Thursday, May 30, 2013

Missing the Self-hate Memo

There are some instances in which I missed the memo that I'm supposed to hate X about myself and later hear it as a widely accepted "beauty standard," and I'm all like WTF?

Stretch marks are one example, touching thighs another, and freckles. It would be like someone coming up to me today and telling me an hour-glass figure is universally undesirable. It's similar to feeling like an old lady for not keeping up with or understanding popular music (Bieber who?), fashion (ugg boots, animal prints, jeggings, and skinny jeans are abominations), YOLO (carpe diem for dumb people), etc.

There's a weird cognitive dissonance about it, bordering on offense. Sometime in my teens I heard or read people saying freckles are ugly and unattractive. What? My and my sister's freckles are freaking adorable and I totally get a lady boner for people with freckles. I dated some very cute freckled boys in high school and crushed on even more. Remember Lindsey Lohan before the weight loss and drugs? Or Emma Stone-Cold-Fox, though I wish she'd cover them with makeup less. (Tangent: I know freckles are sun damage and I wear ALL the sunblock when I spend time outdoors.)

Men and boys online talk about not liking women whose thighs touch, and I have to assume that's code for gay or necrophiliac. People love to rant about Lena Dunham's despicably fleshiness, too. I haven't seen the show, but she looks to be a straight-size woman in pictures I've seen, and I think her fleshiness is very like mine. (I mean to post the picture of her eating cake naked when I'm not on a work computer.) Or the people who railed at Kate Winslet's fat naked self onscreen in Titanic. (Whaaat??) And I am confused because everyone I've ever met socially would LOVE to see me naked. Yeah, I'm narcissistic, but I'm not lying.

And to all the women using pregnancy as the only justifiable excuse to accept stretch marks, screw you. I got my stretch marks at puberty, across my widening hips and thighs and burgeoning bosom. And those are good things. My figure is fucking fabulous, and so are the marks that come with it, all gifts of growth into womanhood. (And now maybe there needs to be said something about stretch marks from gaining fat, but I'm not sure what exactly. I think they look awesome whatever the reason.)

Sometimes self esteem is not always about making peace with my own flaws because I do not and have never seen any of these as flaws. Sometimes it requires lacking a give-a-damn that a vocal minority of people online (never IRL in my experience) don't like my adorable freckles, banging curves, or the stretch marks upon them.

Has anyone else had this experience? I wonder what women's self esteem would be like if we somehow missed more of these messages.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Is it sexist if it's satire?

Am I allowed to enjoy ads that are obviously satirical? #feministfirstworldproblems

Kraft's Let's Get Zesty ad

Music video of Benny Benassi's Satisfaction

How to ice a cake

Monday, May 20, 2013

Social Justice Hat is Heavy

I don't have a thick skin, a particularly strong mean streak, or the energy to sustain my righteous anger for very long. I'm just a soft and squishy gal. So yeah, trolls get me down. What I do have is a frustratingly strong sense of social justice and an overabundance of privilege, and lingering guilt tendencies from my Catholic upbringing. So I can't stop caring, can't take off the social justice hat, can't unsee the inequity, can't stand for bigotry or let it pass unchallenged even if calling out friends and strangers causes me more trouble personally than pretending not to care.

Some people don't own a TV and don't follow the news, preferring to live a life of blissful ignorance. I can't stand to be ignorant; I studied journalism at uni and I thirst for knowledge. Sometimes I avoid following a few stories--the Jodie Arias case and the Cleveland kidnappings, for example--because they're too dark and there is nothing I can do about them, nothing useful I can say about them, and the knowledge is more than I can handle among all the other tragedies and daily offal in the world.

But it's tiring. I can step away from the Internet or TV for a few hours, but I can't back down or let myself be silenced. Because the world is a hostile place, and one comment among the bilious hate can plant a seed into a closed mind or be a ray of hope for the others who wouldn't speak out. It's not always about the original post, more often about the hundreds of others who will read the comments below it, searching for a voice of reason, a word of compassion, or of indignation when needed.

I'm irked today because there's a forum thread devoted to discussion about why there are so few women in Amtgard (a national organization for medieval combat recreation), and several (usually lurker) women wrote of their experiences with gender-based harassment being a common problem, myself included. Subsequent comments told us it's our fault for putting up with it and for being women and for being attractive, we should appreciate the attention, GTFO if we have a problem with it, and calling me unattractive and therefore lying about my experiences. I think my misogynist tropes BINGO card is full, I seriously cannot make this shit up. *smh* And would-be male allies are silent because they're admittedly loath to be accused of white knighting. I wish I could say I am surprised at the direction the discussion took, but I never had that much faith in any significant number of members being interested in addressing the problem and changing the culture.

I've run out of sanity points to read or respond to the thread further today, though I worry what will happen in my absence. What matters is that most of my local chapter is pretty chill most of the time. In the real world, I can keep showing up, keep playing, keep existing, keep hanging out with people who treat women like full humans, and avoid the rest. Because I feel like my extra X chromosome keeps getting in the way of my being heard, all I effectively can do is avoid shitty people.

*And I am pretty hot, fuck you very much.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

One of the "Lucky" Ones

Trigger Warning: sexual assault/harassment

I’ve been meaning to share but waiting around for the right mood, the nerve, the right time, whatever. There will never be a right time; this happens every day to me and everyone I know and love. It goes unreported and accepted as the price of living in society as a girl or woman. I can’t accept it anymore as a normal experience and hope others won’t either.

I’m one of the lucky women who’s never been technically raped. If I ever tell someone about a sexual or verbal assault, the default response is, “Well, at least he didn’t rape you.” I feel I ought to disregard the severity of the issue, to minimize and normalize it in my own head, to discount my feelings about it as being an overreaction, especially when I know real-rape survivors. So I’ve never identified as a victim, spoken about these things, confided in anyone. Never dealt with them or processed. Most days I never even think about it; it’s just a distant past. But some days it rises to the surface and overwhelms me.

  • In the sixth grade, a boy in gym class yelled at me on the track, “How much for a blowjob?” Appalled, I remained silent.
  • In the seventh grade, my name became a daily jeer and taunt because it matched Monica Lewinsky’s during the White House scandals, and kids would bring in magazines and news articles with her picture to compare our appearances, somehow linking me to her promiscuity.
  • In the ninth grade, I was on a date with a boy and kissing him. He groped my breasts without asking me. I had never wanted to do that, didn’t know what he was doing, why he was doing that, or what I should do, and I froze. And he continued. I threw that shirt in the garbage because the violation seemed to cling to it.
  • An acquaintance, a “friend,” sent me a message detailing where he would take me and how he would touch me and take my virginity. Without my permission he constructed this scene and raped my persona, verbally me. I was 15.
  • In the eleventh grade, a random boy at school told me I was too fat to be dressed like a hooker. Because I wore shorts that day.
  • A boy I didn’t know got my screen name and messaged me to tell me he heard I liked oral sex and proceeded to offer his services to me. I spent the whole night in tears.
  • When I told my boyfriend I had a migraine and wanted to go home, he insisted I let him try to make me feel better by giving me an orgasm, though I protested that I had a MIGRAINE and wanted to go home. So he needled me for another half hour and then took me home, pouting the whole way and complaining how I wouldn’t even *give him a chance.* (Arguing with someone when you’re in throbbing, blinding pain isn’t all that bad as long as he doesn’t rape you and only resents you instead for ruining his date.)
  • Walking to my college apartment, in broad daylight, in a fairly safe neighborhood, a young teenage boy across the street called out, “Hey, how much do you cost?” Because I wore a skirt. Shocked and at a loss, I remained silent and kept walking.
  • I cannot count the number of times I’ve been whistled, hollered, and honked at when I am just minding my own fucking business because apparently I need to be reminded that I have no control whatsoever over my own presence and personal safety.
  • Strange men only grab me and rub their hard cocks against my covered ass and cooch if I want to go somewhere to dance. That’s not really rape-rape.
  • A few of my dates have forced their tongues into my mouth and wrapped their arms around me to keep me from moving as I struggled against them.
  • Kissing a guy and he whipped out his erect penis and said to me, “Look what you did,” and expected me to take care of it. The friend I told was horrified and angry at me because I’d put myself in such a dangerous situation.
  • My first college boyfriend liked to get me drunk and try to take my virginity and genuinely believed “No means yes,” shoving his cock in my face to suck it until I broke down crying.
  • And tears only mean no, by the way, if a man feels like acknowledging them.
  • He accused me of cheating on him because I hadn’t ever done anything to prove I wouldn’t.
  • How many times have I told a guy I was tired and wanted to sleep, and he would only roll over and huff and pout and steam and keep me awake all night anyway? That’s my own damn fault, right? I’d get to sleep faster if I just gave it up.
  • A grown-ass man cussed me out, berated me, and threw a temper tantrum when I told him I didn’t want to have sex. And then he tried to pull me into bed with him again in the morning, having been too drunk to remember the ordeal.  At least he didn’t rape me, right?
  • An acquaintance only groped my breasts and stuck his tongue down my throat after I accepted his offer of a shoulder rub.
  • One guy didn’t feel like putting on a condom and didn’t tell me. At least I didn’t catch anything. Or conceive. Probably.
  • Friends and acquaintances smack my ass whenever, wherever, and as hard as they please. They’re just being friendly, right? And I should stop asking them to please stop doing that because I wouldn’t want to ruin their good times.
  • It’s no big deal that men consistently cuss at me and call me fat and ugly after I decline their advances. This happens far more often than not.
  • It’s not so bad that a guy who helped me to my tent lingered to invite himself in because I was drunk and he had plans. That’s not something to worry about because even though I’d blacked out, I told him flatly “No thanks,” and he left.

When I tell these stories, too many will assume it’s my fault for choosing, dating, and associating with losers and creeps because they’ve never experienced this and cannot wrap their heads around the possibility that these are just average guys and this is just normal rape culture.
Perhaps they have the privilege of believing that with a clear conscience.

There are more, I know, that I’ve conveniently or deliberately forgotten: some temporarily and some not. This world isn’t safe, and I’m told I should be very grateful that nothing bad has ever happened to me. I should just forget the assaults and harassment and thank my lucky stars, because it’s not like anyone ever actually raped me, harmed me, took anything from me. Except my autonomy and humanity. And this is why I’m a furious feminist who refuses to be nice and silent anymore.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


The CDC and myriad other professional organizations recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise PLUS two days of strength training per week for adults. This has been touted all over the news and in innumerable health-ish news articles as an easy way to guarantee fitness and health, a magical number, the Golden Ratio, the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

And I'm all like:

But I happened to look up what is defined as “moderate intensity” exercise just now: walking (3 mph), water aerobics, slow bicycling, gardening. Um, what? Those don’t even register with me for exercise and I would always have called them low or zero intensity.

Have I been failing bare minimum recommendations because I pretty much ONLY do “vigorous intensity” types of movement? I should be elated because this knowledge makes perfect fitness more attainable, right?

But it makes me angry that I had to search for this definition and that there are so many other people who are alienated and feel themselves failures because they think they can't meet the same standards.

(This possibly should be two separate posts.)

On the path to knowledge, I learned about privilege including able-ism and that healthism is bad. I’m trying harder to learn what healthism isand why it’s bad and am discovering that I am probably a healthist prat myself. I found a very good explanation, though:

“No longer is health a normal state of equilibrium and no longer are doctors those to whom we turn only when this equilibrium is disturbed. 
Instead, our entire life, even in the complete absence of sickness, is implicated in the pursuit of more perfect health and greater longevity. We must not smoke or hang around smokers, drink too much, eat fat, breathe summer air in the cities, pursue dangerous sports and, of course, we must exercise to recapture some aboriginal state of fitness. Doctors have become the priests of this new cult of endless aspiration. They screen, check and warn the healthy, upbraid the sick and lecture us all on the multiple errors of our ways. Everything can be, as Skrabanek puts it, 'medicalised', every act can be shown to have health implications and can, therefore, form part of our lifestyle dossier being compiled by whatever recording angels inhabit healthist heaven.”
I've learned that healthism is problematic and some of the reasons why. Nobody is ever obligated to pursue health. But I haven't internalized it and may not agree with it . . . fully . . . yet. I like fitness and feeling good and I like having friends who do too, and we're pretty awesome and do awesome stuff, so I assume other people would want to, too. There it gets tricky. I see why it's a leap in logic, but I've been raised to believe that so much morality is based on the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Just a few weeks ago, I learned this is a terrible idea because other people might really DISlike what you like for people to do to you! The surface understanding is there; the seed is planted, but it doesn't yet go deep enough to shape my words and actions.

Must . . . learn . . . moar!

Low-impact exercise

I was asked for suggestions of low-impact exercise. I have no certifications. These are things I like that work for me and some other people, too.
I have crooked kneecaps and was facing surgery and PT when my doc explained that I needed to strengthen the muscles in my thighs above my kneecaps. I learned that using the elliptical machines at the gym, particularly going backwards, is a super way to do that specifically and is a great low-impact workout for others’ needs as well.
For the same affliction, I could never bicycle much because the extreme bending and straightening caused awkward and constant popping of my kneecaps. BUT a recumbent (sitting with feet out in front of you) stationary bike worked just fine because the angle of movement was far less extreme.
Belly dance: It takes a little bit of luck to find a great instructor, and if you’re in a big city and have the means, definitely try out a handful of teachers. It can be as easy or as intensive as you want/need. My first teacher teaches at the local senior center in particular. It’s wonderful for most any body type and fitness level; I had a classmate who used it in her cancer recovery. LOTS of online instruction is available too, but the quality varies widely, so it will take a bit of searching/research.
Swimming: Dependent on your local resources, I suppose. I managed to get a $19/mo membership to all my city’s recreation centers, including the gyms, basketball and racquetball courts, and POOLS. I’m a newb to lap swimming and had the fortune of dating a lifeguard who loves to teach. I’m looking into lessons for adults to improve my movements, because swimming is hardly an intuitive sort of movement. Laps are not easy, and maybe just walking laps in the shallow end or water aerobics will provide a nice, cool workout.
Beyond that, I would have to do some research. A lot of people rave about yoga, but it just isn’t for me. Tai chi is a cool exercise, but the style just didn’t suit me. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Inspired by Ragen's post today, I wrote up what will become my video contribution to the Resolved Video Project on weight and medical mistreatment.

Before and after the Graffiti Run 5K, Feb. 2013

Last spring I scheduled an appointment with a new gynecologist, my first since getting my own insurance. The appointment was for a yearly checkup, the Well Women exam, which entails a pap smear and breast exam. My new doctor walked into the exam room, and first thing told me to lose 5 pounds, having barely said hello and obviously not even looked at my intake paperwork. She didn’t ask about my eating and exercise habits but bowled forward straight into the exam. I was gobsmacked. I had run three miles two hours prior and had perfect blood pressure. She didn’t know I had lost 5 pounds already* in the preceding months because she never asked. She didn’t know I regularly run 5K and 10K races and have even finished a half marathon. That’s 13.1 miles, TYVM.

I nodded dumbly, feeling deeply hurt and offended. I had NEVER been told before by a doctor to lose weight or that my weight was a problem. Because it isn’t and never will be. Feeling justifiably obstinate and at least a little bit triggered, I then bought myself a big-ass gourmet cupcake and large caramel cappuccino for second breakfast and never saw that doctor again.

I wish that were the end of it, but now I feel worry and anxiety every single time I see a doctor, which is not infrequently. It’s every three months when I see my gyno for birth control. It’s more often than that when I live an active lifestyle and injure myself a few times a year and visit my GP. I’ve begun declining to be weighed, which the medical assistants respond to with confusion and uncertainty. I tell them, “My weight is steady and has nothing to do with my visit today.” They stutter, regain themselves, and hurry me into the exam room. Are they going to tell the doctor? Is he going to bring it up? Will he disapprove?

I have SO MUCH middle class, university-educated, conventionally attractive, thin, white, cisgender, able-bodied privilege. And because of ill-informed medical practitioners who misuse a body/height ratio that was debunked DECADES ago as being a poor indicator of health, I am afraid every time I go to a doctor. My education and my skepticism, my own research and my knowledge don’t count for much in the face of a doctor’s authority and the weight (no pun intended) that his or her opinions and recommendations carry.

My story can't compare to the thousands of people prescribed weight loss for every ailment from step throat to a stubbed toe. Weight loss based medicine is bad for everyone, and it must stop.  I believe in evidence-based medicine. Prescribing weight loss is ignorant, irresponsible, lazy, and unethical. I resolve to speak up for bias-free healthcare!

*Because I like to run more when the weather is nice.