Image description: Lindley, a fat white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and glasses, is shown in a photo cropped into a circle that is placed in a larger image with a pink background and vintage camera. White text on the image reads, “Intersectionality & Fat Liberation: Lindley Ashline, Body Liberation Photos.”
If you’ve ever met someone and instantly known you’re going to be good friends, then you’ll know how I felt when I met Dalia Kinsey. In fact, we got along so well we recorded our podcast episode twice! (Well, there was a tech disaster involved, but I prefer to think the universe was also encouraging us to hang out some more.)
When we met to re-record the episode, I also kind of missed that the “recording” light was turned on, so you also get to hear me talk for a bit about two very important subjects: cats and plants.
In this episode, we also discuss:
📷 The function of propaganda and misinformation
📷 Intersectionality and Fatphobia
📷 Purging internalized bias
📷 Honoring the emotional labor of others
📷 Forms of activism and focusing on serving fat folx
- Join the group coaching program https://community.daliakinsey.com/
- Join the free FB Group for personal and professional development support https://www.facebook.com/groups/missingpiececommunity
- Join the mailing list for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ inclusive wellness and self-help content https://www.sendfox.com/daliakinsey
- Subscribe to the Youtube Channel to watch the interview https://www.youtube.com/daliakinsey
Connect with Lindley:
- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bodyliberation/message
- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/bodyliberation/support
Dalia Kinsey: Welcome back! Today, we have a special guest on the show, Lindley Ashline. She has done a ton of work around body liberation and fat activism. She is intersectional. She’s a creative person. She’s amazing. Her photography is beautiful. You should definitely check out her website. All those links will be in the show notes.
Today, we’re talking about everything from the sacrifices and the rewards that you get from fully stepping into what you want to do in your business and in your life and focusing on the people that you want to serve and allowing other people to fall away.
And this was really relevant for me this week. It was a great discussion. It was very helpful to hear Lindley explain how her vision for her business has evolved over time, how her branding has changed, and how she sustains her energy as an activist, serving people who are just barely getting acquainted with true inclusion.
Breaking down systems of oppression can be really exhausting. Lindley’s explanation of how you find your way and sustain your energy in serving who you want to serve is very, very helpful. And I think everyone is going to get a lot out of this discussion.
Before we jump right into that, I want to send out a very special thank you to Heidi. Heidi is a supporter of the show. You should be like Heidi. Heidi is making a pledge every month to support the show. The link to be a patron of the show is in the show notes. It doesn’t matter the size of your donation. It could be anywhere from a dollar a month to whatever you feel comfortable with. It all absolutely helps sustain the show, pay for hosting and pay for improvements with equipment, and help me get the message out to even more people.
So thank you so much, Heidi, for supporting the show. Alright, everybody… let’s jump right in.
Dalia Kinsey: Well, thank you so much for coming back on.
Lindley Ashline: Oh, of course!
Dalia Kinsey: So this is take two, everybody. Lindley is an angel, in case you didn’t know it. I always make people stay on the phone with me after the interview is over. People need an out. But then I felt so guilty when I thought back. I think I kept you for two hours. And then, “Where’s the recording?” Who knows?!
Lindley Ashline: We had a good time. And we’re going to have a good time today. And honestly, I don’t remember any of what I said or what we’ve talked about. So it’ll all be fresh.
Dalia Kinsey: Perfect! You know what’s so interesting? I do vaguely remember thinking when we finished that the title that we chose for the episode didn’t seem to match what we ended up talking about. We went in a different direction.
But since we last talked, I’ve had a development in my life, an incident. I think this was yesterday. It was yesterday. And now, the title How Being Yourself Changes the World feels so timely.
So, I don’t know how airy-fairy you are, but maybe this was meant to be. Maybe the universe wanted me to somehow destroy the recording without even knowing how it even happened. It’s so interesting.
So, I was focusing on this podcast. I wanted it to be super queer, super brown, super intersectional, all kinds of bodies, all the things. And I’m not comfortable being closeted. So I say that to say I have probably been out to my friends for 15 years, maybe 20 years. I’m getting old. But I’ve never had this conversation with my parents, or any of my immediate family, only my brother. And this podcast essentially outed me… which was my plan. But I’ve been wondering, “When’s the conversation happening? When is it happening?”
But I’ve realized, through this phone call with my sister, they’re very, very conservative. I was raised fundamentalist Christian. So I knew this was never going to be like, “Oh, we love you. We affirm. We accept you.” I knew that wasn’t going to happen.
But I was just wondering, “What will it really look like? What it will feel like?”
It felt really bad. And it made me wonder for half a second, it made me question: “Is being yourself that important?” and the things that you have to sacrifice when you decide to be yourself fully. There’s some validity to that, that it is a sacrifice. But the pay-offs I feel are huge. And it’s also important to model that for other people.
But when you thought about that title, what was coming up for you? And what has your struggle or your experience been with fully being yourself and how that makes a difference in the world around?
Lindley Ashline: Well, I’ll be honest. I picked that title, and I have no idea. But I have thoughts now—that may or may not be the same as they were then—
Dalia Kinsey: Yeah, this is a crazy time. It’s like CoVID time. And we all saw the shit show that was the “debate”—and that’s in air quotes—yesterday. And it’s really hard to remember what we thought about anything even a day ago. We seem to be changing. Some people don’t seem to be changing at all. But the rest of us seem to be going through massive amounts of growth in rapid time. So that was a lot of time ago.
Lindley Ashline: Yes. And I’ve had a lot going on in personal life which I’ll again talk about. It isn’t my story to tell, but someone who is close to me has had a pretty major health transition in a way where we’re navigating some new things. And honestly, right now, my goals are sleep and sleep, keeping up enough with my daytime work that I’m keeping to that list that I’ve made. And then next week, I get to collapse into a well-deserved break. I’m so excited.
Dalia Kinsey: So, did you have to go back to work already? Or now, you’re just working from home and doing more?
Lindley Ashline: My own business work, yes, because I have deadlines and things for my writing clients. And I’m not doing any client photography right now because of CoVID. Bless you. But things that I have a big new website launch coming up, big things like that, where I need to meet the commitments that I’ve made if I can.
But also, the great thing is if I can’t, my only boss is my cat who’s behind me.
Dalia Kinsey: Judging you.
Lindley Ashline: Judging me.
Dalia Kinsey: I like that stand.
Lindley Ashline: Isn’t it cute?
Dalia Kinsey: Is it he or she?
Lindley Ashline: She.
Dalia Kinsey: …or something else. Do they ever go into the part at the bottom? I just want to know if anybody’s cat ever uses anything they buy for them the way it’s supposed to be used. And so far, it looks like the answer is no.
Lindley Ashline: No… and she doesn’t jump very well. So that stool that’s beside us, that square thing, that’s so she can get up into it. She doesn’t cat very well.
Dalia Kinsey: It’s so funny. I just feel like this year, the comfort that we get from animals is more important than ever. I’ve been on a waiting list for cats for a minute, and I can never get one because so many people are getting pets this year. They really do help with stress management. And I think they don’t get enough hype when it comes to how important they are for self-care. For people who do love animals, the cats and their purring, I think it actually heals people.
Lindley Ashline: Yes. Unfortunately, we had two cats. And we lost one in April. And she just had a sudden medical condition and passed away. For losing a loved and valued family member, it was the best possible scenario in the sense that we had the privilege to be able to get her some very expensive medical care very quickly. And we were able to spend another week with her. And when she passed, we were both there.
She waited until we were both there—and I can’t talk about this because I’m going to cry. But she waited until we were both there, and it was quick and probably painless. We don’t know. But it was not—sorry. It was very difficult, but it was also the easiest way it could have gone, if that makes sense.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes, it does.
Lindley Ashline: But losing a family member in the middle of a pandemic has been—
Dalia Kinsey: That’s horrible.
Lindley Ashline: That’s been an interesting thing too. And of course, the question has been, “Aren’t you going to go and adopt again?” And I feel like it’s a combination of not being ready and of wanting to give our remaining cat some time because they didn’t get along. So people kept asking, “Oh, is your other cat grieving?” No, my other cat is throwing a freaking party. She doesn’t get picked on anymore. She’s delighted.
Dalia Kinsey: They are so interesting.
Lindley Ashline: She has kitty PTSD.
Dalia Kinsey: Well, it’s so funny how it doesn’t matter with some cats how long they’re together. If they don’t like each other, they never change their mind ever. And it looks as though their family ties are really important to them. When they live in the wild, they stay with their family. And so that’s why I’ve been trying to get siblings. So at a minimum, they would have someone else they were related to always.
And that’s really been another problem trying to get two from the same litter. But it’s been interesting because our cats, both had congestive heart failure, and then I took one to be euthanized because I saw how much the other one struggled when he died. It was horrifying.
And apparently, the way cats have congestive heart failure is the same way people have congestive heart failure. And the thought of knowing that, at some point, they’re going to just drown, and the panic that you feel when you’re drowning, I just thought, “Oh, my goodness.”
Lindley Ashline: No.
Dalia Kinsey: It’s a no. So I took her to get it done. And the doctor was so nice and showed me the way they sedate them before they euthanize them, that she was completely out. Her whole body went limp the way you do when you go under anesthesia. You don’t remember anything. You don’t feel anything. So, at least I know—
Of course, she wasn’t excited because she was at the vet. And it was just so interesting. All the times they’d gone to the vet and thought, “This is a bad place. Bad things happen here.” I did feel bad that, “Hmmm… it’s true. This is where you got medical care and this is where you’re euthanized. Bad things do happen here.”
Lindley Ashline: It’s true.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes, but I’ve waited long enough. And it is true you have to wait a while. You think about all the grief you have when they die. But then you think about all the joy you had while they were alive, and I’m just ready for that again, especially because I feel like if I—
I think I’ve reached my max as far as how much chemical help I can get getting through 2020 before my liver packs its bags and just decides to get out of here! So, I’m like, okay, we need to try some other things. We’re trying sunlight. We’re trying walking. And I need some animals in the house. I really think it would be one more tool in my toolkit to deal with all this stress.
Lindley Ashline: Yes. I think I might have talked about this last time, but my thing has been the house plants.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes, they’re beautiful.
Lindley Ashline: At first, I really wanted that new cat energy. But then, it was so clear that Blue, our cat who is behind me, is kind of like relaxing for the first time in her whole kitty life (because the other cat was older than she was).
And so, we felt like we needed to give her some time. And now, I just wanted some lower stakes because I’ve had my first cat, the one who passed away, for 13 years. And we were avatars for each other. If I was upset, she was upset. And if I was sad, she was sad. And we were so closely connected. It sounds weird that to say this about a pet, but it was pretty intense. And then, what if I get a cat and it’s not a good match?
And then, I’m like, you know, house plants are alive. There are some stakes. They’re just not as high. And if I kill one, it was $15.
Dalia Kinsey: Right, exactly! Well, I’ve been going through them so fast. I do think they help with the air quality (some plants more than others). So I thought maybe that could help with mood too. But I cannot keep them alive. I’ve got a hydroponic unit that I’m having more success with. But it comes with a Bluetooth functionality thing. It tells me, “The water is low.” And even with that, I have killed a couple of plants in there. So I am not ready for all the planting you’re doing.
Lindley Ashline: But also, I joined these Facebook groups, and they’re a lot of help because they’re also local groups. So they’re growing things in the same lighting conditions and the same climate.
Dalia Kinsey: That’s really smart.
Lindley Ashline: But also, the big thing for me was getting a humidifier and a fan (a tiny, little USB fan). But just the humidifier, all the tropicals that you buy like at the hardware store or whatever, all those tropical plants, they need higher humidity. And so, I’ve always grown plants. But by “grow,” just keep alive until they eventually die. They’re not growing, they’re just not dying. And so, I stuck them all in indirect light with the humidifier. And suddenly, they’re growing-growing.
Dalia Kinsey: That, I’ve never in my life considered, buying a humidifier, because it’s just so damp here. But it probably is too dry for my orchid.
Lindley Ashline: For your indoor air, yes.
Dalia Kinsey: And I usually buy de-humidifiers. You originally came from the south. So did you have a de-humidifier growing up that was just full of water?
Lindley Ashline: Yes! Yeah, yeah. And you just had to go and do it occasionally. But also, the other secret weapon is an app that tells me when to water things.
Dalia Kinsey: What is it called?
Lindley Ashline: It’s called Vera—V-E-R-A. Otherwise, I will water things until they turn into mush.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes, I had a cactus explode once. And I thought it was starting to look funny. And so I touched it a little bit and it just burst full of water. So that sounds handy.
I was listening to an old interview of yours where you were talking about the time before the internet really got going. That was during that time. And it just wasn’t intuitive that you should just look it up. Everything was just either ask a librarian, figure it out, or find somebody older who looks like they might know.
So, how do you feel going through what we’re going through now with access to all this information? Do you think it’s helping, or would we have been more comfortable going through all this in 2006 in LiveJournal days?
Lindley Ashline: I think it’s kind of a chicken and egg because I think, if we didn’t have access to all this information, we wouldn’t have the same situation in the sense that if misinformation and disinformation didn’t have the power to be passed around as quickly, and radicalization couldn’t occur as quickly, I think that we wouldn’t have a situation that’s so intense and so high stakes.
I mean, I don’t think we could have had the situation in 1980. I’m not saying that we couldn’t have some of the same elements, of course. We could have had a Trump presidency in ’98 but I think it’s more about the intensity of it. The stakes aren’t the same as they would have been in 1980 because if you can be—
I was born in 1980. I don’t know what politics was like other than reading back about it. But I’m guessing that if white supremacists were trying to recruit you, you might come across a brochure or maybe a buddy would take you to a meeting or something.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes, I’m assuming that someone you knew would have to decide, “Oh, they look turnable,” or, “They seem like a match,” or whatever.
Lindley Ashline: Or you might find a brochure at the bus stop or something. But you didn’t have 24/7 news channels and the media bombardment that we have that radicalizes people very quickly. It’s very widespread.
Dalia Kinsey: Even Facebook, intentionally or unintentionally, even helps you find affinity groups or affinity people. I’ve even heard people getting ads that were clearly a stepping point to lead you to a hate group site and they were like, “Why in the world am I getting this?” And then, you later realized a relative of theirs who they’re connected to on Facebook had, for a moment, and dabbling in some white supremacist research, and then decided, “Oh, that’s not for me.” But then Facebook was funneling those same types of interests to everyone he was connected to that matched his demos as far as white and male. So then, you can blow up as a hate group overnight, reaching people you would have never even known or considering membership.
Lindley Ashline: In addition to that too, I was reading an article, I don’t know, last night or this morning, it just came out, about one of the ways that the [unintelligible 17:23] data got used in the 2016 election, we now know that there were lists of individuals—millions of individuals, but individual people—who were on these, I can’t remember what they called it in the news article, but it was disinvited from voting. Specific people, the majority of whom in most of these lists were people of color, primarily white folks, who were being specifically targeted, individually, with Facebook ads, discouraging them from voting or giving them some kind of misinformation or—
Dalia Kinsey: I saw a lot of posts that they felt true true, and in hindsight—I kind of doubt it. It’s so realistic the way it was written like old quotes painting Hillary as just another disappointing closet racist. And I thought considering her age and everything else, I’m not voting for this rapist. I don’t care what she said. So, it didn’t turn me, and it didn’t make me feel like I shouldn’t go out and vote. But I could easily see someone else feeling like, “Oh, why even bother?”
Lindley Ashline: It’s very scarily smart. And then honestly, I hated email lists because it means that there are e-mails from the Trump Campaign in my inbox all the time… but I signed up. In 2016, I signed up for White House e-mails and also, Trump Campaign e-mails. And those get automatically forwarded into Evernote for later preservation and analysis just in case I ever want to go back and run language analyses on them or whatever. But I get seven or eight of these per day.
Dalia Kinsey: That’s a lot.
Lindley Ashline: And again, I don’t look at them. I don’t generally read them, partly, because they’re very intense like, “The liberals are coming to get you” and “The democrats lied again.” They’re very intense. They’re always from up to 11. And most of them, the calls to action are campaign donations.
But if you are getting seven or eight of these per day, every day—I have thousands of these—if you’re getting that every day, and you’re being bombarded with this, and you are in any kind of vulnerable population who would be susceptible to believing this stuff and not fact-checking it, by this point, you would be so indoctrinated.
Dalia Kinsey: Oh, yeah! I just rode around my neighborhood when I came home this evening to see who had taken—I say it as though anyone did. I really believed someone would have taken down their signage for Trump after the debate—no one, no one. It doesn’t matter if he shows up with full, grand wizard gear.
And what is so interesting to me is that disconnect between them thinking, I still am going to want to go hang out with them and be buddies. But these are people I spend time with. These are people who I eat with. It’s just very odd the way people cannot see why I’m not a Trump supporter. I’m like, “How are you not hearing this?”
This debate isn’t even dog whistle stuff anymore. This is stuff I thought everybody could hear. It’s very peculiar. But like you said, it’s disturbingly smart, the manipulation, that we’re seeing.
I think that you have to almost be marginalized in some way for you to be able to start to see how we’re all being manipulated by the systems of power that are in place around us. If they’re serving you, it’s hard to see it sometimes, or if you imagine they’re serving you.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how toxic the concept of whiteness is and how diverse people of European decent were prior to arriving to the U.S., and all the things that you must give up to be white in the US. And all these things that to me look like signs of distress that I see among white Americans and all the appropriation and desire for tradition and culture, it’s like, “You had your own, but your parents’, grandparents’, grandparents gave it up. They got to Ellis Island and said, ‘We’re changing your last name,’ and they said, ‘Cool! I’m white American now. End of story.’” And it really seems like it causes a lot of grief.
Have you experienced that being marginalized as a fat person has given you an ability to basically sense BS on a label that skinny, able-bodied, cis-white-het people usually just really struggle to grasp or even see? They’re literally blind to it.
Lindley Ashline: In some ways, yes. But I’m also not going to pretend that I’m a magic detector of oppression in all its forms. The last time you and I met, you caught something that I said in the moment where I had been—
Dalia Kinsey: Oh, when you said we were all surprised. Yes, we were all surprised to find out that sometimes police do bad things. And I was like, “You were surprised.”
Lindley Ashline: By all, I clearly meant people like me, which are clearly not the whole freaking universe. But having that lens, I think, does help partly in the sense that you’re more likely to believe other people when they speak. If I expect people to believe me when I talk about something related to fat oppression, of course, I have to give someone the floor when they want to talk about something that is homophobic or any other access of oppression. I think it makes me more inclined to listen and to be like, “Oh, I should give this a hearing, at least.” I think it makes you more aware that there are lots of other intersections.
Once you start seeing those things, I think you’re more likely to keep seeing them. But really, I can’t. I would like to be able to claim that I’m somehow magically more aware of oppressions that aren’t my own, but mostly just the importance of listening.
Dalia Kinsey: And that’s huge! That’s crucial. It’s so interesting. White supremacy affects all of us. It affects people of color. And I find myself wanting to give anybody white who isn’t being bat shit so much credit for the most minimal things.
Lindley Ashline: “Yay, I get a cooking for not being like that.” Seriously, that’s a low bar.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes, it’s a very low bar. And now, even thinking about driving through a neighborhood and seeing all of my “friends” and neighbors with their Trump signs out, it really—
This is a year of introspection and reflection and self-awareness on a level that I have never experienced. And I thought I had already gone through a lot of levels of growth, but this year in particular, the importance of intersectionality and the importance of really digging deep to see what internalized BS do I have in me that I want to release? And what is it going to take to get it done?
And it’s an ongoing thing. But to even hear your awareness to catch something that reflects another thing I want to work on reminds me that having a variety of people around you is the key to working through your internalized bias because we keep reflecting back to each other areas that we need to take a look at.
Lindley Ashline: Yes. I mean, I learn from people who are bigger than I am. I learn from people who have different intersections, people who are fat and black, people who are fat and gay, people who are fat men because they have somewhat different pressures affecting them.
So, my job is to sit there and take notes, support them in whatever they’re doing. Don’t just lurk and then suck up all their labor and then leave.
Dalia Kinsey: Can we get that one more time for the people at the back?
Lindley Ashline: Don’t just suck up all the labor and then leave. I mean I can’t possibly track down everyone who I’ve ever read a blog post from. I can’t. I’m a denizen of the internet. I take in a lot of information. And I can’t possibly financially support every single one. But I’m subscribed to a bunch of Patreons, just a couple of bucks a month. I have a line item in my personal budget and I have a line item in my business budget, depending on whether it’s related to what I’m doing or whether it’s a more of a personal interest.
I try to support people I can. If nothing else, I can elevate their words. I can share what they’re doing and make sure it links back to them, and make sure that they are tagged and credited.
I had somebody the other day on Instagram take a post of mine and reposted it without tagging me or including my original caption. And I called them out and they were really shocked, and they said, “Why are you so mean about this?” I’ll be honest. I asked them when they were going to stop stealing content.
Dalia Kinsey: I think that’s an excellent question. I actually think that that is not mean at all, and their response should have been like, “Oh, my god, I’m so sorry.” Busted!
You know, sometimes when somebody calls you out, you have no defense, you’re just like busted. There’s nothing you can say. They’ve got a lot of nerve coming back with, “Why are you so mean?” They didn’t even try to credit you.
Lindley Ashline: I think this person is bad at the internet. I think maybe they were taking screenshots of posts or something. It was clear that they didn’t really understand. I have also called out some people who very much understand and build their audiences that way. And that’s not okay. But honestly, I was feeling salty that morning. And then I just dealt with somebody who darn well knew better, and she was stealing my ideas and reposting them as a thin white woman. And I had just finished dealing with that. I was extra salty. I was like, “When are you going to stop stealing content?” And they took it down, and then they reposted it with credit. And after they were like, “Why are you so mean to me?” And I was like, “Because I’m so tired of people doing this.” And at that point, they were like, “Oh.”
I think they didn’t understand the concept of giving credit, which I don’t know what this person looks like. I don’t know what their identities are. It’s not like they had a photo on their profile. But they seem to actually not understand which is a privilege too.
Dalia Kinsey: Thank you. Yes, that means this was a cis-white-het person.
Lindley Ashline: Probably.
Dalia Kinsey: I’m pretty sure that’s what it means. Who knows? Maybe some other clueless person who is bad at the internet, as you said…
Well, it’s funny. I’ve been hearing a lot lately about consent on a level that I hadn’t even touched. Being born in the 80s, consent, this is a conversation that’s new.
Lindley Ashline: Yes, for sure.
Dalia Kinsey: Taking it really deeply as far as asking for people’s permission and making sure people are comfortable in workspaces as well—consent even in a sexual context was really weak in the 80s. It was a very, very rape-y decade, even in the teen movies. But now, with work even, knowing that even if you credit someone and you tag them, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s enough. What if they don’t jive with your page, and they don’t want to be connected to you? You don’t really have consent unless you asked.
Lindley Ashline: Yes, and I will admit that this is one that I struggle with because the framework of norms in my head about internet and business or internet and activism, or whatever, being a good citizen of the internet, is that as long as you tag and credit—and their post was public to start with, no taking people’s private Facebook posts or whatever. But that is not only okay but it’s encouraged because you’re helping lift up their voices and give them publicity. Particularly for people who have larger platforms to start with, elevating other voices is really important.
And I’ll really be honest that every time I want to share something that’s already public, the idea of having to find the contact method for them and contact them, and ask them specifically, and wait for them to get back to me, and remember what I wanted to share in the first place, is really daunting.
Dalia Kinsey: I’d like to hear this from a photographer.
Lindley Ashline: I find this really daunting, particularly, because I’ve also heard of reactions from some people in marginalized communities who are content creators or business people who are like, “Please god, don’t ask me everything you want to share something. Otherwise, I would do nothing but deal with requests.”
Dalia Kinsey: Oh, good problems to have. I see.
Lindley Ashline: But I also feel like this is relatively easy to deal with in the sense that both Facebook and Instagram. I don’t know about Twitter. I don’t really do Twitter. Sorry. But both Facebook and Instagram have the ability to have pinned posts or pinned stories. And so what I had started doing is putting my boundaries, both my personal boundaries and my boundaries for my [unintelligible 00:31:53] spaces, in pinned posts and pinned stories. And that way, every time you go to my profile, right up the top, they’re my boundaries.
And so what I need to do is I need to edit that my personal preferences for, please share if it’s public, please tag me and credit me, please don’t send me requests.
Dalia Kinsey: That’s perfect. I’m going to do that too.
Lindley Ashline: That is because, yes, it’s public. Share it, please. But again, I’m not the universe.
Dalia Kinsey: Well, I want everyone to know that I absolutely want you to re-share my content and tag me and help me grow. But I hadn’t thought about clearly expressing your boundaries.
Lindley Ashline: Yes, making a boundary.
Dalia Kinsey: That’s a good idea.
Lindley Ashline: And of course, I cannot expect everyone to do that labor for me either because one person on one podcast that that would be [unintelligible 00:32:41] way to do it. So that is something that we’re going to continue to see evolve and that we’re going to have to navigate. And of course, if I see someone express that boundary, I will try to remember it.
But it is a major shift in the way the internet works.
Dalia Kinsey: I think the platforms should think about you being able to have that be something that you tick on or off that yes, retweet this, re-pin this, re-share this versus no. But nobody ask me. But maybe that’s something that will happen down the road.
Lindley Ashline: Not to be depressing, but I suspected that it won’t simply because sharing is such a fundamental part of the way that social media platforms are constructed. And also, because the social media platforms have made it very clear that give not one single crap about people’s preference [unintelligible 00:33:33].
Dalia Kinsey: That is so true. For half a minute there, on Pinterest, and Pinterest has not blown up like some of these other sites. But there was really a moment there where there were always restrictions on making sure you have permission to pin things.
Lindley Ashline: Oh, really?
Dalia Kinsey: And yes, eventually, people mellowed out about that. But I think it was the same thing. People felt like other people were growing in audience exclusively based off of other people’s work, other people’s ideas, which is obviously not the way it should be done. It’s one thing to curate something, and maybe do a carousel post or something, where you’re bringing in all these things, and it could lead to people discovering someone and going back out. But to intentionally bring everybody to you, using someone else’s content, again and again and again, that’s not acceptable.
Lindley Ashline: Particularly, in Instagram is where I have encountered it. I would bet that it happens everywhere. But I found too that when you—particularly, when you’re in an activist space, or people are doing a lot of thought work, and a lot of exchange of ideas, and building on other people’s ideas, it’s really easy, especially when you’re talking about a relatively limited topic, say in my sphere, intuitive eating or health at every size, or anti-diet principles, or fat acceptance. There’s a lot of minds running in parallel and a lot, like I said, exchange of ideas, and people building on what other people have said, which is great.
But what that can really easily lead to is you read a post by somebody, and you internalize the language that they have used. And then two weeks later, you forget that that didn’t come from you, that that’s not yours. And I don’t mean a very general concept like fat bodies are worthy of being treated equally, or we know that scientifically that diets don’t work.
I’m talking about very specific, maybe an activist concept or thought.
And then the next time you’re on a deadline for an Instagram post, you regurgitate it, using that same language. And you may or may not have intended to steal that. But it becomes pretty obvious plagiarism. And I finally had to blog this thin, white woman I mentioned because there were a couple of instances of this where about three weeks later, she regurgitated the same thing I was saying and the things that she was saying were pretty clearly—she had liked my posts, and sometimes she would comment on those posts. And so clearly, she was seeing the words I was saying. It’s not like she was just pulling this out of thin air. She read the post where I said those things to start with.
And I think, initially, she didn’t intend to do it. I think it was just—like I said, she internalized that so thoroughly that it came back out as her own thought, even though it wasn’t.
But the third time it happened, I had written a post that had to be written very specifically from a fat perspective. And this woman, not being a fat woman, could not have that same perspective. So she rewrote it very poorly as if it were coming from a thin person. And it didn’t make a whole lot of sense that way. And it was a long post. The whole structure was the same. It was like a really bad high school—like when you’re trying not to plagiarize, and so you’re using slightly different words.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes. And I noticed some people are running things through engines and trying to use AI to make them not guilty of plagiarism. So far, that stuff does not work. It comes out really—
Lindley Ashline: [unintelligible 00:37:24]
Dalia Kinsey: Yes. So that is an excellent example of how shady it is for someone who claims they’re an ally to a community to come in and steal the message from someone who’s from that community and then put themselves out there at the forefront.
Lindley Ashline: And the thing too is that the things that she was taking were about two steps more advanced than her own thoughts too. So all of a sudden, she would be coming out with, for her, this really radical post because it wasn’t hers. But then it was also—of course, it’s ridiculous and infuriating to watch your content being stolen. But what was also happening is because someone in a very normative body was posting this. When I would post the same thing, I would just get this deluge of trolls. And then we get two people going, “Yes!”
And when this woman would post it, she would get 25 people going, “Yes!” And she would get zero trolls. And then she would be building her audience on that and her business on that. And then it was like, isn’t—insert name here, isn’t this person wonderful?
And I admit that watching somebody else get a whole bunch of kudos for something that you did and felt punished for is really infuriating.
And so eventually—and that has felt like a week going, am I going to confront her? Because I had a few choices. I could have called her out publicly and posted side by sides because it was obvious enough that once you saw it side by side, it was very clear. And I took the screenshots so that I had them, so that I had receipts.
Dalia Kinsey: I like that have options.
Lindley Ashline: Yes, buddy. I’ve got receipts. I’ve got those side by sides. And in fact, I posted them. I did post them on my Instagram, in my stories, eventually with the names blocked out. Because I’ve got the receipts. But like, do I call her up publicly and risk torpedoing my own reputation? Because it’s clear that I have done my own homework. I’ve done my homework. And it is clear that these are plagiarized. But if I have a thin woman with more power than me and my own community mad at me, that may have professional ramifications for me.
So it’s not just my career at this point in this activist community. And so I have self-preservation thought to think about beyond just, is this [unintelligible 00:39:56]. Because we are part of the same professional community.
So am I going to sink, say, maybe the writing side of my business because suddenly, nobody will hire me? Because this woman has been maybe talking about me behind my back. I don’t have any way to know. Am I going to call her out publicly? Am I going to call her out anonymously with the screenshots, with the names blocked out? Am I going to message her directly and be like, stop, and the once again risk this damage? Or am I just going to do nothing?
And so I took the middle road and I posted the side by sides but without the name. And then I blocked her.
Dalia Kinsey: I love it. I have been hearing be blocked and be blessed a lot lately. Because there’s so much going on that sometimes, depending on how much energy you have, and like you said, what else you stand to lose, maybe that’s the best solution.
Lindley Ashline: Yes, and I mean, this is really small potatoes in that it’s one random lady on Instagram. This is the smallest of small potatoes. But I think it’s a good example of how people who are in marginalized communities at various levels of risk, what they risk by speaking up, when you created this podcast, you knew that that might torpedo your relationship with your family.
There are a lot of things at stake when people speak out beyond just, [unintelligible 00:41:24] Instagram going to be mad at me. But I think it’s a low stakes example of the risk that people take.
Dalia Kinsey: Absolutely. And it is so interesting how often people who have access to more privilege don’t acknowledge that.
I recently started a coaching program that’s specifically for women of color, femmes of color, honestly, and not just people assigned female at birth, and she really digs into that, how much coaching from thin, CIS, het, white women, doesn’t serve you if they’re saying things like, “Yes, girl. Just put it out there. Just be yourself. You just got to,” when probably they’ve never experienced, if I speak up, I could lose my job, I could lose my home, I could lose my life if I speak up.
It takes a whole lot more to work through that initial reaction to not want to say anything and to wonder is it worth it to say anything.
So this coaching program has been really helpful even though I started the podcast right before I enrolled in that program. It really has been helping me lift my voice up faster, and see things that I hadn’t noticed were not just happening to me.
So sometimes you see things in yourself, and you don’t recognize, “Oh, this is an experience that all marginalized humans are having. This isn’t just my weird way of coping in the world. I’m not just being a chicken. I’m not just a fearful person.” Because you hear that from a lot of coaches who are blissfully ignorant, who say, “Oh well, you just have to block against…” who are very reductionist.
Lindley Ashline: Manifest your dreams.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes, good luck, if you have all of these hurdles to clear. And it’s so interesting because I do feel like I’m manifesting my dreams. But I have to fight so much internalized misogyny, racism, sexism, homophobia, to make that possible. And I have to face real consequences. If I want to totally be myself, I have to accept that that means I will be alienated from parts of my family. If I want to totally be myself, I have to accept that that also means that there will be a lot of people in my professional community that will never tell me to my face that I’ve been blacklisted as someone who has too much to say about misogyny, too much to say about diet culture, supporting systems of oppression and upholding white supremacy, and oppression of all people assigned female at birth.
There are consequences if you’re actually pushing the envelope.
So in your life, I imagine that was super frustrating to see her celebrated for saying the same damn that thing that you said, that got you trolls.
Lindley Ashline: I would like to say that I sat down and I meditated, and I rose above it. No. No. I’m sorry. I got really mad. And I got mad over the course of six months because every time it happened, I get more mad about it. And I griped a whole bunch about it privately to some friends. And then I angrily made screenshots, and then I wrote something really snippy about it and put it on my Instagram stories. And then I blocked her. And then I let it go.
There was no gracious process of rising above the oppressors. There just wasn’t. I would like to be that person. But no, I’m the person that gets angry and salty.
Dalia Kinsey: I think that’s great to acknowledge that too, and to acknowledge how long it took you. Because it depends with me. It depends on which buttons the person pushes. Either it could take me six months or forever. Or I just immediately lose my mind. There seems to be [unintelligible 00:45:23]
Lindley Ashline: Slow burn, fast burn.
Dalia Kinsey: No in-between at all.
How do you usually cope with bullies? With you being so visible and with people having their feathers ruffled every time somebody says, “All bodies are good bodies, and we don’t believe in white supremacy or thin supremacy around here.” How do you deal with all of that backlash usually?
Lindley Ashline: Mostly, I block and delete and move on. Because I’ve really early on, I had to decide where my lane was. Because there’s a certain train of thought or trope, I don’t know what to call it, in activism that our duty as activists is to walk people down that path, and to take people from being cheerfully bigoted, in whichever way that they’re cheerfully bigoted, in changed people. And there are people—when we talk about fat phobia, specifically, and when we talk about body acceptance and body image and all these interrelated things, about body size specifically, there are people who are really good at one-on-one work, people who are really good at taking somebody who—I think there’s only so much you can do with somebody who’s not ready to listen.
But people who are really going to take in the people who may or may not be ready, leading them gently through considering that people to be human beings.
That’s not me.
So there’s a certain train of thought that if somebody is trolling you or concerned trolling you, which is just a gentler version of trolling, you owe it to the world and owe to them to convince them that you’re right. And so for the first couple of years of my business, the ones that were just outright trolling, I was told to block and delete them, move on, minimize the harm that they can do. But then the concerned trolls, I try. I try so hard. I talk them through the science and I talk them through—maybe fat people are human too. Maybe you should give that some thought.
I don’t do that anymore.
Dalia Kinsey: It sounds exhausting. It sounds really tiring.
Lindley Ashline: Yes, it’s exhausting. I’m not good at it. I’m not good at debate. I don’t get energy from that. So I work with people who they know that what they had previously known to be true is wrong. Okay well, I’ll go from here. I’m ready to work on this. Where do I go?
That’s more where I step in.
And so knowing where my lane is means that if someone needs more support than I can give them like on an Instagram post, I can direct them towards the people or resources that they need. But I am not responsible for doing that.
And what that also means is that I’ve also developed a lot of thoughts on my responsibility to my community as an activist. And that dictates a lot of what I do, my boundaries as an activist, and what I’m willing to do for people. Because if I have someone who comes into my—I don’t run a Facebook group anymore, but the Facebook group that I used to run where they come on to my Facebook posts, or they come on to Instagram, and they want to fight about whether diets work.
If I indulge that, if I spend two hours of my life working with this one person trying to convince them, that means that everybody in my community has to watch that. They don’t have to, but they’re likely to run across it. And then in the course of that, they’re likely to run across a whole lot of bigotry and a whole lot of hatred, and multiply that for every person, of the dozens of trolls I get at any one time. Every one of those trolls, if I’m not there trying to convince them, I’m not protecting the people that I’m actually there for, who don’t need because honestly, I’m really there for the fat folks. I’m not there to be an endless free educational resource for thin people who are thinking about maybe considering me to be human.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes.
Lindley Ashline: That’s not my problem.
Dalia Kinsey: When did you realize that your passion was actually serving the fat people that were being marginalized? How did you get that clarity [unintelligible 00:49:35] one-on-one is not for you? Because that turns that space into an educational space for the people that aren’t suffering.
Lindley Ashline: Honestly, it was having a really terrible photography client. It clarified everything for me.
I was pretty early in my business and I was openly fat positive at that point. But also, a lot of my business materials were very gentle BO-PO, very gentle body positive. “You are worthy too.” And those messages are important too. But they weren’t necessarily all that coherent where my business, the heart of my business, was.
And so it was possible, as was proven with this particular client, it was possible if you came in through word of mouth locally, and you just came directly and signed up, it was possible for somebody, as this client did, to think that she might say some BO-PO stuff. But really, she’s going to act like a normal photographer. She’s going to Photoshop me so I don’t look fat. She’s going to do this and she’s going to do that that mainstream photographers do.
I don’t do that stuff. I never have and I never will. I don’t know how to do the type of retouching in Photoshop where they make your skin look like a China doll and they take away all your fat rolls.
I don’t know how. Because if I don’t [unintelligible 00:50:49], I can’t be [unintelligible 00:50:50]. And I can’t do that on client request because I don’t know how.
So what that means is that this poor client came in—when I say poor, she was really nasty to me, and I was very upset at the time. But this client came in expecting one experience and she got something a little bit different. And because she was very fundamentally uneasy in her own body, when she was forced to confront what her body actually looks like, she took it out on me. Some of that is the risk that you run when you run a business. You’re just going to have people that you don’t mesh with occasionally.
But this is someone who saw her body and was fundamentally shocked. I don’t know, but I suspect this is someone who was in recovery or struggling with an eating disorder, possibly just from some of the things that she said. She wasn’t ready for that experience, and I did not put enough fat positive barriers in her way to screen her out because I was so invested in being available for one-on-one in all aspects of my business and my work.
So having this client who was very, very unhappy with her images and did not have a good experience, and she came back a couple of weeks later and wrote me this really, really nasty e-mail. That was mostly about her pain that she was externalizing onto the service that she had paid for. I refunded her. We all moved on. It was fine.
But it really forced me to step back and think, “What am I doing here? Who am I serving?” If I am leaving the barn doors too far open, I’m not giving the people that I really want to serve, who are the people who are ready to move forward.
I’m not giving them clear enough messages that this is where they below, and I’m also not doing a service to the people who aren’t ready for that because then they are going to push themselves into an experience they’re not ready for.
And having that clarity about my client photography rippled out to everything else. And I stopped feeling obligated to entertain these people who want to come in and throw random CDC weight loss studies at me that don’t actually show what they are claiming it shows.
I’m not ever going to read the CDC study linked to me on Instagram ever again. Because that is not what I am here for. If you want to go argue that, there are people who will happily argue all day. I’m not that person.
So that’s how I got that clarity. This is my lane. These are the people who are in other lanes that I can refer to, who do other work and have that energy, or are in other marginalizations.
A while back, I worked quite often with trans folks who were experimenting doing their presentation differently, or experimenting with fine-tuning, or whatever. And they want to see themselves on camera, but they may or may not be out publicly or whatever. And it’s an honor to be that space where they could do that.
And it’s just really cool too. To be like, “I get to help with this. This is amazing.”
I had a point.
I had someone come to me a while back who wanted to do something similar, but they wanted to do a very heavy pin-up style in a way that I would not have been able to give them a good experience because I don’t specialize in pin-up. And what they wanted would either have required some big prop construction, like a set construction or some major, major Photoshop, in a way that it’s just not for my skillset.
And so then I was able to refer them out to someone that was, as far as I know, from other referrals, a safe place to explore and that have that skillset.
At this point, I know who I can refer out to, both from a social media standpoint and from a learning standpoint, but from a services standpoint. And to have this whole constellation of, this is where I belong, this is where I can speak knowledge [unintelligible 00:55:09]. This is my lane. And here are all these other people.
And so it keeps me from having to do everything for everyone because I also burn out really hard [unintelligible 00:55:19] time. And I had to start evaluating what am I here for, and how much can I reasonably do as one human. But it let me acknowledged that as a perfectionist and as someone with an anxiety disorder, sometimes it’s hard for me not to try to be everything to everyone because then I’m failing. And realizing that there are other lanes and people fill those quite adequately without my presence was really freeing too.
So now, I have the space boundaries, I have all these deliberate checks and gateways in my client process, for my photography. You know what you’re getting into.
Dalia Kinsey: I love it.
Lindley Ashline: By the time you interact with me personally, either you’re in or you’ve run away terrified.
Dalia Kinsey: I love that clarity to put those checks in, and also to understand that you don’t need to be everything to everyone, and if you try to do that, you actually underserve your target, or who you initially really felt drawn to serving. But your approach also sounds contrary to what you typically hear about a successful business model rooted in capitalism where the focus is—maybe I should call it toxic capitalism where it’s just profits over people and any time some potential money comes your way, you grab it even if it’s not the best situation for the client.
Did you have any fear about not being able to make a business work in an ethical way, the way that you do?
Lindley Ashline: Yes, absolutely. And the thing is that it has taken significantly longer to build this kind of business where I feel like I’m being true to my own ethical framework than it would be if I were—particularly, in the traditional model of photography where I’m Photoshopping it up, and I’m only showing aspirational bodies on my portfolio, and I’m promising that I’ll make you look thin because that’s generally the promise, unspoken mostly. [unintelligible 00:57:36].
Yes, it’s taking forever. And I am able to do that because of my own privilege. I’m a highly-educated CIS gender, fat, white woman who lives on her husband’s income, in a hetero marriage. He supports us both. I am slowly gaining sustainability in the business, but it is not—I’ve paid myself three times [unintelligible 00:58:03]. It’s been amazing.
Dalia Kinsey: That’s great.
Lindley Ashline: I broke even last year for the first time. [unintelligible 00:58:08]
Dalia Kinsey: That’s amazing because your work to me is prolific, and you’re well-known. So it’s so interesting to me to see the bodpos movement gain all this momentum, but really only be bankrolling stuff that skinny white girls are doing or small fats because even—I may experience a little bit of, a tiny amount of oppression for being in a fat body, but I am still in a small fat body, so I’m not experienced—I feel like I’ve got no business being the spokesperson for the fat liberation movement because I literally have no business being the spokesperson for the fat liberation movement.
So it’s infuriating to know that some people are making all this money off of a movement because they’re intentionally or unintentionally, maybe it’s just a coincidence that what they wanted to do fits so well within this toxic capitalist model.
Why are you being rewarded for half-assing the bodpos? Saying like, “I want all women to feel comfortable in their body,” and then you show all these images where people have the tiniest of rolls. They obviously still fit in seats and can buy clothing anywhere they go. Why would that person be the one who gets to represent the movement and benefit, essentially, from the suffering of others? It just feels super sketchy and very familiar.
Lindley Ashline: This is something that I rant about a lot personally. I have some very rant-y journal entries about that exact thing. And of course, it’s because it gives people—it’s so multifaceted too because it also gets people useful gateways. If someone encounters me who has never encountered [unintelligible 00:59:59], my messages are pretty radical, and I don’t pull a whole lot of punches these days. My messages have gradually gotten more and more blunt and less and less soft and kind.
But what that means is somebody who’s not written—once again, somebody who’s not ready to hear that is going to come in and [unintelligible 01:00:18] saying the words thin privilege, and they’re going to go, “That’s not a thing. What’s this crazy lady talking about?” And they’re going to drop a troll comment [unintelligible 01:00:24] because they’re not ready for it.
And so people like—I seem to be talking about Jess a lot today, so I’m going to talk about Jess. Jess has built a following, and she acknowledges, and she has progressed in her own attitude about this, and her own realizations about this over time. But Jess is a small fat who originally came to prominence in the body positive movement because she did this Abercrombie—[unintelligible 01:00:55] on the Abercrombie photoshoot, but it was her in her small fat body. And it went viral, and it got picked up by a bunch of media outlets, and I think she has acknowledged that that is unlikely to have happened had she been in a body that was any fatter than it was.
Dalia Kinsey: And done precisely the same thing, yes.
Lindley Ashline: And so Jess is taking up space in that movement but she is also a really useful gateway for people. She is a wonderful one-on-one work. And so, again, someone who encounters me who has not encountered somebody like Jess to take them through that basic stuff is unlikely to be ready for that.
And so I do think it’s a useful spectrum. I did hear Jess speak once. She talked about being like a bridge, and she puts herself—if one side of the bridge is total body liberation and the other side is complete body oppression—these are my words, not hers. I’m just paraphrasing. She puts herself somewhere in the middle, whereas I’m all the way over on the [unintelligible 01:02:06]
Dalia Kinsey: That’s what I’m ready for. I’m ready for no punches pulled, and to hear something totally different or radically different from what we see and hear every day.
Lindley Ashline: Yes, and there are people who are more radical than I am. Again, I’m a CIS gender, white woman who is fat, but I’m not the very fattest, by any means. There are many, many other people who are just as well-suited for talking about this, if not more, and they should all be supported and listened to. And I try to make it a point to elevate the voices of people with more marginalizations than me and people who are larger than me because I can’t speak for somebody—I wear [unintelligible 01:02:43] size 26/28. I can’t speak for somebody who wears a clothing size 10 size and larger.
I can’t speak to that level of oppression, and that lack of access, because I have not experienced it. I can still—I’m sitting in an office chair right now, your standard mesh back, mesh seat with arms. I can buy a chair off the floor at Office Depot. It’s a tight fit. I wouldn’t fit if I were any larger. But I wouldn’t fit if I were any larger.
So there are barriers to access that I don’t have even though I do have plenty in my life.
While I’m talking, I actually want to come back to something that you mentioned earlier, talking about these e-courses and these accounts where people are like, “Just go for it, girl. Just go do the thing.”
My friend, Brandi, calls this confidence magick. With magick being spelled M-A-G-I-C-K. Confidence magick TM. I want to make sure she gets full credit for that because I love it. But this concept that you can just overcome anything with the right attitude—and I just want to touch on, I think confidence magick is really taking advantage of what privileges you do have. It’s really what that translates to. Because if I put on make-up—I only have one lip gloss right now, but if I put on make-up and I curl my hair attractively, and I wear the right outfit, I can pass in a lot of spaces as someone with a lot more body privilege than I might possess if I didn’t do that performing stuff. And if I go out and act confident, act like I expect to be treated well, people will treat me better if I do those things and I act like I expect that.
But that is not—a) that still doesn’t mean I can sit down in a waiting room at the doctor’s office if they have chairs with arms. I still can’t sit down. And in fact, I recently fired a doctor because I couldn’t sit down in her office and I asked her for two years to put a stool in her waiting room so that I can sit down, and she didn’t. So I left.
Dalia Kinsey: Well, I’m glad you left. You gave them a lot more time than I would have.
Lindley Ashline: It’s learing to advocate for yourself in a medical context is an entire [unintelligible 01:05:08] thing. That’s a whole new conversation. But I can use the privileges that I do have, again, as a white woman, particularly, to get myself a certain amount of better treatment. But that still doesn’t mean—I still experience oppression that cannot be fixed by my smiling really big and acting confident, and maybe [unintelligible 01:05:27].
And so the confidence magick thing really resonates with me because it’s such a silly concept. Because there are points at which you just—you don’t have access. It doesn’t matter how confident you are or how confident you act. You can’t fake until you make it when we [unintelligible 01:05:47] in an airplane seat. I can’t charm my way into—if my doctor is fat-phobic, I can’t charm my way out of that. I can’t charm my way into appropriate medical treatment.
That’s why it’s magic. Maybe [unintelligible 01:06:08] work but—
Dalia Kinsey: What’s the level of ignorance is takes for you to confidently say, “Girl, when I’m having a bad day, I just put on some red lipstick and I just…”
They’re living in another world, and I’m to a point where I had zero patience for content that hasn’t taken my existence into consideration. And it pisses me off to pay for a service and to get that kind of content—to think, “Oh, this is something I can use,” or, “This is something I need.” And then everything was made with not even just thinking that I wasn’t in the audience, but forgetting that I exist on the planet. It’s just infuriating.
Lindley Ashline: The other thing [unintelligible 01:06:55] that we talked about earlier was the concept of the sacrifices and the advantages of being who you are. And we touched on it a couple of times, but I want to talk about that a little bit.
So I came from this corporate career. And I’m going to talk about my personal stuff really briefly, and then expand it. But I came from a corporate career. I came from a relatively conservative corporate career, in the sense that I came from government contracting in Washington D.C., which is a very small [unintelligible 01:07:26] conservative industry. A lot of big money, a lot of defense technology, and it was very serious. People have missile defense conferences and talked very seriously about it. It’s a very small [unintelligible 01:07:37] conservative industry.
And I had a security clearance. I had a secret clearance. At one point, I was in the line to get a top secret, and then the contract got canceled, and it was weird, and yes. I ended up leaving.
But then I was very uncomfortable in that industry, though the money was good. But it was very uncomfortable there. And I gradually moved over towards software, partly because I felt more drawn to that industry, and partly because it was a little more casual and a little less intense, a little less [unintelligible 01:08:19] conservative. And partly because I did want to do increasing amounts of activism.
And when I started my business, I quit my day job and took a part-time corporate contract that I still work on and off to do to pay bills. But I was quitting my day job. And I had to do some real reckoning like, am I going to do this under my real name? I’m going to be Googlable. So not only am I talking about body positive and fat positive concepts, but I’m taking photos of half-naked ladies. If I ever need to go for a clearance again, we’re in some financial situation, or something happens to my husband and I need that clearance again, I don’t know if I can get it. I don’t know if anybody’s going to hire me.
Coming from a corporate career that was relatively stable and relatively lucrative, and I know. I know.
Dalia Kinsey: Those are big decisions though.
Lindley Ashline: We’re all really sick of the entrepreneur story where it’s like, “I sacrificed my corporate career.” I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Dalia Kinsey: But this to me feels like it has more depth because that’s a very real concern. A lot of times when you hear that story, I don’t hear where they couldn’t just go back out and get another job. This sounds like a real risk.
Lindley Ashline: Well, it is, in the sense that when I was in D.C., any company that Googled me was going to be like, “Hell, no.” I don’t think I would have been [unintelligible 01:09:51] stayed in the industry. Software is different because software is a lot more anything goes. My part-time corporate contracting is with Disney, and I can say that because they don’t appear to care.
Dalia Kinsey: That’s so interesting. I would have thought they had so many rules.
Lindley Ashline: Well, at least none that anybody has ever told me. If you’ve got a cease and desist, you just forward that to me. And I work on and off for Disney’s Seattle I.T. office. And so I come in and I do technical writing for them, and internal social media and things. They do not give one single crap about what I do with my personal time.
Dalia Kinsey: That’s fascinating. But even when I pull up your site at work, in a school district, they flag it as porn. I’m like, it’s not porn.
Lindley Ashline: Really? I’m not surprised. It’s got naked bodies on it.
I did have—I have a lot of trepidation about that. But the flipside of that is because of my privileges, I can find somebody willing to hire me. I have writing clients who aren’t body image-related. I work for a bookkeeping service. I do blogging for them. I work for a virtual assistance service. I do freaking work for Disney. And I can pick up that work if I need to because of my privileges.
Yes, I have limited myself. Yes, I don’t know that I can get another clearance. Although the thing with clearances is that it’s not about whether you do things that are maybe not mainstream-approved. It’s whether you hide them. So it would actually be a bigger problem if I had done things under a different name, and they were worried that I could be blackmailed. That’s [unintelligible 01:11:39]
Dalia Kinsey: That’s a good point.
Lindley Ashline: But if anybody Googles me, that is the first thing—fat lady stuff is the first thing that comes up. And so I have significantly limited my corporate options. I decided that that risk was worth it. But again, I was able to make that decision because of my privileges. It’s just everything is interwoven. And so I am very aware that I have these privileges in a way that if I were in a different set of marginalizations, in a different relationship status, and if I didn’t have a safety net, I’d be making very different decisions about what I was willing to do.
Dalia Kinsey: And I do think that’s important to acknowledge because it’s really easy to judge someone else, especially if you went through a little bit of trepidation about doing something. You’re like, “Well, everybody should just join me and be out here being loud and proud and doing what they were destined to do,” when we don’t really know what all would be at stake for them. Maybe it isn’t the right choice for them. People have to do their own thing.
I wanted to ask, as we wrap up, when you chose representation matters, and then when you included body liberation photos into your branding, those were at two different stages, right? And what led to bringing in body liberation photos?
Lindley Ashline: That has been my own evolution. So the original photography business name was actually Sweet Amaranth, which was just—it was just a combination of syllables I liked. It didn’t mean anything. But it was sort of sweet and friendly and hard to pronounce, so that was a problem. But people kept going, “What’s an amaranth?”
For the record, it’s a grain with a really pretty bright, red flower.
Dalia Kinsey: Thank you because I thought I knew and that is not what I was thinking.
Lindley Ashline: Totally irrelevant. But so then as an overlapping, a simultaneous business, I started doing the stock photos. And because that is a more of a business-to-business structure for a business. I kept it separate for a long time.
Eventually, I realized that I’m one human and I can only do so many things. So I have since consolidated all these different things that I used to do into one brand where I still do them, but they’re all under Body Liberation Photos. But when I started doing the stock photos, that business was named Diverse Stock Photos. And that was a poor choice. Because when people think diversity, they generally think about skin tone, which is totally valid, mind you. And at the time, about half of my models were various types of people of color, but about half weren’t.
And so what happened is when people look at the site, they weren’t thinking about diversity in other [unintelligible 01:14:23]. And people were getting mad because half my models were white. And totally valid. It’s totally valid.
And so I went a year, a year and a half, under that name, and I was like, this is not coherent. The name is a hindrance. It is not transmitting what I wanted to transmit. So I ended up moving to Representation Matters because it does, it’s very important. But I also had—again, I had these two businesses running simultaneously. And once again, to a lesser extent, once again, I was finding a little bit, the people were seeing representation, and then not understanding that I primarily meant body size. Occasionally, I was getting some strangeness and [unintelligible 01:15:06] for that where people didn’t really understand what I was doing.
Again, it’s this working towards coherence, working towards clarity. And then, eventually, in that simultaneous process of working towards being clear about what I’m offering, Sweet Amaranth just was not working for me anymore. It was confusing people. It was hard to remember. It was hard to spell. And I said, okay, I need to merge these things anyway. Where am I going to go?
And at the time, body liberation was a relatively new term. But it just really resonated with me because I didn’t want to—I’ll be honest from an [unintelligible 01:15:48] standpoint, I didn’t want for it to be fat acceptance photography. Because I was worried that I was going to limit it too much at that point. And just because I want to be clear about what I’m offering doesn’t mean that I want it to be more intimidating than necessary.
So body liberation seemed like a good compromise because it seemed very clear, but also, some of my stock photos aren’t of fat folks. Some of them are of people in the LGBT communities. Some of them are—one of them is a Jewish woman. Actually, I’ve got a few Jewish folks on there. But not every single thing on there is about body size.
And so I wanted to leave that open and open so that the business could grow while still being clear.
So now, everything is in Body Liberation Photos.
Dalia Kinsey: I love that. I love that progression and knowing that that’s a normal thing in business, to keep getting clearer and clearer and clearer with what you want to do, and how you convey that to other people. Because to me, now, I would think diversity would mean, literally, different kinds of humans, all kinds, not just people of color. But I have noticed, especially white people think diversity always means people of color. And then the other people think that too. I don’t know.
Lindley Ashline: And that’s okay, in the sense that, I don’t need to try to re-define the way a term is popularly understood just to sell photos.
Dalia Kinsey: Amen to that. But that’s a marketing fail, yes. If you stay still married a concept when consumers aren’t getting it. But it doesn’t matter how much it made sense to one person, once you realize nobody is getting it, give it up. It’s time to make a shift.
Lindley Ashline: And it turned out that I was inadvertently occupying space in an area that wasn’t necessarily mine to occupy. Even though that wasn’t my intent, that was the way it was being interpreted. And whether that was being interpreted by somebody who is white or by a black person or other person of color, it doesn’t really matter because once again, I’m not being clear.
So it doesn’t matter whether I agree with that person who is sending me a snippy e-mail. It doesn’t matter whether I agree with them, the lesson is that I was not being coherent enough. And here in five years, it may turn out that body liberation is no longer serving me either as a concept or as a term for my business, and maybe I will migrate to something else. I don’t know.
Dalia Kinsey: Right. I love that flexibility. That is awesome.
Thank you so much for joining this twice.
Lindley Ashline: It was a pleasure, both times.
Dalia Kinsey: I feel like now, we’re for real friends. The first one was a trial run and now, we’re going to be friends forever, and this was great. Where can people find you to follow you on IG and see the content coming straight from you, not the stealing content, and your website?
Lindley Ashline: So like I was just talking about, I had consolidated everything. You can find everything at BodyLiberationPhotos.com that has the client photography, stock photography, a whole bunch of free resources, including a free book on how to find a body positive photographer near you. There’s some free stock photos there. That is also where you can find all of the stock photos. You can find my shop there that I run. I have a lot of different fingers in a lot of different pies, and it’s all there.
I’m on Instagram at Body Liberation with Lindley, L-I-N-D-L-E-Y, and on Facebook at Body Liberation with Lindley Ashline. And you can follow me on Twitter @LindleyAshline, but don’t expect much.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes, I know. I don’t even tell anybody about my Twitter account anymore. It is 100% abandoned. I only look over there to see what people were saying yesterday. Whenever there’s drama on the news, I’m like, I want to see what kind of stuff people have to say about this.
Lindley Ashline: See what Twitter says.
Dalia Kinsey: Yes, exactly. Thank you so much for coming. I can talk to you forever. We didn’t even get to the box. We’ll have to cover all of this, I guess, in the show notes or do something another day.
Lindley Ashline: I think we should do a third time, but keep this one.
Dalia Kinsey: Perfect. Yes. Hell lord, yes.
Lindley Ashline: Thank you so much, Dalia.
Dalia Kinsey: Thank you.
Dalia Kinsey: Thank you so much, Lindley, for being so gracious and coming on the show a second time. And I’m happy to report that I did not lose this recording, but I definitely want to have Lindley on again in the future because her work just has covered so much territory. There are so many other things to discuss about the work that she has done, and the work she is doing that I think is fascinating and would really be of service to all of you.
Make sure you visit Body Liberation Photos, and check out what she’s doing.
If you really want to represent diversity on your site or through your brand, this is a great place to get stock photos. So I know, for me, I have seen things improve as far as what kinds of representation you can find in most stock photo sites. I like to use Canva a lot, so I basically use whatever they were doing on most days. But there are a couple of other sites like Nappy.co that really has a lot of pictures of black people which are super, super hard to find, or they used to be even more difficult to find. Even the other day on another stock photo site, I was looking for a cartoonish character, or a vector image, but what it came up with was so outrageously offensive.
So if you just want to find a picture of a black woman typing on a computer, good luck. When you finally do find someone who has a complexion that you’re aiming for, the chances are that they’re going to be in a very small body. So if you’re hoping to find a fat, black woman doing something that we do every day like typing or working, again, good luck with that. You might find a fat person standing on a scale, or something like that. But just finding them just living their lives and treating their fatness as though it’s neutral, that still is very difficult to find when it comes to stock photos.
So Lindley is an excellent resource, so make sure you check that out.
These days more than ever, I think it’s really, really crucial that we think about how our purchasing decisions vote for what we want to see more of in the marketplace. What are you trying to encourage? Are you really sending your money to places that you wanted to go?
I know for me, I definitely want to support people who are doing the type of intersectional work that Lindley is doing, one, because I think it’s the right thing to do, two, because I know that seeing visual representations of body diversity helps people accept the reality of their body size and get to where they can see it as a neutral.
If you are a trans person, remember that when we talk about accepting the reality of the body. When you are accepting who you really are, and trans is one of your identities, then accepting that the gender you are assigned at birth and the gender that you are is not the same is part of that process for you. And accepting that there are things about your body that you may need to modify to feel comfortable. Not everyone needs to modify their body to feel comfortable, but again, if that is literally tied to your trans identity, then bodpos, in the sense that, “Oh, everyone should just accept their body and never modify it,” is obviously nonsense and not applicable to all experiences.
When it comes to body neutrality, and I’m thinking in terms of body size alone, not there being a mismatch between your true gender identity and the gender you were assigned at birth. So I want to include that caveat, and I probably should have included it at the beginning. We’re talking body size alone.
And I definitely will be having more trans guests on the show in the future to specifically about their relationships to their bodies when it comes to food because it is a nuanced topic that is not covered very often at all, and definitely needs more attention, and I think even if you are a cis person, this information will be beneficial. So we’re absolutely going to cover that. That is coming in the future, and it’s definitely going to take more than one guest for us to get at least a holistic view of the issues around body image and body size for trans folks versus cis folks. And one person obviously cannot speak for everyone. But it is definitely helpful, like we mentioned today, to have a variety of people around you because we’re stronger together, number one, and secondly, people can reflect back to you areas of our own bias.
So as a cis person, there’s a lot of things that are not on my radar that I’m sure I’m missing. So in order for me to grow as a person and to fully embrace everyone in our rainbow family, absolutely, we are going to be centering on those conversations that we don’t get exposed to enough. So that even if you’re not having these conversations in your day-to-day live, this is a place that you can come, you can grow, you can identify your own areas of bias, and keep evolving into the most happy, loving, empathetic version of yourself.
Be sure to join us for our next episode. If you haven’t joined the mailing list yet, you’re really missing out. That’s how you make sure you never miss a bonus, and you never miss any special programs or webinars that I’m doing, in addition to the show.
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Thanks again for joining me. I’ll see you next time.