brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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(content note: discussion of body hate, disordered eating, mental health issues, harassment, etc)

What is a microagression?

A microagression is a small, non-physical act that takes a negative, hostile, insulting, etc stance toward people of lower status. The term was originally used to refer to issues of race but is also sometimes used to describe similar actions with regards to gender and gender expression, class, ability status, etc.

On December 11th, Melissa McEwan started the hashtag #fatmicroaggressions on twitter “because I was having a moment of fedupedness with people pretending that fat people’s lived experiences are not spoken about, not known.”

I started college in 1997 when I was 18 and already pretty solidly in the grips of an eating disorder. If you’d asked me about it, I would have talked about diets and willpower and how unbelievably fat I was. At the time, I was still able to shop in “normal” clothing stores and wasn’t unbelievably fat. But adults had treated me, since childhood, as a massive disgusting fatbag one snack away from imploding from my own fatness. Didn’t I know how disgusting I was? Didn’t I know how cute I’d be if I’d only lose some weight? I look back at photos of myself as a kid, and sometimes I was a little chubby and sometimes I was skinny, but I wasn’t a fat kid. But adults around me were super quick to enforce the idea that I was a fat kid and fat kids were fundamentally worth less than non-fat kids. I think a lot of that was in reaction to the fact that my mom is fat… that they were trying to stage some sort of intervention to prevent me from going down the same (constantly dieting, constantly hungry, constantly hating herself) path she was on. And I internalized that. I took it as a given that I didn’t deserve clothing that fit properly or looked good, that I didn’t deserve to sit on the nice furniture for fear of breaking it, that I didn’t deserve people to treat me well, that I shouldn’t expect to ever find a husband or have kids (neither of which I was interested in at the time) unless I was willing to be strong and use my willpower to lose weight and get skinny. Because I was just lazy and indolent, that’s all, and all I needed to do was pay attention and count calories and measure things and work out and walk just a little bit and not so fucking much.

I stopped doing ballet (and tap and jazz) because my instructor told me I’d never be able to go en pointe, I was too fat. Too bad I don’t live in Russia or I could have joined Big Ballet, made up of dancers who weigh 220 lbs and up. I stopped doing tumbling/gymnastics because the instructor refused to help me get into positions she helped the other kids get into, and responded to my complaints of physical bullying (shoves, pokes, punches, and pinches of my little tummy) with an admonition to lose some weight (I was under ten years old). My pediatrician dismissed my mom’s concerns over my recurring ear infections, bronchitis (2-3x a year), and strep throat and advised her to put me on a diet. (When I turned 20 I got a new doctor who immediately had my tonsils removed. In the ensuing 14 years I’ve had bronchitis maybe 3 times total instead of 2-3 times a year. She also, worried about my weight, put me on an anti-depressant because it tended to suppress the appetite. She completely missed the part where I was incapacitated by Depression and Anxiety, but boy did she see my stomach and decide losing weight would do the trick. She missed the obvious signs of PCOS, too.)

By my senior year of high school, I was subsisting primarily on heavily caffeinated diet sodas. They were calorie free and filled me up sloshily and gave me energy which I needed because I was taking in so few calories. They also gave me horrible headaches thanks to the artificial sweeteners, but it was worth it, because no calories! I counted calories to the extreme, measuring out teaspoons of peanut butter for sandwiches and making hot cocoa with half the amount of the mix recommended. And when I was too hungry to keep doing it, when I’d been fasting for three or four days, I’d go on a binge and eat until I hurt while hating myself the entire time. I had excruciating nightmares for years about eating, would wake up racked with guilt from eating in dreams.

At some point in college I encountered the Venus of Willendorf and, possibly somehow through that, Marilyn Wann’s website Fat!So? which was a life changer. They both started me thinking in a very fundamentally different way about my body and my place in the world. I later discovered Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size (HAES) and Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose and other blogs from the fatosphere.

I’m a lot healthier– and a lot fatter– now than I used to be. I rarely have my blood sugar drop so low I get shakey and nearly pass out. I haven’t fasted or binged in a long time. Keeping a food log can trigger incredibly unhealthy mindsets and behavior in me, but I can keep one if I need to (for instance, to be sure I’m taking in enough calories in a day). I still deal with stress by losing any inclination to eat, and sometimes realize that it’s almost bedtime and I’ve literally eaten nothing that day. I still have deep rooted problems, physical and mental, from the way people have treated me and my body for daring to exist as a fat person.

And I encounter similar problems pretty much every single day, people pre-judging me and my worth based on my size.

When I was pregnant, my first OB-GYN did not have a scale that went above 250 lbs. In order to weigh in, I had to leave his office, walk into a different office of a different doctor, and ask to use THEIR scale. I’ve had doctors fret that I was too heavy for their exam tables (I’m not). I’ve had medical staff refuse to use a larger sized blood pressure cuff (which skews my BP reading, making it register as abnormally high) or insist on using a thigh cuff (which is too big, and also gives a false reading… this time of too low). I’ve had many medical staff offer me exam gowns that were ridiculously small, because they simply don’t stock plus size gowns. When I had just delivered my child via C-Section, which is major abdominal surgery, and was still unable to feel anything from my chest down, I was expected to self-transfer from a gurney to a bed because the nurses didn’t want to touch my fat body. When I accidentally soiled myself (again, just had major abdominal surgery, had no sensation below the chest) they refused to clean me up and I lay there caked in feces for over an hour. When they DID clean me, they did an incredibly poor job. The morning nurse assumed I was simply incontinent and had regular bowel leakage because that’s just how fat people are. Medications, including birth control, are not tested on people over a certain size, resulting in fat people routinely being given the wrong dose of medication.

Every day that I leave my house I know I am going to be judged harshly by people. They are going to pull faces if I sit near them on the bus or train. They are going to be extra angry if I’m too slow crossing the street. People who see me with my kid assume I’m his aunt or nanny and not his mom. I know for a fact that I’m statistically likely to receive inferior medical care, that if I need an EMT they might stand around mocking my size instead of assisting me, or might post photos of me and insults to twitter or facebook. If I go into a grocery store, someone would feel it well within their rights to take photos of me and post them online with insults. In fact, there’s websites devoted to mocking people my size. People feel it acceptable and normal to casually insult me simply for existing, to judge me and find me wanting based solely on what they see.

I’m not going to pull that ridiculous “last acceptable prejudice” card or claim that anti-fat bias is somehow unique in the world of hatred and -isms. I’m also aware that as a white woman who usually doesn’t look obviously disabled I don’t get slammed with as much bias as other fat people in the world.

But still.

Every day I wake up and go out into a world that’s full of assholes. Every day I wake up and brace myself for absolute strangers to attack and deride me. Every day that I post something online i wait for the “lol ur fat” responses to roll in– and they frequently do.

So Melissa McEwan started this hashtag and people started posting under it. And some of it’s petty little shit like cashiers side-eying their Halloween Candy purchases and some of it’s bigger stuff like being denied birth control or having eating disorders and other medical issues go undiagnosed/untreated. And some people responded with WELL THAT ISN’T REALLY MICRO NOW IS IT.

I have 2 responses to that.

1) When you deal with toxic bullshit every single day, what should be a huge instance of hate and bias kind of sinks into a background noise. Pretty much every very fat person I know has had their medical concerns dismissed because they’re fat and “they just need to lose weight.” So on the one hand, that is (or should be) a huge fucking issue. On the other hand, it’s incredibly common. Almost every fat person I know dreads having to find a new doctor (or A doctor if they haven’t got one) because it means you’re probably going to have to shop around extensively just to find a person who treats you like a human being and not a gross sack of lipids. So a lot of the things mentioned under the hashtag? Are super huge things and not micro at all. But you know what? Those things are so common, so ubiquitous, and so many people feel they are deserved, that they just… lie there. Accepted. Acceptable.

2) It’s rare for the voices of fat people to be centered, to be heard, to be granted legitimacy. So fat folks see these kind of thing, and on twitter there’s very little barrier to entry, and suddenly… they’re entered into a conversation with other people who have Been There, who have Experienced That, who have Survived That, who Know How It Is. And the dam breaks. And all this fear and resentment and anger comes pouring out. Yes, there’s a difference between that woman on the bus who got up huffily after you sat down because your thigh touched hers and she didn’t want your gross fat cooties and the time you went to the doctor and he dismissed your questions about MS and advised you to eat more kale and lose weight, but at the same time, those exist on a spectrum of hate that affects all fat people and both are equally acceptable ways to react to fat people: with disgust, with anger that they exist, with dismissal. Just go away and don’t come back until you’re skinny.

The trolls, of course, have come out.

It’s easy to lose weight, they say. You’re just making excuses, they say. One asshole, whose entire account seemed to have been created solely to seek out and harass people who’d participated in the hash tag, tried to dismiss some of my claims. MAYBE THEY JUST SECRETLY HATE YOU.

Look.

Darling.

Sweet troll.

Precious little one.

It’s not a fucking secret.

It is socially acceptable and valid to hate people, to treat them as less than human, to consider them both worth less than thinner humans and also to consider them worthless.

That’s not a secret at all.

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Gender and Hair

Monday, 15 July 2013 17:34
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

If you follow me on twitter (and why wouldn’t you follow me on twitter?), then you probably already know that I buzzed most of my hair. I left the fringe but the rest is about 1/2 an inch long, very Riot Grrl I guess, pretty dated maybe, but oh my gosssshhhhh I’m so much cooler than I used to be. Hair is hot and hair is heavy and now when there’s a breeze it goes straight to my scalp and neck instead of getting lost in my hair first. It’s pretty awesome.

I’ve spent most of my life with very long hair. I cut it around my senior year of high school and since then have been going back and forth, growing my hair to its longest length (waist length) and then cutting it relatively short again… usually chin length or so.

I was what some people would term a tender headed child. I had long, very fine, very dry, hair and it snarled and knotted constantly. Combing/brushing it was constant agony. Keeping my hair in braids or buns might have helped, but very fine dry hair is also slippery and it would escape. Detangling spray would also help but I don’t think it existed then. So I complained a whole bunch and my mom finally gave in and cut off all my hair.

She might have been pregnant at the time. I’m unsure of the timeline. But I know she stopped hand crafting delicate little girl gowns out of satin and lace, complete with frilly aprons and bloomers, around the time my brother was born. And I started wearing hand me down clothing from my older male cousins. With very short hair.

It.

Was.

Awesome.

Unisex clothing was very much a thing in the early 80s (I was born in 1979), and it wasn’t as uncommon then for little girls to wear clothing that wasn’t pink and plastered with butterflies. But the combo of “obviously” little boy clothing (including a totally bitchin’ pair of yellow canvas shorts with a million loops and tabs and a clip on compass that I called my safari shorts) and short hair meant that suddenly strangers treated me very, very differently.

Suddenly I was “sport” and “tiger” and strange adult men would comment on how big, strong, brave, handsome I was. They’d ruffle my hair and give me candy. People don’t frown and narrow their eyes or make comments when I scrambled around and climbed on things and yelled.

It was amazing.

Eventually my hair grew out again and my mom forbade me cutting it again and I was encouraged both explicitly and implicitly to be more feminine. To dress a certain way, and act a certain way, and talk a certain way, and maintain certain interests while dropping others, and to wear my hair long.

My hair’s short again, shorter than it’s been since that very first hair cut, and I adore it. I probably won’t keep it this short forever– I get bored and like to change things up– but I’ll be keeping it for a while. It feels very liberating.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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Let’s play a hypothetical game.

You find a bag on your lawn or in your hallway or something. Inside is bundles of cash totaling about a million dollars. They don’t seem to be marked.

What do you do?

Do you call the police or take out an ad asking for someone to claim the money?

Do you contact the IRS to claim/pay taxes on your windfall?

Do you keep it secret?

If you keep it secret, what do you do? How do you spend it without attracting attention to yourself? How do you keep your money safe? How do you keep YOURSELF safe?

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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Woo, I am so full. I ate all of the good food that there is to eat at Tasty Cuisine, where we ordered a large amount of entrées, and shared them family style. If you’re in the area and looking for very good Cantonese-American food, check them out. Try the Thailand Style Fish, it’s spicy and good.

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Pinterest

Tuesday, 9 November 2010 06:41
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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I’ve recently joined pinterest. Does anybody else use this? Hook me up with your boards! Drop some links! Let me see what you’re doing with this!

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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Have you seen this?

Thus, I am pleased to announce that the Carl Brandon Society is holding a prize drawing to support the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund. For those who don’t know, the Carl Brandon Society is an organization dedicated to racial and ethnic diversity in speculative fiction. So it’s fitting that the prizes available consist of three awesome eReaders. Entrants can win one of two Barnes & Noble Nooks, One of two Kobo Readers, and an Alex eReader from Spring Design. And to sweeten the pot even more, all of the eReaders will come pre-loaded with short stories, poems, and books by writers of color.

Tickets cost $1 each and you can buy as many as you want for any of the eReaders you’re interested in. Click here to buy tickets. The drawing began yesterday and will run through November 22, 2010.

I want to give a shout out to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Spring Design as they generously donated the devices for this drawing, and also to the authors who are donating stories, poems, books and essays to tempt you. We don’t have the full list of authors yet, but they include: N. K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Terence Taylor, Ted Chiang, Shweta Narayan, Chesya Burke, Moondancer Drake, Saladin Ahmed, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and more.

(emphasis mine)

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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In addition to nanowrimo, naphopomo, and nachopomo, November is also nablopomo; but it isn’t nanomango which takes place in June. (According to Wikipedia, November is also a lot of other stuff.)

Are you doing anything especially writery for November?

I’m going to try and update MAH BLAHG every day during the month of November and also work on outstanding pieces of fiction I have open as opposed to starting new pieces of fiction that won’t get finished. Is there a “national finish your stupid writing already” month or a “national edit your rough drafts” month or something?

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (Default)
My blogging life is more integrated with Dreamwidth than it is with Live Journal. For instance, I crosspost my babyblog to DW, but I don't to LJ.

I originally started a separate pregnancy blog because I wasn't sure if I'd carry to term or not. If I had a miscarriage, I really didn't want to deal with people knowing about it until I'd gotten a chance to process what was going on and move to a better place. Sometimes sympathy, for me, makes things worse. And then I went through the 2nd trimester and started mentioning that I was pregnant and had a blog about it, but I still kept things separate.

I think part of that is that I didn't want to bore people on LJ with baby stuff; and part of it is that I was worried about talking about nothing BUT pregnancy/baby stuff. So I kept the two separate so I could see how I was doing, see that I was making non-baby posts as well as baby posts. Because babies? They are freakin' huge events and will take over.

I feel a little more comfortable including baby stuff at Dreamwidth, maybe because my persona over here isn't quite as established or maybe because the kid is older and not as all-consuming and I know I can balance my life a bit.

Anyway, just thought it was interesting, how I use the two blogging services differently.
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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There’s a book meme going around that I’m going to start doing tomorrow. Here are the questions if you would like to follow along.

Day 01 – A book series you wish had gone on longer OR a book series you wish would just freaking end already (or both!)
Day 02 – A book or series you wish more people were reading and talking about
Day 03 – The best book you’ve read in the last 12 months
Day 04 – Your favorite book or series ever
Day 05 – A book or series you hate
Day 06 – Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time
Day 07 – Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise
Day 08 – A book everyone should read at least once
Day 09 – Best scene ever
Day 10 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 11 – A book that disappointed you
Day 12 – A book or series of books you’ve read more than five times
Day 13 – Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)
Day 14 – Favorite character in a book
Day 15 – Your “comfort” book
Day 16 – Favorite poem or collection of poetry
Day 17 – Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)
Day 18 – Favorite beginning scene in a book
Day 19 – Favorite book cover (bonus points for posting an image!)
Day 20 – Favorite kiss
Day 21 – Favorite romantic/sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 22 – Favorite non-sexual relationship (including asexual romantic relationships)
Day 23 – Most annoying character ever
Day 24 – Best quote from a novel
Day 25 – Any five books from your “to be read” stack
Day 26 – OMG WTF? OR most irritating/awful/annoying book ending
Day 27 – If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!
Day 28 – First favorite book or series obsession
Day 29 – Saddest character death OR best/most satisfying character death (or both!)
Day 30 – What book are you reading right now?f

Blogging

Saturday, 13 February 2010 10:56
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (Default)

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About a million years ago, I had a blogger account. I scrapped that and got an LJ account, back when you had to have an invite to sign up. My memories might be hazy. I might have had LJ first and then abandoned it for Blogger and then come back to LJ. I don’t really remember.

Several years ago… six? more?… I bought my own web hosting and eventually started a wordpress blog. You’re either reading this on my own web hosting, or else you’re reading a mirrored version on LJ or DW or IJ or Facebook or MySpace. Or you’ve RSSed it and are reading it in a reader. Anyway, I have a main blog which is about my life and stuff, and I have a blog that’s exclusively about having a baby and all the navel gazing and poop talk that involves. I have a blog that’s just Secret Chicago stuff, and I’d like to start specialized blogs for my fiction in general, any art that I do, and cooking. I want to segregate these different things because someone who wants to learn how to bake a potato probably won’t want to listen to me bitch about how every eraser I’ve used has lifted ink off the paper, no matter what kind of paper or ink, and left the graphite behind, just as an example.

But I know that there are people out there who are interested in the entirety of my life, crappy erasers and baby’s first cusses and baked potatoes and all. So I’d like to scrape up all my different blogs and publish them all in one place.

And I can’t figure out how to do this on space that I own.

Because I could easily start an LJ/DW/IJ account and mirror everything I post in each disparate blog over there. But I want to own the space entirely and be able to customize it and control it, and I don’t see any way to do this other than to copy each entry and paste it into a new entry at my main journal.

Any suggestions?

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