Ashleigh Shackelford stands with unapologetic confidence, holding up a sign declaring, “Your body is not wrong. Society is.” Her image is solely outlined by thick black lines on white paper. Her fierce gaze dares you to pick up a pencil and begin to color her in.
But coloring the image of the body positive activist entails confronting the roundness of her face and the curves of her frame. It means get comfortable with her body a body society will ceaselessly label as less-than.
As your pink pencil gently traces the curves of her skirt, you realise her body is anything but incorrect. And that revelation is exactly the point.
It features the black and white images of 23 activists who Tunis calls current “superstars” of the body positive movement and they are all individuals who influenced Tunis on her own journey to self-love.
Tunis was inspired to create the book in December 2015 after feeling compelled to give back to the movement that helped her love her body. She had been working on her own body positive journey for about a year prior, detecting activists who had an indelible impact on her life.
“I started thinking about what I could do to contribute to that motion, because it had induced such a difference in my life, ” she tells Mashable .
“It’s not only a soothing and relaxing meditation through the act of colour, but also a meditation on self.”
Tunis, who has degrees in fine art and art therapy, says landing on the idea of a coloring volume simply induced sense, given her background. And combating the fat-based hate in society with the healing qualities of art is something Tunis knew she could help facilitate for the community.
“The fat activism and body positivity movements are so welcoming and so inclusive that I knew if I did this project, I’d have a ready-made audience, ” she says.
Though Tunis says the act of coloring in itself is meditative and relaxing, the type of therapy encouraged by Body Love: A Fat Activism Colouring Book operates deeper.
“It forces-out you to think about the different bodies and what your relationship is with them, ” she says. “It forces you to work out your own issues with bodies. It’s not only a soothing and relaxing meditation through the act of colour, but also a meditation on self.”
But that’s not only true for people who purchase the colouring volume and started to set crayon to paper. It was also true for Tunis as the illustrator of the book. The process built her confront some of the internalized weight-based hate she had toward her own body.
“As I was depicting these scenes, I realized I was able to see all of the beauty in these people so why wasn’t I able to see it in myself? ” she says.
To create the book, Tunis worked closely with the activists featured, keeping them updated on the progress and get their input on their depictions. She also offered them 25 percent of the profits.
“I’m employing their names and their images and their reputations to sell this volume, ” she says. “They deserve acknowledgment and that means monetary recognition.”
But Tunis devoted the activists a choice. They could either take the earned 25 percentage to support their own livelihoods and run, or donate it to the Canadian Mental Health Association an organization Tunis chose because of the mental health the health effects of dealing with fat hatred and weight-based stigma. She says about half of those featured has been decided to donate their cut of the profits.
Over the past month since the book’s release, Tunis says the ready-made audience she foresaw has pulled through, constructing the self-published volume a financial success. Some activists, like burlesque musician Noella DeVille and activist and writer Virgie Tovar, are even buying the books in bulk to sell at their own events, bringing the work to a larger audience.
But the release also pulled in another unexpected audience: children. Tunis says she’s received several notes from mothers saying they are grateful to have an alternative option to the tiny waists and unrealistic proportions that coat the pages of other coloring books.
“People have been saying that they are buying this coloring book not only for themselves, but to color in with their daughters and children, ” she says. “I genuinely think it helps spread a positive notion. You are spreading awareness that all bodies are good bodies to your children.”
“Taking the time to lovingly color images of people who definitely sounds like me is so healing…”
Substantia Jones, a fat positive photographer featured in the book, employs her own art to deconstruct how fat bodies are perceived in society, calling her work “part fat, component feminism, portion ‘fuck you.'” She describes Tunis’ coloring volume as following a similar mantra, challenging the belief of which bodies deserve to be celebrated.
“Utilizing other means of media to bring the message of body love and fat adoption to people particularly young people is nothing short of brilliant, ” Jones tells Mashable . “Wallpapering countries around the world with positive depictions of fat folks is demonstrating effective, and I’m glad to be aboard Allison Tunis’ project.”
When speaking to Mashable about the impact of the book, Tovar describes the effort as “super radical.” She says even the simple act of coloring can help to normalize a range of bodies, which was part of Tunis’ main goal.
“This coloring volume is a big deal because historically there has been almost no positive, self-directed representations of fat people in any publishing, ” Tovar says. “Coloring is a therapeutic activity that requires day and commitment. Taking the time to lovingly colouring images of people who look like me is so mending because often we are learned how to shy away from looking at our own fat bodies.”
“To every person who has ever seemed in the mirror and hated what they saw. You do not have to feel like this.”
Case analyzes conducted over the past several years found that art therapy supportings emotional well-being and lessens stress in both children and adults. Those who use art therapeutically have been found to build fewer phone calls to mental health providers and use fewer medical and mental health services.
But, even with art’s mending qualities on your side, things sometimes get tough and Tunis knows that first-hand. Even after determining body positivity, she says she still has bad days with her body image. But, she adds, the activists featured in the colouring book help her along the way.
“There’s this whole community of astonishing people who do amazing things and their bodies are a part of that, ” Tunis says. “It’s not that they are amazing in spite of their bodies. They are astounding because they are embracing their bodies. I remember there are people who love them and find them attractive. I don’t have to feel this way.”
And she echoes that notion for anyone who picks up the book through a powerful dedication that prefaces the book: “To every person who has ever appeared in the mirror and detested what they foresee. You do not have to feel like this.”
The true impact of activism may not be felt for a generation. That alone is reason to fight, rather than surrender to despair
Last month, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden had a public dialogue about republic, transparency, whistleblowing and more. In the course of it, Snowden who was of course Skyping in from Moscow said that without Ellsbergs example he would not have done what he did to exposure the extent to which the NSA was spying on millions of ordinary people. It was an extraordinary declaration. It meant that the results of Ellsbergs release of the top-secret Pentagon Papers in 1971 were not limited to the impact on a presidency and a war in the 1970 s. The consequences were not limited to people alive at that moment. His act was to have an impact on people decades later Snowden was born 12 years after Ellsberg risked his future for the sake of his principles. Actions often ripple far beyond their immediate objective, and remembering this is reason to live by principle and act in hope that what you do matters, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious.
The most important consequences are often the most indirect. I sometimes wonder when Im at a mass procession like the Womens March a month ago whether the reason it matters is because some unknown young person is going to find her purpose in life that will only be evident to the rest of us when she changes the world in 20 years, when she becomes a great liberator.
I began talking about hope in 2003, in the bleak days after the war in Iraq was launched. Fourteen years later, I use the term hope because it navigates a way forward between the false certainties of optimism and of despair, and the complacency or passivity that goes with both. Optimism assumes that all will go well without our effort; despair presumes its all irredeemable; both let us stay home and do nothing. Hope for me has meant a sense that the future is unpredictable, and that we dont actually know what will happen, but know we may be able write it ourselves.
Hope is a belief that what we do might matter, an understanding that the future is not yet written. Its informed, astute open-mindedness about what can happen and what role we may play in it. Hope looks forward, but it draws its energies from the past, from knowing histories, including our victories, and their complexities and imperfections. It means not being the perfect that is the adversary of the good , not snatching defeat from the jaws of victory , not presuming you know what will happen when the future is unwritten, and part of what happens is up to us.
We are complex beasts. Hope and anguish can coexist within us and in our movements and analysis. Theres a scene in the new movie about James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro, in which Robert Kennedy predicts, in 1968, that in 40 years there will be a black chairwoman. Its an astonishing prophecy since four decades later Barack Obama wins the presidential election, but Baldwin jeerings at it because the style Kennedy has presented it does not acknowledge that even the most magnificent pie in the sky might comfort white people who dont like racism but doesnt wash away the ache and indignation of black people suffering that racism in the here and now. Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, early on described the movements mission as rooted in grief and fury but pointed towards vision and dreams. The vision of a better future doesnt have to deny the crimes and sufferings of the present; it matters because of that horror.
I have been moved and thrilled and astounded by the strength, breadth, depth and generosity of the resistance to the Trump administration and its agenda. I did not anticipate anything so bold, so permeating, something that would include state governments, many government employees from governors and mayors to workers in many federal departments, little town in red states, new organisations like the 6,000 chapters of Indivisible reportedly formed since the election, new and fortified immigrant-rights groups, religious groups, one of the biggest demonstrations in American history with the Womens March on 21 January, and so much more.
Ive also been worried about whether it will endure. Newcomers often think that results are either immediate or theyre nonexistent. That if you dont succeed straight away, you failed. Such a framework constructs many give up and should be going when the momentum is build and victories are within reach. This is a dangerous blunder Ive insured over and over. What follows is the defense of a complex calculus of change, instead of the simple arithmetic of short-term cause and consequence.
Theres a bookstore I love in Manhattan, the Housing Works bookshop, which Ive gone to for years for a bite to eat and a superb selection of used volumes. Last October my friend Gavin Browning, who works at Columbia University but volunteers with Housing Works, reminded me what the name entails. Housing Works is a spinoff of Act up, the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power, founded at the height of the Aids crisis, to push for access to experimental medications, bringing awareness to the direness of the epidemic, and not run gentle into that bad night of premature death.
What did Act up do? The group of furious, fierce activists, many of them dangerously ill and succumbing, changed how we think about Assists. They pushed to speed up medication trials, deal with the many symptoms and complications of Aids together, pushed on policy, education, outreach, money. They taught people with Aids and their allies in other countries how to fight the narcotic companies for affordable access to what they needed. And win.