Thursday, March 21, 2013

Advocacy is NOT Spandex

Meaning, it's not one-size-fits-all. Let me explain.

If you would have asked me a year and a half ago what my passion was, I would probably have stared blankly at you and uttered something incoherent about literacy or books or the like. Which is fine. I mean, more than fine. Those are important things. And professionally, I will fight tooth and nail to get books into the hands of the kids who need them.

But it wasn't until I got diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease that I really had a fire in my belly (that's a lie. I'd had a fire in my belly for like a decade. But it was a different kind of fire). Suddenly, I felt like I had a purpose. Angels sang, unicorns pranced and I decided I was being called to be a celiac advocate. I thought, "I'll start a blog! And change the world!"

When I turned to the Internet to find support and inspiration, I did - in spades. I found big blogs. I found little blogs. I found discussion boards, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, a surprising amount about gluten-free sex (is that a thing?) and a community that was as different as any other out there. Which was kind of cool, because it gave me a lot of space to find my particular brand of activism.

But taking on the role of advocate, that's where it gets tricky. What, exactly, does it mean to be an advocate? We can go standard dictionary definition, and my good buddy Merriam-Webster says that an advocate is:

1: one that pleads the cause of another  
2: one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal
3: one that supports or promotes the interests of another

That doesn't really define much, does it? I mean, I support a lot of things. Free speech. Nice shoes. Puppies. But this blog isn't devoted to any of those things, even if there are sometimes too many pictures of my dog. That definition, well, it's pretty vague. It doesn't state that to be a good advocate, you need to reach a large audience. It says nothing about Rafflecopter giveaways, or ads from sponsors. This definition doesn't point out that you have to have a lot of sway in certain circles, that you have to have expensive gear to photograph your gluten-free food, and it definitely doesn't say you have to be a bully. 

I choose humor, or at least, I try, to spread my message. Yeah, I like junk food. No, I do NOT love exercise. I'm obsessed with keeping myself as gluten-free as possible (just ask my incredibly patient, forgiving and HANDSOME husband). I'm not going to lecture you for not eating only whole foods, or only organic. I will get needlessly excited about Glutino toaster pastries, and gluten-free expos and bowling alleys where I can eat pizza. That's my advocacy. It might not be your advocacy, and that's cool. I still respect what you do, even if you are up running in the dark, or harvesting your own chickens or giving up chocolate.

The bottom line? We're all fighting the good fight. So keep on doing what you do - it's making more of a difference than you know.


  1. There are never enough pictures of Lola.

  2. You can never have too many pictures of your dog! lol

    But in all seriousness, thanks for your encouragement. It's rough being the only Celiac in my group of friends, and figuring out which parts of my life to share with them. I feel like I need to write a "guide-to-being-Kari's-friend" for the people I meet and become friends with, so I don't have to go through it all again every single time! It's amazing how uneducated the general population is about Celiac even though so many suffer from it (and I know, having once been one of those uneducated people!)

  3. Thank you! :-) This is exactly the message I've been trying to share on my FB page... and so often you get the craziest criticism just because you thought that Pillsbury making gluten-free foods was at least a nice idea!