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.