Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ordinary Radical

I want to write about how radical I am.  I want to spin stories about fighting the power, stickin' it to the man, and upsetting the status quo.  But, my reality is not that exciting.  I am actually really very ordinary.  I take my kids to football practice and guitar lessons.  I work a little, go to lots of yoga classes, and try to come up with something interesting for dinner every night. I try to be a good person, and contribute to the world in positive ways, to the best of my ability. None of this sounds very radical -  I even live in the 'burbs, for crying out loud.  So what do I know about being a radical?

According to Meriam-Webster's online dictionary, the word radical has 3 meanings, all stemming from the word "root."

1. Of, relating to, or proceeding from a root.
2. Of, or relating to the orgin; fundamental
3. a : marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional : extreme b : tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions c : of, relating to, or constituting a political group associated with views, practices, and policies of extreme change d : advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs
4 slang : excellent, cool.

Well, of course, I am excellent and cool, so I guess I am more radical than I let on earlier.  But, for the sake of this post,  let's look at the other definitions of radical, starting with number 3.

3a defines radical as "marked by a considerable departure from the usual or traditional."  Under this definition, even though I live in the 'burbs and live an ordinary life, the way in which I am doing this living thing is radical.  I am living fully as a fat woman, which is absolutely out of the norm.  So many fat women wait to live their lives until that magical day when they finally figure it out and get skinny.  I think this is a shame! Why should I wait to dance, or do yoga, or rock climb, or take a boxing class until I fit some prescribed version of what my body should look like?  I think that's bullshit, and that makes me a radical.

Okay, on to 3b - tending or disposed to make extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions.  How about, "all people, regardless of size, deserve to be treated with love, dignity, and respect?"  Pretty extreme change from the Biggest Loser mentality in our culture, don't you think?   How about, "Fat is not inherently unhealthy."  That doesn't match the media hype, but it does match the science.  Still, it makes people squirm, and forces them to think differently when I say it, so I am claiming it as an extreme change in existing views. Radical? Yes.

3c.  This is the political definition of radical.  No, I am  not going to stage a sit-in at the weight watchers diet granola bar factory (although part of me wants to).   I am, however, going to make a point in supporting politics which guarantee basic human rights to everybody.  I am going to share "radical" (but true) information about what really constitutes health at every size.  I am going to talk about fat acceptance and body positivity, even if it makes me a target for derision.  I am going to channel my anger into being a positive inspiration for all women, of whatever size, to explore the possibility of loving themselves, and treating their bodies with kindness.

The last (or first) two definitions of radical just get weird.  These have to do with roots, origins, and fundamentals.  When I looked up the word "radical," this wasn't what I was expecting.  I was expecting cool and different, which, of course, I am.  But rooted?  As I thought about the idea of radical as rooted, I realized with even more certainty that I am an ordinary radical.  I am radical because of my fundamental and deep-rooted belief that we all have a right to live without shame or abuse.  I am radical because I am rooted in the knowing that I am fundamentally OK, just the way I am, today.  These are extraordinarily ordinary beliefs, common to most major religious and spiritual traditions.  But, they often get forgotten in our modern quest to be better, faster, cooler, skinnier, prettier, richer.  I vote we get off of that destructive and never-ending merry-go-round.  And that, in and of itself, makes me a true radical.

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