Virgie Tovar is the epitome of a #BossBabe! With a Master's degree in Human Sexuality that focuses specifically on the intersections of body size, race and gender, Virgie has been on the forefront of creating body-positive communities all across North America and cultivating empowering discussions around the world. As an activist, author and body image expert Virgie’s work has been featured by everyone including Buzzfeed, The New York Times, MTV and Jezebel. We are huge fans of Virgie’s powerful voice and her tireless efforts in support of the body positivity movement. If it’s even possible, we fell even more in love with her after our interview. And if you have questions for Virgie, check-out our Facebook LIVE Q&A with Virgie herself on December 14th at 7PM EST.
Can I just say how much I love the hashtag “#LoseHateNotWeight” that you created? What are your goals and what do you hope people will learn from your hashtag?
My goal is simple: to eradicate diet culture.
I'm done watching people give their lives away one bite at a time. Too many people realize too late that no amount of weight loss or body alterations actually free us from the mentality of “never being good enough.” It is not the loss of weight or changing of our bodies that ends that mentality; it's the eradication of the mentality itself. I hope people realize that they don’t need to change their bodies, and they can take all the energy and resources they are spending on dieting and re-invest that into radically healing the way they feel about their bodies. Diet culture depletes our resources and our happiness. Dieting leads to anxiety, low self-esteem and sometimes eating disorder. Ironically, just about the only thing dieting doesn’t do is actually lead to weight loss. Dieting leads to weight gain, actually, but we get addicted to the highs and lows – the weight peaks and valleys - and they keep us caught up in the fantasy of thinness. The truth is that all bodies are good and valuable, regardless of their size or ability.
Last time I creeped on your Instagram page you were in Jamaica, hosting an in-person version of Babecamp. Can you tell us a bit about the camp?
Babecamp started as a 4-week online course designed to help people who are ready to break up with diet culture but need a little help from a hardcore, patriarchy-smashing lady (AKA me). While our in-person version shares the same vision, there is an added element that is unique to offline community building.
With the Jamaica version of Babecamp, we take over the entire property of a private boutique hotel. The entire week of Babecamp is filled with a bunch of babes eating amazing food and practicing body love on an island overlooking the Caribbean with an ocean-fed pool while wearing as little clothes as possible.
As a fat person it is so therapeutic to be able to walk around naked or half-naked with other plus-size people without worry or judgment, and it is so healing and inspiring to be around others who share your story.
Every morning we start with a full breakfast and then we’d move to the beach and work on mindfulness exercise, stretches and something I like to call ‘Jigglecize,’ where you spread your arms and legs out and just jiggle for a minute. I also included a workshop on ‘boundary setting’ and ‘burlesque for the shy and awkward’ that aren’t typically included in the online version.
You've had the chance to speak at lots of colleges and universities on everything from human sexuality to activism to body positivity ideology. What has that been like?
I love speaking at colleges! Most of the work I’ve done has been with undergraduates who are at such an important point in their lives. They are forming their own political ideology, often for the first time independently. They’re excited to hear new ideas and decide if they resonate with their life experiences. I talk a lot about the origins and impacts of diet culture and how sinister that history really is - people get it. I feel like I’m often giving language to a feeling that people are already experiencing, and it’s so liberating to be able to articulate what’s happening in their own lives.
Without language, there are no politics, there is no movement.
Language is the biggest tool of change because without it, a lot of the unjust parts of our lives simply remain undigested feelings.
I also love getting to travel and see parts of the country I would never have the opportunity to experience if it weren’t for my lecture bookings. Many universities are based in small towns, and it is so exciting to hang out with local students and faculty who tell me the history and folklore of these places.
As an activist, it's important to always take time for self-care. How do you treat yourself?
With fine French and Italian pastries, pink lipstick, ridiculously potent light roast coffee, world travel, curse words, ruining a man’s day, tiny shorts, pedicures, enormous necklaces, cheetah print, chihuahuas, mimosas and huge sunglasses.
What inspires you and drives you to keep going?
Some of it is super cosmic stuff - like the way that I feel that this is 100% my calling and my destiny. But there is also all the joy that I get out of the work that I do. I get to hang out with feminists and fat hotties all day. I get to speak the truth about what a bunch of horseshit diet culture is. I get to piss off white dudes. I get to eat hot dogs and nachos and feel no guilt. And I get to wear tiny neon clothing covered in donuts while doing all that!
Speaking of pissing people off, how have you dealt with annoying obstacles like online trolls?
For me, fat shamers are in the same category as people who say things like “women can’t do math because uteruses” or people who still believe in phrenology. It’s that simple. You’re dumb. I’m not. The end. Fat shaming is something I have come to see as an expression of bigotry. So, I’m not really invested in someone I think of as a bigot just doing his/her bigot thing online. I also have a strong tendency to analyze the kind of language that trolls use and then I use the analysis in my lectures.
It’s hard when people within my own community come down really hard on something I have said or done, but I realize that ultimately I am not perfect and that it is my job to be accountable and to listen so that I can do better work.
There are times when people just want me to fall off the face of the earth and die in a pile of sharp rocks, and once I sense that they are not treating me with humanity I usually block them immediately.
What does a typical day look like for you and what are some of the things that keep you organized?
Organization is not my strong suit! I am a total beach bohemian who finds structure deeply creativity-smashing, but I do have a white board and I also make my bed first thing in the morning. I think the thing that helps me the most is my Google calendar. I put everything on that calendar. The second I make a commitment (even a tentative one) it goes in the calendar and I set an alarm to remind me of it.
I often start the day with some tarot. I pull one card and spend some time interpreting what the card is telling me about where my energy needs to be placed. Strong coffee helps immensely as well. Because I work for myself, my schedule varies a lot. Some days, I might get up at 6AM to catch a flight, arrive wherever the lecture is, check into my hotel, sleep for 47 minutes, take a shower, down a big glass of coffee and then do a couple of lectures, eat dinner, go back to the hotel to watch whatever is playing on the Sci-Fi channel, soak in the hot tub and then pass out. On other days I might sleep in, check emails in bed, make myself whatever I can find that’s in a can, wander down the street to get coffee, take the long way home via the beach, feel guilty that I’m not working and then come back and work on articles or interviews or Babecamp all day.
I have two busy seasons – one in Fall and one in Spring. I have gone on tour in March for the past three years, and that time of year is total bananas. We get up early, drive all day, eat at gas stations, take selfie and stretch breaks, hopefully find a new age shop that sells amethyst or taxidermy or lesbian witch charms. And then perform for two hours, sell books, check into our hotel and pass out for about six hours before it starts all over again.
Are there any bloggers or fat activists that you love reading or following online? Who are they!
I really love Jessamyn Stanley. She does plus size yoga and is super rad, smart, and generous. I also really love following the Nalgona Positivity Pride project for the amazing intersectional work they do and the focus they have on raising awareness around who is affected by eating disorders. I’m also a huge fan of Aarti Olivia Dubey of Curves Become Her. She actually has really similar upper arms to me and her upper arm fat pride has totally inspired and healed me in a big way! Finally, while Honey Boo Boo is not explicitly a fat activist and has sort of disappeared from the public eye, she is someone I immediately resonated with and admired for her brazenness.
What do you think it takes to be a #BossBabe nowadays?
Trust your gut
Don’t be friends with or date people who don’t amplify your awesomeness
Take it there (wherever there is for you – your ultimate shameless truth place)
Do the kind of work that NOURISHES you, not drains you. If you’re more of a blogger or a knitter or a fashionista then channel your politics through those things you love.
Don’t miss your chance to chat LIVE with Virgie on Society+ Facebook LIVE this Wednesday, Dec 14th at 7P EST at www.facebook.com/societyplusdotcom.