Where the Revolution Continues: Inside the Second Annual Body Love Conference

A speaker at the 2014 Body Love Conference. Photo: Body Love Conference

The Body Love Conference debuted last year, riding on Tucsonan Jes Baker’s breakthrough success in body-positive blogging. Baker’s dating woes — and how they affected the way she saw herself in the mirror — sent her on a personal journey of body acceptance. Before long, the personal became political as she launched a blog called The Militant Baker, a place where could share with others what she had learned on her own journey. The Militant Baker soon reached a readership of about 20,000 — and then nearly a million as some of her content went viral.


We are maligned for wanting control over our bodies.


But Baker, along with a team of like-minded advocates and volunteers, knew that the movement needed something else as well: a safe but more public space for seeing, feeling, and asserting body love, where empowering words could translate into empowering actions. The Body Love Conference was their brainchild, and their months of preparation to make it happen paid off on April 5, 2014, with an event that drew more than 400 people.

The momentum continued this year with the second annual Body Love Conference, held at the Pima Community College West Campus on June 6. The message was the same, but a lot of things were different this year. Baker passed the torch to the other BLC volunteers so that she could turn her attention to her first book, slated for release on October 27. Meanwhile, the BLC team decided on a smaller, regional conference, so that they, too, could focus on something further out: a national “headliner” conference in 2016. Continue reading

Legislative District 9 Candidates Clash on Reproductive Rights

On October 6, the three House candidates for the 9th legislative district met at a church in the Foothills of Tucson to discuss economic development, education, gun control, and reproductive rights. Given that the Democratic candidates, incumbent Victoria Steele and first-time candidate Randall Friese, are such strong advocates for reproductive justice — in stark contrast to the Republican candidate, incumbent Ethan Orr — Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona was there to take notes.

Steele debateRep. Victoria Steele, having just completed her first term in the Arizona House of Representatives, used part of her opening statement to reflect on her time at the Capitol: “Outside of raising my son to be an adult, this is the most meaningful thing I have done in my life.” She drew a connection between her professional background and her desire to serve her community as a legislator. “As a behavioral health counselor, I had to empower people one on one,” she explained. “As a state legislator, I get to do that on a much wider, much broader basis.”

Reproductive rights emerged as one of the major themes of the night. During her opening statement, Rep. Steele put her desire to “defend a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions” up front and center.

Later in the debate, Rep. Steele spoke in more detail about women’s rights. She advocated for equal pay, fair and living wages, and reproductive justice. “If women don’t have basic rights over their own bodies, they cannot equally contribute to the conversation, they cannot be at the table, they cannot be a player in moving our state forward,” she asserted. “If women don’t have these basic rights, they cannot contribute to the economy, and their families cannot have the quality of life that we so deserve in Arizona.” Continue reading