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September 22, 2010 / Katie

Building community – online FA space idea

Rarely I find myself in the midst of serendipitous moments in which a vision I have been formulating is suddenly echoed by someone else in my life, and that connection propels the creation of something new.

This is happening for me and Heidi right now with regard to the idea of building a new FA online space that would be inclusive, supportive, and at least safer than many other places (the discussion of whether any place can be completely safe has been run into the ground, but we can certainly be intentional about making space safer, e.g. with the restriction of diet talk).

Here is Heidi’s post on the idea.

We met for lunch today and discussed some of the basics.  Here is the basic structure we are looking at (organized numerically only because I like things in lists; not in any particular order):

  1. It would be a collective of bloggers—maybe as many as 10, 15, even 20—writing for a dedicated blog with many other guest posters.  The bloggers would be diverse in body size, age, gender, life experience, race, religious beliefs, dis/ability, etc.
  2. In addition to a dedicated blog, there would be community forums.  Some forum topics might include things like fatshion, political activism, recovery/support for ED survivors, and perhaps even boards for size ranges (e.g. “inbetweenies,” “middle fats,” and “deathfats” to discuss issues unique to life at those sizes).
  3. Resource pages such as FAQ’s, 101’s, links to other fat-positive sites, and perhaps even a dedicated 101 forum for folks who don’t yet know the basics of privilege/oppression dynamics.  This could even grow into a wiki if we end up with enough people/energy around this.
  4. Power/authority (in terms of moderation, administration, etc.) would be shared among the co-bloggers and perhaps others who may wish to moderate forums.  Decisions would be made as a community, with no one or two or three persons being “in charge.”  As Heidi says, neither she nor I have the time, energy, or wish to become queens/mavens/whatever of FA.  This would have to be a collaborative from the get-go, which is why we’d need to set up a statement of values/vision/whatever we want to call it to have some groundwork to work from.  It would be agreement on a really basic statement affirming FA values, beyond which disagreement and difference would be celebrated.

Here are some of the basic vision/values statements we believe would be important (also no particular order:

  1. It would be a diet-talk free zone.  So, no talking about diet or weight loss attempts, no promotion of weight loss products or plans.  There would be a forum for folks to discuss the strugggles they may be facing in letting go of dieting/weight loss mentality, which would be moderated by folks who are in a mentally healthy enough place to do so (neither Heidi or myself are up for this)
  2. It would be a place of openness, respect… ultimately hospitality.  We would be undergirded by a firm stance on justice in this kyriarchically-organized world, so therefore all -ism’s would not be tolerated.  That said, folks who are new to justice work and don’t know their way around the theory/terminology yet would be approached with respect and directed to 101 areas as a first course of action.
  3. Ideally, it would be a holding space for conversation, community building, and hopefully a place from which other efforts, such as political activism, “real life” support or meet up networks, etc. may organically spring.

Heidi and I have some differences—she can write about being a fat mother, I about being a fat minister and counselor; she can write about life as a deathfat, I about being a middle fat—but we are both relatively privileged, young, white, middle class women in hetero marriages.  We recognize this as a limitation right off the bat and know that this cannot happen if everyone who is part of this community looks, lives, or thinks like us.  We need many others to share their voices so that the conversation can be lively and vibrant and, most importantly, relevant.  To as many people as possible.

So, what say you, my delightful readers?  Are you interested in joining us as a contributing blogger, guest blogger, or community moderator?  Do you have suggestions or input about this idea in general?  Let’s get this conversation going!

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15 Comments

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  1. Jasie VanGesen / Sep 22 2010 4:54 pm

    I’d love to be involved, without tipping the scale (ha! Scale… anyway) in the direction of being young, white, middle class, in-betweenie/middlefat, partnered in a hetero relationship, etc.

    • Katie / Sep 22 2010 4:59 pm

      yay, I’m glad you’re interested! Heidi and I didn’t really talk about how to communicate once we’ve got a dedicated group of people interested, but perhaps a google group to discuss the logistics?

  2. tolonda / Sep 22 2010 5:00 pm

    i would love to have the opportunity to write and contribute. i think i might work well in a context of specific prompts and deadlines and not-just-me. i am culturally christian, economically comfortable [broke, but not poor], and currently ablebodied, but otherwise could balance some of your privilege concerns. which, btw, i’m psyched that you have. the concerns, that is, not the privilege. LOL. ok, anyway…

    • Katie / Sep 22 2010 5:02 pm

      omg, I was seriously just about to draft a FB message to you and Gini about this :) I think you talking about some of your trapeze stuff would be awesome, among, of course, many other things you could contribute. yay!

      • tolonda / Sep 22 2010 5:35 pm

        really? cool! i love to feel valued.

  3. CTJen / Sep 22 2010 5:25 pm

    yes, i like this idea very much!

    • Katie / Sep 23 2010 11:19 am

      :) Well I hope that you will keep us in mind and share any ideas or comments you have with us as this unfolds, and if you’re interested in participating as a mod, guest blogger, or contributor let me know!

  4. Jenna / Sep 23 2010 6:45 am

    Hello ladies… I was just invited to be a staff blogger for axis of fat and would like to be involved in this group as well. I love talking about and sharing thoughts on the body-diversity joys (or lack thereof in society)….

    • Katie / Sep 23 2010 11:14 am

      Jenna, that’s great! Will keep you posted :)

  5. BStu / Sep 23 2010 11:31 am

    I actually think a lot of those purposes are being well served by the Fatosphere Feed. While I certainly appreciate the strength of having a “go-to” destination and saw how powerful that was with Shapely Prose, and I think there are risks, too, in having so much of the discussion consolidated in one place. If the FA community were bigger, it might not be such a risk, but I’d be concerned with where we are right now. We saw that at times with SP where some people looked at it like it was the only game in town. This breeds resentment on the part of people who don’t feel like they are part of the “in-crowd” and will also draw attacks from fight-pickers looking to make a name for themselves. Gosh knows there are still disgusting self-promoters looking to co-opt FA discussions for their own pet projects. I know one in particular who tried picking fights for SP, then tried picking fights with Bri running the feed, then tried picking fights with me. Too big of a community site could end up being a lightning rod for those types who want “feuds” to drive traffic to their own sites.

    I think maybe something more modest like what Shapely Prose was at its apex could be sustainable and probably even a good way for some good thinkers to get more attention, but I’d worry about consolidating our community too much, too. I think we’re still small enough that the pitfalls carry some outsized risks.

    • Katie / Sep 23 2010 12:02 pm

      BStu, I am so glad you replied, because Heidi and I were actually thinking that you would be a great person as a contributing blogger

      I think you bring up some really excellent points, especially because Heidi and I in no way want to make it a “go-to” FA space, or to define FA for anyone else, so that would be something we would want to actively avoid. I guess where we’re coming from is we see a need that we believe is going unmet currently, for a space that is welcoming and open to people who may be new to FA and want to check things out, but may not be aware of a lot of feminist theory, privilege/oppression theory, etc. It would be a gentle and kind place, with 101 spaces, to reach out to folks who may be turned off by the more abrasive nature of some of the other spaces. There’s a discussion over in Heidi’s space right now that Fierce, Freethinking Fatties is planning to upgrade in January to add forums and become a more comprehensive space, perhaps similar to what we are hoping to do in structure, but different in aims. We believe that very different people would be drawn to each, and each would serve a particular need.

      I am actually rushing out the door right now but I may come back to this with more thoughts later. :)

    • Katie / Sep 23 2010 2:08 pm

      after some more time to think I have also been pondering what you said about how the fat feeds already do what we’re hoping for, and I just really disagree. I think blog posts can only go so far in fostering dialogue, and where they get limited forums can really take over. For example, in a blog post a side conversation becomes a derail—well, you could take it to the forums.

      Also, I guess I’m not as worried about trolls as you are, partially because we’ll be fostering the community as a positive space. We’ll also nip any kind of trollish behavior right in the bud. No ad hominem attacks whatsoever, even where reasonable and respectful debate may flourish, for example. And if we have to, we’ll moderate where necessary—e.g. the first comment from any one author being moderated, or membership required to post in the forums. And if there are many bloggers contributing to the shared blog, then moderation responsibilities will be shared among them.

  6. Jackie / Sep 23 2010 4:05 pm

    I actually think what made Shapely Prose so powerful (and problematic) was that it had not diverse/ideologically compact contributers with a strong central Kate voice. A danger in creating something very open/with lots of people is that it loses its central focus/voice and doesn’t appeal to folks. I do like the idea of a place to introduce folks to FA. That said I find the blogs on the fat feeds really quite welcoming. They are written by people, just everyday folks, and sometimes people post stuff that I disagree with, or I think they over-react to something, but I also think that the fact that these are just people is a great strength of the online community. I read just about everything I can find on FA so I might visit your space as well, but I do think I am drawn to well-defined voices.

    • Katie / Sep 23 2010 4:16 pm

      Jackie, I think with your analogy it would be more accurate to compare what we are trying to do with a feed itself rather than with any one particular blog on that feed. The feeds are holding spaces, which allow for a variety of voices to speak through the medium of blogging. What we’re thinking of is a different type of holding space that allows for a different type of conversation (forums, potentially a wiki) than just blogs (which are of course valuable, but also limited).

      Also, I feel like the goals of the community would be pretty well-defined, though you and I might be coming at that with differing meanings attached to that phrase :)

  7. Scattered Marbles / Sep 23 2010 5:59 pm

    Katie,

    I posted this on Heidi’s blog and I wanted to post it here as well
    ===========================

    I would love love love to be a part of this I am a death fatty who wholly embraces FA but still struggles with living it confidently and dealing with family and such.

    I also have forums that I had purchased for another community group that never went through and I have been tossing around the idea of putting it to use in a manner like this, even putting in some brainstorming and such about names and ideas and I would love to offer my services and that site and forums to this idea as it just sounds like a wonderful idea.

    If you are interested in this and or wouldn’t mind me helping out somehow feel free to drop me a line this seems like something that is so needed especially the area of fat101 questions that us bloggers seem to get , having it all in one area that a person can link to so a person can go and explore and learn as they have time would be fantastic!

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