How This Activist Turned a Troll’s Cruel Slur Against Her into a Memoir
Ladies First highlights women and girls who are making the world better for the rest of us.
Jes Baker, fat activist and blogger behind The Militant Baker, will never forget the day that a troll online called her a landwhale. The comment, left on one of her Instagram images, was shrugged off by Baker, but she notes as we chat that, for trolls, “the main objective [is] to shame and dehumanize.” Rather than become upset, she flipped the script and embraced and reclaimed the word “landwhale” to make it her own.
Fast-forward to 2018 and Baker is now releasing her latest book, a memoir titled Landwhale: On Turning Insults Into Nicknames, Why Body Image Is Hard, and How Diets Can Kiss My Ass, where she gets candid about everyday life as a fat woman.
Over the years, through her own body image advocacy and body image work, Baker shares that the more she has learned, the less she has thought she knew. An interesting take, but a valuable one that she shares in her memoir. Through the 272 pages, she dissects her own personal history with her body while stripping herself bare to the entire world, showing just how messy and complicated body image work can be.
“There are stories I’ve never told to anyone and conversations I was terrified to write about,” Baker admits.
As a loud, brash, honest, and thoughtful spokesperson, Baker has often featured in panels and media interviews for her thoughts on everything from body positivity to diet culture. Yet, she admits that working on Landwhale was difficult. She found herself sharing some of her most personal moments and becoming vulnerable, and she knew that, although it was painful, it was important for the entire world to read.
“These essays are needed because they are full of topics that many of us are uncomfortable talking about but need to be brought to light,” she says.
The book gives us an honest and real look at Baker’s own trials and tribulations living as a visibly fat person. She notes that by sharing her own truths, she hoped that people would have a greater understanding of the difficulties people can face. She points to the adage of “don’t feed the trolls” and explains, “We rarely discuss how that emotional (and physical) violence truly affects us. I wanted to be honest about both sides: how the names that are hurled in our direction can actually be quite funny and also how other forms of harassment can harm us on deeper levels that are difficult to admit.”
While Baker doesn’t feel like an authority on all things body-related — she points out that almost everyone on earth is just struggling along looking for answers in the world — she does want to spread a message that if you don’t love yourself and your body each and every single day, that’s okay.
“I want to offer my readers the knowledge that when things are hard, they’re not alone.” For Baker, talking about bad days and eradicating the need to “get it all right” gives both permission and room for everyone to be human. For her, that is a beautiful thing!
As she heads out on the road to promote Landwhale, Baker hopes that this book and her work can act as a “bridge builder” for people who are embarking on their body liberation journeys. She wants to start having more nuanced conversations (online and offline) about bodies, and she hopes that this book is the start toward having more fat women accept themselves. You can find out where Jes Baker will be popping up next by checking her tour schedule here.