Let's Talk About You
I’m still finishing my book but you have a lot to say.
I started working on today’s newsletter back before the world ended. And it feels a little weird now to cheerfully chat about anything not related to stripping away the human rights of of anyone with a uterus. But I’ve also spent the last few days thinking hard about where we go from here, and while I don’t have nearly enough answers, I do know the power of organized, supportive communities like ours will be crucial in the coming weeks/months/years. So maybe taking a minute to celebrate this community—there are now over 15,000 of you!— is exactly the right thing to do. Because we are in this fight for body autonomy in all of the ways.
In terms of where we go now, in that fight: Lyz Lenz and Anne Helen Petersen have put together awesome guides to getting organized. And Jessica Valenti articulated all of my emotions with this piece. Feel free to share more resources in the comments below.
If you are feeling desperate to do more right now, remember that abortion access is now determined by the states. The courts have failed us and federal reform is necessary but currently well out of reach—this will be a state-by-state fight. Our Burnt Toast Giving Circle is closing in on our goal to raise $20,000 to flip the state legislature in Arizona, where abortion access is now intensely vulnerable. If you join us this week, your donation gets doubled!
Two weeks ago I launched our first-ever Burnt Toast Reader Survey, and almost 900 of you responded! I have loved, loved, loved reading the responses. And I thought it would be fun to share a little more about this excellent community. If you haven’t done the survey yet, you absolutely still can. (I’d love to get 1000 responses.) Anyone who fills it out by Thursday (June 30) will be entered in our Burnt Toast Book Giveaway. You can also enter by renewing an expiring subscription or purchasing a new one! And if you do one of those things before Thursday, you can also take 20 percent off your subscription! Call it a hooray my book is almost done! sale.
Who You Are
You are 91 percent white. So. We gotta work on that! (And I’m sorry for forgetting to make this a “check as many as apply” response. It was a mistake; my Google Forms defaults to “required,” and I forgot to un-default it here. I appreciate all the write-ins on this.)
Also not shocking, but something to work on: You are 93 percent cis women. I’m delighted that we have more trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming folks than cis men. But I do want to work on making this a more welcoming space for folks (and especially parents) of all genders.
68.6 percent of you are straight, 31.4 percent of you are gay, lesbian, bi, queer or wrote in your own (non-hetero) identification. 87.1 percent of you are married or partnered. So we need to work on welcoming single folks, especially single parents to the fold!
49.2 percent of you are between the ages of 35 and 45. 25 to 35 year olds make up our second largest group, but I’m so pleased we’ve got a decent number of over 45s and under 24s too. Yay for age diversity!
We’re also doing well on body diversity! 47.7 percent of you identify as straight-sized, and 45 percent of you picked some flavor of fat. (Plus: Lots of write-ins about the terminology around this, many of you feeling unsure how to identify. I get it! And yes, “mid-size” gets used as an alternate term for both “small fat” and “mid-fat” and that is confusing as heck.)
62.1 percent of you are parents. 17 percent of you are child-free and plan to stay that way. (Everyone else is… somewhere else in that decision process.) I always say this is a newsletter about parenting in diet culture, but non-parents like it too. So, child-free/child-questioning folks, I’m glad you’re here.
On the parents: Most of your kids (40 percent) are in elementary school, but we’re nicely spanning the full spectrum of 0 to over 18 here, which I like. 71.8 percent of those kids are straight-sized; 34 percent are bigger or have been labeled “overweight.” (And parents of “underweight” kiddos, I see you too.)
Where You’re From
Mostly the US, where we’re 37 percent East Coast, 21 percent Midwest, 23 percent West Coast, 12 percent South, and a bunch of angry write-ins for the Mountain West because I forgot you. (Also hugs and apologies to people writing stuff like “where is Pennsylvania?” and “is Texas the South?” I don’t know, don’t come here for my razor sharp geography okay!!!)
But we’re also quite international. We’ve got a load of Canadians, as well as readers in the UK, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Portugal, Luxembourg, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Spain, Brazil, Egypt, Japan, India, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and Denmark.
Where You Are With Diet Culture
This is the question I was most curious about: How would you describe your own relationship with diet culture?
32.5 percent of you said you were deliberately and completely divested, which is amazing and honestly, gives me so much hope for this world!
57.6 percent of you chose “I’m working on it,” which is SO VERY REAL. One of you wrote in “I want to pick completely divested, but I wonder if that’s even possible…” And I mean, I’m not sure it is, just like it’s not possible to fully divest from white supremacy. All we can do is the work. “It’s like quicksand,” one of you wrote, “I think I’m out but not really.”
But I also want to give a shout out to the 4 percent of you who chose “I’m still dieting but curious about the work you do.” Because that’s valid too.
I maintain some ground rules on how we engage with these topics on discussion threads for everyone’s safety, but there is no prerequisite to showing up here. You can still be dieting, still be active in your eating disorder, still be wishing yourself thinner and be adamantly opposed to anti-fat bias and the harm it causes. You can also just be curious about living a different way.
What You Think About Burnt Toast
It feels important to acknowledge that anyone who takes the time to do a 40+ question reader survey probably either really likes the newsletter or really hates it (or is very bored at work!). We did not have a lot of haters, so thank you very much for all the love and/or I’m glad I could fill a chunk of your morning.
What you love best: I’m pleased that reported essays got the most votes, followed by podcast interviews. Jeans Science was a little more controversial —some of you said it was the best thing we did all year, some of you were not moved. (I know it was a departure from parenting content! And, one of you pointed out that as a fat person, you already knew all the jeans were bad, which, FAIR.) We’re going to do more reported series, but I do think hard about which stories I want or need to follow for multiple newsletters, because when I’m doing that, of course, other stories get pushed to the side.
Your least favorite part of Burnt Toast are the book research roundups, so good news! We’ll be doing way less of those now that the book is written! I might still slot one in during a busy month, but I’ll make them shorter and same for any other iterations of the link roundup format. I get that 50 study links feels like a homework assignment not a fun read. But gold stars for those of you who said you don’t read them but save them for later.
You’re mixed on the political content. Though I’m curious how feelings may have changed on this since last week. But international readers said my abortion rights coverage and the Burnt Toast Giving Circle interest them least, which makes sense since it’s less relevant when you live in a country that values you as a human being! Another common theme was folks saying they’re already politically active or getting political writing elsewhere and don’t need that from me. Fair enough!
But here’s the one comment that perfectly sums up why I’m doing it anyway:
“I'm so tired of people with platforms ignoring the very real threat to our democracy and our planet bc it doesn't fit within their ‘lane’ and I so very much love the way you are using your platform. It's a balm to my soul.”
Yes. And, abortion, in particular, is foundational to fat rights, in so many ways.
Some American readers noted that they’re just too depressed about the travesty that is our democracy to want to read about it here. The thing is, we don’t have time to check out. I’m adding Our Bodies, Our Fight as a dedicated newsletter section where we’ll talk about how abortion rights intersects with fat justice and dismantling diet culture, and how our community can support reproductive justice for all. (If you don’t want this content, you can opt out; details below. But I hope you won’t!)
Pretty much nobody wants me to start doing video newsletters, to which I say PHEW. There’s a bit more interest in audio newsletters (me reading the essays and reported pieces to you) for accessibility reasons. So I’m putting that on my list to figure out.
One of the most interesting findings of the survey (to me) was the revelation that 60 percent of you only read podcast transcripts, while 33 percent of you only listen to the episodes. (A lovely 5 percent of you do both!) There were lots of notes about accessibility on this question in both directions, so don’t worry, we’ll continue to offer both formats. And plenty of you also said this isn’t personal to BT, just a general feeling of “listening to podcasts doesn’t really fit my life right now.” Or you’re already at podcast capacity, which I get. But: If you’re an only-reader and you think you could become a listener, I’d love to know more about what would make it a fun listen for you?
Most of all, I love how open you are. There are comments from non-parents saying, “the parenting stuff is actually helping me re-parent myself,” or think about how to be a good ally to a younger person in their family or social circle. There are comments from thin folks saying they appreciate the opportunities to identify and reckon with their thin privilege and attachment to workout selfies. And there are so many of you saying some version of “this piece made me so uncomfortable and I love that.”
Who Else Should We Hear From?
Many of you voted against guest writers, or said you prefer to hear me in conversation with said guests. I was surprised but sort of get this—a guest writer in a newsletter when I’m expecting to hear from my regular host can be disorienting. But sharing this platform is also important. So I’ll be pondering this some more.
You did have many excellent suggestions for future podcast guests and I will be working my way through the list. And yes, of course, Aubrey Gordon has already been here. (Though I’d have her back any time!) So have Dacy Gillespie, Rachel Millner, and Melinda Wenner Moyer. But no, I cannot get Lizzo!
Three Housekeeping Notes:
18.4 percent of you said that you’d love to subscribe but can’t afford it right now. Please remember that I’m always happy to offer comp subscriptions to folks who need them! You don’t have to justify the ask or explain yourself in any way, just send me an email. (And there is no cap on these. Several folks said they don’t feel right taking a comp from someone who needs it more but that’s not how this works!)
Somebody said they don’t listen to the podcast because “ads! Gah!” But friends, I never run ads. That’s the whole reason we do the reader subscription thing. So if that was keeping you from listening, go forth! It’s safe.
A few other folks said they get the podcast in their podcast player so getting it as an email as well feels redundant. And 16.2 percent of you said you get too many emails from me. If that’s you, just go to your Substack settings: You can uncheck whichever types of emails you don’t want. (So if you only want essays and Friday Threads, or only Ask Virginia, which is just one email per month right now – you got it!)
Well this was maybe fun only for me, but I hope you all enjoyed learning a bit more about who you’re in community with here. I’ve already been sappy about the first year of Burnt Toast so I’ll just say: I love it here so much. I’m taking off next week because THIS BOOK WILL BE DONE and my brain needs a break. But we’ve got some of my favorite Comfort Food reruns cued up on the podcast to tide you over. And I’ll see you back here on July 12 for our usual schedule.