Thank You Anita Roddick, R.I.P.

This post, written by Kate Harding, originally appeared on Shakesville

Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, has died of a brain hemorrhage at 64.

Roddick was well-known for her charity work and her amazing efforts to make it clear that The Body Shop has corporate values other than profit. Those values are listed on the website next to the slogan "Made with Passion":

Against Animal Testing

Support Community Trade

Activate Self Esteem

Defend Human Rights

Protect Our Planet

I want to talk about the third one.

In 1998, I was into my second year of living as A Thin Person for the first time since I'd hit puberty, having lost 65 lbs. in 1996-7. I didn't know -- well, more accurately, didn't believe -- that two years later I'd be fatter than ever. I thought of myself as the rare dieting success story -- a belief supported by my Jenny Craig counselor asking if I'd like to submit my before and after photos for a chance at being in one of their ads, as the smiling thin woman right above the "Results Not Typical" fine print.

One day, on one of the manic, hours-long walks that helped sustain my weight loss, I passed a poster featuring a naked, fat, redheaded Barbie-type doll reclining happily on a couch, with the slogan, "There are 3 billion women in the world who don't look like supermodels, and only 8 who do."

Click for larger version
(click for larger version)

I stopped and stared. I didn't even register for a couple minutes that it was an ad for The Body Shop. I just thought it was the coolest thing I'd seen in a really long time.

I went to the Body Shop and got myself a postcard of the same ad, and put it on the wall above my desk. Meanwhile, I still thought I was a dieting success story. And yet meanwhile, I still thought my thighs were too fat. I still wanted to be thinner -- if I tried harder, I could be a size 2, not just a 4! I still hated my weak chin and big nose and problematic skin. I did not personally want to look like "Ruby" ever again, and yet, I couldn't stop looking at that picture of her every damned day. I loved it. I loved her. I just thought I would never, ever be able to be as comfortable in my own skin as that plastic doll. I thought I would never, ever be content with my lot as one of the 3 billion.

These days, my body looks an awful lot like Ruby's, actually -- only with nipples and pubic hair and stretch marks and zits and freckles and skin tags and scars. And I am very comfortable in it. And Ruby is partly to thank.

I've had cause to say frequently over the last few days that body acceptance is not something I arrived at overnight, as if the logic just clicked and that was that. It was a long, painful struggle. And for a long time, I really liked the idea of fat acceptance, while still really, really not wanting to be fat -- so as I've also said frequently in the last few days, I have a lot more empathy for fat acceptance supporters who still want to diet than it might seem like I do.

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