Fatima Parker: Activist Extraordinaire!
For those of you who have been following my blog you may recall that I wrote about my summer visit to the UK and Holland. It was a delightful experience learning more about the Fat Acceptance movement that is alive and thriving in Europe. (If you would like to get up to speed on those, I have included the links at the end of this post). Today I would like to continue my series of interviews by introducing you to one of the most prominent activists who works tirelessly and passionately to speak out against size bigotry and promote the concept that people can be happy, healthy, successful, and vital members of society even if they are fat. I asked Fatima Parker several questions about the work she is doing and she graciously agreed despite her amazingly busy schedule! (See Done Done Post!) I have no doubt that as you read her words you will be able to feel her devotion to the importance of promoting size acceptance on a global level. Here is some of what I learned from Ms Parker, an inspirational/motivational public speaker; who promotes self-esteem, healthy living, fat acceptance, positive body image, and beauty diversity.
Dr. Deah: Could you give us a brief timeline of the FA movement in Europe? For example when did it first arrive? Were there people associated with starting the FA in Europe? What were the goals of the movement, etc.?
Fatima Parker: The FA movement in Europe has been active since about 1989, on a narrower scale (no pun intended) than it is now. It started with just a few small associations by individuals, who had personally experienced the pain of fat stigma. They wanted to support fat people and fight against all aspects of size discrimination in society, in different parts of Europe, such as Allegro Fortissimo in France. Thanks to the internet, the FA movement has spread far and wide today, and is much bigger and more active internationally, especially on line, because of FA sites, Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, Pinterest, and You Tube. There are also hundreds of E-zines and blogs, on fat fashion, fat beauty pageants, fat health, fat art, anti-fat discrimination activism, and fat talk Radio and TV shows. Because of these opportunities for outreach I have accumulated a great variety of international followers, in all areas of the plus size movement, especially plus size beauty, fashion, activism, health and art. Some of the places that are now part of my international community include: the USA, Brazil, South America, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Estonia, Holland, Poland, Hungry, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Africa, the Caribbean, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Iran, and of course the 22 nations of the Arab world, where 15 years ago I founded the first and only voice of the Fat Acceptance movement in that region.
DD: How much influence or interaction do you think there is between the FA movement in Europe and the American FA movement? How can we build more collaboration between them?
FP: The internet, especially Facebook and Twitter, play a big role in connecting both movements, but the obstacle of the language barrier remains a major issue; not only for Europe but all over the world. This definitely is slowing the spread of the FA movement and cross Atlantic collaboration on a larger scale.
That is why I have many pages on Facebook in different languages to spread the FA message and reach more people.
DD: What are the major obstacles you face in having your point of view publicized or understood?
FP- Fat is “unhealthy”is an idea ingrained as “truth” in the minds of people everywhere, which makes any discussion about FA an uphill struggle.
Still, I manage to spread the message of FA against all the odds, and shed the light on the harm of fat phobia, stigma and the thinness hysteria on the nation’s psyche regardless of shape or size. My You Tube channel has over a 110 videos, of some of my international Radio and TV interviews about fat, health, and fashion.
DD: I have to say that I am a huge fan of Fatima’s You Tube channel. Her interviews are always compelling. It takes a great deal of bravery to go into the proverbial belly of the beast with a message that the world is determined to reject and Fatima consistently emerges with great poise and frequently victorious in getting her message across. If you haven’t seen her in action you are really missing something wonderful!!
DD: Are there any books that are/were influential in the FA movement in Europe?
FP: The language barrier yet again, stops American FA books from reaching many readers in Europe and elsewhere. There is a new positive move by some writers in France, who are working on fat positive books and magazines, they are still not sure how their works will be received by the public, given the negative reputation being fat, still has in France.
DD: How did you first become aware and interested in the issue of FA? People, Books, Movies, etc?
FP: I have always had the idea that the stereotypes about fat people were not entirely true; I did not see them in myself. My health was fine and I did not fit many of the ‘FAT’ labels. I also discovered likeminded people on line in 1999/ 2000. People like Dr. Deb Burgard, Marilyn Wann, Dr. Linda Bacon, Kelly Bliss, Susie Gillis, Susan Huddis Koppelman, Pat Ballard, Peggy Elam and many more Fat Acceptance activists, therapists, researchers, and writers, who confirmed my ideas, supported me and invited me to join their FA groups. I learnt a great deal about the FA movement from these people and was inspired to dedicate the last 15 years of my life, self-financing and single-handedly working hard, on spreading the message of FA, in many parts of the world. I am happy to say that this included the Middle East and North Africa, where I founded the first and only FA movement community that has lead to great changes, and noticeable improvement in thousands of people’s lives.
DD: You have several Facebook pages. Do you see each page as fulfilling a specific niche in spreading the message of FA? And other than Facebook, are there other ways people can find out more about what you are doing?
FP: I have Facebook pages in different languages, one in French, one in (Italian, Portuguese and Spanish) and one in Arabic, plus my beauty diversity and positive healthy body image page and group, and a self-esteem and healthy life style group. They all have their own followers that “like” and share what I post. There is also my wall and fan page, both of which have many followers and their own FA pages from all over the world, who “like”, translate and share my posts with their readers. Many describe my pages as a sanctuary from the fat hating world, a place where they find inspiration and support. Many get uplifted by the fat positive articles and messages I share; or get inspired by the beautiful plus size fashion on my pages. I receive many messages from women everywhere thanking me for inspiring them to be more confident, and helping them discover ways to and transform their fat shamed and buried beauty and self-worth. For a complete list of Fatima’s Facebook pages CLICK HERE. Giving fat women a place on the map of beauty in the Arab world, was amongst my achievements in the Middle East, a major Lebanese TV Network was so inspired by my message “Fat women are beautiful too,” that they organized and produced the first Arabian Fat Queen beauty pageant, on live TV, and invited me to be a judge! The show went viral, the international press was surprised to see fat women honored and glamorized on a major TV channel. The idea that “Fat women are beautiful too.” Is now being slowly taken up, by many in the region.
DD: Anything else you would like to say about the importance of building an international Fat Acceptance community?
FP: Fat hate is globally felt; we all suffer in different languages, from the same pains of fat shame, stigma and discrimination.
We still have a long way to go, but thanks to social media, the international fat acceptance community is growing slowly and steadily closer together.
We must unite, persevere, and continue the fight for fat acceptance, the lifesaving movement that was started by brave pioneers in the USA many decades ago.
Without their courageous and visionary work, we would not be where we are today.
This is where our interview ended, but I have a feeling that hearing Fatima’s answers may inspire questions of your own or the urge to answer some of the questions yourself! If you have any books, inspirations, people, organizations, or personal stories about your introduction into the fat/size acceptance movement either in Europe or in the US, please feel free to share them with me and your fellow readers. Still to come I will be sharing answers from another activist from the UK, Angela Meadows, and Dutch artist Ada Breedveld.
Til next time!
Links to other posts about FA in Europe:
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