylor, Performance Poet
– Keynote on Weight Stigma by Dr. Deb Burgard
– Diverse Experiences of Weight Stigma: A Panel moderated by Jessica Wilson
– Expressive Arts Activities led by Dr. Deah Schwartz
– Embodiment Explorations facilitated by Fall Ferguson
– A Fat Flash Mob Experience with Juicy D. Light

Location: James C. Irvine Foundation Conference Center, 353 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612  *Registration deadline: Monday, Oct. 20, 2014*

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