You know that friend we all have? That friend who says whatever she believes to be right and true, haters be damned? That friend who you know wouldn’t hesitate to drop kick an asshat for you if you needed them to, but would much rather talk you down off the ledge, and then sit and eat ice cream with you while you cry ‘FOUL!’ at life? Well, that’s Jes.
Yes. THAT Jes. Jes Baker, of TheMilitantBaker. She is your everygirl. Funny, sweet, foul-mouthed, balls-to-the-wall. A truth-teller, a lover of donuts, a hoarder of kittens. A writer of kick-ass books and a body advocate for ALL bodies: Jes.
Jes and I recently sat down over an incredible plate of pasta (for me — oh my God, you wonderful carbs!), and an amazing French dip sandwich (for Jes — I wanted to steal her au jus so bad!), and waxed delicious over her debut book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls. I have read the book, and I can tell you this: get your Kleenex, and then get your Depends. This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you question everything you thought you knew about the media, the intersectionality of body image, mental health, the diet industry and culture, and YOURSELF. This book is real, folks. As well it should be — it was written by one of the realest women on the planet.
Ravishers, ravish this. This is Jes Baker.
Jes, you know I adore you. I follow your blog like Carrie Bradshaw trailed after Big. I can’t get enough. And it’s no secret, your blog gets an insane amount of traffic, from both supporters AND disgusting trolls. And let’s face it –– the trolls can be downright vile. Knowing this, what made you decide to go forward with Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls? You could have just stopped with the blog.
I think the book is way more important than the blog. It took two years from proposal to writing, and another year to publish.This book is more important to me than anything I’ve ever done. It’s completely uncensored, written from a place of isolated honesty. I wasn’t thinking about commenters, editing, or anything other than what my truth is, and making sure that it got onto the page. Also, it’s all cohesive, and I realized after I wrote the book that it’s completely impossible to communicate EVERYTHING in blog posts. There’s no fucking way. So, to have it all together — it’s so incredibly important.
You’re so right. There is so much interlacing of topics. You’d be writing blog posts until the day you died, and probably STILL wouldn’t be able to cover it all! How would you describe this book to someone who has never heard of you (or the movement) but is struggling with body acceptance and positivity? Why should they pick it up?
Well, it was mainly written to meet people at the beginning of their journey, and for people who know a little bit about the body love journey but are looking to learn more. It is also a reminder for people who have learned TONS on their body love journey, but maybe need a reminder through someone else's words. But specifically, it was written for the people who know nothing about me. It’s a little fierce and a little controversial, but that’s just who I am. That’s the way it’s written. But it’s really comprehensive. It covers everything from why you need to start (your body love journey) now, to the history of body image, to social conditioning, how it affects us, and how we can change our thinking. And those are just three chapters –– OUT OF 12! It is also for those who are thinking about activism as a resource to help them get started. If I had the opportunity I would say to someone, “Here. Here is this book. If you can handle this, then you’re on your way. If it scares you, put it away, come back in a year and try it again.” People will get different things from this book depending on where they are in their journey.
I love that. I feel like I can hand this book to my 17-year-old cousin who struggles with body image issues and knows nothing about the movement, and also to my girlfriends who are active in the movement but always looking to learn more. They would both be incredibly transformed by your book. That’s amazing, and incredibly difficult to do. Which leads me to my next question: What was the best part of the writing process of Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls? Worst part? Did anything surprise you that maybe you didn't know before?
YES! OH MY GOD, SO MUCH YES! OK, so the writing process was the worst AND the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was the best because it forced me to clarify my beliefs. There were a lot of things I had thought about, but had never really sat down and written out. But I had to because I had to put it in fucking black and white! It was fucking awesome. And fucking hard. I learned a lot about myself on the way. The worst part was the time schedule, which I did to myself. My own damn fault. I was writing for 12 hours and then sleeping for 11, writing for 12 more hours, and then sleeping for 11 again. It was exhausting. I felt like I’d been hit by a fucking bus. Like I had mono. The absolute worst.
What I learned — it really forced me to sit down with the concept of health and statistically back it up. Then I sent it to my editor and she had questions, so I had to back it up for her, and then we sent it to the copy editor (who was completely removed from the entire situation until she sat down with the book) and then she needed me to back it up for her. It was incredible because I really had to put the research behind the beliefs that I had. I knew they (the statistics) were there but I hadn’t sat down and pulled up all the research and actually put it in the notes section. So that was amazing because it just further solidified my long-held beliefs.
Did you have any hardcore negative truths that you found about yourself while doing this? Writing a book of this sort, there is obviously a lot of retrospect. You had to solidify your belief system. Was there anything that jumped out for you and made you think, “Wow, I didn’t realize I felt this way"?
I think what it really reinforced for me was realizing the amount of privilege I have when it comes to body advocacy. I tried to make this as inclusive as possible, and sent it to different people to look over (who work in specific areas of activism) and checked with them. But even after all that, I still had to acknowledge that I’m going to fuck up with this book, no matter how hard I try. That was a really hard realization to come to. I did the best I could. It’s not perfect; I know it’s not. And that was hard because you sit down with this huge project and you want it to be the ultimate, but in the end you know that there’s going to be someone who is left out. I put that in the book — that acknowledgement that I know that someone got left out, or had their feelings hurt by not feeling represented and I apologized. I also invited them to reach out to me. But I realize that I AM the most kind of privileged activist there is. I’m white. I’m cisgender, perceivably straight, kind of hourglass, educated — the most controversial thing about me is that I have a stomach. Basically, that’s the most privilege you can get within this body acceptance/fat acceptance realm. I’m what everybody (in the community) complains about because there are too many of us. So even knowing that while writing — it was tough. I’m super feminine (even with my tattoos), so people are comfortable enough with me to let me push boundaries, and I’m very aware that my success comes from that.
Oy! So tough. But huge kudos to you for acknowledging it, owning it, and then using your privilege to change the world for millions of humans. I hope you fully understand how amazing that is. OK. So, I want to get a little juicy here, because you know: GIRL TALK. You have talked about your adorable partner on your blog, and the fact that as a fat girl, you've found AMAZING love. As a fellow fat girl, I'm also lucky to have found amazing love. How did you move from body conscious to body acceptance to have a healthy relationship and sex life?
I was thinking about this earlier today, and I really want to write something that says, “Your partner can help you learn to love your body in some ways, but ultimately it’s up to you. Just because you have a partner who tells you you’re wonderful, and incredible, and sexy...doesn’t mean you’re gonna feel that way”. So really, it’s internal. I get so many emails that say “my partner tells me I’m so sexy and beautiful, but I just don’t believe them.” That just says to me that you still have to do the internal work. So that being said, I am definitely body-conscious — all the time. I struggle with that all. The. Time. I don’t give a fuck what the WORLD thinks about my body, but if my insecurities come up, it’s with my partner. That is where they come up. Still. And there’s no reason for that because this person is the most supportive being in the entire world, and thinks I’m perfection. So, what I’ve told myself is that my partner doesn’t lie to me. Never has and probably never will. Therefore, when he tells me that he loves my body, I get to believe him. Why would I not? I’ve started trusting his words, and trusting myself, but of course I still have my own narrative (which is admittedly stronger). I’ve been building it my entire life. It goes like this: “You’re a fuck-up! You don’t look like the rest of the girls! You can’t be pretty!” That’s a pretty strong narrative. But...I fight back against it with “YES amazing relationship. YES amazing sex. YES amazing love. YES amazing all the things. But I’m not perfect, because I’m still learning.”
One thing I do cover in the book is that there’s a reason I didn’t meet my current partner right after my last breakup. It was because I didn’t feel worthy, or “enough” for a really good relationship. I don’t think I even knew what a wonderful relationship looked like. It took a lot of growing on my part — about a year and a half — where I just worked on body love. Both advocacy and personal. There’s a quote from Stephen Chbosky (Perks of Being A Wallflower) that says, “We accept the love we think we deserve,” so I think that is how I feel about my current relationship. I was finally to a place where no, I don’t think I’m perfect, I have my insecure moments, but I know that I’m worthy of a happy, healthy, loving relationship. And then I was able to find and accept it.
Damn Jes. Damn. I feel like I’m about to have a moment. That’s so crucial. “We accept the love we think we deserve.” So many girls and women and PEOPLE need to know that. Whoo! OK! Just a few more questions. What can we expect from you in the future? More books? More articles? Things No One Tells Fat MARRIED Girls?
I don’t know the answer to that yet! What comes next? That part is none of the Internet's business! [laughing]
True, true. But you know I’m nosy. OK, last question. What is the one thing you’d like to leave our lovely Ravishers with?
#FatGirlsCan. FAT GIRLS CAN: wear horizontal stripes, run marathons, dance, find love, have a family, do cartwheels, do yoga, wear a bikini, make art, model, find their dream job, cannonball, travel, kickbox, fly, belly dance, sail, have hot sex (with the lights on!), pole dance, cosplay, lift weights, play the lead, save lives, rock climb...and be wildly successful.
They can! And we do. And we will.
Jes’ book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is currently available on Amazon and Kindle, and will be in bookstores October 27, 2015. For a list of Jes’ book tour dates, click here. If you’d like to get in on Jes’ ridiculously awesome #FatGirlsCan Challenge, click here.
And lastly, watch this: