Fatventure Mag Sneak Peek: Chatting with Jessamyn Stanley

Our first volume has tons of great content — including an interview with yoga instructor, body positive advocate, and author Jessamyn Stanley.

We are rapidly approaching the halfway point in the Fatventure Mag Kickstarter, which is amazing! As a bonus for those who’ve already pledged or shared the link, or those who may be thinking about pledging, we’ll be sharing some brief excerpts of pieces that will be included in the first volume of the zine.

First up is just a small piece of Samantha Puc’s hour-long phone chat with Jessamyn Stanley, whose book Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body. was released to wide acclaim in 2017. Stanley is a body positivity advocate whose work revolves around the internal practice of yoga as much as the external practice of yoga poses. She teaches all over the world and has been featured in a variety of places, including The Daily MailThe Sunday TimesNew York MagazineNew York Times’ Women In the WorldPeople, and Good Morning America, just to name a few.

In this excerpt of her interview for Fatventure Mag, Jessamyn discusses how society looks at fat people in active spaces — and how to fight back against the negativity.

Fatventure Mag: In your practice and in your work, and the people you encounter in that [yoga] space, do you find that people tend to express an opinion that the yoga community can feel closed off because of their size, their class status, their physical ability, their race, or any combination of those things?

Jessamyn Stanley: Yeah, I would definitely agree with that statement. I think that because of all of the specificity of this one type of person practicing yoga, it means that basically everyone else gets left out. Even if you were like, “I want to pray to the Church of Yoga. What’s good? I’m trying to go on beach retreats and drink coconut water and call myself a yogi for for no fucking reason. I want to do this.” And it’s basically like, “No. You can’t do it. It’s only for these people.”

It feels really familiar to me, because it’s just like high school. It’s just like every other part of our world where, like, white supremacy is the rule. Especially when it comes to yoga, it’s very much like — well, I don’t want to oversimplify or make too many generalizing statements, but — basically, yes. I would agree.

FM: One of the things that we’ve encountered as we’ve started to put together Fatventure Mag and started to talk to our contributors and our followers is the idea that being a fat person in an active space — there’s a lot of pushback on that. On the one hand, you have this society that’s incredibly fatphobic that says, “You need to lose weight. You need to get rid of your weight.” But then if we try to enter active spaces, whether it’s a gym or a yoga class or a hike in the woods where there’s nobody even around, there’s a lot of pushback like, “No, we want you to lose weight, but we don’t want to see you in our spaces doing that.” Is that something that you feel like you’ve encountered in your work?

JS: Absolutely. All the time. That’s something that I was thinking even before I got into working as a wellness professional because even just as a practitioner, people are so discriminatory. Openly discriminatory. It’s totally socially condoned. It’s considered weird if you don’t have that mentality, this idea that like, “All fat people should be exercising all the time.” And then literally in the same fucking breath, be like, “Okay, but you look really gross when you run.” And, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this fat person was running down the street!” It’s this insane double standard of: you should be healthy, yet when you are being healthy, that’s a problem.

I just… I mean, it’s so basic. Just like every other part of hegemonic white supremacy, it’s just so boring and basic and goes back to this idea of fear, just fear of the unknown. I think that people don’t want to hear anything that doesn’t jive with what they’ve been told to believe. So ideas on either side of the coin conflict with what people are supposed to think, so there’s all of this opposition.

I’ve kind of gotten to a place of acceptance with that. I’m not too put out by it at this point because I’m honestly surprised when it doesn’t happen. I think the way to combat it is to have that attitude about it. I understand that it is so unpleasant to go into a gym environment, where it’s clear that people don’t want you to be there. I’ve heard of people being shamed out of yoga classes, like teachers being like, “I don’t think you’re advanced enough to be here,” or other students saying that. That’s within the yoga world, but within the fitness world in general, that can happen anytime. At least in a yoga class, someone might feel bad about it. In a regular fitness class, they’ll be like, “I’m doing you a favor.”

That attitude is just so common that I feel like, if you combat it with a “fuck you,” it’s the weapon that they’re not prepared for and it always works. It’s very, very hard to get to that place and I think that if you’re in an environment where that’s not an option, where giving a “fuck you” is not an option, then the ultimate “fuck you” is to not go. I don’t want to do too much finger-pointing specifically because it’s so widespread, but when I think of places like Equinox or Crunch or Core Power or whatever-the-fuck, all these places really emphasize an attitude of, “All bodies are not allowed in this space.” If you encounter attitudes like that anywhere, the best way to say “fuck you” is to not go, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be active.

It’s so disrespectful to be on a bike or jogging down the street or hiking, like you said, there’s nobody out here so, what’s the deal? It’s so disconcerting to be keeping to yourself, not even at a gym, and have people come at you totally out of nowhere and disrespect your environment and your space and be verbally violent — sometimes not just verbally, but violent — when you’re not even in an environment that one would typically associate with that. I’ve had all of these things happen to me — not hiking, yet. That would be asinine, but I’m sure it happens. I feel like the only way to deal with it is to know that it’s going to happen and to be ready with the “fuck you.” People don’t like what they don’t understand. It’s the fear. We can’t be slaves to the fear forever.

To read our full interview with Jessamyn Stanley, please support our Kickstarter by sharing the link or pledging to help us reach our $12,000 goal. Every $1 helps us pay our contributors, print + ship the zine, and print + ship Kickstarter perks to backers. For just $5, you can get a digital copy of our first volume delivered right to your inbox!

Follow @FatventureMag on Twitter and Instagram for updates, or like us on Facebook. To keep up with Jessamyn Stanley, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, or like her on Facebook. You can find a local bookstore that stocks her book, Every Body Yoga, through Indiebound.

* The featured photo is from Stanley’s Instagram account. The photo is by Christian Arya.