Pleasure is Virtuous with Sonalee Rashatwar

Pleasure is Virtuous with Sonalee Rashatwar

 
 
00:00 / 00:41:30
 
1X
 

Body-positivity sure seems popular right now—but that conversation is often limited to celebrating slightly larger bodies and slightly broader sizing options. Our guest today challenges those ideas—ands helps us understand what real liberation would look like.

Sonalee Rashatwar is a fat, queer, non-binary therapist, community organizer, and donut queen based in Philly. Katel first found out about her as @thefatsextherapist on Instagram, where she posts about body image, fat positivity, and delicious food.

Pleasure is very virtuous. We need food pleasure and sexual pleasure to survive this capitalist nightmare. And it’s okay. I give you permission.

—Sonalee Rashatwar, The Fat Sex Therapist

Sonalee provides counseling to people navigating sexual trauma, body image issues, racial or immigrant identity issues, and South Asian family systems, and she holds workshops on topics like unlearning body image issues.

Follow Sonalee: Instagram | Twitter

We talk about:

  • Reclaiming slurs that have been used against you—with a shout out to Jes Baker’s new book, Landwhale
  • Being featured on Breitbart for saying that “thinness is a white supremacist beauty ideal” while speaking at the University of Vermont
  • Expanding our idea of body image issues “beyond body size, eating disorders, and self esteem” using Megan J. Smith’s Repeal Hyde Art Project as a parallel
  • Decolonizing sex and pleasure
  • Triaging trauma responses during this seemingly endless sexual-assault-filled news cycle
  • Getting hyped about “boring self care”

Plus:

  • Katel looks great in a $7 metallic jumpsuit
  • Sara’s done eating $14 airport chicken wraps
  • 7–11 sells quinoa?
  • It’s okay to skip the boozie slushies (unless that’s your jam—no judgement!)

Sponsors

This episode of NYG is brought to you by:
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Transcript

Sara Wachter-Boettcher When I want to look like I have it all together, I look to Harvest. Harvest makes awesome software that helps me track my time, manage schedules, and send invoices. I love how easy it is to use on the desktop or on my phone and it’s perfect for freelancers, agencies, or anybody who needs to manage projects and client work. So, go to getharvest.com to try it for free and if you’re ready for a paid account, use code “noyougo” to get 50% off your first month. That’s getharvest.com, code “noyougo.” [intro music plays for 12 seconds]

Katel LeDû Hey everyone, I’m Katel.

SWB And I’m Sara!

KL And you’re listening to No, You Go, the show about building satisfying careers and businesses—

SWB —getting free of toxic bullshit—

KL —and living your best feminist life at work.

SWB Hell yeah it is! Katel, who is on the show today?

KL Our guest is Sonalee Rashatwar, aka “The Fat Sex Therapist.” We’re going to ask her just how she got that name and why her work as a fat, queer sex therapist is more important now than ever. Before we get to our interview with Sonalee, Sara, you are about to get surgery.

SWB Uhh yes, I am about to get surgery. I’m finally getting my torn ACL fixed, and so by the time this episode comes out, I’ll actually be back home recovering. So, that means that I’ve been spending the last few days really trying to tie up some loose ends. So, I actually just got back from my last business trip for a while. I was in Dallas.

KL Uh yee-haw, that sounds like a perfect way to tie things up.

SWB You know, actually it was perfect, and I’m going to tell you why. So—okay, so I’m in Dallas, right? And I was speaking at this conference and then I get back to the airport, I’m on my way home and I’d been wearing these heels to speak in and I should have changed out of them earlier and I didn’t, so my feet are killing me. I’m in the security line, the security line is really long. And then there is a canine unit there that’s checking people, sniffing for drugs, right? I’m like, “okay great.” So, now there’s also this agent there who is barking orders at people—where to stand, “no, stop, no, wait,” you know? And like, “take everything out of your hands, you can’t have your phone in your hands, but you need your boarding pass in your hands, but oh your boarding pass is your phone, so okay you can have your phone in your hand now.” And he was just gruff, you know how this is, right?

KL Yeah.

SWB So, he’s gruff and barking orders and it’s like, “okay, so you need to walk by the dog, but not too fast. Make sure your bag is out of the way so it’s not going to hit the dog in the head.” It was this whole thing, right? Okay, so we go through that, it takes forever. And so then finally I get to the other end of security and it’s like 5pm, I’m not going to get home until like 9, and I am a human person who likes to usually eat food at some point between 5 and 9. And I’m like, okay, I’m in Dallas. It’s a massive hub, right? So I’m like, there’s going to be some options. I can get some food to go, no problem. This terminal I happen to be in was—there were a few restaurant restaurants where I could sit down there, but I didn’t have time for that. And then the to-go options, there was almost nothing. Part of it was under construction. And so I look around and quickly realize that my best to-go food option, my best to-go food option—is an airport 7-Eleven that also sells salads and wraps.

[3:23]

KL Wow, wow, wow, wow.

SWB And I—so, I pick up my salad and then I get on the plane, right? And then the plane is just jammed full and there’s no room for people’s bags, and then we’re in the air and the woman sitting next to me accidentally spills her glass of water all over my laptop keyboard. And she’s apologizing profusely. I’m not even mad at her, but I’m just like, “I just need napkins,” right? [KL laughs quietly] And so—you know—I’m sitting on this plane and I’m just freaking miserable and I finally pull out my 7-Eleven salad. [KL laughs] And I start eating the salad and then I’m like, you know what? This salad is actually kind of okay. It seemed really freshly made, it was full of kale and quinoa, and—you know—nothing was actually wrong, right? I have a decent seat, I have food to eat, I just came from a paid speaking gig, I made it through security without being harassed or profiled. There’s lots of things that weren’t super fun about it, but I am fine. The problem is just that I am done. I am done with being in airports and I am done with looking at sad $14 chicken wraps. I am just done. And so that’s actually why that was the best trip, because the good news is that I am literally done, right? I looked around and I thought, “I don’t want to have to do this,” and then I realized [laughing] I don’t for a while, because I don’t have to go anywhere! [KL laughs]

KL That’s right. I mean, that is good. And let me just say that I am shocked and encouraged that 7-Eleven has a salad that not only has kale, but also quinoa in it. Mental note for the next time.

SWB I mean, I make no promises about future 7-Eleven salads. [KL laughs]

KL That’s fair, that’s fair. But you know, that does make me think of, you know, when I left my last job to—to come to A Book Apart, it was this time where I was all of a sudden seeing this concrete finish line in sight, and I was starting to deprioritize some of the stuff I was doing at Nat Geo. And because I had one foot out the door and I was excited about this new thing that I was going to do, this thing that was coming up, and I was starting to plan for that and think about it. But you kind of can’t really do all of those things at once, so you have to wrap up some loose ends and—so you can get excited about that, or so that you can take a break and—you know—move onto the next thing. So, I totally get that.

[5:46]

SWB Yeah and then, you know, that’s the thing about my life, is that the way that my work life is set up—or the way I should say that I have set up my work life—is that I don’t really have those kinds of clean starts and stops. Projects come and go, but I don’t have any moments where I can be like, “oh, I used to work at x place and now I work at y place” because I haven’t worked anywhere except or myself for like seven years, and so, you know, during that time it’s like my work has changed dramatically in terms of the types of projects I do or how my days actually look, but there aren’t a lot of finite moments like that where I feel like “okay, done with x, time to move on.” And instead what I tend to do is I tend to add a new thing in, and then at some point if the new thing starts taking up more of my time—like speaking, for example—then I have to start doing less of something else in order to make that happen. But it tends to be kind of gradual, and it tends to feel like a lot of juggling in the moment.

KL I know I run into challenges with this because my ongoing day-to-day doesn’t really have these sort of clean boundaries, you know. Yes, I’m running this business, but I’m doing this podcast as a—you know—as a side project right now, and so I always think there’s time and space for more new things [laughing] as they come along and I think it’s really easy to think that, even though it might not be true.

SWB Yeah, so I’m kind of looking forward to having a little bit of time after surgery, even though I need to be recovering and that’s not necessarily fun purely. [KL laughs] But—but I like that it’s almost giving me a little bit more of a concrete boundary and the ability to kind of reflect back on what I’ve been spending my time on and then look forward at what I want to be spending my time on. Because I have been running really fast this year. Obviously, we launched the podcast earlier this year and it’s a lot of work to get this off the ground and it’s—you know—it’s really, really great, but it is…it took a lot of time. And then I think about in the past six months, like just six months since I tore my ACL and put off surgery because I had too many things already scheduled. Okay, I looked at my calendar and I actually wrote down where are all the places that I have been, and I’m going to run through them for you real fast. Okay, so first up right after I tore it—I tore it at the beginning of March—right after I tore it, I went to Australia. Right after I got back from Australia, my grandmother died, which was not unexpected, but still tough. And then I turned around and immediately flew to Munich for that to spend a few days with my family and go to the memorial, which was really important to me. So then after that, I had trips to Minneapolis, Paris, Boston, Vancouver British Columbia, and before and after Vancouver I actually made stops in Oregon for various family events. And then I went to Madison, Wisconsin. I went to San Francisco. I went to England. I went to Amsterdam. I went to Atlanta. And then now Dallas.

[8:30]

KL [laughing] Sara, that’s so much!

SWB It is so much! And I didn’t quite realize how much it was until I sat down and wrote that list! And when I realized I needed to have this surgery, but that I had a lot of things scheduled that was going to make it hard to slot it in anywhere, I actually packed my schedule even tighter, so that I could get a lot done before the surgery and then not have to do anything. So, now I have a calendar that is very open. I have to do things like physical therapy. And that is giving me a chance to think about my work life in a little bit more of a before and after kind of way. So, I can think about it like, “what do I want my work life to look like after Thanksgiving when I’m picking up steam again? Where do I want that steam to be going?” You know?

KL You know, I think this is great. And it’s—for me, I know it’s hard to run a business and to work for yourself and put boundaries around time that you need for yourself to recoup from surgery or—you know—just take a rest or slow things down. And I feel like even though we are always checking in with each other about how we’re doing and how much we’re doing and how we’re feeling about everything, nothing really ever feels done, and it always feels like we could be doing more and I think it’s really tough to navigate that.

SWB Yeah and I think I also have realized that I tend to be a little bit scared of being idle. You know, I grew up feeling like I needed to kind of hustle and always be productive, both because I knew—you know—we didn’t have a lot of money, and I knew I needed to do well in school to get a scholarship, so that I could really afford to go to college. I knew that I also needed to have a job so that I could have a shitty car so that I could get out of the town I hated living in and also have enough money to buy some cigarettes and smoke with my friends. [KL laughs] But—you know—I definitely always felt this need to kind of like, make sure that I was being productive and taking care of things, right? And part of it is that we never had any money—my family never had any money. I remember my mom working so hard pursuing this dream that she had of going to graduate school, getting her PHD—she’s a biochemist now—and so we spent actually a bunch of my childhood with her in graduate school and us living off of her $12,000-a-year stipend as a researcher. And that was basically the money we supported the family with. And so—this was only in the ‘90s, this wasn’t that long ago. $12,000 was not very much money.

[10:53]

KL Yeah.

SWB And so I think some of that history means that I’m used to not giving myself a lot of breaks because I’m used to seeing that modeled around me, but also because I just like to work. I do fundamentally really enjoy it, but being kind of full-speed all the time doesn’t really give you time to reflect or evolve, or to focus on how you want to evolve. And so I’m really looking forward to kind of having this season where I can clear out some headspace and—you know—break out of some of the cycles or patterns that are maybe keeping me stuck in one way of looking at my work and preventing me from really thinking clearly about what I want next.

KL Yeah, this makes me think of hearing Sonalee talk about recognizing thought patterns we have—you know—around biases, or race, or body, and unlearning the ones that are not really healthy for us or not helping us succeed. And so maybe some of this is about unlearning beliefs about productivity and idleness.

SWB Yes! I absolutely want to think more about that, and I think there’s a lot in that interview that we should be thinking about. So, why don’t we get to it? [music fades in, plays for five seconds, and fades out]

Career Chat with Shopify

SWB So, you know we love to talk about careers here on NYG—and so do our friends at Shopify. This week, they’ve sent us a tip from Daniella Niyonkuru, a production engineer. And—sidebar—I just watched a talk by Daniella called “How Tech Almost Missed Out On Me,” which is such a freaking awesome sentiment. So today, Daniella has three lessons she learned as someone entering tech from an underrepresented background. Let’s hear them!

Daniella Niyonkuru First, you should always take chances on the things you want to achieve. I’m currently working in a role that I almost didn’t apply for because I felt like I didn’t tick every box I needed to in the position. You don’t have to be absolutely perfect at what you’re aiming for, so don’t sell yourself short. Second, don’t be afraid to raise your hand. Your opinions are valid. It’s important to find your own safe spaces to practice sharing your ideas. You’ll hone this skill as you go. And lastly, looks, age, race, and gender are not a burden, and these things will never prevent my code from running—but syntax errors will.

SWB Daniella’s story is super inspiring. So, if you want to take a chance on something new and work alongside amazing people like Daniella, you should head to shopify.com/careers. [music fades in, plays for five seconds, and fades out]

[13:00]

Interview: Sonalee Rashatwar

KL Sonalee Rashatwar is a seemingly endless source of positivity and inspiration, and I only know this from following her on Instagram since late this summer. She’s a fat, queer, non-binary therapist who specializes in treating sexual trauma and body image issues, and she’s a community organizer right here in Philly. There is so much we can’t wait to talk to her about. Sonalee, thank you so much for joining us on No, You Go.

SR Thank you so much for inviting me.

KL So, you’re known as “The Fat Sex Therapist” on Instagram. This really piqued our interest because all of those things—fat, therapy, much less sex therapy—are topics that really don’t get enough attention or conversation. How did that moniker come to be?

SR Earlier this year, I was invited to The University of Vermont to do my workshop on race and body image, where we kind of talk about expanding our body image issues beyond body size in talking about things like race, class, documentation status, and understanding body image issues as ways that the state polices and surveils our individual bodies. In this workshop at University of Vermont, I stated that thinness is a white supremacist beauty ideal. And it got picked up by Breitbart, and I was featured on Breitbart in a surprisingly unbiased article. [laughs] But—but what happened after being featured was Breitbart readers descended on my Instagram page and that was when I became known as “the fat sex therapist.”

SWB Do you feel like it was almost a reclamation, or just an owning, of what Breitbart wanted to label you as in a way that they had perceived as negative, and you’re like “no, no, no, no, no. That’s me and that’s fine.” [SR & KL laugh]

SR Yes! I find it really similar to what Jes Baker has done. She recently published her second book called Landwhale. And “landwhale” is a slur that was used against her, and in this book she essentially talks about all the ways that you can reverse slurs used against us to be like “yeah, this is something that I find hilarious and I wear it like a badge. And if I wear it like a badge, then you can’t hurt me with it anymore.”

SWB So, it’s interesting—you know—you talked at the beginning about the work that you’ve been doing around sort of intersections between race and size and body positivity. What are some of the specific things that you work on in your workshop that focus in on race?

[16:41]

SR One of the first things that we do in my workshop is we expand the idea of body image beyond body size, eating disorders, and self esteem. Those are usually the three suggestions I will get from an audience before doing this workshop on what they think of as body image issues. And what I try to do is trouble that assumption of what the limits of that assumption can be—that they’re really just thinking about this individual experience of the size of my body and the way that it moves through different spaces. So, in the workshop, what I do is expand our understanding of body image issues by presenting some of the artwork created by Megan J. Smith. They have created art—a beautiful art series—for the Repeal Hyde Art Project. And that is their art project. The Repeal Hyde Art Project has created these stunning images that expand our understanding of what reproductive justice and reproductive rights should look like. So, usually when we think about reproductive rights, we think about birth control access or abortion access, contraception. But that’s the limit of usually what we think of as reproductive justice. But what Megan J. Smith does is kind of recenter reproductive justice around marginalized communities like communities of color, indigenous communities, communities under deportation risk. And when Megan J. Smith does this, we identify issues that are—like police brutality. Police brutality is actually an issue that disrupts a healthy, black family because we see that there are super-high rates of black incarceration and indigenous incarceration in the US, and that disrupts a healthy, black family. And that should be considered a reproductive rights issue because reproductive rights and reproductive justice should be the freedom for your family to exist in a way that you think is healthy and good for the entirety of that family’s existence—from birth to death. When we expand our understanding of reproductive justice issues to include all things that harm a family from living its fullest, freest life, then we should be thinking about racism and structural issues too. And this is what we do with body image as well. We expand our understanding of body image issues beyond this individual experience within our body to also think about the ways that the body—sometimes non-consensually—is coded by folks on the outside looking at our bodies. So, when we think about police brutality, oftentimes we see the narrative of a white cop shooting an unarmed, black person. Or an unarmed disabled person, or an unarmed indigenous person. And it is in those cases when a cop is looking at someone’s body and saying their blackness to me is coded as a threat. Their disability is coded to me as this chaotic threat that needs to be quelled. And the same thing for an indigenous person. The indigeneity of someone’s body is coded as “this is a threat.” And so when we think of body image issues beyond individual experience, we get to see these systematic layers that are placed on top of our body that we don’t have control over. And that is the way that we need to expand our understanding of body image issues beyond just body size and thinking about documentation status. If I look like a Latinx person, I am more likely to be stopped and asked for papers—my documentation papers. And that’s a body image issue. Based on my body image and the way it’s coded, I am at more risk for violence and harm, and my body is experiencing a lack of safety when I move through public spaces, unlike other people’s bodies.

KL We know that you’re teaching workshops on body issues and unlearning body image issues and breaking down diet culture. I think when you think about that abstractly, it’s like how do we unlearn that and where can we start?”

[20:00]

SR The first step is always becoming aware of it. So, I live in a black neighborhood in North Philadelphia and it is being gentrified by Temple University students, by me—as someone who is not indigenous to this neighborhood—and I am aware of my anti-black racism every time I get out of my car. I am aware of the ways in which I am more likely to look over my shoulder, to be hyper-aware of my surroundings, in ways that I wouldn’t be if I was walking to my car in the white suburb that I work in. And so the better I can become aware of the ways in which I am presuming risk when I move through the world based on nothing else but racism, I’m better able to check that and say “this is not a real risk. This is based in racism.” Awareness of it helps us to move it and shift it because then we get to change the way that we behave based on that feeling.

SWB When you’re talking about things that are specific to body image, do you find that you’re also kind of doing the same thing? So, okay, so what about these feelings about—you know—how I look, or these feelings about how somebody else looks, where are those based, and sort of, what do I need to unlearn there?

SR Yes. So, that is a great way for us to understand, where is my discomfort coming from? And when we apply it to body image, when we see a fat person walking around our neighborhood in an outfit that we are usually told fat people shouldn’t be wearing like a bodycon dress or something that is tight fitting or something that shows skin, or something like short shorts—we have usually thought to ourselves, “ugh, why is that person wearing that? That is—don’t they know that’s a fashion don’t?” But sometimes it’s actually an internal projection of “I don’t feel like I am allowed to wear that, or I am deserving of wearing that, and so that person shouldn’t be either.” But that’s really punitive. That’s actually a replication of carcerality, which is this idea that if I commit a crime and I get in trouble for it, then you should too. This retributive justice—you know—eye for an eye. And that’s not actually the way that we’re going to get to a more liberated place, a more liberated version of this shithole of capitalism that we’re in now. There has to be abundance. You can dress like that, and I can dress like that too.

[23:35]

SWB Yeah—you know—it’s interesting. This reminded me of this realization I personally had several years ago where I realized that I kind of hyper-focused on other women’s midsections. That I would think about whether they were—you know—did they have love handles sticking out of their pants or something like that, right? And I realized, oh, this is something I am hyperconscious of for myself. And oh, why is that? Well, because I had a father who thought it was fun to poke at my belly when I was a kid [SR sighs], and made a big deal about whether or not—you know—you had a chubby belly, right? A chubby belly was a thing that was very ashamed. Well, and that’s all—I mean, okay, he shouldn’t have done that, that was a poor choice—

SR Yeah!

SWB —but that I was like, “oh, that is a weird shame feeling you are projecting onto other random people out there living their lives—

SR Yes.

SWB —and man, what if we just let them live their fucking lives?” And when I realized that [SR laughs quietly] then I just like—it changed my whole perspective where I was like—I still sometimes think about it, but I think about it much more from the perspective of like “look at them out there living their life!”

KL Yeah.

SWB And it was really helpful for me to recognize what that really was and where it was coming from. You know, looking at the world in that way is so small.

SR Yes it is. It’s so restrictive. We don’t have to continually replicate this behavior in a way that I experienced and I’m going to pass it on. We don’t have to—you know—continue with the behavior that way. We have a choice. We have a choice to restrict those thoughts, to address those thoughts and challenge them before we replicate the behavior. And I also want to name that this is body image trauma. So, even though it feels like—you know—this is something that I’ve been able to absorb and challenge and reframe and move on from, if you have experienced body shaming, being put on nonconsensual diets as a child, feeling like an eating disorder was passed down to you from a parent or some elder in your family—you know—these are things that are—I would consider are body image trauma. And I also expand it to include relationships that can have this abusive, coercive dynamic to it where—I’ve worked with a client who, there was really explicit conversations within her relationship that included, “if you’re not going to the gym every day, if you increase from this size to this size…” I name these things as body image abuse. When it feels like if your body changes in a way, that the relationship is over, that the love was conditional and we have to throw it all away: you’re no longer attractive to me and it’s over. That’s body—that is abuse, that is abusive.

[25:12]

KL So, you’ve written also a lot of decolonizing sex. Can you tell us about what that means?

SR So first I want to parse out sexuality and gender. So, sometimes folks think of sexuality as just intercourse, but sexuality is so much bigger and includes things like gender. It includes things like body image, type of affection that we like, whether or not we like intimacy or romance. And my work in decolonizing our understanding of sexuality and gender is primarily focused on us becoming aware that the norms and assumptions that we’ve been taught through our parents, our families, grade school, offers us a really narrow set of selections, and that is a form of colonialism, because at least in the US pre-colonialism, indigenous options were way more bountiful. And I’m not trying to claim that all of us should appropriate indigenous ideas or genders or family systems, but depending on where we come from—I’m an immigrant, my family is Indian-American, they’re from India, I grew up Hindu—pre-British colonialism, we had more than two genders, we had more than two sexual orientation options, we had more than one option for our family system where there’s a mom, a dad, and some kids. We just had more options for the ways that families already exist. So, if you think of here in the States, we have families where grandparents raise the children, we have families where an aunt might raise the children, we have families where there are multiple adults. Decolonizing our understanding of normalcy really helps us to understand whatever rigidity we are thinking is automatic or should continue the way it is, it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if that definition or the box isn’t fitting for us. So, if I don’t feel totally female or male, I can pick a different box. There are more options and that’s okay.

KL Yeah, I mean I think there are obviously—you know—some very main or obvious ways colonialism has affected the way we think about sex, but what are ways we can reject some of those?

SR So, some of the ways that Christianity has been used as colonialism here in the US includes the ways that we think about sex, as well as food. So, when you think about some of the times that you might have thought of yourself as someone better than someone else who was quote-unquote “sluttier” than you—or having more sex than you, or having more kinkier sex than you, or more alternative sex than you, or gayer sex than you—if you thought of yourself as better than the other person, that sense of morality comes from Christian colonialism. The same goes for this idea that if any man enjoys any type of anal penetration, that makes him gay. This is also a form of colonialism, this is a colonial thought. Enjoying stuff up your butt just makes you enjoy stuff up your butt, it doesn’t [all laugh]… we don’t have to shift orientation labels, you just like what you like. [laughs] Another one includes this idea of martyrdom, or kind of like asceticism: if you are starving or if you are abstaining from sex, that that makes you closer to God or holier or better than someone else. These are ideas that also come from Christian colonialism. This idea that gluttony is a sin. This idea that indulging in things that are pleasurable is sinful. Pleasure is very virtuous. We need food pleasure and sexual pleasure to survive this capitalist nightmare. And it’s okay. I give you permission.

[29:12]

SWB Yes! So I love this connection between sort of like a decadent appetite and a decadent sexual appetite, and the way that those things are so policed, and pushing back against that and recognizing that as part of the Christian colonialist mentality I think is so powerful. You know, I also wanted to ask you about your work as a sexual assault counselor. And specifically, you know, I’d love to hear a little bit about how you got into doing that work, and what specifically—what areas—of dealing with sexual trauma you focus on.
SR So I’ve been working in the field of broadly anti-violence work for the last seven to eight years. And anti-violence includes the fields of addressing or offering services for folks who have experienced domestic violence, sexual violence of any kind, as well as human trafficking. So, I came into sexual violence work through my volunteering and through social work school. I specialized in trauma to understand my own trauma, and that is usually the case for most folks who work in anti-violence. Not to out anybody, but everyone who works—everyone who I know who works in anti-violence or gender-based violence work—has usually experienced some type of gender-based violence, whether it’s domestic or sexual violence, I’ve experienced both. And we sometimes look for those trajectories in careers because we’re trying to better understand our own lives. That is what sociology and psychology has always helped me to do and in my work as a therapist, most of what I do is just offer those insights. A lot of permission giving, a lot of acceptance work, self acceptance work, self compassion, things like that.
SWB Have you found that as you’ve been sort of working in this space over the course of the me too movement, the Supreme Court nomination, the endless news cycle of extremely triggering stories about sexual violence…have you found that that has impacted your work or impacted the people who you are working with?

SR Absolutely. For trauma clinicians everywhere, it has been a harrowing two to three weeks.

SWB Yes, me and my therapist just talked about it [all laugh]. I mean, for her, she was talking about how she felt like she needed to bear witness, and she needed to hold space for her clients. And then she had a moment where she fell apart herself, and she needed to have that time for herself. Yeah, but, it’s been rough for me as someone who’s experienced sexual violence, and it continues to be a whole shitty rollercoaster. So, what are you doing to help them navigate this? How do you help them sort of deal with the—you know—the increase in triggering moments, or just the increase in kind of like, I don’t know, general stress and anxiety, as they’re also trying to handle their own trauma?

SR Absolutely. So, I use a two-step approach. And this is like triage work, so [laughs] it might feel shitty, because you have other areas in your life that are experiencing these explosions, but we really just need to work on reducing the anxiety of being exposed to graphic details about someone else’s sexual assault on the news. Graphic details about Kava-nope and all that nonsense, and anything else that can be related to increasing anxiety. So, the first step is reducing or eliminating the exposure to the thing that’s—the stimulus—that’s causing the anxiety. So, that might mean taking breaks from any news, even if you’re in the doctor’s office, sitting in a waiting room—you know—asking the receptionist to turn off the monitor. Becoming aware of how much screen time you are visually consuming though social media and looking at and reading the news. How much are your friends talking about it and are you actively letting folks know—you know—coworkers as well, “hey that’s not something that I want to talk about. Can we change the subject?” So, as much as we can, reducing exposure to the thing that is causing us stress. And it might make us feel shitty, because we feel like we have to bear witness, and we should stay informed. But we can’t pour from an empty bucket. So, if exposure to that stuff is actively causing us harm, for the temporary moment—so for a couple of weeks, a couple of months—it’s okay. You’ll catch up on it eventually. If it’s really super important, someone will text you that something really wild happened. The information will get to you. But it’s okay. It’s okay to stay small and isolated and walled off.

KL I know that we’re all going through cycles of this, so I just really appreciate you saying that because I think it’s important to hear [laughs] especially right now, so thank you for saying that. Something you share fairly frequently are posts about “boring self care” [KL and SR laugh], and I love this so much. Because [laughs] it seems like even hashtag self care now feels like a competition, so [laughs] I just really love that a lot. What are some of your favorite things to do for self care, boring or otherwise?

SR When I tell you what I do for self care, you’re going to be like, “oh, you just take care of yourself!” Uhh yeah, that’s all boring self care is. So, things like if I know that I have to be at work at a certain time the next day, making sure that I’m in bed so that I can get eight to nine hours if I really, really am exhausted that day. So, making sure I have enough sleep, making sure that I pack lunch and snacks for the day so that I—so which also means that I do some grocery shopping a couple times a week. What are some other boring self care? Oh my gosh, doing laundry before I run out of clean underwear!

[35:18]

KL Yes! [SWB laughs] I love—I love that one! Yes! [all laugh]

SWB It’s like literal self care.

SR Preparing myself a dinner with fresh vegetables.

SWB Yeah!

KL Yeah.

SR Yes.

SWB It’s like these mundane tasks—you know—they’re super mundane, it’s not exciting, it’s not a fancy face mask. But I think that a lot of the stuff it’s like—it’s the kind of stuff where when you’re feeling anxious or depressed or whatever is going on in your life and you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s like those are the things that are really easy to not do, but then by not doing them, you ultimately feel worse. And so I like this idea of sort of holding space for that and then—I’m going to hold space to make sure I don’t screw up my bedtime rituals just because I’m feeling overwhelmed, because I know that that’s actually better for me in the long run. So, I love boring self care.

SR Yeah, it’s like how can your now me take care of future me?

SWB Okay, so Katel also was bragging to me [KL laughs] before this interview—straight up bragging—that she is going to a workshop with you that is about unlearning all of these body image issues, and it happens to be on the day that I am getting a very exciting knee surgery. So, I will not be able to join her, which I’m very bummed about. And so, I’m curious, where else can people learn more about your body image work?

SR I will be releasing a webinar in December or January for anyone who is outside of Philadelphia and you can keep an eye on my website or my Instagram. I will be releasing opportunities to purchase $20 to $30 tickets for a pretty small-sized intimate workshop that would cover unlearning diet culture, working through body image issues, and expanding your understanding of body image beyond just body size or self esteem.

KL Sonalee, it’s been so great talking with you and we hope everyone listening today starts following your work. Where can folks keep up with what you’re doing next?

SR The greatest place to keep up with me is on Instagram, and you can find me at Instagram as @thefatsextherapist. If you like or hate something that I said today on the podcast, you can always reach out to me and let me know through my website, and that’s sonaleer.com. S-o-n-a-l-e-e-r dot com. And I have a contact form and I will reply to your email, no matter what.
SWB Well, Sonalee, it has been so great to have you, and you will get nothing but love letters from us.

KL Yes. [SR laughs] Thank you so much for being on with us today.

SR Thank you so much for having me, it’s been such a pleasure. [music fades in, plays for five seconds, and fades out]

KL Hi everyone. Are you getting “I Love That” yet? That’s our biweekly newsletter and it’s real good.

SWB Every other Friday we send out personal letters from one of us, plus product recommendations, links to what we’re reading, and more. We also profile an activist, a writer, an entrepreneur, an artist, a candidate, or somebody else who is inspiring us right now.

KL So, come on and add a little bit more fuck yeah to your inbox. Head to noyougoshow.com/ilovethat right now and sign up. That’s noyougoshow.com/ilovethat. [music fades in, plays for five seconds, and fades out]

FYOTW

SWB Hey Katel, what are we fuck yeah-ing this week?

KL So, I just hosted a bachelorette weekend in New York City with about a dozen women. It was two nights all weekend, we all hung out in this one big loft and it was great. We had one night where we kind of did a cocktails, happy hour thing, and then the second night where we kind of went all out and did a big hoopla where we went out on the town, we got all dressed up and it was really great, we all looked really wonderful.

SWB Yeah, is the fuck yeah that metallic gaucho pant jumpsuit number that you sent me a photo of? You told me that you got it for seven dollars.

KL I mean yes, but also my fuck yeah is actually that—so even though I went all out on, you know, the outfit and getting all gussied up and, you know, just making sure we all were having a great time over the weekend—which we did—that night when we all went out and sort of the big night out, I actually decided around 11pm to go back to bed. And I even skipped the boozie slushies that came round—and the shots.

SWB I mean, fuck yeah to that actually! [laughing] It sounds like you made a really good choice!

KL [laughing] I did! I will say, I felt great Sunday morning and—you know—I feel like most of the time I probably have a little bit of fomo where—you know—it pushes me to have that extra drink or stay out a little later than I should. And that is totally the right time to do it—you know—when you’re hanging out and celebrating with your friends. But I don’t know, in this moment I just needed to do that for myself, and I did. And so yeah, fuck yeah to listening to myself and heading back in!

[40:02]

SWB Yeah, fuck yeah for listening to yourself, and fuck yeah for taking care of your needs and knowing sort of how much is right for you. Because also you did a lot of organizing. I know that Katel did a ton of work for this thing, because she was telling me about all the different plans and spreadsheets. And so there’s a moment when you’re like, you know what? When you’re done, you’re done. And you did great. So, fuck yeah to you!

KL Thanks. Thank you. Well, that’s it for this week’s episode of No, You Go. NYG is recorded in our home city of Philadelphia and produced by Steph Colbourn. Our theme music is by the Diaphone. Thanks to Sonalee Rashatwar for being our guest today.

SWB If you like today’s show, then make sure to take a moment and give us a rating or even leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever it is that you listen to your favorite shows. Your support really helps us and helps us spread the word to more people.

KL See you again next week! [music fades in, plays alone for 32 seconds, and fades out]


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A weekly podcast all about building satisfying careers and businesses, getting free of toxic bullshit, and figuring out how to live our best feminist lives at work. Plus, friendship, snacks, and bad TV.

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