The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.
Interview with Michelle Fetsch, the visionary behind the BARE campaign that is inspiring women of all shapes and sizes to expose their bodies and life stories with the world.
Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started it.
When I was 12 years old I saw a movie about two young women who secretly conspired with each other to be better and thinner through developing eating disorders. One was bulimic, one was anorexic; that gave me two solutions to my pain. I watched the movie with my skinny friend, I thought her family was rich and perfect. I thought she had everything she wanted including all of the love and support a girl would want and deserve.
I resolved to take my full of ice cream belly into the bathroom for the first emotional release I had through purging. When I returned, my throat stung, my fingers were slimy, red and white from gagging myself; and that was the beginning of the growing addiction.
I started not only restricting my calories and starving myself but also working out for hours a day, miles on end in order to achieve the perfect body and life. I was afraid that if I ate, people would see me as weak and fat; I felt I didn’t have the right to feed my hunger.
I felt I was more in control if I pained my body and mind. I was fanatical about working out; there was an internal drive to “be better,” a belief that if I ran far enough, fast enough, hard enough that my life would feel ok. That being thin would bring relationships, healing, happiness, and success. But it didn’t. The more I fed the lies that I wasn’t enough and starved my body, the more I saw myself as this undeserving person.
When I was in high school, I learned that it wasn’t safe to tell people the things I was aching about; when I did, they turned their backs and criticized that they couldn’t “handle me or it.” They would talk negatively, I’d lose friends, credibility, love and acceptance.
In 2010, I was fed up and founded Women Enough with the commitment that ALL women could be seen, heard and free. I have been relentlessly and passionately working to develop a media campaign called Bare Campaign. #BareCampaign has now been featured in media outlets all over the world including Shape, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Elite Daily and dozens of others. The campaign has reached an audience of over one million and we are now about to launch a crowdfunding campaign.
photo by Anastasia Kuba
What is the most important thing parents can do to support their child's self-esteem?
We inherit our parents’ beliefs about ourselves, themselves. We grow up internalizing the messages we receive from our parents and peers. Sadly, many kids, especially girls, watch their mothers’ loathing themselves in the mirror. “I need to lose weight, I look tired, and my hair looks… I wish I were just a little taller, thinner, and…” They start hearing those things about themselves. Children mirror their parents regardless of what their parents tell them. If a daughter sees a mother or hears a mother belittling herself or another woman, she learns that. Then children then bring those same messages to school and diminish the appearance of themselves or their peers—hence, girls coming home at age five saying they are ‘fat.’
Share with us a total win (brag away!)
When I was 16, I was recommended a book by the author Sark (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy) called Succulent Wild Woman. Reading that book gave me a sense of hope in the darkness I was experiencing. It was then that I was inspired to have a womens empowerment group. She was the first real 'role model' or female icon that I imagined I wanted to be like. She uses her creativity as a way to share vulnerably and authentically about the struggles and abuse she dealt with in her life.
Ten years later, I’m giving a speech at the launch of #barecampaign in San Francisco and SARK (the author) walks in the door. It was certainly surreal and a dream come true.
photo by Anastasia Kuba
What's your relationship with Mamalode?
While I don’t have any kids yet, I have always loved kids. I love the curiosity, newness and unconditional love they bring and the way they refresh any situation. I was my sisters birth coach 12 years ago and watched my sweet little perfect niece come out. I had the blessing of naming her Alexandra (Lexi). I spent the first two years of her life with her—every single day—loving, playing and going on any little adventures with her. She brought a very new sense of purpose to my life and it will remain one of the most special times of my life—maybe the most. My childhood was tough and I have always wanted to protect children or be a space where kids could be their silly, whole and self expressed selves. I believe that when we as women heal our relationship to ourselves, we then become better parents. It is so important to support women in having a healthy body image and self esteem so that the next generation are empowered to do so.