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

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Just saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” and it was utterly fantastic in so many different ways. Is it a perfect movie? No, of course not. But one thing I noticed was how many of the marginalized characters had agency, made their own decisions, controlled their own lives. There’s spoilers in this, so I’m going to tuck the text behind a fold.

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

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One of the big explanations/excuses for why various transphobic laws restricting public bathroom use to genitals is that it protects women from men who’d put on wigs and dresses (and shave their bodies? and wear foundation garments? and pad themselves? and use extensive make up? and manage to find size 12 or larger womens’ shoes?) and assault women in the bathrooms while disguised as women, something which has never happened, although men dressed as men have assaulted women in bathrooms and have camped out in portapotties to get a glimpse of women using the toilets.

If legislatures really wanted to protect women in bathrooms, they’d realize that first of all, assault is assault. It doesn’t matter if a man assaults a man or a woman; it doesn’t matter if a woman assaults a man or a woman. If you’re in the bathroom and someone assaults you, that’s already a crime. You don’t need to make a special law that only targets one particular marginalized group of people on the grounds that one of them might maybe commit a crime at some point. Then maybe they’d look into laws across all states, or even federal laws, protecting people from “upskirt” photos. It’s legal, at least in Scotland, to install one-way mirrors in public bathrooms and then sell tickets for men to watch women using the bathroom. Has there been a rash of legislature outlawing that in the USA?

Laws barring Trans and Non-Binary/GenderQueer folk from bathrooms because of their genital configuration are not about protecting other bathroom users. They’re about curtailing the ability of Trans & GQ/NB to exist in the world without harassment. They’re about making it illegal to exist as a Trans & GQ/NB person when there are more and more laws protecting their right to exist. They’re about finding ways, about creating ways, to oppress a marginalized group and make it very clear that they are unwelcome and not fully human.

These proposed laws spin ciswomen as delicate tender flowers needing extra protection and transwomen as sexual predators who are “really” men. They are harmful and they are bullshit and they are created not out of any desire to help or protect but out of the desire to actively oppress and harm Trans and GQ/NB people.

This is a tremendous problem.

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

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Rich, well-dressed, fancy-car-owning, connected, white-identifying virgin Elliot Rodger described himself as a nice guy and a gentleman, and was furious with women for “rejecting” him.

He left behind an online presence like a pustulant rash, documenting his interactions with women and how they made him cry simply by existing. He describes himself as a “nice guy” and a “gentleman” while insulting -and physically assaulting- women. At one point he, in a car, smiled at two women waiting to cross the street. When they didn’t smile back, perhaps not even seeing him, he circled around and threw his coffee at them, lamenting online that it wasn’t hot enough to burn them badly. That’s the action of a nice guy and gentleman, right?

In his many, many brain leavings online he does not talk about actually approaching women. All that rejection he faced? He never asked any question, he never put himself out there. He decided to punish women for not reading his mind, for not sensing his interest, for not flocking to him and being the sexual prizes he felt he deserved. He murdered women because women did not attach themselves to his dick, unasked.

He wrote many, many times and made many videos about how much he hated women, and Black men, and Asian men. He was deeply misogynist, and deeply racist as well. He described himself as “a nice guy” but nothing in his writings, nothing in his representations of himself, can be identified as actually NICE.

There’s an awful lot of guys who identify themselves as “nice guys” with nothing backing that up. And like Rodger, they lash out at women and try to punish them for any perceived failing. They call women sluts, all women, define them as such and deride them as such… then seek to punish them when those “sluts” exercise control over their sexuality and refuse to have sex with them. There’s a lot of comments -a LOT- supporting Rodger and claiming that if some woman, some sacrificial virgin, had just TAKEN ONE FOR THE TEAM, then Rodger wouldn’t have been forced to become a spree killer. There are comments literally saying that women need to pay for their lives with sex, that a woman who does not have sex with a man deserves to be murdered.

But rape culture doesn’t exist, right?

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brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)

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I’ve seen, a few times now, MRAs explaining fervently that Misandry IS TOO A REAL THING and backing that up with WOMEN FORCE MEN TO GO TO WAR!!!! and REMEMBER THE WHITE FEATHERS!!!!!!!!!!

If you’re unfamiliar with “white feathers,” they were a social tool used in England previous to and at the time of World War I to shame men who didn’t join the military. Specifically, in WWI, they were used to target men who used their money and position to evade the draft and send lower class men in their place. Men who received white feathers from women often responded by slapping or punching the women, and getting applauded for it, recounting the times lovingly in their memoirs. Women who passed out white feathers in public were often ejected from those places. Receiving a white feather may have made a dude feel bad or hurt his feelings, but it didn’t MAKE him do anything, and as a movement it wasn’t very well supported.

Meanwhile, serving in the military (assuming you survived, of course) had a lot of benefits for a man– benefits denied to a woman. There was the prestige and glory, of course. There was the financial benefits… income, pension. There was the social benefit, the way it looked good on a resume, the way it added heft to a career and made one more eligible for certain positions, including political ones. These benefits were all denied to women.

Claiming that it was misandry that consigned so many men to war, and death, during WWI is one of the most laughable things I’ve ever heard, frankly. The argument is about as persuasive as a series of wet farts. Women in England didn’t even get the right to vote until the 1930s. They weren’t politicians. They weren’t making political decisions. They were absolutely not in any position at all to make enforceable decisions about war… what wars to fight or not fight, who should fight or not fight. They weren’t even allowed to fight themselves. The best a woman could hope for was to become a nurse or disguise herself as a man and enlist… the latter, if discovered, would most likely end in being stripped of any rank, medals, and pension.

And honesty, if your best “proof” that misandry IS TOTES REAL!!!!! is something that happened literally a century ago?

When people discuss misogyny, they are discussing things that are actually happening literally right now.

It is misogyny that women overall are paid less than men for the same job, for same hours worked, for the same skillset. It is misogyny that male politicians are doubling down on the idea that women DESERVE less pay than men for the same job, same hours worked, same skillset. It is misogyny that women politicians are discussed based on their physical appearance, that they’re accused of being “too old” when male politicians much older than them are considered viable candidates. It’s misogyny that many MANY men exclude women as potential employees solely on the basis that they’re women. It’s misogyny that doctors are less likely to prescribe pain medication for women patients than for men patients. It is misogyny that medications are tested on men but not women, that there is no information on what safe dosages are for women for most medications because no studies have been done. It’s misogyny that most doctors don’t recognize the signs of a heart attack in women, don’t know how to treat a woman’s heart attack. It’s misogyny that men are lauded for “daring” to state that women are less intelligent, less capable, less able then men… especially in traditionally male fields like math, science, computer science, astronomy, and other fields that women once dominated or helped found. It is misogyny that leads to “best of” book lists and award lists featuring only male authors, that leads to male teachers smugly announcing how gosh darn it, they just don’t LIKE any female author EVER so they only deign to teach male authors because women just can’t WRITE.

It is misogyny RIGHT NOW, existing in the world RIGHT NOW, that negatively impacts my life and the life of every single woman I know. It’s misogyny that prevents women from filing claims about domestic abuse and rape because most likely nobody will believe them… not the police, not the judge if the case even makes it before a judge). IF she can convince someone to do a rape kit, and IF she doesn’t have to pay for it herself (and even if she does), in all likelihood it will languish untested for a decade or more. SHE will be put on trial and called a gold digging whore or a slut or someone out to destroy a poor man’s reputation, regardless of the fact that false rape claims make up a tiny fraction of rape claims… at the same rate as false B&E claims, false mugging claims. It’s misogyny that holds girls, minors, responsible for the sexual attention adult men inflict upon them. It’s misogyny that puts extreme limits on the clothing girls and young women can wear to school without putting limits on the way their male classmates and teachers ogle their bodies, claiming that halter tops and shorts are so distracting that men cannot learn around them… and that a man’s right to learn undistracted by female bodies is more important than a woman’s right to learn wearing the clothing she feels comfortable in, unharassed by unwanted sexual attention.

MRAs are quick to point out individual, isolated examples of “misandry,” of things that happen to some men that they know that is totally unfair. But misandry isn’t actually a real thing, because it’s not a pervasive element of society and because the people (men) affected by it are in a position of power and not marginalization.

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

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One of the tropes Joss Whedon returns to over and over is The Exceptional Woman. In his narratives, this is a (generally very young, very physically small) woman who is the best ever at what she does without having to really work at it. It’s either a natural talent, or an unnatural one forced upon her against her will… sometimes painfully. On the one hand, you have your Willow Rosenbergs and Kaylee Fryes, and Skye (no last name)s who may work at something but don’t need to work THAT hard because they are NATURALLY GIFTED. Willow did a lot of research, but also had a vast well of world-ending power deep inside her. Kaylee could fix engines she’d never seen before, because OSMOSIS (her dad was a mechanic, it rubbed off on her). Skye does a lot of computer work, but has never had to seriously study anything seriously, or even finish high school. Naturally talented! Gifted! Effortlessly amazing! On the other hand you have your Buffy Summers and your River Tams, cruelly manipulated and forced into something they didn’t want to be, by the actions of old men. Unnaturally gifted, they don’t have to work for what they have either. Sure, early series Giles is always bugging Buffy to practice and study strategy and be serious, but over and over we were shown that she doesn’t need to.

Joss Whedon is often lauded as Feminist, and as good for women. His shows, especially “Buffy,” are considered girl-positive. And it’s honestly rare to see decently developed female characters on tv. But the way Whedon persists in displaying women and their abilities is harmful to women.

Why do I say this?

It’s rare for women to be recognized as experts in their field, even in women-centric discussions like Feminism or in traditionally women-centric fields of employment like teaching or nursing. As Ben Barres has famously pointed out, people react differently to scientific research, to facts and figures and provable results, based on the gender (or perceived gender) of the person publishing the work. It’s why Kim O’Grady only got callbacks on his resume after he added “Mr” to his name. It’s why a man who admitted to attempted murder and “accidental” rape was one of the paid spokespersons for Feminism for years. Patriarchal society accepts that men are superior to women, and that it’s rare for women to be in positions of power or authority, to be good at what they do, because they just are innately inferior. Patriarchal society accepts that men and women simply think differently and that the way women think (and speak and socialize and budget their time and spend their money etc) is inferior to the way men think (and all the rest). Patriarchal society accepts that a handful of women will be super exceptional and naturally gifted and will rise to the top, proving their natural worth, but the rest of women are just inferior or lazy or stupid or too busy shopping for shoes or whatever to do the same.

So when a Big Name in media, someone lauded as Feminist, routinely portrays only Exceptional Women Who Are Naturally Gifted, it buys into the established myth that most women are mundane but some select and glorious few are ~~SPECIAL~~ and ~~GIFTED~~ and ~~DESERVING~~. And it reinforces the narrative that while it’s accepted and normal for men to work hard and get ahead, to study martial arts or science or tactics or wood working or whatever to become successful, the same isn’t true for women. The only really acceptable way to be a stand out woman, a central character, is to have The Hand Of God marking you as innately special and gifted. And that means it’s ok and normal and routine for men to be experts and leaders 95% of the time, because most women just can’t cut it.

It’s a way of both putting women on a pedestal (so special! so exceptional! so naturally gifted!) while also putting limits on them (no need to try to work hard or study or practice, you’ve got it or you don’t). It’s a way of establishing unrealistic role models and goals. It’s a way of dismissing most women and their experiences.

It really sucks.

And it’s harmful.

(NB: I have not discussed “Dollhouse” at all because I found the show deeply, deeply creepy and did not watch it.)

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Nesko and I were watching a run of shows on the National Geographic channel about peripheral vision and sleight of hand and how the brain functions. My breaking point came when a pair of identical twin women “interviewed” for a “job” to demonstrate a study. They were dressed the same, right down to heavy make up and very short skirts. I mean, this was supposed to emulate a job interview, and they looked like they were about to go clubbing. The moment also kind of bought into the “sexy twins” fantasy. They could have used one woman dressed differently each time. They were needlessly sexified. It was kind of a straw that broke the camel’s back moment, though.

Earlier, cheerleaders took their shirts off to demonstrate how when your eyes are tracking something moving you don’t pay attention to stuff in your peripheral vision.

Men were told to use their peripheral vision to pick the “hot” cheerleader out of a pair (one cheerleader was a man dressed in drag) because beauty totally isn’t subjective and it’s easy to discern hotness from a distance. And they were mocked for choosing the “ugly” cheerleader because all men have the same taste and all men prefer feminine looking women.

There’s a very real perception of SCIENCE! as a male field. Statistically it’s true, STEM fields are dominated by men, and women who study/work in them face a lot of explicit and implicit prejudice. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how more women can be encouraged to study STEM fields. Start ‘em young, some people say. Increase their access to STEM programs in high school, in grade school, in after school programs, in camps. Offer more mentoring to college students, say others. Make more STEM-themed toys and games advertised toward girls. Add more pink to the mix! Make videos showing women scientists wearing high heels and lipstick and sexy clothing!

One really easy way to change the perception of SCIENCE! as a boys club would be to strip the male gaze out of pop science productions.

Want to make a show about how the brain works? Get rid of the cheerleaders and the shirtless titillation and short skirts. Operate under the assumption that your audience will be made of both men AND women, in equal numbers. Science is really interesting! If you can’t sell how the brain works on its own merits, if you need sex to sell it, you are doing something VERY wrong.

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

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Years ago, when I was in college, my university required all students to take cultural sensitivity classes. Not specific check-your-privilege type stuff, but we were required to take X amount of credit hours in classes dedicated to literature of a marginalized group or groups. Virtually all the students, myself included, actively resented this. It felt like a ploy to require us to take, and pay for, extra credit hours. I sullenly took a class on Hispanic-American authors and was surprised at how awesome it was, exposed to a lot of really great literature. So obviously, it ultimately paid off. But why weren’t any of those short stories, novels, or poems taught in “regular” English classes? When I took an English class on American Short Stories, every single author was White and Male. I joked about how testosterone-filled the class was, me and another woman student joked about growing penises just from sitting in the class. Sure, we could have taken classes that covered women and only women, but we would have had to pay extra for that class/classes and at the time it might not have counted as a requirement for higher level general English classes, but toward womens studies classes (this may well have changed).

At that time, in the late 90s/early 00s, it was very firmly established that (white) men were authors and anyone who was a woman, was not white, was other. Not real. Not authentic. After all, if they were REAL authors, they’d be in with the STANDARD authors (who were white and male) and not shunted off to the side in specialty classes taken only by people studying minority authors or required to to satisfy cultural competency requirements.

It’s over ten years later, and Wikipedia currently has editors sorting American and Haitian novelists into “authors” and “women authors.” Male, you see, is the default. If you want to find women authors, you need to go to a special place to do so. They are other. They are marginalized. Amanda Filipacchi writes about it here, listing some of the notable women novelists now consigned to the margins.

Wikipedia’s page on American Novelists notes that due to the vast number of novelists grouping like novelists together is a good thing. But surely every single novelist could be included in one or more group. Right now there’s genre classifications, but you could also add gender; geographical region lived in and/or written about (CF Southern Gothic); arbitrary chunks of time (5 years, 10 years, 15 years); historical epochs (writing pre-WWI, writing WWI-WWII); etc. Or you could just be all WHELP LET’S SEGREGATE THE WOMEN.

It’s an ongoing point of view, the status quo. Men are default, are allowed to be human. Women are other, are special, are special interest.

As Abigail Grace Murdy notes:

Within the Wikipedia community, women make up only 15% of contributors and only 9% of editors, so this unfortunate reshuffling hardly comes as a surprise. Within the publishing community, it comes as more of the same sore thing. Women writers are consistently underrepresented, their work receiving much less attention than that of their male counterparts. In 2012 the New York Review of Books reviewed only 40 female authors, as opposed to 215 male authors.

The subcategory “American women novelists” simply reflects a widespread and belittling perception of women writers that already exists. But in reflecting that perception, Wikipedia perpetuates it, and the sexism marches on.

Remember in 2011 when gosh golly wow Wikipedia just couldn’t figure out why there weren’t more women contributing to/editing Wikipedia and ‘reached out to women’ by complaining how uninvolved they were?

According to the American Novelist talk page the majority of the editing was done by a lone person. As one contributor points out:

It’s worth noting that a single user, Johnpacklambert is responsible for the vast majority of these edits. He has made thousands of edits, removing African Americans from the category “American Television Actors”, and erroneously placing female authors of young adult fiction into the American Girl Authors category (intended for books in the American Girl series).

Discussion on the talk page ranges from vilifying Filipacchi for “being a drive by columnist” who “doesn’t understand how Wikipedia works” to people who recognize there’s a problem and want to solve it, to people who don’t see anything wrong at all with consigning women authors to the fringes, on totally separate pages, because gosh! They’re WOMEN authors! What do you want?

Coverage of the issue, obviously, uses the word “sexist” a lot and those involved are quick to say that woah, wait, they aren’t sexist! They don’t, like, beat women or refuse to hire them or think they should be chained barefoot to ovens all day or anything! They’re nice people! How DARE you call them sexist? And, you know, I don’t think there’s a secret cabal of wikipedia editors sitting in a dark room smoking cigars and plotting how to Keep Women Down. But this sort of thing is an accurate reflection of the constant slow grind of male supremacy, of patriarchal society. This is oppression. Men create things, women are a subcategory. Men are legitimate, women are other. Men are authors and novelists, women are a special interest group. A college level class on short stories features only male authors, erasing women’s experiences, women’s voices. On a larger note, THIS is why we have Black History Month and Women’s History Month in the USA, because the Black experience, the Woman’s experience, the Jewish Experience, the Hispanic Experience, the Asian Experience isn’t represented at all in history classes. It’s all white men doing white things. There’s a cable channel that has a whole series about “the Men Who Made America.” Men. Only men. Not a (white) man? Not important.

This is the status quo. This is the patriarchy. This is why women still fight for equality, still struggle. Because men are still the default, and women are still the other.

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

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There’s a Jenny Craig ad featuring a woman sobbing because she realized there were no photos of her and her infant daughter, but now she’s lost a bunch of weight she can take SO MANY PHOTOS and REALLY LIVE HER LIFE.

This commercial makes me so, so angry.

Look.

There is nothing preventing you from taking photos of your fat ass, or living your life, but you. I super hate the societal message that women who are fat should hide away and never be seen, should exist in a state of shame, should do everything they can to reduce their physical bodies to an acceptable size. It leads to ill health both physical and mental, and it leads to people putting their lives on hold, waiting forever for the magic moment when they’re slim enough, when they’re good enough, when they’re deserving enough, to actually live.

Get out there and live.

Bust out the camera and take photos of yourself, have family and friends photograph you.

Then look at the photos.

You may hate the way you look, but seriously, the more you look at them the more used you get to them, and the more you’ll get to like them. Pretty soon you’ll stop focusing on your belly or thighs or double chin or weird hair or the way your shirt bunched up or your crooked teeth or your zits or whatever the problems are. You’ll just see you. And you’ll see you having fun and doing things and being with people you love.

I have very few photos of my mom, because she spends most of her time hiding from the camera “feeling fat.” Looking through family photo albums there’s a weird sense that she doesn’t exist. When she is photographed, she’s usually hiding behind someone or something, or half out of the photo, or something like that. One of my favorite photos of her is her on the stairs with a terrible haircut, a perm that went awry. My dad took it to document her awful hair, and she’s laughing, and you can see her brilliant smile and sense of humor and how gorgeous and full of life she is. Another snapshot is her on the day she graduated from college, holding her diploma triumphantly, in her weird hippy shirt and her hair longer than she usually wore it. She’s so alive, so present. Her favorite photo of herself, one that she carried around in her wallet for years (and might still have), is her standing in the sunlight in cut off jean shorts. She’s at her slimmest, and she keeps it to remind herself of how perfect she was then. She was taking prescription amphetamines and spending time she normally would have been sleeping running on treadmills to use up the excess energy. She was also in her 20s and hadn’t had kids yet. But oh, how she clings to that photo. It’s like something out of the long-running (now ended) syndicated comic “Cathy.” I mean, at one point, Cathy pulls out a photo of herself at her slimmest and compares her current fat self to it.

There’s a quote I ran across once and now I can’t find it again. I don’t know if it’s from a story, a blog post, a song lyric, or what. “We were young and beautiful and didn’t even know it.”

We’re all young and beautiful, and we don’t realize it, don’t recognize it. Especially those of us raised female. We worry about our fat and our breasts and hips being too large or not large enough. We fret over our skin and hair and posture. We’re perfect, but convinced we are imperfect and those imperfections make us unlovable. And we get older and bigger and more wrinkled and our hair thins and we lament our lost pasts. Why didn’t we take more photos? Why didn’t we run around enjoying our bodies? Why did we spend so much time hating ourselves? But we’re still unkind to our bodies, still viewing them with suspicions, still expecting perfection and disappointed in the reality. We had from the camera, too fat, too wrinkled, too female.

And our family looks through photo albums and we’re not present, we’ve made ourselves invisible.

It’s easy to pick up a camera and take on photo taking duties. It’s a service. It’s part of the emotional heavy lifting that’s expected of women. But it’s also an excuse. If you’re handling the photos nobody else has to. If you’re the only photographer, it’s an easy out, an easy excuse to not be in the photographs yourself.

Please stop doing this.

Take photographs of yourself, let others take photos of you. Leave a record of your life, be present in your life. Just live. Stop thinking about your body and live, exist. Give yourself permission to exist and take up space. Stop being afraid of not being perfect, not being good enough. Stand in front of the camera and just be.

When Niko was an infant, my sister-in-law snapped of photo of me sacked out on the couch holding him. I hated the photo when I first saw it, the first tens of times I saw it. I’m so fat. Look at my chins. Look at that huge mole. Ugh, my hair. Ugh, my hairy arms. Ugh, my crooked glasses. But the more I saw it the more used to it I got. Yes, I’m fat. That’s how my body is. I’m fat and I’m hairy and that’s just me, it’s how I am. And look at me, there with my baby, relaxed and happy and both of us safe and comfortable and asleep. It’s an intimate moment, a photo of us just being together and loving each other. I love that photo now, and Niko loves to look at it.

You are who you are. Please, please, stop putting your life on hold until you’re a better version of yourself. Start your life now and actually live it.

And take some photos.

You’ll appreciate it later.

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

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You’ve probably seen the latest Dove viral ad campaign. It’s a video available on you tube about how totally awesome Dove is because of their decade long “Real Beauty” campaign and how now they’re going after the people who are REALLY evil: “art directors, graphic designers, and photo retouchers.” Not ad executives and companies, no. Just those evil artists who for reasons TOTALLY UNKNOWN make women feel bad ON PURPOSE about their bodies. But how to “catch them in the act!!!” and “make them reconsider”? They needed a plan! So they created a Photoshop Action and released it into the wild, where it will be used by amateurs who want to make wedding and baby photographs look better. Billed as a “skin glow effect” they posted it on reddit and other places where art directors, graphic designers, and professional photo retouchers TOTALLY hang out and get their totally professional Photoshop Actions, Brushes, etc from.

In reality, all the Action does is revert all changes made to the original image and pop up a scolding message.

Don’t manipulate our perceptions of real beauty.

Of course, to undo that reversion, all one has to do is hit… well… undo.

BAM! A totally effective message that will OBVIOUSLY CHANGE THE WORLD FOREVER!

Or, more likely, go viral and make Dove look totally awesome and progressive because they just love women so much and are so willing to take on those horrible evil photo retouchers who are just the WORST, right?

Dove, remember, is owned by Unilver which has those atrocious Axe commercials (women! they are fuck beasts for fucking!) and SlimFast (women: you are fat cows, stop eating!). If they really wanted to push for long acting real social change, they could apply pressure to Unilver to at the very least stop marketing Axe the way it’s marketed.

Of course, they could also change their own advertising as well.

I mean, if Dove really thinks womens’ bodies are beautiful and we should all stop altering our perceptions of real beauty, maybe they shouldn’t find new body parts for women to be ashamed of? I, for one, never knew my armpits were ugly until Dove told me so.

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If Dove really thinks womens’ bodies are beautiful and we should all stop altering our perceptions of real beauty, they wouldn’t market Firming Creams, and their criteria for casting calls wouldn’t be quite as shameful (beautiful skin and hair only! No zits or scars, those are GROSSSSSSSS).

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If Dove (and Unilever) really thinks womens’ bodies are beautiful and we should all stop altering our perceptions of real beauty, they wouldn’t market skin-lightening creams (which are physically as well as emotionally harmful) around the world.

Like diet companies who co-opt HAES and Size Acceptance verbage, and companies who practice Greenwashing, Dove is taking Body Acceptance language and using it to sell product. They are telling women what they think women want to hear for the sole reason that they want to sell products to those women. There’s nothing inherently wrong with companies advertising their wares. What’s wrong is the incredibly hypocritical advertising Dove uses. They aren’t trying to change the world, but they very willing to use social justice and activism language to sell their products and their subtle form of body hate. Dove doesn’t give a shit about your body or how beautiful you feel, they just want your money.

One of the worst things is that Dove is actually in a position to make actual changes in the industry. Instead of telling everyone that we should pat them on the back for promoting size acceptance and bodily diversity (while actually showing a pretty narrow range of sizes and skin colors), they could just use a wide variety of women of different body types and ethnicities. They could show instead of telling. They could push for Unilever to do the same with other ad campaigns as well. And they could pressure Unilever to drop the body shaming, sexist, manipulative language and images that other Unilever products use. But Dove isn’t doing that. Instead, they’re creating viral videos that do the bulk of advertising for them (saving them money) and creating good will among their users. It’s an effective ad campaign, but it’s also an insulting one.

Dove claims that they’re against distorting perceptions of beauty, which is harmful to women, while telling women that their armpits are ugly and their skin is saggy and their scars are gross and their frizzy hair is uggsville and their dark/uneven skin is THE WORST, but hey it’s ok because they can spend money on products to make them prettier YAY GIRL POWER WOOOOO now how about a nice round of SlimFast for all? The hypocrisy is thick on the ground.

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

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

I want you to imagine something.

You meet this person. You hit it off. You spend a lot of time hanging out. You discuss your favorite shows and politics, they’re always really complimentary, you go out drinking together. You get sick and they come by armed with Sweet And Sour Soup and you chill and watch tv together. When you go places, you drive in your car. You help them carry stuff home from IKEA in your car, you help them move with your car. You like and trust them. You’re friends.

Then you loan your car to someone, and they find out and flip out at you.

Don’t you realize that THEY wanted to borrow your car? How DARE you loan your car to someone else when they’ve wanted to borrow your car this entire time! How disrespectful are you? Just loaning your car to everyone around except for them. Unless you loan your car to them RIGHT NOW and let them drive it ALL THE TIME, they are leaving your life forever and telling everyone what a shitheel you are. OBVIOUSLY they only wanted to hang out with you because you have a car. Why else would anyone voluntarily spend time with you?

This is what complaining about “the friendzone” is like, this idea that women owe men sex/romance and that’s the only reason a man would want to be friends with a woman. It’s harmful and reductive, saying that the only value a woman has is in her willingness to date/fuck a dude. It’s immensely disrespectful. And it’s a super common complaint.

How dare that woman I’m friends with date someone who isn’t me. I used to hang out with this bitch all the time and talk about comic books but she wouldn’t date me so whatever. “friendzoned.” I didn’t go to that woman’s Doctor Who party because she already has a boyfriend so what’s the point, I won’t be able to bag her.

This attitude reduces women to nothing more than an accessory that provides a (sexual) service and it’s gross and wrong. It states that women aren’t deserving of having and sharing their opinions, talents, skills, hobbies, creativity etc the same way that men are. Women’s friendship isn’t prized. There is only one thing about them that has value.

Two guys can get together and talk about football or Marvel comics or science fiction or cars and be friends and that’s fine, that’s good and normal. But if a guy and a girl do the same and she doesn’t put out she’s a bad person because her friendship, her emotional connection, her very SELF is not valuable.

And that’s so fucked up.

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

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

There’s this dude who makes a living as a professional feminist, writing books and teaching and getting paid gigs writing articles/blog posts about feminism. His take on feminism discusses the following:

  • his boners
  • people he’s stuck his boners into
  • people he wants to stick his boners into
  • people he’s stuck his boners into when they didn’t want his boners in them but LOL WHOOPS sometimes you just can’t tell a woman doesn’t want sex!
  • that time he decided his girlfriend, who was passed out from drugs and had just been raped, needed to die (for her protection!) and he tried to kill her
  • how women need to shut up and let men ejaculate onto their faces because it’s good for men
  • how hard it is to be a man
  • how femninism is gross and hard and unpleasant, but a duty
  • how shitty people who aren’t white are, with their wacky names and terrible fashion sense and how LOUD they are
  • how slutty and gross women are
  • how important he is
  • how it’s totally cool for a dude in a position of authority to have sex with women much younger and less experienced than him, especially in a scholastic setting (teacher and students)

In other words, he goes into feminist spaces and turns them into spaces about him, about his needs, about men. Did you know it’s hard to be a man? Women are just so baffling! And weird! And hard to manage! Whew, thank goodness there’s men like him around to herd those sluts.

He’s also tried to get WOC feminist writers fired by going over their heads to the people who hired them. Truly, he is professional!

So, in addition to Not Being That Guy, what can men who really are feminists/feminist allies do? There’s a growing body of men speaking as feminists who enter feminist spaces and shit them up, some to the point of becoming staunch MRA/MRM (Men’s Rights Advocates/ Men’s Rights Movement) shills. In media coverage of politics and health care and legal decisions that affect women, men are FAR more likely to be interviewed or given talk time. The society we live in automatically gives mens’ words more weight than womens’ words. Stuff that dudes say is taken more seriously than stuff that chicks say. So it can be really harmful when men are given platforms to speak in feminist spaces, because it continues the idea that male words are important words, that male voices have authority. But men take part in society, and raise women, and love women, and work for and with women. Shouldn’t they have a voice as well? What’s the responsible thing to do to ensure that women’s voices and experiences are heard?

One thing that men can do, one very strong and vital thing that men can do, is make all spaces they inhabit feminist spaces.

Any space that you occupy, make it a feminist space.

I’m not saying wave your magic feminist wand and erase all inequality forever.

But I am saying that if you’re listening to the radio and the DJ makes a joke that’s sexist (or racist or transphobic or homophobic or ablist or whatever) then call and complain. Write a letter and complain. When you see a beer ad that’s sexist etc, write an email to the beer company complaining. When you see a trailer for a movie and all the characters that are in the movie are male, talk about that. When you watch a sitcom where all the women are super sexy and pretty dumb and have little in the way of character development or dialogue, stop watching the show and discuss why you don’t watch it. When people make sexist etc comments, call them on it. When someone posts an anti-woman screed online or talks about “having sex with” a woman who was drunk or asleep, call him on it. You don’t have to give a big speech, just say that it’s not appropriate. Take the space that you’re in and change it. Make it better. Do what you can.

A friend of mine said once that we’re not responsible for the past, just for fixing the present. We can all make changes. Men can lend their voices in support of women, and should. And that will make a better, healthier world for all of us.

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

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

We were lucky enough that a friend of our was able to come over last night. I made pizza and we had a low key evening of sitting around eating pizza and talking. We talked about a LOT of different stuff. And at one point, said friend asked if I’d heard about the recent con where a woman was harassed and I was all LOL WHICH ONE BB because lately it seems like just about EVERY con has had that as a “feature.” And then we talked about sexism a little bit.

He mentioned a work thing. He’s a sysadmin for a big company, and he works with a dude who’s been there about two years. And at a recent meeting, New Guy was asked a question about a problem with a program he’s responsible for, and the guy was all “Oh, that’s Benn-Ware.” And people looked at him, all whaaaaat, until it transpired that he was referring to the Benn who’d written the code, and had some issues with it. And then they were all “dude, it doesn’t matter who wrote the code. If there’s a problem with it, YOU have to fix it, that’s YOUR JOB.” and he was all “BUT BRIGID’S FRIEND, you yourself refer to “Jerome-Ware” when talking about your own stuff!” and my friend said yeah, he does, but only as a preface to “and I’m sorry I haven’t fixed it yet, I’m going to, this is my plan/schedule to do so.” In other words, he acknowledges the existing problem, which was created by other people, but then HE GOES ON TO FIX IT. Because that’s his job.

And, because he’s brilliant, he told me this story as a prelude to talking about how he tries to handle sexism/misogyny that he encounters in the world. Somebody Else MADE the problem. But his job is to fix it in whatever way he can.  Which I adore.

I encounter a lot of dudes who kind of throw up their hands at the idea of being a feminist or working to dismantle the Patriarchy because it’s Not Their Fault or Somebody Else Can Do It or What Can Ya Do, Y’Know? But I think that story– that it doesn’t matter WHO instituted the wrongness or how long it’s been wrong, it’s still YOUR JOB to fix it– might help. I don’t know.

I thought it was a great anecdote and I’m sorry I didn’t tell it better here.

I feel very lucky that I have some really awesome dude friends who aren’t assholes, and who like and respect me and think that I, that all women, deserve to be treated as full human beings instead of humanlite or whatever. And then I feel a little angry that I’m reduced to FEELING LUCKY that I’m treated like a human being. And then I shove that away and just enjoy my friends. IT’S COMPLICATED OK.

We also talked about how awesome it would be if The Rapture actually happened and how we’d advance so much as a society if all those nozzles who believe in The Rapture and think one totally cool way of being right with God is to oppress the shit out of women and gay people were actually Raptured. How neat would it be to open a book and find it’s a bit of Post-Apocalyptic fiction but then find that the Apocalypse was all the fundie assholes being removed from the Earth? (which would leave, of course, the non-fundie assholes behind.)

 

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Steak vs Salad

Monday, 8 August 2011 10:10
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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Nesko and I went out to eat yesterday. Our 2.5 year old son was with us, because baby sitters cost the moon and we rarely see him as it is, so we just drag him with us wherever we go no matter who that annoys. People that it annoys include:

  • him
  • us
  • everyone around us

Haha, fun!

One of the places we went was Chili’s, which is air conditioned and has a kid’s menu and salads larger than my head. Sometimes, you see, I want to eat a salad because salads, when made right, taste good. I mean, blah blah healthy whatever1. But I always feel weird about ordering, and eating, a salad in public. You see, I am a woman and women are judged constantly for everything, including what they put in their mouths. Further, I’m a fat woman, so am subject to extra scrutiny (and a salad is pretty much the only approved thing I can put in my mouth other than water) and extra judgement.

Thanks for ruining salads for me, society. See also: yoghurt, cottage cheese, carrots.

So we’re sitting at our table and Niko has his array of trains spread out all around him, ignoring his chicken, while Nesko eats a big juicy steak and I plow through my salad. And my glass of water 2. And how typical is that? The man gets a steak, the woman gets a salad.

And part of me, you know, wanted to be all EFFFFFF THIIIISSSSSSSSSSS and order a slab of meat as well because I enjoy meat, honestly I do, and I enjoy loaded mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. But just as I won’t let society dictate to me that I should order a salad when I want meat, I won’t let raw rebellion dictate that I order meat when I want a leafy salad that has a huge amount of avocado on it3 4.

But I’m tired of navigating a world where everything I do– what I eat, what I wear, what I read, what I play, what I listen to, what I make money doing, what I do with my uterus, etc– is scrutinized and judged and criticized by external forces. I want to eat my salad, whether that be a literal or metaphoric salad, and enjoy it, and not worry about what other people are thinking. I don’t eat salad because I am good, or it is good, or there is any concrete moral value associated with salad. I eat salad because sometimes I want salad. Sometimes a salad is just a salad.

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  1. I was startled, once, to read a study claiming that people who ate more salads ate more vegetables. I wasn’t stunned because it didn’t make sense, I was stunned because duh. It’s like saying people who eat vegetables eat more vegetables.
  2. I ordered water instead of coke or something because drinks at a restaurant are expensive, and I was on toddler wrangling duty and didn’t think I’d get to actually enjoy my drink. I was right. I only drank a few sips of water, occupied as I was with picking up trains, crayons, and other things that had been cast to the floor and shoveling salad into my gaping maw.
  3. Seriously, there was like 1 1/2 avocados on that salad. That is a lot of avocado. I’m not complaining, mind.
  4. Also: the salad had bacon on it. Salads with bacon are pretty awesome.

Ladymags

Friday, 8 July 2011 12:57
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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I want to say that it’s been, literally, years since I’ve read Cosmo or other magazines-aimed-at-sexy-young-ladies. Which isn’t to say I don’t read magazines aimed at women, because I do read Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living and I’m aware that they have their own issues with sexism and aspiration and stuff. But I’ve been a lot happier and healthier since cutting fluffy fashion mags about dieting and sex and spending and enforced femininity/gender roles out of my life. There’s a common area on the 2nd floor of the building I work in, and I’ve been eating lunch there, and someone left out a stack of old Cosmos; and every time I walked past them I had this almost physical itch to pick them up, to read them, to open up their bright candy colored covers with scantily clad women on them and read about SEVEN SEX SECRETS ABOUT YOUR BOYFRIEND EVEN HE DOESN’T KNOW and THAT ITCH: IS IT DEADLY and FIVE HUNDRED MUST HAVE FASHION ITEMS ON SALE NOW etc.

I grew up as, you know, that girl. I had terrible glasses and terrible hair and terrible fashion and smelled weird and had no friends and poor social skills. I hung around adults aching for their approval. When I was in high school and early college, magazines like Cosmo were a little doorway into what the world considered “normal.” That normalcy included a LOT of body shame and disordered thinking, to an extreme that even I– desperate to fit in– picked up on. And maybe if I’d been more mainstream all my life I wouldn’t have picked up on it, but having it suddenly thrust at me wholly formed, with no real previous exposure, it really stuck out. But I kept reading them, because that’s what women DID. They read the right magazines and wore the right makeup, and wore the right clothing, and bought the right things, and did the right exercises, and knew all about how to please their men in bed and out of bed, and if I could just figure out the right secret code to life I could fit in and be successful too.

Oh, internet. Thank you so much for allowing me to meet other women who didn’t follow ladymags, for exposing me to so much feminist writing. It was like a frigging lifeline.

Self worth is way better than this season’s hottest lipgloss.

On the other hand, thank you internet also for allowing me to meet so many Fancy Ladies, Fops, and Dandies who enjoy the hell out of this season’s hottest lipgloss, makeup, nails, clothing, shoes, and accessories FOR THEMSELVES and not because they HAVE TO, and showing me that I can do the same. Fanciness and fashion doesn’t have to be the enemy, you know?

More and more I’m finding a healthy middle ground and it’s so great to have so many resources.

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Culture of Fear

Thursday, 12 May 2011 05:00
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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“The Culture of Fear” is a phrase you might hear if you venture in Feminist circles. Basically, it’s the way (White) girls/women are taught to be afraid of everything, because no matter what they do, if they get raped it’s their fault. They shouldn’t have been alone, they shouldn’t have been wearing THAT, they shouldn’t have done X or talked to Y or visited Z or worn their hair THAT WAY. Don’t they know that anything a woman does hornies up a man’s blood and he’s just to rape his way out of the situation? So women don’t talk to strange men, walk with their keys between their fingers, forward idiotic emails about the dangers of pony tails and overalls and elevators, etc. And some women, you prompt them and they start reeling off all the stuff they do to feel safe and it’s a list that just goes on and on and on. Because rape? It’s a real threat to most women, as is sexual harassment and assault.

The vast majority of women I know have been harassed or assaulted.

But, if you ask me “Brigid, do you live in fear?” I’d say “no.” And then I’d clarify that I am terrified of many things, including the hand of God reaching down from the sky to crush me, because I have an Anxiety Disorder, but that’s not really connected with, you know, The Culture Of Fear.

But I do live in Fear.

I was at the park with my kid the other day. He’s two. There were a bunch of young men playing basket ball near by, and they were throwing the ball around a little wildly so it was flying over near the other kids and the adults with the kids, and they were cussing. A lot. Loudly. And most of the parents kept giving them looks like “oh, hey, ok, ha ha, knock it off, ok?” and measuring glances like maybe they should just go. The only one who actually said anything was a guy who told them to knock it off around the kids. He was young, way younger than me, and like me he was shorter than the ballers.

But he stood up and told them off, told them to be respectful around the kids, to watch their language. And the guys quieted down, apologized, kept it clean for awhile until they forgot again.

None of the women spoke up. None of us.

Because we all know very well what happens when a woman calls a strange dude out for being a douche bag.

SPOILER: It’s generally not good.

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

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for awhile know that in the past, I’ve grappled with disordered eating. It mostly took the form of binging and fasting (where “fasting” is “going 2-3 days without eating until I’m so hungry I consume the entire world, then freak out about it”) and severe calorie restriction (like, trying to live on 500 calories a day, mostly in the form of diet soda). I’m also really, really fat and it took me a while, but I’ve gotten comfortable in my body. It’s a fat body, but it’s MY body, and (at least until recently) it more or less did what I wanted it to do, when I wanted it to do it.

I used to do a lot of manual labor. I used to dig up (small) trees and haul them around; muck out horse stalls and wheel around overloaded wheelbarrows full of sodden straw and manure; toss around 75 pound bags of flour and sugar; unload trucks full of slate, mulch, compost, etc; work all day in the hot sun.

When I started trying to practice Health At Every Size (HAES) and intuitive eating, my weight stabilized. (I also stopped eating so much dairy, because it makes me ill. It helped me listen to my body more.) I mean, I had a kid 2 years ago, and I had no problems losing all the (minimal) weight I gained while pregnant. I currently weigh the same amount I did before I conceived.

Only I feel fatter than I used to. Like, I feel like I’ve gained 20 pounds or so. My clothes don’t fit well. I feel sluggish and confined. I’m a lot more sedentary than I used to be (this has been a long, cold, wet winter and I don’t have a driver’s license, so going out and doing things and moving is… challenging) and I think I’ve lost muscle and gained fat.

I don’t like my body like this.

So I’ve started working out and holy shit am I out of shape. I used to dance competitively. I used to Irish Step Dance, which means I basically used to jump up and down for an hour or two at a time. I can’t even imagine doing that now. Well, I mean, I can imagine it… and when I put my head down to work out, I’m done far too soon. It’s depressing. I’m still working on it, working out, waiting for the snow to melt and the temperatures to break so I can actually leave the house with the toddler in tow. We can walk a mile to the library, to the park, etc and that’ll help.

But I’ve gotten into some bad food habits as well and I need to correct that. I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, I’m a sucker for bread (especially with butter), and I could stand to stop eating so much pre-packaged processed food. We have an actual fruit bowl in the dining room, on the table, and having the fresh fruit RIGHT THERE AND VISIBLE is helping us remember to eat it (Niko calls apples and oranges myommyom balls) and I’ve upped my fruit intake quite a bit. I found some great recipes for cauliflower and we’ve been doing a good job of eating more cooked veggies AND more salad (we splurged and got fancy dressings, croûtons, flavored almonds, etc for extra fancy restaurant style salads).

So I’m doing what I can to, in general, improve my body’s health. But the urge is there: to stop eating entirely; to count and reduce calories to almost nothing; to go on a faddish crash diet; to try to win that elusive prize of thinness by any means necessary even if it means shaking hands and dizziness and vertigo and poor health. It’s so sick. There are foods that make me ill (upset stomach, mouth rash, migraine… not all at the same time) and I should keep a food diary so I can track what it is that’s making me sick so I can cut it out of my diet. But I fear that if I start logging food I’ll start restricting again. That way lies madness, and by “madness” I mean “obsession and compulsion and terrible anxiety nightmares.” There are times I wish I could just not eat ever again, never put anything in my mouth again, shed my physical body entirely and just drift away.

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

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

For those of you who don’t know/don’t remember, I tutor through a local community center. I have one student, and we’re working on Adult Basic Education (ABE), Math. Sometimes we touch on Grammar and stuff, though, as my student is also an ESL student. Her goal of working with me is to be able to take a math placement test that will get her into a math credit course in college– a 101 or higher level class, not a remedial class. You know, something that will count toward a degree.

She brought in a booklet on placement tests, from the college, and if we crammed really hard for a few sessions she could probably take the PreAlgebra test and do well on it. However, the PreAlgebra test wouldn’t get her into a credit class. It gave us a good look at where she’s at, and where she needs to be. We went over some sample questions and she got the hang of some stuff pretty quickly.

Our current plan is to touch on a few more PreAlgebra things (mean, median, and mode; brush up on time zones; continue reviewing fractions; order of operations), move onto Geometry, and then hit Algebra. The current goal is to have her take the Algebra test (which includes Geometry) this summer. We might push it back to the fall, but I’m hoping we’ll get it this summer. We’ve been held up and not really progressing because we keep coming back to fractions… we start doing a quick review and it turns out she’s forgotten stuff, so we spend some time on it, she remembers it all, she does well, we do a bit more review, she seems to have it cold… and then next session she needs to be reminded again. So I’m going to put together some practice worksheets with reminder instructions/steps and a handful of problems for her to work on when we’re not together, and hope that consistent practice will help keep things fresh in her mind.

If anyone has any advice or resources, let me know.

I’m going to try and attend more tutoring workshops this year as well. So far, they all seem to be geared toward reading/writing and ESL and not math, but I won’t be working with my student forever, and my next one might be reading/writing. So I might as well gobble up all the knowledge I can, right?

IN OTHER NEWS, Nesko might have to spend the night at work because it is snowing LIEK WOAH and apparently there are no snowplows out near him and it’s massively dangerous to be on the road. He is a dispatcher for a towing company and they are getting a lot of work tonight. Be safe, everyone!

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

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

Nesko’s mom called him on Friday and told him to drop the baby off with her, which was AMAZING and AWESOME and means Nesko and I totally went on a DATE. Oh my GOSH can you believe it? We actually left the house together and went to do a fun thing. And then went grocery shopping after. A THRILL A MINUTE RIDE, YOU GUYS. When he called me to tell me he was on his way home and I needed to get myself and the baby ready, I was all “I don’t know, I have no clean pants! they are all in the wash!” I somehow managed to forget that… wait for it… I WAS WEARING CLEAN PANTS. I mean, they were actual trousers, not pyjama pants, and they had a working zip and everything.

We managed to get ready to go, drop off Niko, and squeak into the theater with just enough time to get popcorn. What magical movie did we see? Why TRUE GRIT of course! A movie I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time now.

The first movie, the 1969 version with John Wayne, is one of my favorite movies and my absolute favorite John Wayne movie. The book is excellent. I hadn’t seen the movie or read the book in a while, but I remembered good big chunks of both and I was very excited about the new version of the movie AND the reviews I’d read about it.

Bearing in mind that I was already primed to love this movie, oh my WORD, this is basically one of the most perfect movies I’ve seen in a long time. There were some weird additions to the movie, and some events were moved around, but in all it’s very faithful to both the events and tone of the original book. Did I talk along with some of the dialog (quietly)? You bet your ass I did. Jeff Bridges was great as Rooster Cogburn (and managed to play Rooster Cogburn and not John Wayne, a remarkable feat) and Hailee Steinfeld was exquisite as Mattie Ross.

Oh, Mattie Ross. Along with Tamora Pierce, one of my first introductions to feminism.

What’s that, you say? A movie based on a book written in 1968, a Western no less, is feminist? Let me lay this out for you, if you are unfamiliar with the awesomeness of the story.

Mattie Ross, 14 years old and female, is the oldest daughter of hard working, relatively affluent land holders. She is smart, well educated, and knows her mind– her mother can’t “do sums or spell the word cat,” and it’s possible that Mattie’s status as only (or only surviving) child for so long (there’s a considerable gap between her and her brother, Little Frank) is why she is so highly educated. Not that no women were ever educated at the time, but at the age of 14 she’s essentially her father’s business manager and book keeper, and handles legal matters with the family lawyer. In many ways, she’s been groomed as the heir to the family business, the “man” of the house when her father is away. When her father is murdered and robbed in Fort Smith by a tenant farmer, it’s Mattie (again at the age of 14, alone and female) who travels far from home to take care of his business and get justice/revenge. Adults in Fort Smith are quick to underestimate her due to her age and her gender, but she shows a quick wit and steady head for business. She’s calculating, cold when she needs to be. She’s stubborn and persistent and insists on getting her due. She earns the respect of both Rooster Cogburn, the Marshall she hires to go after Tom Chaney, the coward her shot her father, and LeBoef (pronounced “LeBeef”), the Texas Ranger who is also after him for shooting a senator.

The novel– and both movies– are told in flashback. They’re narrated 25 years after the events of the story by an older Mattie– one who elected not to marry, one who is wealthy and powerful and knows her own worth and was not interested in marriage or being reliant on a husband. She refuses offers to write newspaper articles about her experiences for low pay, and also refuses to give her story away for free to journalists looking to interview her (although she’s willing to throw scraps to aspiring young journos, since she knows how hard they work and how rough the news industry can be). She speaks the truth without sugar coating it, and demands respect. Although her younger brother teases her about being in love with Rooster Cogburn, Mattie’s complex relationship with the man who saved her life and helped her avenge her father is not one about romantic love.

Mattie Ross, in short, kicks all kinds of ass.

I’ve always felt that “True Grit” referred to Mattie, although she tells Rooster that she’s heard he has grit and is looking for that in the man she wants to hire. It’s Mattie who goes into the unknown; it’s Mattie who changes and is challenged and grows; it’s Mattie who uses a dead man’s arm bones to keep herself from falling down a hole and uses a dead man’s hand as a flail to keep snakes from biting her; it’s Mattie who steps outside of her very narrowly defined role to take on a man’s business of money and justice.

It’s Mattie Ross who is my hero.

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

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

I’m female, fairly geeky, and in my (early) 30s. Like a lot of geeky women my age, most of my friends are male. This isn’t because men are more awesome than women, or because I’m uncomfortable around women. It’s because for people my age, nerdy geeky interests were more heavily discouraged in women than in men, so when I found people who were, say, really into Star Wars and science fiction and role playing games, they skewed heavily toward the male. Thanks to the internet (I LOVE YOU INTERNET) I now have a lot more ladygeek friends and oh my GOSH, ladies, I love you so much. But this is because I can easily chat with people in different states and countries. If I want a face to face get together, most of my friends are still dudes. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Dudes are pretty rockin! I love my friends a lot. But, unlikes a lot of older female geeks, I’m very lucky. My guy friends are pretty feminist and don’t treat me like crap.

That’s sad, isn’t it? I’m LUCKY that my friends TREAT ME LIKE A HUMAN BEING. Isn’t that sick and gross? But for a lot of female geeks, that’s just how life is. Geek demographics are changing and more women are joining the club. But the social hierarchy is still heavily male, and young female geeks face a hell of a lot of prejudice and discrimination and outright hate (hdu invade our boysclub with your tits and opinions! Go make a sandwich!) even while there are more of them. Will their greater numbers turn the tide? Will some measure of equality be achieved? Or will young geeky girls just get turned off by the geek macho posturing and turn their interests elsewhere? No idea.

But there is a reason that the face of geekdom is overwhelmingly male (and white and able bodied).

I’m not saying that every geeky/nerdy guy is a misogynist or a dickhole or evil. I’m just saying that we all live in a culture that privileges (white, straight, able bodied) men over everyone else and subcultures by and large reflect that.

So what’s a guy to do in a subculture that contains The Open Source Boob Project, Big Name Authors Sexually Assaulting Women, Developers not understanding (caring?) just how very real Rape Threats and Violence Against Women are, the overwhelming majority of published authors being white and male, industry editors and publishers sexually harassing (female) employees and potential authors, enough incidents of sexual harassment/casual misogyny that a wiki is needed to keep them all straight, and more? I mean, this is just stuff I found in like 5 minutes of google searching/remembered personally. And this doesn’t touch on racism, ablism, homophobia, or the million other ways predominantly straight white able bodied dudes actively and passively (whether meaning to or not) make it clear that other people aren’t welcome in their social group.

I have male friends who’ve asked just that question. A lot of them have leadership roles in their friend groups. They run games, they’re the ones who have the house everyone visits, they’re the ones who organize movie outings, etc. Most social groups have at least one person like that. So they’re poised to help guide and shape social mores or at the very least speak up when someone’s out of line.

Here’s a post on the effects of making rape jokes or dismissing rape/assault allegations. It’s a good starting point. You can apply those points to any sexist commentary or “jokes.” 1 in 6 women has been raped or assaulted, according to statistics. Almost every woman I know has been raped or assaulted. When people in your social group use “rape” to mean “killed” or “cheated” or “beat me at something” or “stole” or “unfair,” the women in your group hear that you consider a relatively major crime that mostly happens to other people (women) on par with relatively minor inconveniences in your own life. Some women are cool with this but a lot of women aren’t, and unless you know that woman well you won’t know where she falls on the spectrum. 1 in 12 women will be stalked in their lifetime and 25% of women (1 in 4) report being physically assaulted or raped by a domestic partner, which makes jokes about beating your girlfriend/a female NPC kind of tasteless. (And FYI, 1 in 33 men are raped per year. I know two guys who have been the recipients of domestic assault, one who was in a homosexual relationship and one who was in a heterosexual relationship. Male reporting rates of domestic violence are really, really low and a society that mocks and belittles men who are the recipients of violence/have been raped is part of that. If you care about your friends, don’t make them feel bad because someone acted violently towards them. Men, especially, are less likely to talk about having been raped or beaten, so you’re really unlikely to know if one of your male friends has experienced this.)

So purging rape and abuse jokes is a good start.

The next step is purging unwanted attention. Ladies! They are pretty awesome, right? They smell good and have nice hair and they have tits and everything. Wow! How great are ladies? Here is a clue: while many ladies enjoy flirting and being sexy on their own terms, ladies were not put on earth for you to claim as your very own. Which means don’t flirt with a woman who doesn’t seem interested, don’t “hit on” a woman who is anything less than encouraging/enthusiastic, don’t stare at a woman’s body parts or tell her/tell other people how hot she is. If you are a straight dude, think about how a gay dude might act around you. Would he corner you and talk about how great your ass is and how you should totally get together and not give up that line of thought ever? Probably not. If he did, how would you feel? Kind of gross and used? Frustrated? Bored? Threatened? A little flattered but uninterested? Part of why gay dudes don’t do this in mixed company is because it’s considered incredibly socially wrong, but it’s somehow totally ok for straight dudes to do this to (presumably) straight ladies. Why is that? Because straight dudes have power and control that gay dudes and ladies do not have. Don’t do that. It’s really gross and off putting and a lady who had to deal with that in social setting will eventually find a new social setting. Perhaps that social setting will consist of non-geeky people. Perhaps it will consist of people on IRC. Perhaps it will consist of a group of totally awesome geeks that she will never invite you to join because ew, you have terrible manners. WHO CAN SAY.

If you see someone harassing a woman– commenting on her, staring at her, flirting aggressively with her even though she’s tried to turn him down, cornering her, dominating the conversation, step in. On the one hand, women don’t need to be “saved” by men. On the other hand, women are often taught to be “nice” and to avoid confrontation (and you seriously never know when a woman’s tried to turn aside a dude who’s flirting with her and it escalated to violence and so she learned not to escalate or take a stand because she likes having her face bones unbroken). So step in. Go over there. Ask the woman if everything’s ok. Distract the guy. Don’t go in with the idea of saving her– or of claiming her as your own! God no!– go in with an offer of help that she may or may accept.

So that’s another pretty basic socializing thing. What’s a more sophisticated one?

Consume– and discuss– media by and featuring women. I have actually heard actual men who I thought were intelligent up until they said this thing, say that they don’t read books by or about women because they are not worth reading. Oh HO! Apparently women, the gender stereotypically known as the communicative/chatty/talkative gender can’t write books. OH NO THAT IS FOR MEN TO DO. Also: women are just not that interesting! Yes, yes. That’s right. The gender that makes up literally half the population of this earth, the gender that men are told they want to spend their sexy lives with, is not interesting and has nothing important/fun to say. OH WOW THAT IS NOT SEXIST AT ALL. When you say that you don’t read books, watch movies, listen to music, etc when they are by or feature women because they are inherently bad for featuring women, you are saying that women are inherently bad and there’s no reason to talk to them or be around them ever. Which, ok, if you really believe that, please say it loudly enough and often enough that everyone who thinks otherwise can easily pick up on that and start avoiding you. But if you think women are actual human beings whose thoughts and words are worth something, consume media by women and featuring women. Discuss that media. Talk about it with your friends. Review it online. And while you’re talking about books and movies and stuff, talk about the problematic stuff. Like female characters who do nothing but get rescued or give the (male) hero sexual relief or who are killed off quickly so the hero has something to avenge. Or how often rape is the sole defining character trait of a female character.

When someone in your social group makes jokes about rape or makes jokes about how women are stupid or unfunny or whatever, shut him down. Tell him it isn’t funny. Don’t put up with that shit. It’s really easy to sit back in silence and let one person bloviate about how women are inferior or they just can’t do math or drive or they need to make more sandwiches while giving him head. But your silence tacitly supports his sexist/misogynist comments. When you don’t say you disagree, he assumes you agree with him, and everyone else assumes that everyone in the social set holds the same views. Be prepared for backlash, for being called PC or “overly” PC, for being called “butthurt” or “a girl” or “a pussy” (NOTE: the worse thing you can call someone is a feminine designation. SEXIST? NOT AT ALL.). This is pretty much nothing compared to the backlash women get when they point out sexism, which generally starts out with allegations that the woman is “overly sensitive,” “lacking a sense of humor,” “hysterical,” or the like and often ramps up into threats. Why is asking someone not to make comments/jokes that make you feel uncomfortable or safe such a big deal? Because there is power and status in being able to unquestionably put other people in their place. Being called on that is an erosion of power and status,and some people take it as a personal attack. What fun!

If someone in your group consistently makes sexist comments and jokes and acts inappropriately despite interventions, ask them to leave. Stop inviting them to things. Tell them why. If a friend came to your house and was cruel to your dog or urinated in the sink every time he used the bathroom or constantly insulted your dad’s political views/appearance/whatever you’d step in and say something. If they kept doing it, would you keep them around? Probably not, yet people are very willing to sit back and tacitly encourage folks in hateful and harmful behavior toward women.

Remember that the goal of this is not to treat women as “special” or “put them on pedestals.” It’s to treat them with respect and consideration. It’s to leave them feeling welcomed and safe and part of the group, not like an outsider being allowed in and granted a small measure of acceptance which can be revoked at any moment if she doesn’t behave appropriately (laugh at the jokes, endure the tit-staring, tidy up after get-togethers, etc). For some reason, a lot of people think that “not verbally berating someone” means “condescendingly treating someone like a special princess on a pedestal.” If there’s someone like that in your social group, dump them. They’re toxic.

Women have been geeks and nerds all throughout history, and for big chunks of history have been denied, stifled, excluded, or not given credit. We are in the 21st century and it’s time for women to stop being excluded from society and instead welcomed. Do your part.

(a lot of this can be applied to racism, homophobia, ablism, cisexism, etc but I’m taking a lot of my responses and advice from what I know personally, so have focused mainly on sexism. Yes, my privilege is showing. Please feel free to comment on that, as well as offer other advice on this topic.)

(edited to change some mildly problematic wording)

December 2015

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