PopagandaBody positive beach times

Popaganda

The beach is supposed to be a place of relaxation. But, as we all know far too well, it’s also a place of high anxiety. Nothin’ puts body positive feelings to the test quite like slipping into what’s essentially colorful underwear and parading around in the midday sun in front of a bunch of strangers. This episode of Popaganda, “Beach Bodies,” takes listeners from the sandy sun to the woods, to the pool, and back again, all while having conversations about how we feel about our bodies and how to deal with the anxieties people have around having their bodies being on display outside.

We talk with Unlikely Hikers creator Jenny Bruso about diversifying outdoor-industry media, hear from model Sawyer DeVuyst about telling visual stories from trans perspectives, and dish on fat-positive fashion with style blogger Jessica Torres. We also share oral histories of a 1930s resort called Dreamland, which catered to African Americans living in the segregated Jim Crow South. 

And bonus: interviews from a nude beach. Tune in! 

FULL SHOW

 


UNLIKELY HIKERS 

 


INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA TORRES


INTERVIEW WITH SAWYER DEVUYST


REMEMBERING DREAMLAND


INTERVIEWS AT THE CLOTHING-OPTIONAL BEACH


SHOUT-OUTS 

• Thanks to Big Shed for letting us share their story, Remembering Dreamland. Remembering Dreamland was produced by Jesse Dukes and Allison Swaim as part of Big Shed’s Place + Memory series. Place + Memory was created by Shea Shackelford. 

• Music heard in this episode comes from the excellent band La Luz

• Photographer Lia Clay is working on a series of portraits of transgender people at the beach—she helped connect us with Sawyer. See some of Lia’s photo series here

• The photo featured on this post is courtesy of Jessica Torres


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This podcast was transcribed by Cheryl Green of StoryMinders. We’re proud to make Popaganda accessible to people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
FULL TRANSCRIPT: 

SARAH MIRK: This is Popaganda, the feminist response to pop culture podcast. I’m Sarah Mirk.

[light waves lap the shore]

Just a few miles outside of Portland, Oregon, there’s a long stretch of beach that faces the Columbia River: Collins Beach on Sauvie Island. The thing that’s special about Collins Beach, in addition to the sun and the sand and the small river waves, is that it’s clothing optional. Yep, it’s a nude beach.

SWIMMER: I really appreciate that people, no matter what they look like, they just rock it. They don’t care! I’m just like, oh! That’s pretty bold.

SARAH: The beach is supposed to be a place of relaxation. But, as we all know far too well, beaches are also a place of high anxiety. I love my body. I really do! But nothing puts my body-positive feelings to the test quite like slipping into what’s essentially colorful underwear and parading around in the midday sun in front of a bunch of strangers. This episode of Popaganda, “Beach Bodies,” will take you from the sandy sun to the woods, to the pool, and back again, all while having conversations about how we feel about our bodies and how to deal with the anxieties people have around their bodies being on display outside. Stay tuned.

[Honolulu Lulu by Jan Berry]

♪ Queen of the surfer girls!

She’s got stars in her eyes and knots on her knees, 

now her crazy grass shift really sways in the breeze now, 

Ridin’ down a heavy or lyin’ in the sand, 

She’s the hippest surfer girl in the land. 

And she’s my Honolulu Lulu.

She’s my Honolulu Lulu. 

Queen of the surfer girls! 

Well, she handles all the big ones ev’ry year of Macaha…. ♪

SARAH: I decided there was no better place to kick off a discussion about body positivity than at the naked beach where people are braver and more self-accepting than me.

[gentle waves lapping]

On a hot Saturday in July, the beach was packed with people of all shapes and sizes… and in all states of undress. Groups of twenty-something friends in hip swimsuits shared sand with stark-naked older hippie couples and topless middle-aged moms who helped their toddlers wade into the waves. Microphone in hand and, I should say, wearing clothes so I wouldn’t freak people out too much by coming up and talking to them, I asked people how being naked at the beach made them think about their bodies.

I’m making a podcast about body image at the beach.

SWIMMER Oh yeah?

SARAH: Would you mind if I ask you a few questions about bodies?

SWIMMER: Is it audio or video?

SARAH: It’s audio.

SWIMMER: Just audio?

SARAH: Uh-huh, for radio.

SWIMMER: Sure, why not? Yeah.

SARAH: Great. I’m Sarah, by the way.

SWIMMER: I’m Deb.

SARAH: When you come to the beach, how does it make you think about your body? Do you feel like you should look a different way? Do you get anxiety around it, or do you feel pretty good?

DEB: You know, I have to say, as I’ve gotten older, that doesn’t bother me as much. You know, I’m almost 50, and I’m really feeling much more comfortable with my flaws, so to speak.

SARAH: OK, well, here’s the question.

SWIMMER 2: OK.

SARAH: Which is, when you hear the phrase, “beach body,” what do you think? Do you have an image in your mind of what a beach body is?

SWIMMER 3: Yeah.

SARAH: What is it?

SWIMMER 3: It’s toned.

SWIMMER 2: [chuckles]

SWIMMER 3: It’s toned and tight. Well, until you come to Sauvie. And then it’s a completely different story; anything goes! [laughs] Right?

SARAH: How about you?

SWIMMER 2: I don’t know. I don’t view it that way. I really don’t. Like, I’ve brought my kids here before, ‘cause they were having body issues as girls. And we came here. I just allowed them to be, and they came back, and one of the first things they said is like, “Boy, everyone’s different.” And I said, “That’s right. Everyone is different. And that’s what makes you unique. And it’s not that you need to be a certain way ‘cause no one’s that way.”

The strange thing about is, is when you’re here, and everyone’s naked, it kind of… everything kind of becomes desexualized. It’s just, they’re just human beings, and you’re not objectifying anybody. I mean, if you’re open-minded, you just, you can’t.

SWIMMER 4: I guess being… straight, cis, white male, middle-aged, there’s a lot less burden on me to have a particular kind of public display of my body.

SARAH: When you hear the phrase “beach body,” what comes to mind?

SWIMMER 4: I think the first thing that comes to my mind is actually people who are sunburned [chuckles]. And so lobster people.

SARAH: When you come to the beach, do you feel like you feel any pressure to look a certain way, or do you feel anxious about your body?

SWIMMER 4: Not usually. I do have some weird…grooming techniques that I sometimes do, but they’re mostly for me. So I like to shave my feet. I don’t know. Yeah, I shaved last week, but otherwise, I’m a pretty hairy person. And I don’t usually feel self-conscious about that, but I don’t really feel– There’s definitely times I’ll go to a nude beach, and I won’t feel like getting fully nude. And so it just kinda depends on the day how much I’m thinking about people are looking at me, how I’m feeling inside.

SARAH: OK, well, here’s the question, OK? When you hear the phrase “beach body,” what do you think?

SWIMMER 5: I don’t really think of one [laughs]…I guess.

SARAH: Yeah.

SWIMMER 5: I’m a photographer, and I just came out with a book that’s all about pro-everyone bodies.

SARAH: Bodies at the beach?

SWIMMER 5: No, it’s called The Holy Booble, and it’s women’s boobs from around the world.

SARAH: [laughing] OK, wait! That’s awesome!

SWIMMER 5: [laughs]

SARAH: So you’ve seen a lot of boobs of different shapes and sizes and everything!

SWIMMER 5: Oh, yes! Yes. And I did, like my mom was in it, and she’s 73 now–or four–73 or 74. And then I have transgender women and then women that have had like a double mastectomy. I wanted to do a book that involves everyone. So I had professional models, people it was their first photo shoot, and it’s all Polaroid. So it’s all unedited, raw, yeah.

SARAH: The Holy Booble. You heard it here first. 

[slow beach rock plays]

[car door opens]

JENNY BRUSO: It’s perfect!

SARAH: Are we gonna fall off this cliff?

JENNY: No [laughs].

[door closes]

SARAH: Excellent.

JENNY: You’re gonna live.

SARAH: On a Saturday morning, Jenny Bruso and I parked at a trail head before we set off on a hike into the woods.

OK, are we ready for this?

JENNY: We are ready for this.

SARAH: Jenny Bruso is on a mission. A year ago, she started up an Instagram account called Unlikely Hikers, that highlights people who often aren’t represented in media about the outdoors. Now, the account has 18,000 followers and feels like part of a movement, a body-positive, intersectional effort to make it clear that whether you feel welcome on the trail shouldn’t depend on your race, size, or ability.

How far do you think we’ll go today?

JENNY: I don’t know!

SARAH: Maybe I should’ve planned this out [chuckles].

JENNY: Yeah!

SARAH: Jenny herself identifies as queer, femme, and fat. When she hikes, she usually wears a knee brace to help heal from an injury she sustained in her day job as a bartender.

JENNY: I started hiking about five and a half years ago. I never hiked or was outdoorsy or actually really liked to exercise at all. I started dating my partner, who loves the outdoors, and one of our first dates was a hike. And I said yes ‘cause I wanted to impress her and hang out with her and stuff like that.

SARAH: [laughs] The classic reason!

JENNY: Yeah! You know, really genuine, down-to-earth reasons [laughs]. And I was sweating and breathing really hard and felt super self-conscious. But when we got to the top of the big hill, I felt like I don’t know, something kind of connect. And it felt like something new, and I needed something new in my life. At that time, I was partying all of the time and didn’t know what I was doing with myself and feeling kind of lost. And so I started hiking the kind to, I don’t know, fill in those weird places in my head. And it became the thing that I love to do. At the time–

SARAH: And also, you got a girlfriend out of the deal.

JENNY: I did. And she’s still my girlfriend. So it worked.

BOTH: [laugh]

SARAH: It’s not surprising that Jenny thought for years that she wasn’t someone who was outdoorsy. In advertisements, TV shows, and films about the outdoors, the people who are the protagonists of the adventure stories are often a pretty narrow range of bodies.

JENNY: Usually, the represented outdoors person is a thin, white person. They’re usually young. They usually have very nice gear, which reads as affluent. They’re usually super fit in the way that our society dictates fitness. And they’re often doing these extreme, challenging hikes or rock climbing or whatever it is, peak-bagging and crushing miles and all of that. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those things. It’s just not, it’s just not…it doesn’t tell the story of a real outdoors person. It’s just one kind of outdoors person, and there’s a lot of different kinds of outdoors people.

SARAH: I don’t think I’ve ever crushed a mile my entire life.

JENNY: [laughs]

SARAH: I feel like every mile [laughs] has crushed me.

JENNY: Yeah! That is accurate for me as well. And you know what? I think it’s humble to let the miles crush you.

SARAH: Yeah.

[down-tempo rock]

JENNY: I never even considered the outdoors until I turned 30, and I’m 35 now. And you know, I never thought about hiking or camping or doing any of that kind of stuff. And I think it really is because it never seemed like an option to me; it never seemed like something that was welcoming of me or somebody like me.

I came to a body-positive, fat-positive awareness in my late teens–I’m 35 now–and I never liked exercise because of the way it was always marketed to people as this thing to sort of change their bodies or fix their wrong bodies, especially to women. And it’s always sort of relayed in this weight loss tone. And so I always had sort of a negative attitude toward it, and I purposefully, intentionally did not exercise as my, I guess, sort of a political thing. When I started hiking, it was kind of on a whim, and I found that I really did like feeling my body move. And it made me in touch with my body in a way that I wasn’t and didn’t know that I wasn’t. I found out that moving my body made my brain work better and eased my anxiety and made me feel stronger and more empowered in a lot of ways.

When I first started hiking, I became very aware, early on, that there was a really strong representation and diversity issue with outdoors media and also just in the outdoors too, you know.

SARAH: These days, Jenny hikes at least once a week and mostly hits the trail alone. 

JENNY: You know, in groups, nobody wants to be the slow one or the super sweaty one or the one who’s breathing too hard or whatever. And it’s like, when I’m alone, I don’t even think about that. I don’t care how I look. I don’t care how I’m sweating. I don’t care how I’m being perceived in general. But when you add other people to the mix, it’s like weird sort of social brainwashing and conditioning kind of creeps up out of nowhere.

SARAH: Mmhmm. How do you feel like hiking has changed your relationship with your body? Do you feel differently about your body now than you did five years ago?

JENNY: I definitely do. When I started hiking, I was really self-conscious about just moving my body. And it’s kind of hard to explain, but I was really– Because I had no experience exercising, and I certainly, if and when I ever did exercise, it wasn’t around other people. I didn’t know what it really felt like to really move my body and to be in nature. And to learn how to move my body in ways that felt actually good made me feel really strong and capable and super autonomous in a way that I didn’t realize I was lacking. I didn’t know that I was a physically strong person. I didn’t know that I was capable of hiking miles and miles.

SARAH: To keep following Jenny’s adventure, look her up on Instagram: Unlikely hikers. You can post your own photos on Instagram too, with the hashtag #UnlikelyHikers, and she’ll find them there.

[retro rock]

SARAH: Who feels welcome at the beach has to do with a lot more than just who feels sexy in a swimsuit. In the United States, beaches have a fraught racial history. Both public pools and beaches were racially segregated for much of our history, with Black and brown Americans around the country excluded from many cities’ best beaches and best-maintained public pools. In response to this, African-American entrepreneurs built their own recreation sites catering to the crowds kept out of white-only pools. In the 1930s in Roanoke, Virginia, in the heart of the segregated Jim Crow South, African-American business leaders built a swimming pool and dance hall called Dreamland. The recreation area was a beloved institution for a generation, before it was torn down in the name of urban renewal in 1947. This story, from reporters Jesse Dukes and Allison Swaim shares memories of Dreamland and this era in our history.

This 6 1/2 minute documentary Remembering Dreamland is not transcribed, at the request of the station that originally aired it.

SARAH: That was Remembering Dreamland, a story produced by Jesse Dukes and Allison Swaim as part of Big Shed’s Place + Memory series. Place + Memory was created by Shea Shackelford. Thanks to that team for letting us share their story.

[jazz music]

SAWYER DEVUYST: For a long time, like in my adolescence, I stopped going to the beach because I was just so uncomfortable, and I didn’t really have the language to describe why I was so uncomfortable. I was not out as trans then, but I just didn’t feel comfortable in a bathing suit. So I just didn’t go to the beach.

SARAH: Sawyer DeVuyst hated his body as a teenager. Now, his job revolves around his body. He’s a transgender model, artist, and actor.

SAWYER: Hey, I’m Sawyer DeVuyst. I’m a visual artist and a model, and I’m reluctantly claiming that I live in Los Angeles.

SARAH: Sawyer runs a photo project called Mine where he takes a daily self-portrait and another called Theirs where he features portraits of other transgender and gender non-conforming people. Both projects aim to change the way transgender people are seen and to tell visual stories from trans perspectives, rather than seeing trans people through the lens of cisgender folks. He also works as a model and actor. Last year he was featured in a billboard campaign for the “period-proof underwear” Thinx. I talked to Sawyer about the beach and how his relationship to his body has changed as he’s photographed himself every day.

SAWYER: I absolutely love the beach. I’m a Leo; I’m a summer baby. So I grew up swimming in pools at the Jersey Shore. And so now, going to the beach, I’ve been out as trans for eight years, I think, and going to the beach now is like a refreshing thing because I am now comfortable as myself, both physically and mentally, emotionally. I feel like there’s nothing wrong with my body being a trans body. There’s actually nothing wrong with it. There are many different types of bodies, and my type of body is just one of them.

SARAH: As a teenager, what felt so fraught to you about going to the beach? Like, when people invited you to the beach, what was the response that was running through your head?

SAWYER: Oh god. I think I’ve struggled for…many years, since I was a teenager, with eating disorders. And that was always a big thing for me. I think it was just general hatred of my body, whether it was that I thought that I was too heavy or didn’t like the shape of my body or whatever it was, I did struggle with disordered eating. And I think just being in a bathing suit and showing my body and showing the thing that I was ashamed of was just not happening. It was not gonna happen.

SARAH: At what point did you feel OK going to the beach again? Do you remember the moment when someone invited you to the beach, and you thought, “OK, yes. I feel good about this?”

SAWYER: God, the first time I went to the beach again? I think I was living in Brooklyn, and I don’t remember who invited me to go to Reese Beach, but it was…as it was laid out to me, it was a queer, kind of naked, just like inclusive beach. And I was like, “OK, that seems cool.” And went with a few friends and was just blown away by just the diversity that was there. Like every different kind of person is at that beach. No one’s throwing shade. No one is– It seems like no one really has a care in the world, and it’s really a beautiful place to be. And that beach, I think for me, was a great place to come out as trans and be transitioning. Because I could go there in any stage of my transition and feel comfortable, was really thing.

SARAH: So now, when you go to the beach, do you take a lay of the land and see who’s around, or do you just go for it and jump in the water?

SAWYER: Yeah, I just go for it [chuckles] at this point. I think I used to, I think right after I had top surgery, I probably would take a little survey and see what kind of people were around. But at this point, I really don’t care. And I used to take more of a survey to see who was around, and I realized that that’s a very privileged statement to make, that I can just go for it and feel comfortable in that way. But it’s taken me a lot of time and mental, just checking in on myself mentally, to get to that place where I don’t really feel expectations around my body based on where I am. Like, when I go to the gym, and I’m changing in the locker room, I also just go for it and change.

Because in my mind, there are many different types of male bodies. There’s not just a flat chest with the “male genitalia.” There are many different types of male bodies. And if somebody wants to ask me about it in the locker room, then that’s totally fine. If somebody wants to ask me about it on the beach, that’s totally fine. And I think that’s where the privilege comes in because I am a white person, I am able-bodied, I am cis-passing. Where a lot of people don’t have that privilege to feel safe in that way, I do.

SARAH: It sounds to me like you have a bit of conflict around passing, around being in stealth mode, essentially. Do you feel some tension around that? And what is that?

SAWYER: Yeah, it’s hard. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I didn’t feel that way, but that’s just the way the world is, where people who don’t necessarily fit into a box are hated or chastised or more at risk for violence. And I wish it weren’t that way, but that’s the reality of it. And I think if that weren’t a factor, if I didn’t have to worry about people’s reactions towards me, I would never have gone on hormones. I was fine the way I was. I was fine without top surgery. But I think the pressure to just feel safe was really the thing that was most important to me.

SARAH: It’s not like you’re entirely in stealth mode though, because you’re a model and an actor, and you put out there very publicly on your profile, very front and center, “I’m a trans man.”

SAWYER: Mmhmm.

SARAH: So how do you feel about your body being in public so much? How does being in a billboard campaign make you think differently about your body?

SAWYER: [chuckling] Yeah! I think there’s still a level of, it’s not even that I wanna be stealth, because I don’t, really. I mean, clearly, because I’m all over the place. But it’s more the choosing of when I can disclose that I’m trans. So like the guy in the cafe down the street, that’s a situation where there’s no reason for that man to know that I’m trans. My landlord doesn’t need to know that I’m trans. ‘Cause I’m just a person doing his thing, going to work, paying my bills. I’m just a normal person. The only difference is that some doctors had some idea about my body when I was a kid, and that’s not necessarily true. So there’s really no reason to tell most people, you know?

And I think the important thing with my modeling and the acting and any interviews that I do, it’s all to do with what I wish I had when I was younger. I wish that I had somebody saying that, “There’s nothing wrong with you.” I wish I had somebody saying, “You don’t need to be ashamed of being trans or being queer,” or whatever it is. And there’s also no problem for, there shouldn’t be a problem with trans people loving their body the way it is. These expectations of appearing cis, it’s not real. It’s complete bullshit, really.

Just like the expectations that I need to hate my genitals or hate my scars that are evidence that I’m trans, that’s all complete bullshit. I think they’re things to be celebrated. It’s just like a diverse body, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

[beach rock]

JESSICA TORRES: I think that for me, realizing that my body is not a complete representation of who I am, just because you see me, and you see that I’m fat doesn’t mean that I’m a good person or a bad person.

SARAH: That’s Jessica Torres. She’s a writer who covers plus-size fashion and has become a fat fashion sensation in her own right. Her Instagram feed full of photos of her wearing crop tops, bikinis, racy skirts, and all sorts of other fun clothes that big, curvy girls are often shamed out of wearing.

JESSICA: Hi, my name is Jessica Torres, and I am a fashion writer and producer for Revelist.com, and I have a file blog ItsJessicaTorres.com.

SARAH: Jessica, you’re one of the only fashion bloggers that I follow on Instagram, and I love your photos because they’re damn funny [chuckles]. And you’re also really straightforward about your feminist politics and your activism. Like, amid the photos of you in cute skirts, you’ve posted guides for what to do if Immigration and Customs Enforcement knocks on your door, and statements about how trans rights are human rights. So what tone do you try to hit with your style online? What do you feel like defines your voice?

JESSICA: I think my voices stands for all the young millennials out there like me who are multi-dimensional. We can care about fashion and also care about trans rights and Black Lives Matter and immigration: everything that affects us because we’re not just one-sided human beings. We have many interests. We have many things we need to talk about and that we wanna stand up for. So I feel like when you’re on my Instagram, you do see a lot of funny quotes and pictures and stuff like that and funny videos of the experience of a fat woman. But then we also wanna talk about, what I wanna talk about is things that matter.

SARAH: One thing I like about your posts is that they’re not all buy, buy, buy. Like, a lot of the photos you take are you just hanging out in a bikini with friends or trying on weird Halloween costumes. And there’s a lot of commercial cooptation of feminism these days with brands sending the message of, “Buy this lipstick. Buy this underwear. Buy this hat. It’s feminist! You need to buy this to be a feminist.” So do you get uncomfortable about the way that brands are winding together feminism and capitalism? And what do you try to do about that in your own approach to fashion?

JESSICA: I think we’re all very smart, and we can definitely tell when a brand is using body positivity and feminism or Black Lives Matter or any other topic, political topic, to sell a product or to sell whatever it is they’re trying to sell. I think we’re smart enough to tell the difference. And what I try to do is, let’s just focus on what really, truly speaks to me. If I feel like a brand is being honest, I will stick to it; I will stick to the message. I will stick to the product. But if I feel like it’s a brand who is just really talking about topics that they think are gonna get them numbers, then I try not to focus on that. You won’t ever see me mention them because I’d rather not give them any daylight at all.

SARAH: What feels fake to you? When have you come up against a brand that’s just trying to use body positivity as a trendy way to make a profit? What rubs you the wrong way?

JESSICA: Well, definitely if you call yourself a body-positive brand, and you only carry up to an extra-large, then you know, fuck you. I am not an idiot. That is not gonna fit me or any of the people that follow me or my friends. So I’m gonna pretty much just ignore that. And sometimes it’s good to call them out. But sometimes it’s just to let them fade away on their own, and there’s no point to give them any type of voice at all. So I think it’s about being honest. So not only should you promote and have plus-sized models as part of your brand, but you should also actually have products that we can actually wear.

SARAH: You were recently featured on the cover of fat-positive fashion magazine FabUPlus wearing a sexy red bra and underwear. And when you posted a photo of that cover on Instagram, you wrote this really sweet note. You said, “I never thought of someone with my body type and coming from where I come from having such a huge honor. I remember being a little fat Ecuadorian girl in the Bronx with big dreams. Now, I’m a grown fat Ecuadorian woman with even bigger dreams.” I just love that message! And I’m wondering, how did you feel about your body when you were a kid in the Bronx? Did you want even then to grow up to be a cover girl?

JESSICA: The reason why I did it was because when I was younger, I never, ever saw big women like me, someone who was plus-size, who was visibly plus-size, not someone who just has a little bit of curves, a little bit of a tummy. No, I’m talking about someone who’s visually, very visible fat and that is proud of themselves and that is out there chasing their dreams and trying to inspire other women to be the best people we can. So I said, “I need to be the role model that I needed when I was younger.” I didn’t have it.

So when this magazine is out there, I wanna see other girls who may not have the perfect body, according to society. But what is the perfect body at the end of the day? So I want them to be able to see themselves, and some will be, “Well, I might not be as big as her, or I might be bigger than her, but that’s OK. Because if she can be confident in how she looks and who she is, then I can.” And I feel like that’s contagious.

SARAH: So as a teenager, did you get any kind of positive reinforcement from your community, your friends, and your family? Or was it a pretty dark time of feeling too big all the time?

JESSICA: I always grew up thinking that my body was a work in progress. I’m Latina, and in my community, everyone has to or wants to look like Sophia Vergara and Selma Hayek: you know, these tiny, little waists, big boobs, big booty, looking like perfection from head to toe. And I always felt like I was the funny friend, the funny sister, the nice person, the cute girl, the one who had a cute face but not a great body. And that always affected me, because I never really had anyone say, “No, you’re fine the way you are, and it’s OK to be the way you are and look the way you look and not hate yourself.”

Because I did. I didn’t feel comfortable with myself. I would hide or would wear these big, baggy clothes. And I remember in school, I would sit all the way in the back of the classroom so that no one would see me. I didn’t want anyone sitting behind me because they would see my back fat. Or I didn’t want someone sitting next to me because they would see my side rolls.

SARAH: Are there days when you feel bad about your body? And even now that you’re an activist and a writer on this, I bet there are days when you still feel bad about your body. Everybody does. So what do you do when you get into a body-hating rut? How do you get out of that?

JESSICA: Absolutely. I feel like it doesn’t matter how body positive you are or how body positive you may seem online, everyone has a bad day. Whether you are fine, or you’re fat, everyone has a bad day. And what I try to do on those days is I talk to my friends. I try to begin with my body-positive friends, and I remind myself that they aren’t happy too. They have good days; they have bad days. And sometimes it’s just good talking about it. Go with a friend, and like, “Hey, I’m not feeling great about myself today.” And that friend can give you advice on it, and that friend can tell you, “Hey, you should do this.”

For example, my friends will be like, “You know, just take a breather from online. You know, it can be kinda harsh to be out there. So just take a breather.” Or they’ll remind you that you’re beautiful no matter what. And that’s the most important thing is who you are, the kinda person you are with other people and how you treat other people.

SARAH: A lot of talk about fat is really negative. So I wanted to end on a positive note. Can you recall a really good memory at the beach, like a time when you just loved your body at the beach?

JESSICA: Yeah! Actually, it was recently for my birthday was June 30th. And I was actually at the pool, and my friends and I, we all went there. We all put our favorite swimsuits on, and we were having a great time sunbathing. And I remember telling one of my best friends that instead of a birthday cake, I wanted cheeseburgers stacked up with a candle on top. But I was joking, and I didn’t think she would remember. And all of the sudden, they surprised me with that. And I just remember feeling like, I’m a fat girl with a two-piece wet swimsuit, and I’m having a great time, and I’m feeling good about myself. And it’s OK that I’m gonna eat this cheeseburger because I don’t have to feel guilty about who I am. And my swim friends and my best friends, we all enjoyed that little burger cake that we had, and I just remember being the happiest and probably having one of the best birthdays ever that day.

SARAH: [laughing] Yeah! Eating a cheeseburger while wearing a bikini by the pool? It doesn’t get a lot better than that.

That was Jessica Torres, and you can follow her on Instagram at This Is Jessica Torres.

[beach rock]

[theme music]

by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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