Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More on Race and Privilege

i'm not exactly sure of the meandering path that landed me on racialicious reading a post about the politics of hair. normally i stay in my happy little feminist/FA circuit of blog reading, venturing into other -ism blogs only as they relate to the other stuff i'm reading. mostly because it's all too much for me to wrap my head around most days. there's too much for me to process all at once, and i just let the search take me where it seems to want to go. which is probably how i ended up there.

i've been mulling over privilege, again... because it's the hinge that everything seems to be hung on. and it's the thing i have the hardest time seeing in myself. but Latoya Peterson's post about her decision to let her chemically relaxed hair grow out to a natural texture, and the body politics that came along with that, was really eye opening. and i thought, wow i can totally relate to that. that's just like the time i decided not to diet anymore and... then i realized it was nothing like that. yeah, there were body politics involved with that decision. but no one told me i was more or less really a part of my racial background because of it. while the beauty myh that leads fat women to diet is the same myth that leads women of color to relax their hair it's not the same situation. and i guess i'm making progress that i was able to rethink the desire to relate to her post and then make it all about me. maybe it's enough to just relate, to say wow that resonated with me. i haven't posted a comment to her blog, mostly because i'm unsure of how to bring myself into her space and not bring my entitlement and privilge with me.

and so i went back into posts about privilege to read more about it and get a furthur handle. i'm still working on sorting it all out. i know i have white privilege. i know i have a seemingly heteronormative relationship which confers privilege. i know even if/when i find another partner to join the relationship there will be a shift in that seeming but i don't know to what extent. i think a lot of it will depend on who i end up with. another white guy? a woman? a person of color? each varriation brings other bagage with it. baggage i'm sure i'll deal with at that time.

but the white privilege thing is the one that i trip over the most. and in amoung the articles i found this gem. it's got some typos and it's an older piece but the list Peggy McIntosh puts together had some ahhhhhh moments for me. these in particular:

I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn't a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.
I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.

that last one especially. because, like peggy, i was taught that racism is acts of meanness and bigotry and are pretty blatent. i still get a gut reaction when i hear, or read, about someone saying something is racist when there is no clear bigotry. i think to myself the person crying discrimination is being overly sensitive, or just trying to get sympathy, or is trying to get more help then they were offered. i'm not sure what i can do about it yet, other than keep on reading and pondering.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Letter to Oprah

so i'm sure many of you have seen this or a similar article about oprah reaching 200 lbs and basically feeling like a failure. kate and the shapely prose family said this amazing thing but i felt the need to write something too. so i did. having a blog is fun...

why does this amazing, succsessful, wealthy woman who has beat sexism and racism to become a very powerful force hate herself and her body? why does she want to make herself dissapear? women aren't supposed to take up too much space, or be too loud, or too smart, or too succesful. or too ethnic. and while she has broken through most of those barriers she still wants to make herself disapear. her weight isn't a "sorce of shame," as she herself said. i'm quite sure she has more than enough willpower.

but she began to "eat what she wanted", and that wasn't good? not good for her to want? why are we still allowing ourselves, as women, to be told that we are not allowed to want, that we have to put the needs of everyone else before our own, that if we want anything at all we're selfish? and serriously, not every fat person is sitting around stuffing their face with junk food. and before you trot out your friend/co-worker/classmate/aunt eillien as your anecdotal evidence please remember that fat people are not all the same. just like not all black people are the same.

the disservice she's providing for the millions of women who hold her up as a role model is her re-enforcement that if you fail at long term weight loss it's your fault. which is a totally false statement. 95% of people who losse weight gain it back. period. and it's not becuase they don't want it enough, it's because our bodies are not designed to do that. she is clinging to the false hope that she, with all her money and support will be able to be part of that narrow margin. and the false statment that the only way to be healthy is to be thin. and the only way for her to be an acceptable person is to weigh a certain amount, that no other accomplishment is worth anything if she weights 200 lbs.

what i would wish for opera, and everyone who reads this blog, is an opportunity to stop hateing herself and her body. i would wish her the chance to learn about health at every size ( it, serriously) and the growing size acceptance movement. i would wish her self-love based on her accomplishmnets and strength not on the numbers on a scale or in her clothes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Enlightening Pillow talk

so my housemate, her boy, my beloved, a friend of his and i were all sitting around watching Pen and Teller's Bullshit. now, i love these men and i will totally fess up to having a wee crush on mr. gilette. and i'm not entirely sure how we got on the subject but my housemate said she wouldn't allow her kids to have barbies. and i said something to the effect of not allowing barbie because of some crazy second wave feminist idea was... something. i was tired, and don't really remember all of it. but it's got me thinking back to something i read on fatshionista! a while back about the phenomenon of the "incredible bulk" or fat girls who verbally rampage about their fat acceptance and refuse to "worship at the alter of diets" and how alienating that can be to the casual listener. and i think i'm getting into that mind frame. which i have to curb. which means i have to apologise to my housemate when i see her for possibly getting out of line.

though it did end up with a really intense convo between my beloved and i. we were talking about how this whole activism thing has become REALLY important to me and that i know he understands it intellectually but i'm pretty sure he doesn't get it. and i finally found a really amazing way to express it to him... he's a history major and he's looking to deal in pre-colombian middle and south america, which means aztecs, olmecs, incas and mayans. these cultures are mythic and mystical and alien to the average american, and we imbue them in our pop culture with all kinds of fantastical properties. or we say there we totally savage and marvel at how they could have done the things we have evidence of them doing. and i realized, he plans to spend his education and stake his academic reputation on refuting these myths. and he takes the opportunity to talk to people about them pretty much every time they get brought up. and i asked him, "how is what you do any different then what i'm doing?" and we talked about it, and came to the conclusion that it isn't though it is. but we're coming to a better understanding.

because he asked me the most important question i think he's asked me in a long time. "what do you want from me?" and i have to admit it took me a while to answer the question since i hadn't exactly framed it out in my own head. what it basically came down to though was the need for him to understand how big this really was, and that i was challenging many things in my own head. for him to understand that i'm more than a little afraid of the challenges this could bring into our relationship. and most importantly for him to take this seriously, let me sound off, challenge me with questions, encourage and support me. i also expressed the very real concern i had over creating a cognitive dissonance in my own head about our power exchange relationship which is not equal or egalitarian, and how it fits in with other things i think and feel about unequal relationships between men and women. i do not want to be hypocritical and say it's not ok for you but it's ok for me.

which made him ask in that kind of scared, vulnerable voice i find so delightful and lust inducing, "you're not going to suddenly get rid of me, are you?" i'd be a liar if i said showing him how much i value him didn't end the night on a really good note.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Virtually Walking the Walk

so, i am a gamer geek girl. unabashedly most of the time. and in my geekdom i was playing WoW (that's World of Warcraft.. or Warcrack as we like to say in my house) and chatting with the group i was playing with. in WoW it's very common for several players to group together to accomplish a particularly difficult task, and that's what i was doing. we were waiting for another group member to finish repairing his gear, and during the down time another player said they were going to go get a snack since he was due for lunch but we were about an hour from being done with the task. so, more down time... which usually leads to chatting in game. the three of us left started comparing time zones and where that placed us in the greater world. eventually the first group member came back from getting repairs done to his gear (in game repairs to in game gear, not to be confused with actual equipment) and asked where the second player had gone.

"he's being fat." responded one of the three of us that had been chatting. and my fingers flashed out, seemingly of their own volition.

"that's not a cool thing to say. how do you know he's fat?" and i swear i hit return before i quite knew what was being typed. it just happened. and i waited for this to explode in my face, to have my group tell me to back off and not be so sensitive, to have the player react all insulted... because these were not people i play with regularly. these were people i just happened to find who needed to do the same thing i needed to do. there was no personal context in which my comment might be received. and yet the person on the other end of that comment was surprisingly cool in their response.

"i'm sorry," i'm paraphrasing here, "it just means he's eating here in australia, it's just slang."

and i wanted to have the conversation i could feel was coming, the pointing out how icky it is to associate any kind of eating with being fat. to point out that eating is needful for human life to keep living. that we shouldn't have this kind of association... and yet there were some less than mature members of the group that i just didn't want to deal with, who could have very well turned the potentially awesome conversation into something really ugly. and so i left it. i just told this other player i didn't mean anything personal by it, but that i believed very strongly in size/fat acceptance and felt it was a really mean thing to say. and they kept apologizing.

which totally blew my mind, because i couldn't hear their voice but they seemed really genuine. at least in type, which is all i have to go on in that setting. and it surprised me too that i spoke out like that. it's not something i would have done even a month ago. sure i'll eat cheesecake in retaliation, but opening my mouth to a complete stranger? not so much. until that moment. maybe this is the first few steps of walking the walk... cause i still find it hard to talk about these things with some of the people i'm close to. like my mom. but that's a whole other post.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Me and My Pancreas

so i have a family history of diabetes type 2, and conventional wisdom would tell me i shouldn't drink coke or fruit juice or any other sweet and delicious beverage. or eat carbs. or be fat. but with every study that comes back from heath researchers not in the pockets of drug companies, we see less and less reasons to cling to the conventional wisdom. and now this study by the women's heath initiative. for people unfamiliar i'll be quoting from this article at junkfood science about the study and about the initiative.
"In 1992, the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the largest preventive health study in our history, the Women’s Health Initiative. One part was the WHI Dietary Modification Trial — one of the largest, longest and most expensive randomized, controlled clinical dietary intervention trials in the history of our country."

they were trying to prove that healthy eating was the best way to prevent chronic disease, especially type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and promote weight control.

and here's the fun part for me... they completed this huge study and found NOTHING! i know i'm getting ahead here but, yeah. totally null study, which basically means they found no significant difference between the control group and the study group.

so here's the facts and figures bit:
*$415 million and conducted at 40 medical centers
*48,835 postmenopausal women assessed at baseline (the start of the study), one year and then every three years with clinical follow-ups every 6 months and their medications monitored in a pharmacy database
*more than 19,000 women were in the dietary restricted group while the other group was allowed to eat what they wanted.

in fact, here's the quote from the study:
The WHI dietary intervention group received intensive nutritional and behavioral modification training consisting of 18 group sessions in the first year followed by quarterly sessions throughout the trial. Each participant received an individualized dietary fat gram goal estimating 20% of energy from fat during the intervention and a common dietary goal of 5 or more servings daily of combined vegetables and fruits and 6 or more servings daily of grains. Self-monitoring techniques and group session attendance were emphasized.
and apparently they did really well with the women staying within 5-7% over their recommended fat intake, eating roughly 25% more fruits and veggies than the average american and eating a little over 300 calories less per day than the control group.

now the conventional wisdom tells us that these women should have been very healthy, and if not "healthy" thin at least not overweight or fat. but as i said before, the study found no such thing.
After eight years, there were no significant differences in the incidences of more than 30 clinically-documented cancers, heart attacks or strokes, or all-cause mortality. The dieters initially lost some weight but rebounded and their body weights, despite 8 years of watching what they ate, were no statistically different from the women who’d been eating whatever they wanted. Both groups ended up at nearly the identical weights they started with, differing a mere 0.7kg, about one pound.
and here's the bit that was of interest to me, what with my family history and all.

According to the WHI researchers, a total of 3,342 new cases of treated diabetes were reported: 7.1% (0.88%/year) in the intervention group and 7.4% (0.91%/year) in the control group during 8.1 years of follow-up. No statistical difference...In the WHI, there was no tenable difference in risk for diabetes among the different BMIs, with odds ratios even slightly higher for women with BMIs<25

so i'm back to looking at what goes into my body as fuel for my cells and fuel for my soul. i'm working on the intuitive eating that HAES recommends. i'm trying not to ignore my body and my hunger ques because i realize more and more that i really don't like how mean and nasty i get when my sugar starts to bottom out. and i'm listening more when my body says "give us red meat" as well as when it says "give us broccoli."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shhhhh it's not ok

so last night my BF and i were looking at the latest news on the prop 8 opposition and the move toward legal proceedings in the state. and i was ranting at him about how fucked up it was that the prop passed and how the yes vote people lied and why the opposition failed to not only stop this piece of bullshit legislation from passing, but they failed to be inclusive and unifying in the way they did it. i was pacing, and ranting, and it took him aback a bit. he's never seen this political side of me, never seen this radical passionate side of me. oh, to be sure, he's seen me passionate about other things but never politics. and while our views match i am more well read on the subject i'm likely to rant about. and so he tried to calm me, think he'd done something to upset me, when really i was just angry at the situation. angry and swearing, which i rarely do.

and it frightened me for a moment. the idea of him shushing me, not to make me be quiet but to calm me down, was hard for me to process. because i wanted so much to know it had nothing to do with him trying to calm down the hysterical woman who was being unreasonable. i wanted so much for him to not have that seed of patriarchy deep inside him waiting like some cancer to suddenly wage war on our happiness. and while he assured me that no, he was afraid he'd done something to upset me and that i was angry at him, it did make me question the effect of activism.

not that i would give this up for him, but that it would break my heart if we were to fundamentally disagree on this. and i said to him the reason i feel it needful to speak and to give information and statistics is because i genuinely think 80% of people who speak out against gay marriage because it will force their church to do xyz, who back the fat people as unhealthy ideology and participate in fat hatred clothed as concern for the health of others, who are against comprehensive reproductive health are just ignorant or unaware of the spin they've been fed. and i said to him, these people are the kind that have to be talked to, have to be told, because eventually they will listen to bits and pieces and discover new ideas. and once that happens, the number of people who will be able to look at him and think (or worse say) "he's thin, he's good looking, he's smart so why is he fucking a fattie" will go down. if not away.

of course he promised to punch anyone who dared say such a thing in the face. which made me a little melty. but the fact that he hates willfully ignorant bigotry is a huge pat of why i love him.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

sexy is as sexy does

so kate and the gang at shapely prose had a post up this past august, which i am only just reading, about attraction and whether or not a person should include efforts at finding fat people attractive as they progress through fat acceptance. the article can be found here.

the things that struck me were two more or less. one being the idea of attraction. we get told, rather often, that attraction is animal and natural and not a social construct. but our concept of beauty and sexual worth is a social construct. i think it's interesting, and i might add admirable, that anyone would be willing to own their social conditioning and allow that they might have missed out on a wonderful relationship or three because they thought someone was too fat. or too thin. or too disabled. or whatever other characteristic they've been enculturated to find non preferential in a mate or potential sex partner. i had never really thought about why i find certain people attractive or why i don't, and i know i'm still working through some of my initial judgement of people based on their outsides. but a really good point was brought up (ok a whole bunch were but this struck me) in the comments about how FA isn't about forcing the world to find fat bodies sexually appealing but rather about according fat people with the respect and dignity due every person regardless of whether you find them sexually appealing or not.

which might be the tie in i've been missing for why FA is a feminist movement at it's core. because yeah, i'm still struggling with the feminist thing and i make some progress and then i take a few steps back. i can get behind the fight for reproductive heath rights, ad the fight for equal rights under the law for EVERYONE, and i can begin to get behind the fight to see more women in top executive spots. but i stumble when it comes to looking for sexism in everything i do, see, read, listen to, touch or taste. i have trouble separating myself from my own privilege as a white middle class woman. so maybe i just have to be hit over the head with a clue by four but the idea that the sexual attractiveness of a person, their decorative ability, might be a measure of their worth in the world at large was one i had a hard time wrapping my head around. (M-O-O-N that spells uptake) because on some level i still crave that outside affirmation of my sexual attractiveness. i want men and women to notice me when i feel i look good. i want the vision of me in my head to be reflected in the eyes of people who look at me.

which brings me to part two in which i was reminded just how close i came to passing up the relationship i'm in now. because he's tall and thin, and i mean knee jerk reaction feed the boy a sandwich thin, and i thought i couldn't date a guy that i out weight by 80 lbs or so. my level of attraction was irrelevant because i just knew he wouldn't find me to be attractive. more importantly i was sure that he might find me decent looking with my clothes on, cause i can dress this body pretty damned well thankyouverymuch, but with my clothes off.... a whole other story of soft jiggling flesh would be revealed against the slim muscle of his body and i just knew it would make me seem 10 times fatter and just kill the mood. so i rejected the idea of intimacy with him, and refused to see the reciprocity of attraction until i realized that i was moving out of state and leaving behind someone i was insanely attracted to, and insanely compatible with, because i was hung up on his waist measurement. and when i put it that way i realized how stupid i was being. and thank god i came the my senses, because he is a constant delight and has made the move to another state so much less lonely and frightening and stressful.

so i can add this attraction thing to the growing list of things i think i need to re-evaluate. and i like the concept of working to find something good in the look of every person rather than mindlessly responding to them as a set of physical characteristics. will is suddenly develop a lust for the very large? i don't know. and that's ok.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Am I a Racist?

reading through big fat delicious, she has a post there about a rather shitty and racist e-mail she got from a family member. it's one i've seen too about how we label anyone white as racist for doing things POC do like attend "black" colleges, or have history months, or days to celebrate dead leaders. i know part of the reason we don't have these things is we don't really have to. every history class, with a growing number of exceptions (YEAY), are white history classes. we don't need to celebrate white men and women who fought the good fight for the advancement of the white race, because there wasn't much in the way of resistance met. yes, there were many people of all ethnic backgrounds who fought for civil rights in countries all over the world. and yes, i think anyone who uses racial slurs is racist. and so i am kinda torn over this kind of thing... cause on the one hand the knee jerk reaction is to say omg yes, that is SO wrong. and yet...... maybe it's a mark of my own privilege that i feel like some part of this is right. maybe it's that i'm still getting over myself. maybe it's the fact that i'm not proud to be white, and white alone, but i AM proud to be of russian/german/french/jewish ancestry and there is no earthly way anyone can say my skin is not pale as can be. is that the difference? naming the places my forebears came from and being proud of those origins rather than the blanket term "white." and yes, there are times when i feel like people are too quick to slap someone with the term racist, or that there is a pendulum swing in the opposite direction somehow. but how do i reconcile what i see in my own world with the very real injustice still happening? especially when it seems like those things contradict one another? and how do i respond to the accusation that pride in my heritage makes me racist?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


fan of the current administration or not, fan of Obama or not, the choice has been made and sounded overwhelmingly by the people. even if you don't share my enthusiasm for the end of this administration you must admit to the historic nature of last nights outcome. we elected a bi-racial man, an affrican american man, to the highest office in the country. and we did it overwhelmingly, in many states thought to be bastions of whiteness. it's not the end of racism, white privilege, or bigotry but it is a major turning point. i am too young to have seen MLK Jr with my own eyes, or heard his voice as anything more than a recording but i have been alive to see his dream play out. not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character did we elect Obama. and i for one am ecstatic.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fat Tax?

so alabama is going to start forcing people to get health screenings and work with their doctors to improve their health or be charged an additional $25 dollars for their health premiums. WTF!?!?!?!?!?!?

now i'm all for health screenings, and the fact that these are going to be free i'm happy with. but the only people required to get them are the fat people who work for the state. not everyone. just the fatties. because it's not ok for the south to flat out discriminate against black people anymore, so they figure picking on the fat is the next best thing. i mean statistically speaking african americans have a higher percentage of obesity. so, since we all "know" fat people are lazy slobs who have no self control and always eat crap, this just proves that black people are even more like that. it's so stomach turning. gha!!!!!!

and i'm reading through the comments and it's just so messed up. people are saying, yes those fat people should put down the food and get healthy. we should totally tax their fat asses cause they are ruining the country. it's about time the lard asses paid up. don't like it? tough, cause i don't like having to pay more because of you. the whole country should do this.

i mean it's obvious that none of these people have read anything that wasn't directly funded by a diet or drug company. that none of these people have read anything beyond the most superficial news article. and none of them know anything about reality. i really hope the state gets sued by it's overweight workers for being discriminatory and bigoted.

Friday, October 10, 2008


more on the ideas of privilege...

i wound my way into an article on not being "that guy" which was really great in helping with the idea of where many women are coming from when feminism comes up. the idea of privilege and how not to shove it in people's faces and how to recognize the urge when it hits, and where it might be coming from. and generally how not to be that creep who makes women uncomfortable and exacerbates the issue.

but the big epiphany part of this was reading through the comments. one of the commenter's was saying that, much like me, she doesn't feel she is much of a feminist since she has no issue with men opening her door or helping her out. there were several posts following that talked about the idea of reciprocity in those instances. that basically it's not the fact of the door being held but the idea that the person the door is being held for doesn't have the right to expect it. or, maybe more importantly, that the person holding the door doesn't think the other person can't do it themselves. it's been a disconnect for me, because i am a big proponent of holding doors and gentility type manners and stuff. i simply do not find manners to be patronizing. but maybe that's because i've always come to them from a position of, doing these things allows me to show people around me that i respect them. as a further... complication... i actively engage in a power exchange relationship where i am the dominant partner, and part of his duties are to hold the door open for me. and in this case there is a sense of entitlement, that this is owed to me because of the agreed on inequality in our relationship. as something for me to tuck away until another day, i know there will be a point where i have to reconcile the idea of equality for everyone with the consensual inequality of our relationship.

but back to this epiphany.... here is the bit that really got me going, hmmmmmm:

"I've seen it stated that "feminism is the radical belief that women are people, too". A feminist is not "forbidden" from wearing makeup and/or frilly dresses and/or nylons. You can shave your legs and wear heels and enjoy cooking and still be a feminist. You can let men open doors for you and seat you at the dinner table and still be a feminist. The point is, feminism tells us that those things are not an intrinsic part of being a woman, and we don't have to do them if we don't want to. " by starwatcher who's lj is at: which conversely means, i can do them if i do want to. because i really like corsets and gartered stockings and heels and pretty clothes. and i love to cook, just about as much as i love to eat. and i sew, and embroider, and i love these things too. they are my art. and here is this woman, the feminist woman, saying that i can do all these things and not be one of THOSE women so long as i do it because i want to and not because i think it's my job or the way i'm supposed to be.

it amazes me that, in the very little reading i did on this subject in high school, i never cam across this idea of privilege. i think if i had, the disconnect wouldn't have happened for me. instead i ready books of essays by teens and early 20 something women about their experiences of discrimination and how they came into feminism. and i could never relate to those stories because i didn't have those experiences, and i felt guilty about it in that, maybe i'm not trying hard enough to see what's going on around me. i am not afraid of men and the violence they might do to me. i have never had some skeevy guy take my no for a maybe, at least not that comes to mind right away. i also rarely find that women are the safe sisters i can always turn to, not because i think of them as competition but because i find i don't relate to them in the way i relate to men.

not sure how to conclude this...but this is definitely something that my brain needs to ruminate and that i'm glad i found.

update: so i followed the above mentioned thread through a few others to a post on lj about the open source boob project, which i'm sure you can google if you like. but this just sends me back into the, i don't think i can participate with these women feelings i have toward feminists. here this guy and a bunch of his friends, men and women, at a sci-fi convention ended up asking many women if they could feel and appriciate their boobs. now i cringe at the word boobs, cause i think it's one of the worse anatomical words used but that a whole different rant. and yeah, i think the fact that the guy didn't seem to get, or maybe couldn't get, why so many women were getting updet over the fact that he thought he had the right to ask in the first place is agrivating. but the responces were so angry and so full of vitrol i just couldn't stomach them. the fact that many of the posters were refusing in much the same way to understand what he was saying is so heavy handedly duplicitous i just cannot begin to express it. and while were at it, i don't think they chose the right body part for touching but it think we need more fucking touch in general. i mean my god! no, there isn't a single person who should have touch forced on them if they don't want it. period. and yes, you should always ask before you touch someone you don't know very well who's non-verbal ques you don't know. but for fuck's sake! we are social creatures who thrive on touch. and this whole, lets hate the boob grabbers has turned into something so harsh and so hate filled i just cannot comprehend.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


so, i'm beginning to think i may need to re-evaluate my anti-feminist stance. i'm reading shapely prose and come across an article about fat men, which leads me to articles on privilege which leads me to question myself...which is kinda the point of this whole search. i'm white, i'm hetero with bi leanings, i'm monogamous right now but usually live more polyamourous, i was raised in a middle class area except for the few years of jr high. generally i guess i have been pretty privileged.

not a bad thing, i know, but it does make me wonder how many of my attitudes are shaped by where i come from. i had a brief friendship with a girl who, in one of several nasty fights, accused me of being elitist. which i have never thought of myself as. but i want a certain level of financial Independence, a certain level of taste and refinement and creature comfort that i got used to living with my mom and during high school. i want more than top ramen and a place to lay my head... and i want a college degree and to be well read and part of the academia. does this make me elitist? do i think less of those people who don't have those things? who don't want those things?

i think there was a time when i did think those things, and i think a lot of it has to do with where i'm living at the time i do a self evaluation. maybe...i know there was a time when i thought i wanted to become a doctor and i pushed my then partner really hard to pick a direction and go to school and get all professional in something because i didn't want to be a doctor with a husband (we were engaged at the time) who was a welder or mechanic. i didn't think i would be comfortable taking him to high class parties with grease under his nails, or some equally bs fantasy situation that negated who he was as a person and made him into an accessory. and i felt, and still feel, really bad because in pushing him i alienated him and made small of those things that he loved about working with his hands. i've since decided not to go into medicine but i do have plans to go after a doctorate. that past partner and i are friends again, and he still loves working with hot cars and hot metals and i've come to appreciate that about him. and the amount of intelligence it takes to do those things. so am i over being elitist?

probably even less than i've gotten over being white, cause i think in part they go hand in hand. white privilege is why i never got followed around in shopping malls, even dressed in my gothic best. and yeah at 16 and 17 shoplifting is something i did, not totally proud of it but not totally ashamed either. and maybe this is my disconnect from feminism. this fact of being white and privileged and thus not being able to relate to women who have been marginalized for being women. women who have been harassed and objectified because they don't have a dick. as an adult who tends to become friends with older than me people i've had some ageist comments thrown my way, but never felt victimized by them. but maybe it's my inability to internalize that feminist struggle for equality because i've only rarely seen myself as the victim of inequality.

i was raised first by both parents and then by a single mom in a mostly white suburban middle class neighborhood in nice houses. jr high being the exception, when we lived in a mostly hispanic neighborhood in a duplex. and i can remember that being a horrible time in my life because i had no friends and i had this imploding family and i suddenly was home by myself and watching my sister. i went through this really deep depression that first year. i stopped caring about my appearance and my hair and i think i once went a whole week without brushing it or my teeth. but even in that hell hole of jr high, even with the teasing and the rumors and getting spit at and picked on and called nasty names, even in that dark place outside my peer group i was still intrinsically me. still white. still well fed. and i know now that we went through some tight times while my mom struggled to put us back together, but i didn't know how how hard she worked then and once were were out of that patch i just forgot it. we moved, and i didn't have to be that awkward girl anymore. the kids in class no longer called me whetta (white girl in spanish with derogatory over tones).

sure high school was still hard, and you couldn't pay me enough to go back but it was much more of an environment i was part of. not one of the minority white kids, but part of the majority. in the accelerated classes with kids who were all smart like me, all wanted knowledge like me. sure, i was awkward and not very popular but i had a social group i was nominally part of and a few close friends. and i came to a point where i started to like myself a whole lot more.

i still find it hard to put my finger on what my own privileges and prejudices and elitist attitudes are. and i expect that's going to be case for a while as i sort through it all and cram more info into my brain. i lack the fire i read in some posters who are well and truly outraged at the state of society and part of me wonders if maybe i'm dooming myself to that feeling of impotence and becoming another voice raging at the system about the broken things and inequality and oppressive white men. cause i don't want that to be me.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fatter Than the Moon

so one of my housemates is big into anime and somehow this translates into me watching season one of sailor moon, the japaneese version with subtitles. it's cute, more or less, in that whiney school girl saves the world and her classmates kinda way.

i'm about for or five episodes in, rather enjoying the formula that allows me to know what's coming and thus truly veg, and suddenly usagi (sailor moon) is slumped on the bathroom floor crying her eyes out over having gained weight. now, all of a sudden, i'm leaning forward in my seat waiting to see how this plays out. not really interested in the idea of how the episode would go but in how the show, so obviously aimed at pre-teen girls, would handle the idea of body image and weight loss. i have to say, the show did not disappoint my expectations... which is bad since i was expecting the worst.

her brother teases her, her father tells her it's healthy for growing girls to be a little chubby, and her mom lets her know that it's true but all the same if she's really worried about it she could go on a diet. the worst part is the talking cat that is part friend and part mentor who draws a picture of a very round usagi and tells her this is what she'll look like in six months time. which of course makes the poor girl freak out, and begin to "diet". i say diet in quotes because her idea is to just stop eating. which her friends at school encourage because, as the token fat one states, thin girls are so much prettier than fat ones.

suddenly the girls all hear about a new gym that just opened up and promises weight loss in just one session, and beautiful thinness in just three. of course it's just a plot by the bad guys to steal the energy of young women, but the girls rush in on the promise of beauty and thinness. or maybe thinness and beauty. either way they're equated one with the other. so the girls slave on stationary bikes, free weights and rowing machines with beefcake instructors egging them on. once the girls have all but exhausted themselves it's off to the "shapely ray" for some relaxation and to help with their goals. so here's the evil plan bit, but the girls come out weighing less and all manner of excited, especially when they get told how much thinner and how much more beautiful they all look.

meanwhile unsagi still hasn't eaten and collapses in from of the video game arcade. she's helped by the young man she currently has a crush on, and he tells her she doesn't need a diet. he likes chubby girls. which gives the poor thing some kind of permission to eat. not that this new found acceptance lasts beyond the first few dumplings because both the cat and the dark haired stranger she keeps running into both confirm that she's just going to get really fat if she doesn't stop eating.

meanwhile the evil gym owner muses with his evil ruler about how stupid these women are. he says something to the effect of these women and young girls are willing to kill themselves just to be thin, how pathetic. this is really the only part in the whole episode where anything is said about how unhealthy and how dangerous this kind of thinking can be. even the idea that men like the "chubby look" gets laughed off as not the norm and besides chubby is sort of ok but fat is never ok. of course in the end sailor moon defeats the bad guys and save her friends and teacher, but the message is very clear.

thin is beautiful. fat is not acceptable. chubby is only ok for some and most men don't like it. there's no mention of health, no mention of how bad it is to starve yourself, no affirmations of any kind. just this push to be thin, and how monstrous it is to toy with a girls dream of being thin.

there's talk in the fat/size acceptance world about the subversive nature of the this thin=beauty myth. but this was anything but subversive. now, i have no idea if this episode aired in the usa and no idea about eating disorders in japan, but i can imagine what this would do to a young woman who has gained weight prior to a growth spurt. or just in general. and i found myself begin that thought process of self evaluation that says my stomach isn't flat enough and my hips are too big. i shouldn't have been surprised but i was, at least a little. but i think the fact that i could recognize the seeds of that kiltered thinking is a sign of progress.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Store Feminism

Anyone who knows me know that I love books. I mean I LOVE books. So for me, going to a good book store is akin to heading for Mecca (or other religious city of your choosing). Especially if I can sit with a stack of books and hide on the floor in a corner and read through the first several pages or chapters to decide if this is THE book to buy.

So I'm in the local book store with my boyfriend, enjoying the evening out together, enjoying our trip to Mecca, enjoying the wooden floors and oddly tiered wren of stairs and nooks. And lo, into the Women's studies section I wander. Now, under normal circumstances I shudder at the thought of entering this section of the book store. There isn't enough of me to give over to the anger reading these books tends to generate. I can't put that much of myself into the idea of feminist conspiracy, and men as the ultimate in oppressors and villains. I just can't. Plus I'd rather be a humanist than a feminist.

But here I am looking at a bright little book I could fit into my pocket with a pretty pink daisy and the word CUNT plastered on it in bright yellow letters. And i have to stop, I have to pause and look at this unassuming little book with such a charged word on it. As I reach for it, I notice that it's sitting on the shelf right next to a book on planning your ultimate wedding. I started laughing, couldn't help it. Here I am, surrounded by feminist and post-feminist books on giving up our oppressive self images, on what it is to be a woman in less enlightened places, on how we need to fight the oppressions of men and the double standards of sex. Here I am practically hearing the angry voices of a dozen women and right in the mix is how to have the best wedding.

Hooray for cognitive dissonance.

But this is illistrative of the issue of the beauty myth. Not that we can't be women of power. Not that we can't reclaim words like cunt or bitch or whore. Not that we can't disolve the word slut, or remove the double standard that keeps it on the lips and tongues of teenage girls. But that we are expected to do these things AND plan the perfect wedding. Or, and I noticed this sitting on the same shelf, be "alternative" brides who still want an amazing and perfect day just not like THOSE women. And it's the idea of my kind of women and those kind of women, the idea of us versus them that is so hard for me with feminism.

I have a girlfriend who has the ability to be a stay at home mom. She could choose to be otherwise, but her spouce makes enough to support her and their three kids without it. So she chooses not to work in an office and wear power suits. She chooses to stay home and homeschool the girls, and taxi them to their half dozen extra curriculars. She chooses to be an author and a mother rather than a power broker. But she's been told she is oppressed by her domaniering husband and she should make him get her a stitter so she can get out of the house and be more fulfilled. WTF!?!?!?!? She is one of THOSE women in the eyes of many feminists. And I don't get it.

Why do I have to choose between being a cunt and being a wife or mother. Aren't I supposed to be able to do both?

But then that's part of the oppessive issue too. This idea that I should be both. That I should try and be both. That I somehow need to be super mom and run a business or museum.

I read breifly through a handfull of those books, sitting on the wooden floor of that book store and found something profound. One of the authors wrote that the feminists of the 70s don't think that there are any young women wanting to fan the flames or carry on the torch of modern feminism. And I think there's a reason for that. Gender rolls have been torn appart by the upheavals of the 70s. And they needed to be. But in this ambiguous place where women and men can be anything, so long as they're not traditional, a vacume now exists. And we all know nature abhores a vacume. So we try to fill it, as best we can, with sex and beauty and money and youth. We starve ourselves to be beautiful and mutilate ourselves to be better, and make snide comments about women who don't. We scream about male oppression, without giving men any idea of what to be, and then wonder why young boys grow up to oppress women.

And now I feel as though I need to deffend myself for making these statements, lest I be thought of as one of THOSE women. And I shouldn't have to.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Fantasy of Being Thin

Posted on November 27, 2007 by kateharding at Shaply Prose

this particular blog really hit on some things for me that i hadn't realized i did. so, in the intrest of further dissemination i'm reposting it here.

A while back, Joy Nash provided us with this excellent quote of the day:
Obese patients are often encouraged to believe that weight loss is an appropriate way to combat depression, save a failing marriage, or increase the chance of career success. The irrationality of hopes pinned on weight loss is so striking that dieting might almost be likened to superstitious behavior…. Passing from childhood into adolescence, leaving home, marrying, starting a new job, having a baby, experiencing marital difficulties, adjusting to children leaving home, and growing old — all these life situations may become unexamined reasons to diet. In other instances, concerns over weight mask even more serious problems.”
-Wooley and Garner, from “Obesity treatment: the high cost of false hope,” published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol. 91, no. 10, 1991.

For the last few days, I’ve been thinking I wanted to blog on this subject but haven’t quite been able to pull my thoughts together. (Hence “help me find a dress” post.) Here goes nuthin’.
Once you’ve really started believing in fat acceptance — as opposed to thinking it sounds nice for other people, but you still need to lose X lbs. before you’ll be acceptable — it can be hard to remember how you thought about these issues before (just as it can be hard to imagine what it would really be like to accept your fat body before you’ve done it). I’ve written several times about how I spent ages in the cognitive dissonance phase, thinking it made perfect sense that the OBESITY CRISIS hype was way overblown, and even if it weren’t, dieting doesn’t work anyway — but still wanting to lose weight, still feeling like I, personally, needed to be a size 10, max, before I could really get started on my fat acceptance journey. The thing is, that memory is almost totally intellectual now; I don’t really recall what it felt like to believe those two contradictory things simultaneously.

But then, the other day, I got to thinking about a particular kind of resistance that shows up every single time anyone dares to say that dieting doesn’t work — the kind that comes from other fat people and amounts to, “DON’T YOU TAKE MY HOPE AWAY!” Those of us in the anti-dieting camp are frequently accused of demoralizing fat people, of sending a cruelly pessimistic message. I’ve never quite gotten my head around that one, since the message we’re sending is that you’re actually allowed to love your fat body instead of hating it, and you can take steps to substantially improve your health without fighting a losing battle with your weight. I’m pretty sure that message is both compassionate and optimistic, not to mention realistic. But there will always be people who hear it as, “I, Kate Harding, am personally condemning you to a lifetime of fatness! There’s no point in trying, fatty! You’re doomed! Mwahahaha!”
Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. *headdesk*

And then I started thinking about what it was really like before I’d actually made peace with my body. And what it was really like was this: The Fantasy of Being Thin absolutely dominated my life — even after I’d gotten thin once, found myself just as depressive and scattered and frustrated as always, and then gained all the weight back because, you know, diets don’t work. The reality of being thin didn’t even sink in after all that, because The Fantasy of Being Thin was still far more familiar to me, still what I knew best. I’d spent years and years nurturing that fantasy, and only a couple years as an actual thin person. Reality didn’t have a chance.
We’ve talked a lot here about how being fat shouldn’t stop you from doing the things you’ve always believed you couldn’t do until you were thin. Put on a bathing suit and go waterskiing. Apply for that awesome job you’re just barely qualified for. Ask that hot guy out. Join a gym. Wear a gorgeous dress. All of those concrete things you’ve been putting off? Just fucking do them, now, because this IS your life, happening as we speak.

But exhortations like that don’t take into account magical thinking about thinness, which I suspect — and the quote above suggests — is really quite common. Because, you see, the Fantasy of Being Thin is not just about becoming small enough to be perceived as more acceptable. It is about becoming an entirely different person – one with far more courage, confidence, and luck than the fat you has. It’s not just, “When I’m thin, I’ll look good in a bathing suit”; it’s “When I’m thin, I will be the kind of person who struts down the beach in a bikini, making men weep.” See also:
When I’m thin, I’ll have no trouble finding a partner/reinvigorating my marriage.
When I’m thin, I’ll have the job I’ve always wanted.
When I’m thin, I won’t be depressed anymore.
When I’m thin, I’ll be an adventurous world traveler instead of being freaked out by any country where I don’t speak the language and/or the plumbing is questionable.
When I’m thin, I’ll become really outdoorsy.
When I’m thin, I’ll be more extroverted and charismatic, and thus have more friends than I know what to do with.
Et cetera, et cetera. Those are examples from my personal Fantasy of Being Thin, but I’m sure you’ve got your own. (Please do share in comments!)

In light of that, it’s a lot easier to understand why some people freak out when you say no, really, your chances of losing weight permanently are virtually nil, so you’d be better off focusing on feeling good and enjoying your life as a fat person. To someone fully wrapped up in The Fantasy of Being Thin, that doesn’t just mean, “All the best evidence suggests you will be fat for the rest of your life, but that’s really not a terrible thing.” It means, “You will NEVER be the person you want to be! All the evidence suggests you will never find a satisfying relationship or get a promotion or make more friends or feel confident trying new things!”
So if that’s what you hear when I say, “Diets don’t work,” then yeah, I can see how that would be a major bummer.

Overcoming The Fantasy of Being Thin might be the hardest part of making it all the way into fat acceptance-land. And that might just be why I’d pushed that part of the process out of my memory: it fucking sucked. Because I didn’t just have to accept the size of my thighs; I had to accept who I am, rather than continuing to wait until I magically became the person I’d always imagined being. Ouch.

That is, of course, a pretty normal part of getting older. You start to realize that yeah, this actually is it, and although you can still try enough new things to keep anyone busy for two lifetimes, you’re pretty much stuck with a basic context. There are skills, experiences, and material things you will almost certainly never have, period. It’s a challenge for all of us to understand that accepting this fact of life does not necessarily mean cutting off options or giving up dreams, but simply — as in the proverbial story about the creation of the David — chipping away all that is not you. But for a fat person, it can be even harder, because so many fucking sources encourage us to believe that inside every one of us is “a thin person waiting to get out” — and that thin person is SO MUCH COOLER.

The reality is, I will never be the kind of person who thinks roughing it in Tibet sounds like a hoot; give me a decent hotel in London any day. I will probably never learn to waterski well, or snow ski at all, or do a back handspring. I can be outgoing and charismatic in small doses, but I will always then need time to recharge my batteries with the dogs and a good book; I’ll never be someone with a chock-full social calendar, because I would find that unbearably exhausting. (And no matter how well I’ve learned to fake it — and thus how much this surprises some people who know me — new social situations will most likely always intimidate the crap out of me.) I might learn to speak one foreign language fluently over the course of my life, but probably not five. I will never publish a novel until I finish writing one. I will always have to be aware of my natural tendency toward depression and might always have to medicate it. Smart money says I am never going to chuck city life to buy an alpaca farm or start a new career as a river guide. And my chances of marrying George Clooney are very, very slim.

None of that is because I’m fat. It’s because I’m me.

But when I was invested in The Fantasy of Being Thin, I really believed that changing this one “simple” (ha!) thing would unlock a whole new identity — this totally fabulous, free-spirited, try-anything-once kind of chick who was effortlessly a magnet for interesting people and experiences. And of course, the dark side of that is that being fat then became an excuse not to do much of anything, because it wouldn’t be the real me doing it, so what was the point? If I wouldn’t find the right guy until I was thin, why bother dating? If I wouldn’t have a breakthrough on the novel until I was thin, why bother writing? If I wouldn’t be the life of the party until I was thin, why bother trying to make new friends? If I wouldn’t feel like climbing a mountain until I was thin, why bother traveling at all?

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Accepting my fat really wasn’t the hard part. Accepting my personality — and my many limitations that have jack shit to do with my thighs — was. But oddly enough, once I started to do that, my life became about a zillion times more satisfying. I found the right guy, I took up yoga, I started taking my writing more seriously, I stopped apologizing for taking vacations in the U.S. and Canada instead of somewhere more exotic, etc. And lo and behold, things got a lot more fun around here. The thin person inside me finally got out — it just turned out she was actually a fat person. A reasonably attractive, semi-outgoing fat person who has an open mind and an active imagination but also happens to really like routine and familiarity and quiet time alone.
That was never who I expected to be — it was just always who I was.

So giving up dieting and accepting my body didn’t just mean admitting I would never be thin; it meant admitting I would never be a million things I might have been. (Which, I’m told, is a phenomenon sometimes known as “maturity.”) I am absolutely not one for settling — which is where the confusion about pessimism comes in, I think — but I am one for self-awareness and self-forgiveness. Meaning, there’s a big difference between saying you can’t be anything other than what you are right now, and you don’t have to be anything other than what you are right now. You will probably never be permanently thin, unless you are already, but other than that, the sky’s the limit. You can be anything or anyone you want to be, in theory.

The question is, who do you really want to be, and what are you going to do about it? (Okay, two questions.) The Fantasy of Being Thin is a really convenient excuse for not asking yourself those questions sincerely — and that’s exactly why it’s dangerous. It keeps you from being not only who you are, but who you actually could be, if you worked with what you’ve got. And that person trapped inside you really might be cooler than you are right now.

She’s just not thin.

Cheesecake Liberation

Article by Lady Becca for Fashion Sanity
Reprinting here on my own blog

This past weekend I went to an amazing social salon. Every month this group gets together and presents on topics they know, feel passionate about, or are interested in. It’s a varied group in terms of gender, economic background, sexual preferences, and lifestyles and so the topics are equally varied. During a break I ended up getting into a deep conversation with this super hot red head about the fat acceptance movement, the fashion industry, skinny models, fat hate, skinny hate, medical science and self love. I realized a few things:

1. the media half truths are more pervasive than I thought.
2. even “fat chicks” will think of anecdotal evidence that reinforces the media’s half truths.
3. I really dig red heads.
4. I need to do more home work on the subject.

So I did. I sat my cushy ass in front of the computer and stuffed my brain with facts and figures. The more I learned the better I felt about myself, my body and my ability to have this discussion with people. I looked at myself, and what I do and don’t eat. I knew I was ok, but now I see where I’m doing better than ok, and where I could be doing just plain better. I’ve also become more aware of people.

Last night I went to a certain big name home improvement store. No, the other one. Along the way my housemate, boyfriend and I stopped into Trader Joe’s to feed her addiction to dried mango and my addiction to chocolate…and dried mango. I bought a box of cheesecake bites, enrobed in deep dark chocolate and we wandered about the home improvement store eating chocolate covered cheesecake and dried mango while discussion devious plans for a Rube-Goldberg device. And I noticed something…I didn’t care.

A week ago, I would have bought that box, put it in the car and waited until I got home to open it and enjoy those little morsels with my boy and a few Heroes episodes. Instead, I walked proudly, defiantly, through a major chain store nibbling on cheesecake and my boy. I know, for a fact, that several of the older women manning departments and registers looked. I could see the thought as it marched passed on their faces, the thought that I could be so pretty if I would just put down the sweets and get moving.

I wanted to laugh in their 40 something plus, pursed lipped faces and ask if they had any idea how much moving I do? I wanted to lustily grope my boy right there in front of them, and show them just how hot he is for me. I wanted to rub their faces in their own self loathing and ask if they were really happy with swallowing the bullshit fed to women every day about our bodies and how they should look.

Instead, I smiled coquettishly and had another bite. The effect was better.