I teach a class (part of a year-long program) that’s a combination info-session and support group for people trying to reduce their risk of developing diabetes. It’s been an interesting experience trying to inject feminism into this class without straying from the curriculum or alienating my participants, but I try!
Interestingly enough, I’m learning some things from my participants that I don’t encounter often, if at all, in the online feminist communities I’m a part of. My participants are generally local, generally Vermont-born, and mostly women between 40 and 80.
Here are a few of my favorite new pieces of wisdom:
1. Make friends quickly, because why not?
These people have known each other for two weeks and are hugging each other at the end of the class and giving each other rides home. They bond really quickly, and they have very little of the awkward standoffish-ness I’ve witnessed and experienced in my own attempts to make friends. It really seems like a better way to go.
2. Talking about poop is empowering.
One of my participants shared that she’s “more regular” since starting the program and everyone LOVED it. They all applauded and then we talked about poop and it was a very open discussion. I, descended from the Puritans as I am, am usually uncomfortable talking about poop in large groups, so it was pretty good for me to be exposed to such bowel nonchalance.
3. Old people know how to Google.
One woman brought up that she had googled me and therefore knew that I had “many other talents.” It had never occurred to me that one of my participants would google me, so yeah, an old lady schooled me on internet privacy.
4. Body acceptance is hard work.
We had a really honest conversation about treating our bodies with respect, including feeding them what they want and paying attention to what they needed. This was not a new concept for many of them, and they were honest about what they struggled with and what worked. I have my own struggles with body acceptance and Healthy at Any Size, but hearing perspectives from women who’ve been thinking about these things for decades was a new perspective from me, and one that seems to get lost, especially in online discussions of body positivity.
5. It’s not a sin not to know something.
None of these people are ashamed when they learn something new. They treat new information with appreciation, wonder, and gloriously open minds. I work hard to be open minded–these women and men act as if new information is a gift.
Not to get all cheesy on y’all, but it’s been good for me to hang out with a bunch of pre-diabetic older adults for an hour each week. They’ve got some good feminist practices going on and I only hope I learn more as I continue to meet with them.