New Portland Workshop Tackles Body Positivity in the Café

‘Liberating Retail Spaces from Weight Stigma,’ a free Portland, Ore.-based workshop, invites employees and business owners to learn more about welcoming marginalized patrons into their cafés.


Cover photo courtesy of Amanda Lucier

In their 14 years of working in retail (with more than four of those years spent in the coffee industry), Dan Lynn can say a lot about how our culture values certain body types over others. “We are all socialized in a culture that supports the prioritization of thin, white, cis-gender, able-bodied people, and for everybody else, it’s like, ‘You can try to bootstrap your way to this, but until you do, we’re not going to make accommodations for you,’ and that’s wrong,” they say.

“Liberating Retail Spaces from Weight Stigma” is a workshop that will be hosted by Dan’s Do Better Consulting this Wednesday, December 11, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Portland, Ore.’s Q Center. Co-facilitated by Camille Bevans, the workshop is structured around analysis, action, and accountability—a framework Dan learned from Desiree Adaway’s inclusion and equity work, and one that is great for folks who might be new to ideas about fat positivity and body liberation.

Dan Lynn wants to help retail spaces and cafés be more inclusive of all people. Photo courtesy of Dan Lynn.

“We’re really gonna be starting with the basics—laying a foundation of understanding oppression and marginalization, and they’re really big concepts, but with Camille, we’ve been able to make this information really digestible and really relevant,” Dan says. “People can understand that we’re not here to point fingers and call out blame. … We’re there to provide support. So people can try out different things and be vulnerable and tell us, ‘Well what do you want to say to this person who just said something that’s really fat-phobic?’”

When it comes to making cafés more inclusive for all bodies, physical accessibility is a must. Having pedestal tables, chairs without arms on the sides, gender-neutral restrooms, and sturdy outside patio furniture—not “the same patio furniture that every place has that’s kind of foldable and rickety and not very comfortable,” as Dan says—are all great places to start.

“Liberating Retail Spaces from Weight Stigma” is a free workshop happening in Portland this Wednesday. Artwork by Corinne Dodenhoff, text by Dan Lynn.

More insidious, however, is how fat-phobic language creeps into cafés. Recalling their own experiences working behind the bar, Dan says, “People would walk up, grab their belly and shake it like it was something disgusting that wasn’t even part of them, and just grimace at the idea of a full-fat latte. [It] was so disheartening and it was so damaging. … This is an easy fix. This is something that people in retail can learn not to reinforce. So somebody walks in and they say, ‘Oh God, all the calories.’ You don’t have to say, ‘Oh wow, yeah, I totally know what you mean, I had a huge lunch today and I’m really feeling it.’ You can just say, ‘Hey, I’m happy to get you whatever makes you happy.’”

Dan became involved with body liberation activism around three years ago when they worked on the Everybody Podcast. They started seeking out even more opportunities to educate and bring awareness to the topic. They hosted the workshop “All Means All” at the Seven Corners Community Collaborative in May and launched Do Better Consulting in October. 

“Liberating Retail Spaces from Weight Stigma” is a free event, with a sliding-scale donation at registration. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. All contributions will be donated to Indigenous Come Up, a local organization that supports Native foster care youth. 

Sign up for “Liberating Retail Spaces from Weight Stigma” here.

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Mark Van Streefkerk
is Barista Magazine’s social media content developer and a frequent contributor. He is also a freelance writer, social media manager, and novelist based out of Seattle. If Mark isn’t writing, he’s probably biking to his favorite vegan restaurant. Find out more on his website.