It takes guts to bring the body positivity and empowerment conversation into the mainstream spotlight, but that’s exactly what Jes Baker, aka The Militant Baker, has been doing for years. In 2013, she created the Attractive & Fat campaign, a response to sizeist comments made by Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Michael Jeffries. The campaign garnered worldwide attention and a ton of discussion.
This year, Jes released her first book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, a funny and honest guide to embracing body positivity in your everyday life. I was honored to be asked by Jes to contribute an essay to the book, which focuses on my experience with body acceptance and men’s plus size fashion.
Kat Eves and I interviewed Jes via email, and discussed finding confidence and inspiration in your everyday life, her favorite body positive businesses, and a few of the coolest big gents she’s come across lately.
I think it’s fair to say that your genuine confidence and openness in talking about your body has inspired many, many people. Were you always pretty confident and comfortable in your own skin, or was there an evolution that brought you here?
Well, THAT’S REALLY KIND OF YOU! And in answer to the question: no, I certainly have NOT always been confident. Not by any means!
I grew up in this fucked up society just like everyone else and I was raised in a religion that taught a lot of moral shame when it comes to the body. I have struggled with self image for decades and it was only 3 years ago that I had the epiphany: MAYBE I DON’T HAVE TO HATE MYSELF FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE! I’m sad it took so long to come to that realization, but it’s always better late than never.
After finding the blog (The Nearsighted Owl) that helped me come to this conclusion, I read every body positive blog, book, and post I could find. I started talking with others about my findings and eventually found a community who realized the same things. I STILL have horrible, no good, very bad body days but they are far less than a few years ago and I feel like that’s a major success for me!
What’s your take on the recent #DropthePlus movement, which aims to remove the title of “plus size” from clothing for sizes 12 and above?
I feel like that movement is rooted in the modeling industry which I’m not a part of, so it’s difficult for me to comment. I feel like it’s the model’s place to decide what is right for them.
Without getting you in trouble with the other half, who are your Chubstr crushes of the moment?
CAN WE TALK ABOUT KELVIN FROM NOTORIOUSLY DAPPER FOR A MINUTE??!?!? And maybe Target’s plus model Zach Miko who’s a perfected Hipster version of the Brawny Man? And Sean, the Dancing Man! I met him, and he was a fucking peach! And what about… Well. I’m going to stop while I can.
Your book title suggests that it is written for “fat girls” specifically, but the contributors are diverse across gender lines. Tell us a little about your process in choosing contributors.
I am well aware that the “body positive” conversation hugs and caters to a very specific demographic: white, mostly hourglass, cisgender, 20-30 year old women. Which I happen to be. And while stories from this group are valid and important, they’re not the WHOLE story. And we gotta be honest with ourselves: if body positivity isn’t intersectional, it’s not really body positivity.
So I’m infinitely grateful for the contributors (THANKS BRUCE!) because they shared incredibly important stories that I couldn’t. The individuals I chose are people who have taught me so much about body image and are those that I treasure personally. I’m so glad they all said yes… without them the conversation is moot.
When you’re not traveling to world for book events and lectures, what do you nerd out about – besides body acceptance?
I’ve been BAKING AGAIN! I used to be a professional baker, which eventually was taken over by full time body image work… but I missed it! So I’ve started baking at home again: breads, pies, savory dishes, holiday recipes… It’s been so cathartic.
I also love photography and it’s on my list to start implementing in my life again!
These days, so many issues get a positive push forward when businesses take a stance in support. Do you see any brands out there, fashion or otherwise, that you feel really do a good job of promoting body acceptance?
Smart Glamour,Re/Dress, and Ready to Stare are all doing amazing things for the body image world. They are conscious of inclusion, diversity and making sure it’s affordable for everyone. One of my close friends Elizabeth Denneau is an plus indie fashion designer and I’ve watched how difficult it can be to make all of that happen. But they’re doing it and it’s exciting!
Now that you have accomplished this huge feat and launched a book, what’s next?
More speaking, writing, (maybe another book?) and a potential podcast! I’m unsure what the future holds, but I’m taking it one day and email at a time. Opportunity always comes… it’s just a matter of finding what’s right for you and what serves the community best!
One of the things you discuss in your book is this idea that the diet industry is built on a myth, but you’re not suggesting that people shouldn’t care about their health. Tell us what you mean by this.
It’s a tricky subject. What we know is simple though: diets don’t work. Yet the industry makes over 60 billion dollars a year. We continue to blame our failure on ourselves instead of the system and this makes for a sad reality in which we feel guilt, shame, and continuously harm our body.
I suggest instead, the Health At Every Size® approach where you look at behaviours instead of bodies. As someone who has also worked in mental health where this approach is also used, I can tell you… it’s the only way to heal, find balance, and work towards happiness!