The words ally, allies and allyship have seen a surge in use and popularity in our society and people seem extra-conscious of supporting marginalised people in our current socio-politic environment. However, what exactly does it mean to be an ally to marginalised people in a world where marginalised people are already expected to do extra emotional labour? How do allies ensure they are receiving actionable information and being ‘good’ allies without relying on, questioning, or trying to elicit free information out of marginalised folk who are already creating amazing content?
As a fat woman online, I receive messages from people asking how they can better support, love and help fat people feel heard daily. While all these comments, questions and messages come from an amazing place, more often than not it adds extra work for me to do when people could access information via a Google search. However, for the average ally who doesn’t know where to begin, just exactly where do they begin? Do they read every Instagram post or twitter thread, do they search for journalistic articles, or do they watch YouTube? Often allies become allies after learning about a specific person, or having someone in their direct life who is marginalised. But what happens to the person who stumbles upon fat activism and has no idea where to begin?
Having had so much interaction with people over the last five years of my activism online I realised how many people could really benefit from a more in-depth look at allyship and how best to support fat people. Many people who are allies do not experience the world in the way marginalized folk do. In particular I have a lot of thin allies who want to do the best and support fat people, but perhaps do not have the tools, experience, language or information to do so. Therefore, they may feel confused, and after learning that questions can add emotional labour, many may sit with their questions and not know where to get them answered.
That's how I came up with the idea of creating a fat ally-specific webinar. I've taken the leap to create webinars which are produced with the intent to create practical and supportive spaces, spaces where you can learn from the direct experience and knowledge from a fat person; all while I can also limit my exposure to those conversations and receive compensation for my work.
It's truly important for those who consider themselves allies to work and learn in ways that aren’t just free for them to consume when an activist has dedicated their time and experience to produce. You wouldn’t go to an accounting firm asking them to complete your taxes and expect it to be free just because 'they know how to do it and you don’t’. This is why experiences and people of marginalised groups are irreplaceable sources of education and knowledge. They deserve to be compensated, and allies should recognise this. I think it's important to create spaces of education for allies which not only benefits, but respects, activists. I hope my webinars offer an extra step of activism to help align allies with the actionable tools they might need as well as an understanding of the fat experience.
My first webinar, How To Be A Good Fat Ally, is live this Sunday (April 15th) at 1pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. You can watch live, or alternatively purchase to reserve your spot to receive a replay option (which can be watched whenever and as many times as you want). The webinar explores what it means to be a fat ally, including an open question time and fat resources to check out. This is a great webinar for diet culture destroyers, body positive humans and those wanting to learn about fat experiences in a respectful environment.