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Intolerance just shouldn't be tolerated. Period.

May 13, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
You’ll want to read the to-the-point words of Amy Taylor before going on with me today:

I first met Amy in an online video interview a year ago when I was recruited as one of 25 Fitness Rebels by Anytime Fitness to try to lead a change in the conversation about the need for folks to get and stay active in this country. I didn’t see then or for quite awhile afterward what the group needed from a 50-year-old guy who lost some weight and left a newspaper to go to work in a gym, but there I was.

Amy was our marketing handler for an amazing little company called Brains on Fire. She’s left there and returned to her native Ohio now and continues to work in marketing.

The Fitness Rebels lead the charge to change the discussion about fitness in this overweight, overmedicated and unmotivated society. People know on some level they need to work out, lose weight, cut down on cheeseburgers, but they don’t. I got really sick before doing something about it. Among the tenets of the Rebellion, indeed of Anytime Fitness itself, is that we’re not here to judge anyone but to be welcoming and encouraging and helpful -- in order to help change the world one drop of sweat at a time. And thanks to Amy, I now can understand why I had to take that charge back into the business God seemed to aim me toward from when I was a child sitting at my father’s knee watching Walter Cronkite, gym sabbatical notwithstanding.

The Rebellion attitude is about fighting bullying, bad attitudes and the intentional and unintentional slurs and slings and arrows of the world, to develop and encourage inner strength through the development of greater health and the sense of self-worth such self-improvement brings, no matter what the starting point of the individual is.

Perhaps Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries really did intend to make fat people feel horrible when he said they’re neither welcomed or cool enough to shop in his stores. And, who would complain? Fat folks after all are not protected as a class by law, nor by political correctness, which pushes tolerance of all things for which it’s politically acceptable to be tolerant (apparently excluding lots of traditional values, religion, marriage, kids who actually get jobs and work and try to live without drugs, etc.) Amy is young and beautiful and smart. She’s not a size 0. Her “Open Letter from a Fat Chick” has garnered a bit of attention, having the blog picked up by Huffington Post and getting a Twitter contact from Rosie O’Donnell, no less.

Amy said she’s seen mostly a positive response during the past few days.

“I have received a flood of comments and emails from people of all sizes, shapes, races, sexual orientations and walks of life, sharing their personal stories of bullying, body image and personal struggle,” she said in response to a Facebook message. (That I now communicate professionally there is a testament to how the Fitness Rebels and Amy and her former coworkers changed me from feeling old, out of touch and incapable and unwanted.)

“Naturally, “ Amy continued, “there will always be that small handful of people who chime in with negativity no matter what the topic. In this instance, I think those responses have served as shining examples of why this conversation is so necessary and important. At the core, the letter was never really about Abercrombie or Mike Jeffries. It was about the impact intolerance has on the world and on the individual. There is no hierarchy of hate. No form of hatred is more or less acceptable than another. Intolerance is unacceptable. Plain and simple.”

And while hearing from Rosie is nice, (“surreal,” Amy said) more importantly is the positive hornets’ nest Amy has stirred. “I’m so happy it has helped ignite such an important conversation on an international scale.

As a writer, the greatest reward of all is discovering that your words have resonated with someone, inspiring them to take positive action,” she said. “It is remarkable to hear how a single post has empowered so many parents to start a dialog with their kids about the things they’re going through and dealing with on a daily basis.”

And it wasn’t a case of “Amy is mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore,” either.

“The letter didn’t come from a place of anger. Throughout my life I have known so many wonderful people who have been bullied and judged for everything from their sexual orientation to the way they speak, the neighborhood they grew up in to the color of their skin. The message of the letter belongs to all of us, I’m just the one who put it to paper,” she said.

“As a marketer by trade, I’m acutely aware that every brand has a target demographic and a marketing strategy. Some verbalize it, some don’t. I respect the right of every American to speak their mind, whether I agree with it or not. Mike Jeffries’ alleged comments were simply an opening in the conversation that allowed me to share my story. The message I hope people end up taking away from all of this has nothing to do with t-shirts and jeans. We are all works in progress. We have all overcome something in our lives. We all have a story to tell. Chances are, someone out there needs to hear yours.”

Which is why I’m back. Thanks for putting it all into words, my friend.


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