Podcast

Episode 380

Oct 12, 2021

Allissa and Michael have a conversation with Lindley Ashline about being accepting of larger bodies in the world and your massage business.

Listen to "E380: How Massage Therapists Can Better Welcome and Accommodate Larger Bodies (with Lindley Ashline) - 10:11:21, 9.52 PM" on Spreaker.
Image for E380: How Massage Therapists Can Welcome and Accommodate Larger Bodies (with Lindley Ashline).

EPISODE 380

Discussion

Lindley Ashline creates photographs that celebrate the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards. She fights weight stigma by giving fat people a safe place to explore how their bodies look on camera and by increasing the representation of fat bodies in photography, advertising, fine art, and the world at large.

Lindley is also the creator of Body Liberation Stock (body-positive stock images for commercial use) and the Body Love Shop (a curated resource for body-friendly products and artwork). 

Find Lindley's work and get her free weekly (email) Body Liberation Guide: 

Resources mentioned

Sponsor


Transcript: 

Sponsor message:

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Michael Reynolds:

Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint Podcast, where we help you attract more clients, make more money, and improve your quality of life. I'm Michael Reynolds.

Allissa Haines:

I'm Allissa Haines.

Michael Reynolds:

And we are your host. Welcome to another expert interview episode today. We are happy to welcome Lindley Ashline to the podcast today. Welcome, Lindley.

Lindley Ashline:

Thanks. It's pleasure to be here.

Allissa Haines:

And I'm going to tell you a little bit more about Lindley who creates photographs that celebrate the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional beauty standards. She fights weight stigma by giving fat people a safe place to explore how their bodies look on camera and by increasing the representation of fat bodies in photography, advertising, fine art, and the world at large. And this is actually how I stumbled on Lindley's website, couple of years ago, I think, looking for realistic stock photos for my massage website and just in general for massage that had real bodies and not just a bunch of skinny white lady massage therapists, and clients with rocks on their back.

You can find more about Lindley, you're going to learn more shortly, but you can find more information about these photos at Lindley's website, bodyliberationphotos.com, and we're also going to have a link to all of her social. And the weekly email, which is the gold here that I want to make sure everybody gets, The Body Liberation Guide email, which is once a week and is enlightening and helpful to me, as someone who works with bodies. But I've probably missed some salient points here. So Lindley, what did I miss? What would you like us to know about you?

Lindley Ashline:

Oh, well, if you want to get The Body Liberation Guide newsletter, like Allissa said, that's... I'm going to brag on myself a little. It is gold and you will learn a lot, and you can get directly to that. You can get there from the website, but you can also get there directly to the newsletter by going to bit.ly, that's B-I-T dot L-Y, slash body liberation guide. And of course we'll have that in the show notes as well, but that's how you get directly there. And also, I need to talk about this more, but every month, I do send out some free stock photos with The Body Liberation Guide. So there's some extra incentive to be on that list as well, because you will get a few free photos every month.

Allissa Haines:

And they're so good. They're joyful. They are joyful photographs. I love it. I love it.

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah, there's so much. I could talk about just this for days, but there's so much in the stock photo industry. They're just like the rest of the photography industry, just like the rest of the world. There's a real focus on a set of types of bodies that are representative and worthy of being shown. And it's sort of a, in the photography world, it's framework that is both descriptive and prescriptive. So when normal photographers are taking photos to use as stock photos, they are both reflecting our culture as it exists by only focusing on thin white bodies, but they're also being prescriptive about it and that they're perpetuating that. And so it's been really cool to break out of that mold and be like, "No, I'm going to photograph the bodies that don't get represented, that don't get served, that just aren't shown anywhere." And so that is really the foundation of what I do is saying, "No, these bodies are equally worthy."

Allissa Haines:

All right. So our topic today is how massage therapists and body workers can better welcome and accommodate larger bodies. Before we jump into that, we're going to pause here to thank our sponsor, Pure Pro Massage Products. Folks I've said it once, and I will say it again, I love Pure Pro Massage Products and you know what a snob I am. And particularly, I am a snob about holsters. And I have always worn a holster as I do massage. Otherwise, it's like 60 minutes of where did I put that oil bottle? I love Pure Pro's holsters. This is the last holster you'll ever need to buy. I have a couple and I am confident they will be taking me through my career. It's got an extra wide belt. It will not twist you, it will not pinch you, it's super adjustable, it's washable.

Allissa Haines:

And, this is the kicker, it holds either an eight ounce oil or lotion bottle, or an eight ounce cream pump jar. And it holds them really, really well. I've never had another holster that will hold a cream pump jar quite so well. It is made in the United States by workers who make a living wage. That's important to Pure Pro, it's important to me. And because Pure Pro is so wonderful, you can get $10 off any purchase of $45 or more. Shop through massagebusinessblueprint.com/purepro and use the code fantastic. That's the coupon code, fantastic, at checkout. This offer is valid through December 31st, 2021 and that's for $10 off a purchase of $45 or more. Shop at massagebusinessblueprint.com/purepro. Okay. So we are ready to dive in how massage therapists and body workers can better welcome and accommodate larger bodies. Lindley, what do you got for us as an advocate, as an activist, and hopefully as a massage or body work client at some point in your life?

Lindley Ashline:

Well, before I dive into it, I do want to establish that I use the word fat a lot. And when I'm using the word fat, I'm using it as a neutral descriptor like I might say that I am of average height. I currently have bright pink hair. I live in Seattle. These are all neutral facts about me. And the size of my body is also neutral. And I am one of many people who have reclaimed the word fat as a neutral descriptor. You do not have to use it for yourself, you do not have to use it for your clients, but I just want you to know that when I'm using that word, I'm not using it as an insult.

Allissa Haines:

So how should a straight size person like me... Is that even the right terminology? And I realized when I was doing that in your bio, I totally moved quickly over the word fat, because I was super uncomfortable saying it. Is that something I should just get more used to saying or should I not, because I am not a fat person? What do you think?

Lindley Ashline:

That's a fascinating question and I'm getting it a lot. So I'm actually going to be doing a video on that very soon. It's a really tricky question because the word fat is historically used as an insult. And unless I already know that... Allissa, I'm just going to pick on you for a second.

Allissa Haines:

Yep.

Lindley Ashline:

Unless I already know that you, Allissa, are a person who is safe to be around or who is a person that I know isn't using it as an insult. I don't really have any way to know, unless... And it's different if it's someone who is in a fat body who I know uses that for themselves and is also using it to talk about other people of that size. So there's a certain amount of overcoming your own discomfort with that word and with fat bodies too. I want to talk about that a little more later.

Lindley Ashline:

So there's a certain amount of interrogating like why are you uncomfortable with the word? And of course, the answer is that it has been used to oppress people. So that discomfort is logical and realistic. But as far as using it for other people, you do have to be kind of cautious if you're in a thin body, or a thinner body. Because also, just because if I am a random person who lives in a fat body, I may or may not resonate with that word. I might see it as an insult. I might not have reclaimed that.

Lindley Ashline:

But I also get this question a lot from other healthcare providers, doctors, and so on. How do I speak respectfully about fat bodies without looking like I'm insulting them? And generally, what I tell people is find a phrase that you're comfortable with that's sort of a middle path. You can say people in larger bodies, you can say higher weight people. You can say people at the larger end of the size spectrum. Generally, I see people using larger bodies as a term. And if you ask 10 fat people what they would prefer for you to use, you'll get 15 answers.

Allissa Haines:

Nice.

Lindley Ashline:

So you are never... Just like with any population. In fact, people are not a monolith. You're never going to please everybody. Just like when I use the word straight size or thin, not everybody is going to appreciate me using those terms. So if I know that a specific person does not want to be referred to as fat, of course I would not do that. And the same would be, say someone in a larger body tells you, "Oh, I find that term really oppressive." You would try not to use it for that specific person and just respect individual people where you can.

Lindley Ashline:

But generally, people in larger bodies, higher into the weight spectrum, those things are okay. I would caution against use saying the words overweight and obese, and obesity, because those are... When we talk about overweight, over what weight? Over what? We don't refer to people in other sizes of bodies as being aberrant or not meeting some imaginary standards. So overweight is a prejudice term. And obese and obesity are what we call medicalized terms. They present my body size as a medical condition. So they are medicalizing. And that is directly oppressive because it increases weight stigma and increases the mistreatment of fat bodies. So those are three terms that you will definitely want to avoid using.

Allissa Haines:

Okay. But I can feel comfortable that I have good intent and good delivery by saying larger bodies. I'm going to get comfortable.

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah. That's a good middle way. Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

Okay. Thank you for that. And I've been so nervous about this recording this afternoon, because I've been so worried I was going to stick my foot in my mouth and say something the wrong way, which is, I think probably a lot of why me and many colleagues have been hesitant to try to welcome and market to larger bodies, and people in larger bodies. And there you go, everybody, let me be the jackhat for you. Okay. I'm going to be quiet now and let you jump in.

Lindley Ashline:

Well, I think this is a really interesting point that you're bringing up about being worried about offending people, or worried about looking like a jerk, worried about sticking your foot in your mouth. Because the thing is that we all do that, not only in our personal lives, but our professional ones. Just as an example, I went on a podcast with a Black woman recently, actually it was last year, and I said something where I totally stuck my foot in my mouth. We were talking about policing for some reason. And I said something about, "Well, we all think about of police is being the good guys." And the rest of my statement was going to be something like, "So it's a real shock when you discover that that's not always true."

Lindley Ashline:

And she stopped me and she said, "That's not the case. That's a very white privilege thing to say, because many of us don't grow up thinking that the police are the good guys." And just called me out gently and politely, but called out on my thin privilege right there. Because of course, many populations are not able to grow up thinking that the police were the good guys. And so I just stuck my foot on that on the record. It's on that podcast and I had to stop, briefly apologize, thank her for educating me on that, and then promised to do better, and we moved on. But that is something that I'm now aware of, because you can't change unless you're aware of something.

Lindley Ashline:

This actually leads into something that I wanted to touch on later, but feedback is a gift. When someone tells you, "Hey, that's offensive," or they say, "Hey, that's not cool," or, "I really don't identify with that term, could you use this other term instead?" Or something like talking about making your business more accessible. "Hey, I feel like I'm going to collapse your massage table when I get on it." That feedback is a gift. And people's presences or their absence can be a gift too. So when you're thinking about am I offending people, all you can do is do the best you can. And if somebody tells you, "Hey, that's not good," you learn and you do better. That's really all you can do.

Allissa Haines:

And hopefully, we have done a good job of creating a safe and comfortable enough space that a client can see our intent and feel comfortable giving that feedback. And I feel like that's kind of a win. That's a win for massage therapist when a client feels empowered to be like, "No, what you did to my neck last time was terrible." "Okay. All right. Thank you for telling me, move a long."

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah. Yeah. A feedback about people's identities or how you're treating people outside the specifics of massage is exactly like, "Hey, what you did into my neck last time was terrible." It's just feedback and it doesn't... Sticking your foot in your mouth doesn't make you a bad person. If you refer to a client as fat and they're horrified, that is exactly the same as if you had done something terrible to their neck by accident. You apologize and you do better. And so if we want to do good things in the world, we can't let our own fragility and our own fear of saying or doing the wrong thing stop us. We just have to do what we can and just gradually do better as we learn.

Allissa Haines:

And that's comforting. Thank you. So where'd you want to go next? I kind of took over there, sorry. Where'd you want to go?

Lindley Ashline:

Oh, no. No. This is great because you're leading into all these things I wanted to talk about. When we talk about welcoming and accommodating larger bodies, there are two areas that are pretty obvious, your physical spaces, and your marketing and your digital spaces. And so let's talk about physical spaces because they're a little more straightforward. I want to start with an example of my own massage therapist that I go to, who I love. Outside Seattle. She has her office in a converted brewery, in The Old Rainier Brewery, if you're familiar with Seattle and-

Allissa Haines:

I'm not, but now I want an office inside an old brewery, so that's nice.

Lindley Ashline:

Right. Yes.

Allissa Haines:

That sounds awesome.

Lindley Ashline:

It's been turned into coworking spaces, but yeah, the building is this very cool old brick building. And when it was converted into coworking spaces and little offices, they sort of inserted little pocket parking decks into the building, because the building is built into the side of a hill. And so there's a parking deck underneath. Then there are two little bitty parking decks on different levels of the building where it meets the hillside, so there are little driveways up. And when I started seeing this massage therapist, I almost didn't go back, as much as I liked her personally, because these little pocket parking decks were where she was required to have her clients park, instead of the main parking deck underneath the building. And I got trapped. I couldn't get out of my car because these little pocket parking decks were so small, and the spaces were so tight.

Lindley Ashline:

And then when I got back out, I had a very hard time getting back into my car. And I'm standing there in this parking deck, trying to figure out how to get back into my car without crawling through the trunk, and thinking, "Can I do this every month? Am I willing to do this every month to see this massage therapist? I don't know." And eventually, that massage therapist moved to a different office in the building and she now has access to the main parking deck, so it's not a problem. But at the time, I almost didn't go back. And yes, I realized that there's only so much she can do about the parking deck. But when I approached her with it, which of course requires some vulnerability, it can be very embarrassing for people to say, "Hey, I'm too fat for your parking deck," or, "Hey, I have a mobility issue," or, "Hey, I can't get my wheelchair in and out of my van," or whatever.

Lindley Ashline:

Any particular mobility needs somebody has, it can be really embarrassing to constantly have to advocate for yourself and constantly say that you don't fit. So it does require some vulnerability to give people that feedback, but she was really great about it. She apologized for the inaccessibility of that parking and she helped me come up with some alternatives. She knew of a lot, a parking lot down the street that wasn't being used on weekends, where I was able to go park. And again, now, eventually, she was able to move to an office with more accessible parking. But that's just one example.

Lindley Ashline:

So when we talk about physical spaces, it's everything from your parking to is there enough room to move when I get into your massage room? Is there enough room for me to safely move without knocking things over? Is your table solid? Is your table wide? Does it have those cool armrest bolster things so that my arms don't hang off the sides? If you have a waiting room, is there an armless chair that I can fit into? So these are all things that make your space physically accessible to larger people. And there's things that are really important because if I am not comfortable, especially for massage, if I'm not comfortable, physically, in your space, I'm less likely to come back.

Allissa Haines:

Is this something I should tell people? So when I am talking about my massage practice and I'm talking about how much I love my electric table, should I just say right out loud? And it's pretty baller because it has a dynamic weight range up to 750 pounds. Should I just say that?

Lindley Ashline:

Yes.

Allissa Haines:

Good, because I think I did.

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah. Absolutely. Because if I... Well... Okay. I want to come back to this when we talk about marketing, but if I am looking for a massage therapist who is comfortable for my body, that my body is safe with, I don't know, unless you tell me, unless you put it on your website, unless you talk about it on your social media.

Allissa Haines:

All right. Cool. I think it's something we under advertise really is the specifics and the particulars of all of our equipment, and we have underthought how that could be relevant to certain clients. And not just larger clients, but again, bodies with different kinds of mobility issues or even people with different kinds of anxiety and claustrophobia, like I once got a massage in a very, very, very small massage room and loved the therapist, but could never go back there because the room was so small that it made me super claustrophobic.

Allissa Haines:

And so now, dealing with people... Seeing more and more clients with anxiety, I do tell people and photograph my room so that they know it's a good size without being so big you feel like you're a little spec in a void, and not so tiny that you'll feel claustrophobic. But it's not a thing I even thought to share with people until I had that experience myself.

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

And so I know I'm missing a lot of things I could share that would be comforting and helpful to people with larger bodies, as they try to figure out if I'm a good therapist for them.

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah. Yeah. And when people start digging into this, this is where people do often come to me for consulting and be like, "Well, I'm in a much smaller body or an average size body and I just... How can I tell if this space is fat friendly?" And so I will do walkthroughs with people and consulting, to help them figure it out. But the other thing that you can do is to either strive to be ADA compliant. And now ADA compliance is not the exact same thing as being fat friendly in your spaces, but not only is it a good goal to push for, but it helps make it accessible for everybody. And when I'm talking about ADA compliance, I'm talking about can someone with a wheelchair access it? Can someone... Are your aisle spaces a certain width? And all the ADA guidelines are online.

Lindley Ashline:

And of course, many, many massage therapists have small businesses in small spaces. I am not saying that you were a terrible person if you are not ADA compliant. I'm saying it's a great goal. Oh, the other thing that you can do, as far as figuring out if a person in a larger body can safely move through your space and comfortably, is to find a fat person and ask them to walk through. Ask your fattest friend to come and do a walkthrough and be really honest with you about how the corner of your massage table hits their leg every time they walk that on that side of the room, or how there's stairs with a really tight turn that's just a little uncomfortable, whatever. Get somebody to walk through. If you don't have any significantly fat friends, that might be something you need to examine in yourself too. But find a fat person, ask them to walk through and compensate them for their time.

Lindley Ashline:

But when I talk about if you don't have any fat friends, that's really strange and something you need to examine, one of the most important things that you can do for yourself, for the world, and for your massage business, is to get right with your feelings about fat bodies. And the thing is that massage therapists, specifically, tend to have fewer issues with fat phobia than many healthcare practitioners, because you see all kinds of people and you have your hands on them. You have touched a fat roll before. So you are immediately present with bodies in a way that many healthcare providers are not. But if I am a fat client and I come to you, and you are uncomfortable with fat bodies, or you are uncomfortable with fatness or with fat rolls, or you think that I am unhealthy in a way that you need to rescue me and address, I can tell, whether you say anything or not.

Lindley Ashline:

I've been to massage therapists who were willing to work with me, but only willing to work with me. They were kind of secretly disgusted. We can tell, you're not hiding it. If you feel that way, even if it's only subconscious, fat people can tell. And one of the ways that you can tell as a business person, if people are picking up weird vibes from you about their bodies, is whether they come back. Do the fat people come back or do they see you once and then never again? There might be a problem with your space. There might be a problem with you. I'm saying this with love because we are all subject to so many negative messages about fat bodies, our whole lives. We all have internalized fat phobia. We all have issues with fat bodies. And I include me, it's a journey.

Lindley Ashline:

We have to sort of find those fish hooks and pick them out of our skin. Sorry for the gross analogy. But we have to learn to consider people, in our minds, deep down fat people is equally worthy and worthy of equal treatment. That will come out when you touch people. That will come out when you talk to people. That will come out in the way you interact with people. So it's good to have your physical spaces be accessible. It's good to have your marketing be accessible and representative. And we'll talk about that. But more than anything, you have to get right with yourself about fat bodies.

Allissa Haines:

All right. Take us to marketing. What do we need to be thoughtful and consider about?

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah. To sort of segue, this applies to both your physical spaces and your marketing. This is usually where I encounter a lot of resistance because people hear me talking about ADA accessibility and more solid massage tables, and armrest bolsters, and things, and they go... There's a lot of internal resistance because here's all this, here's this fat lady telling me that I have to buy a bunch of extra stuff, that I should move my office to make it more accessible, that I need to spend more money, or that I need to buy the more expensive stock photos so that they have fat people in them, or I need to do extra work on my marketing. And it's extra, extra, extra. And the thing is that serving people in larger bodies is not an extra commitment or add-on because not only are larger bodies the majority of the US population, but these are the costs of doing business.

Lindley Ashline:

So you are not... It can feel like you are having to spend a bunch of extra money to attract a small population, but somewhere around, I don't know, 2/3 of people are considered... I'm using this term because it is the term that is a popularly used to describe this. 2/3 of the US population is overweight. You can't see me, but I'm making air quotes. And something like, I don't know, a quarter of the population or a third of the population is "obese." So why would you want to cut out a third of the US population from your business? So these are the cost of doing business, in the same way that if you decide that your audience is women between the ages of 35 and 65, that you want to appeal to that specific audience. I mean, this is just a cost of doing business.

Lindley Ashline:

And the fact that we consider this extra is evidence of weight stigma, as opposed to it truly being an extra cost. So that said, let's talk about your marketing. So this is another of those areas where just like if you're not right with yourself about your feelings about certain bodies, people can tell. In your marketing, people can also tell. If not only things like Allissa was talking about like should I put on my website that I'm fat friendly? Should I put on my website that my table holds 700 pounds? Yes is of course the answer, but it's not just about that. It's about when I, as a fat person, encounter your whole marketing presence, your website, brochures at the doctor's office, posters that you stuck up at the grocery store, your social media, whatever your marketing encompasses.

Lindley Ashline:

Is that in line with your commitment to serving people in all kinds of bodies or is it not? What kind of impression do I get? Am I getting only those stock photos that Allissa was talking about with the thin white woman with usually with brunette hair, laying on her back in this very orange, warm toned photo with rocks on her back? Is that all I'm seeing or am I seeing a variety of bodies getting massages? Am I seeing lots of different people? When you choose your marketing, your images, you are choosing the types of people who are welcome. If I only see white people, then if I'm a Black person, am I going to feel welcome? Not really. Or another person of color, am I going to feel welcome? No. Images tell us who belongs, in really fundamental way.

Lindley Ashline:

People seeing themselves is so vital. And that doesn't mean that you need to represent exactly a person who weighs 250 pounds and a person who weighs 200 pounds, and a person who weighs 275 pounds, and have each of those people with the entire spectrum of human skin color, or anything. We're not talking about anything extreme. We're just talking about adding... If you can add one more photo that is different from what you already have, if you can make one more social media post about how you serve people in bigger bodies, if you can make one page on your website about that. These incremental changes are what help make people feel gradually more welcome.

Allissa Haines:

Are there things that we should avoid? And I'll use myself as an example. I, early on in my career, really got on the bull crap concept of wellness and healthiness, as if nutrition and/or size or shape mattered in that. And we know a lot more about health and I'm not going to say that I know very much about the health at every size philosophy or movement. It's something I still have to do a lot of reading on, ditto that for intuitive eating. All things I want to learn more about to be a better practitioner for clients of all kinds. But I definitely, earlier on in my career and in social media, would post things that were... I don't want to say nutritional guidance or anything, but I had this idea of health and wellness that was definitely thin and involved lots of exercise. And I don't do that anymore because I've realized how excluding that can be and also how incorrect, physiologically, that is. Are there things you can think of like that, that we should be avoiding?

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah. Yeah. I have a couple of thoughts there. One is that it is really tempting to get outside your niche, especially when you need social media content. I post on my Instagram every single day, original content, and some days I wake up and I go, "Oh, I have to do this again." Especially if you are online marketing, it can be really tempting to get into other people's lanes. But to be blunt, if you are a massage therapist, that does not make you a nutritional expert, that does not make you an expert on bodies, or weight, or weight loss. It doesn't make you a therapist. And if your lane is massage therapy, one of the best things you can do is stay in it. Talk to me about massage therapy. Talk to me about how you work with bodies. Talk about common, I don't know, common muscle problems you see. I don't know. You're the expert on this, not me.

Lindley Ashline:

But why do you need to be posting nutritional advice? Why do you need to be posting exercise stuff? Why do you need to be... Staying in your lane helps avoid sticking your foot in your mouth. We have all this modern science that is very much not in line with what everybody knows about body and weight. So look at health at every size, read the book Body Respect by Lindo Bacon and Lucy Aphramor. I will put this in the show notes. But that is one of the foundational books about modern science, about bodies and weight. It's one of the foundations of the health at every size movement. I have a whole 101 page on my website about health at every size.

Lindley Ashline:

Again, we'll put it in the show notes. And it will give you an overview of what we know. In conjunction with getting right with yourself about bodies, this is one of the ways that you do that, is to learn the actual science as opposed to what everybody knows, because what everybody knows about bodies is outdated and racist as hell. That is where you start. But yeah, avoid getting out of your lane. My lane as a photographer and a fat activist, and a health at every size advocate is not academic research. I'm not a clinician, I'm not a researcher. And so I can talk about the numbers and the facts, but I don't get into debates about science, because that's not my lane. I don't speak for people with disabilities. I don't speak for people of color, because those aren't my lane. And the more I stray on my lane, the more I'm going to screw up.

Allissa Haines:

I feel like I got a really lucky under standing fairly early in my career that this, and I'm air quoting now, this wellness industry that I'm part of doesn't mean that I have to be part of holding up the thin body as ideal or the thin body as healthy. I've seen it. I know I saw it in myself and I see it with a lot of practitioners who even though we touch and love bodies every day, of all different sizes and shapes, and colors and everything, we still have that bias of thin bodies being healthier, and it is pervasive part of the wellness industry. And I think that was the big thing that surprised me is how much was ingrained that I hadn't even noticed for a long, long time. And the things that I said and the things that I shared were all part of that wellness industry assumption and collective.

Allissa Haines:

And, I don't know, maybe somebody else will be able to unlearn that a little bit faster than me. And I thought I was in my lane because my lane was wellness. But I know now that it's not. It's not wellness by anyone else's definition except wellness that the client wants when they walk in my door at any particular time. And really, I see so many colleagues getting sucked into it. People who start off as massage therapists and end up selling nutritional shakes, which is horrifying. That overlap, that potential for overlap and confusion, it's pervasive. And it doesn't serve our clients. It just doesn't. It's a weird phenomenon. Anyhow, and that made me think of it.

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think it's such a good point too, is that for a long time, you consider your niche to be wellness. That's a really good point, because if you're listening to this and you're feeling really resistant right now, because you do want what is healthiest and best for your clients, and you want to give them good advice, and share good things with them, really, the only way to tell whether what you're sharing is good or whether it's sort of poisonous fruit, to be a little dramatic about it, is to unlearn your weight stigma, unlearn your fat phobia, and learn the modern science. Because otherwise, you're not going to know whether the things that do seem in your lane are toxic or not. And you can ask fat activists too and you can ask people who make themselves available for that, but you doing the research and you doing the learning is really the only way that you're going to be able to unpack all that.

Allissa Haines:

Whew, that was a lot. I was so much [crosstalk 00:36:45].

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah, it is a lot and it is intimidating because yeah, we've just... We have a set of beliefs that may or may not be accurate. And again, this is not demanding that you get right with the Lord and change your life in the next five minutes. It's a process and it's well worth doing, because it also means that the people in your personal life and the people around you, and the clients that you're serving will be best served, if you have untangled as much of this as you can manage. So when we talk about serving clients, as a photographer, am I better serving my...

Lindley Ashline:

The people who come to me for client sessions, boudoir, portraits, small business branding, am I best serving those people if I treat them like their bodies are icky, and try to hide and minimize those bodies, or am I treating them best and doing the best thing for them if I'm celebrating their bodies and cheerfully working within whatever mobility limitations or needs they might have, and treating those bodies as worthy? Of course, I'm best serving them if I'm celebrating the bodies they have right now. And so best serving your clients looks like sharing and advocating for things that are truly good and not just trendy.

Michael Reynolds:

So much of this seems to be... Sorry, I'm just listening with fascination here and I wanted to jump in for just a minute. So much of this seems to be about letting go of judgment, which kind of... It's a foundation across a lot of these conversations and judgment... When Allissa was talking about, "Hey..." Back earlier in her career, used to post things about, "Hey, wellness looks like this," and I see it a lot too, where massage therapists or anyone, really, is posting things like, "Hey, this is what healthy looks like. You should be doing all this stuff." And a lot of it is founded in privilege in many cases.

Michael Reynolds:

And so much of it is based on just judgment of other people and how we, for some reason, as humans, we're really, really drawn this attitude of, "Hey, I have the answers, I have the right way of doing things, and it's my job to convert other people to do the thing that I think they should be doing." And the conversation around weight and what you think is a healthy weight or not, there's so much judgment laced around that. And if we can learn to let go of judgment, that fixes a lot of issues, I think, for us.

Lindley Ashline:

It does and it's hard. It's hard. This isn't really, really related, but a few years ago, I had to break myself of saying leggings are not pants, which seemed so-

Allissa Haines:

I had to do that too. And you know what? I totally walked a mile and a half into town today to pick up my car from an oil change, wearing leggings and a shirt that did not totally cover my butt. And I felt super badass and rebellious about it, because it took me years to get over the leggings is pants thing. Sorry, carry on.

Lindley Ashline:

No, no. Yeah. You could definitely-

Michael Reynolds:

I just assumed leggings were pants all this time.

Allissa Haines:

It's nuts. I can't believe how judgmental and crotchety I was about it. I'm embarrassed now.

Lindley Ashline:

Like I said, that was kind of a silly example, but it's also these things that we judge may seem petty on their own, but they tie into really deep systems of power and systems of repression. So when we say, "Well, leggings aren't pants," there's a classism element there because we say, "Well, trashy people wear leggings as pants," or, "Slutty people," or whatever. I don't have to explain it. When you say things like that, think about what you mean. That some types of people don't wear leggings as pants and some people do. And those people aren't to be approved of. So there's some fat phobia there, there's some classism there, but then when you look at things like, "Oh, God, people of Walmart."

Allissa Haines:

That is hard.

Lindley Ashline:

That's all I'm going to say.

Allissa Haines:

I caught myself laughing and gawking not long ago. And I was like, "Oh, no." But it was a thing. I mean, I'm thankful that I caught myself. I feel like, at least, I've evolved a little bit. But yeah, why are we doing that?

Lindley Ashline:

Like I said, it ties into these really deep systems. There's a suggested Facebook group that keeps popping up for me, that's something about architecture shaming. And it's just making fun of people's choices and the houses that they build, and the way they decorate them. And it's like, "I don't want to be your joy killer, but at the same time..." Oh, let me tell you, I am tons of fun at parties. So I don't want to kill all the joy in your life, but I also do think it's important to say when we are, like Michael was saying, when we are feeling judgmental, that it ties into these deeper systems because it allows us.

Lindley Ashline:

And I'm not saying that this is a healthy thing, but it allows us to reclaim power. If we're watching Hoarders on TV and it allows us to feel like we're in control, unlike those people, we're in control, our messy houses aren't so bad because at least they're not that bad, that we're not like those people, and that is... Reclaiming our own power is good, but not if it's at the expense of somebody else.

Allissa Haines:

Yeah. I don't think you have to worry about killing someone's joy when they're taking joy from something in a cruel way, really.

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

That's appropriate to kill their joy there. They shouldn't be taking joy by power tripping and feeling better than someone else over the design of their kitchen towels. So I hear you.

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah, exactly. So these things do tie into deeper systems. And so when you look at a really common thing... And again, this is something I struggle with too, because I am also human, I also grew up in this system. When you look at someone who is larger than you, and you think, whether it's a conscious thought or just sort of a deep down gut feeling, "Well, at least I'm not like that." That is A, that is a very common response to seeing people who are bigger than you. You are not a bad person. You are reflecting the systems that you live in. But that is also like this fish hook, it's really important whenever you notice it to start pulling out. And that's the thing, it's not that you have to be perfect right off, it's this process of unlearning and noticing things.

Lindley Ashline:

Because once you start noticing, you can start making different choices. And so to bring this back to marketing, which was what we were going to talk about, once you start noticing the messages that you're transmitting in your marketing, you can start gradually changing them. And one of the ways to do that is to have somebody else help you notice to... Ask me, like I said, again, this is something that I do consulting for, or ask a fat person that you don't know to enter your digital spaces, to look at your website and your social media, and to tell you honestly, whether they would feel welcome walking into your business, to tell you honestly what questions they have. And again, find somebody and compensate them for their time because fat folks get asked to do this a lot and they deserve to be compensated. Have somebody help you notice, if you're having trouble noticing yourself, because that's one of the best ways to start.

Allissa Haines:

Yeah. This is the kind of thing that if you really want to serve the community, it's worth it to pay for some help to make sure you're doing it well and with the greatest thought.

Lindley Ashline:

[crosstalk 00:44:34] or whatever. Yeah.

Allissa Haines:

Yeah. No, it's true. We're big fans of paying for consulting. Was there anything else you wanted to make sure we touched upon that we haven't yet?

Lindley Ashline:

One of the most important things you can do, both from a business standpoint and from a making potential customers, potential clients feel welcome, and as far as doing a little bit to change the world, is to moderate your spaces. In the photography world, I don't know if this is the same in the massage world, but there's a huge trend that's been going on for seven or eight years now, of running Facebook groups to try to attract clients, so everybody's got a Facebook group. And these spaces... Or of course, you probably have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, or an Instagram account, and these spaces, especially the more you talk about bodies in any way, they attract people who say terrible things, especially terrible things about fat bodies. And one of the most important things you can do is to moderate those spaces.

Lindley Ashline:

If you're placing paid ads like on Facebook or wherever, keep an eye on the comments those accumulate, look at your Facebook post, look at your Instagram post, look at your... If you run a forum or a Facebook group. Those are spaces that you created and you're responsible for keeping them as safe as possible. It is your job to remove fat phobic comments. It is your job to push back when people say negative things about fat people in those spaces. And it's one of the best ways you can keep your spaces feeling safe for fat people and make it clear where you stand is just removing nasty comments.

Allissa Haines:

And it's so funny, because I see so many people who run communities [inaudible 00:46:18], "Well, we don't want to censor anybody and [inaudible 00:46:21]." I'm like, "I have no problem censoring the hell out of people who are cruel or racist, or sexist or, sizeist, or whatever, ableist." It drives me bonkers. I delete stuff with reckless abandon in order to keep my feeds free of that kind of hate and that kind of judgment. So if sometimes people need permission and I'm really glad you've given it, but people, delete the hell out of that crap. You don't need to have it in anywhere that you're in charge.

Lindley Ashline:

We don't owe people a platform. We don't owe people and we don't owe them a debate. We don't owe them a discussion. There's sort of a, I don't know, a system of thought that we owe people, that not only are we hurting them if we remove their comments, but that we owe them the discussion, that it's our job to change people's minds. And there's actually, there are a couple pieces on my blog about this, about changing minds and what that requires. But the upshot is that unless you have an existing relationship of some kind with somebody, and I don't mean that you're in the same internet comment section, and some kind of actual relationship with a person, whether it's professional or personal, and they respect you enough to be open-minded and they're interested in change, you're not going to change their minds.

Lindley Ashline:

So if you're allowing fat phobic comments on, say, your Instagram, because you feel like you have some responsibility to change their minds, nah, nah, they're not there... They're there to be trolls, they're not there... Or because they are reclaiming their power at fat people's expense, to come back to reclaiming power. They're not there because they're interested in learning. And if they are interested in learning, they will make that clear. You can tell. So I figure that I have more of a responsibility to the people who are truly part of my community than I do to the people who come in and just want to be nasty. And so yeah, I remove those comments. My spaces are not a democracy.

Allissa Haines:

That's really important. Their space doesn't have to be a democracy. Cannot wait for people to hear this and to get their thoughts, and to see the discussions that happen, and come from all of this discussion here today. Lindley Ashline, thank you. Thank you so much for being with us. And everyone, we are going to have all the links to find Lindley and all of the resources in the show notes. And Michael, you want to take us home?

Michael Reynolds:

Sure. Lindley, thank you again. Really glad you were here. We appreciate your time.

Lindley Ashline:

Yeah. Thanks so much.

Michael Reynolds:

All right, everyone. Well, thanks for joining us today. As always, you know where to find us, we are online at massagebusinessblueprint.com. You can reach out to us and send us a note there if you like or you can email us directly at podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. And as we mentioned before, we'll have the show notes and ways to contact Lindley through her websites and social profiles in the show notes of this episode. So thanks again for joining us. Have a great day. We'll see you next time.

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