“The fact that nobody looked like me became my strength.”
The powerful words by the Body Confidence Canada Award recipient Abby Green resonated, vibrating deep in my chest. As a fat woman for most of my adult life, the media messages and visuals that I was constantly bombarded with did not include fat women – up until recently. With “body positive” marketing being the next big thing, I am finally starting to see plus-sized women in the mainstream, but these images are still conventionally attractive, white, CIS gendered women.
That is why attending the Body Confidence Canada Awards with Lisa Naylor (a counsellor in the eating disorder program) to accept an award on behalf of Women’s Health Clinic for our work in Equity and Inclusion was so unbelievably thrilling. If you take a look at the other award recipients, people like the aforementioned Abby Green, a woman who is a disability advocate and also has Osteogenesis Imperfecta; Akio Maroon, a single mother who identifies as queer, gender-fluid, Black Womxn and sits on Ontario’s permanent Roundtable on Violence Against Women; and Candy Palmater, an Indigenous activist, writer, actor and media personality who was recently the interim host for Q on CBC; the diversity and intersectionality reflected in the award recipients and the attendees made it a truly unforgettable experience. Read about all of the incredible recipients here.
by Amy Tuckett-McGimpsey
Read below for WHC’s speech.
WHC’s Speech at the Body Confidence Canada Awards
I am Lisa Naylor and this is Amy Tuckett-McGimpsey and together we are here to accept the award on behalf of Women’s Health Clinic. It is such a privilege to be here, and in the company of so many incredible women who are being recognized tonight.
Thank you so much to Body Confidence Canada Awards co-founders Jill Andrew and Alicia Fairclough for your recognition of our work! We are very proud of this award and proud to share it with our colleagues back home!
When I moved to Winnipeg from Toronto, 17 years ago, I was passionately drawn to work at Women’s Health Clinic because of an article written by Catrina Brown in the book she edited with Karin Jasper called Consuming Passions: Feminist Approaches to Weight Preoccupation and Eating Disorders.
Catrina wrote about the program called “Getting Beyond Weight” that launched in 1985 and was the first program in Canada dealing with weight preoccupation as a feminist issue and beginning to develop non pathologizing ways to work with eating disorders.
In the three decades since, we have gone on to run numerous programs encouraging body peace and acceptance – support groups, thousands of educational workshops, we’ve spoken at conferences and influenced the addition of body positive language in health promotion materials for other organizations including Manitoba Health.
Seven years ago we launched the first community based eating disorder treatment program in Manitoba. We may also be the only treatment program in Canada that takes a weight neutral approach to recovery and focuses instead on self-compassion and body acceptance.
We are providing workshops to teach other professionals how to do just that at two national conferences this year.
Our clinic’s reach is much broader than this. When we opened 35 years ago it was to provide birth control counselling and supplies but today we also deliver the continuum of reproductive health services including provision of abortions and of midwifery care at a birth centre.
We provide postpartum adjustment support for new parents and an array of medical services as well as running a drop-in teen clinic for the past 31 years that became the model for all future teen clinics in our province. All programs are expected to take a health at every size approach to care.
We work at reducing weight stigma for our patients in the treatment room and in their lives. We are very passionate about this work and firmly believe that mental and physical health improves when people feel accepted. Just before I let Amy speak, I want to say an enormous thank you to all of our colleagues at Women’s Health Clinic who actively participate in making the world more inclusive for people of size and for increasing knowledge and skills in the area of weight neutral health care.
In addition to all of the health services we provide, we also have been advocates provincially and nationally regarding weight stigma in healthcare as well as raising consciousness about body peace and acceptance for everyone. We are continually striving for more inclusivity, by providing services to people of all genders in some program areas and working to be more accessible to the most marginalized people in our city.
Our early leadership in body peace was radical for its time and we are working to keep body positive thinking radical and inclusive. Firmly rooted in human rights, the perspective that every body deserves respect is an important one to us – but we recognize that body oppression does not happen the same way to everyone.
We have stopped asking people to take all the responsibility to just love themselves and instead we are working to acknowledge and change culturally imposed barriers to self-love.
Our culture is so preoccupied with weight that our health, morals, character and intelligence are all presumed to be lacking if you live in a body that is bigger than average. If you are an Indigenous person, a person of colour, a trans person or someone with limited mobility and fat, you face more stigma… we want to change that.
Earlier this year, as part of our 35th anniversary celebrations, Women’s Health Clinic recruited 40 local businesses to sign on to a week of promoting body peace in their environments during the week of No Diet Day – we provided a Body Peace tool kit with body affirming posters, information about the risks of dieting, while encouraging a ban on diet talk for the week.
We hope to take this campaign national next year. Our call to action is for a truce in this war on bodies. We want all spaces to become more welcoming and accepting of diverse sizes, ethnicities, shapes, genders and gender expression, and health status or ability.
Thank you to those of you who are working to create these spaces in your own environment and we hope you will join us in May 2017 to make the Body Peace Week a national event!