Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Beautiful, Hilarious Aidy Bryant

[Content note: some discussion of fat shaming stereotypes and weight loss]

Something kinda awesome is quietly happening on SNL right now. Since Fall of 2012, Aidy Bryant has been a cast member. If you don't watch the show, here she is:

[Image text: Bryant standing at a formal event in a black and blue cocktail dress.]
Her addition to the line up immediately caught my attention. I was overjoyed for a lady cast member who is bigger than a size 10. I mean...I can easily think of many fat dudes in the show's history (John Belushi, Horatio Sans, Chris Farley, and currently Keenan Thomas.)

But big ladies? I can't think of any...have there been others besides Bryant?

So I was rooting for her, and she didn't disappoint. Many of her skits have been the highlight of my viewing experience lately. But there's another pitfall of ladies on SNL, which I will call the Melissa McCarthy effect--where they are too often written into skits as kinda disgusting weirdos frequently obsessed with food. (That's not to say I don't love McCarthy's times hosting the show because she's hilarious, but the content does make me kinda sad.)

But this isn't happening with Bryant, and that's the quiet amazing thing that I'm watching. To my observation, Bryant is being used in a body neutral way. Sometimes she plays someone absurd, but other times she plays someone who is sexy, just like any of the other ladies. (I wish this didn't feel revolutionary to me, but it does.) And because she's hilarious and kills it nearly every time, she keeps getting more and more prominent roles.

I first got an inkling of this last year during the music video skit "(Do It On My) Twin Bed." In it the female cast mates are talking about bringing home their boyfriends to their parents house for the holidays and the weirdness of having sex in their childhood bedrooms. Bryant is there with the more conventionally attractive cast mates and it's no big deal. Because...it's actually not, ya know? Us fat ladies actually DO have healthy sex lives too.

This theme continued during this season's opener, which featured Bryant in a skit about a sexual medication called "Cialis Turnt." Again, the joke here isn't Bryant herself, but rather the ridiculousness of the content. I'm sure other fat ladies like myself know exactly why I find this so interesting. For us to not be caricatured as the hypersexual, but intended-to-be-seen-as-repulsive figure is rare.

The best thing about Bryant's role in the season opener, is that she was cast in a skit about flirting opposite Chris Pratt, who is widely considered as a Hottie McHotterson lately (due to his extreme weight loss...if you ask me he was just as attractive before, but that's a blog post for another day.) And again, it's no small thing that the joke of the skit is not that SHE is flirting with HIM, but HOW they are both flirting. And if anything, her "big fat ass" isn't a point of shame, but pride: thanks, Nicki Minaj! (And it's worth nothing that Bryant has also appeared in another skit last year which at least partially embraces the term "fat" as a self-descriptor. On national television. Who else does that?)

I just love it. I mean, I'm not saying I love the content of all of these skits...but I do love her place in them.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Getting older

[Content note: light mention of abuse]

I haven't written a word all week. Things have been incredibly busy and draining for me. Mostly work things, which is probably why I have a cold that is getting worse because I haven't taken time to properly rest.

It's been a week of horrible annoyances and stress, but all that faded into the unimportant when I got a call an hour ago that my maternal grandmother passed away this evening, or as she was known to her grandkids, Mammaw.

The really awful thing is that I didn't even know the woman. As in typical abuse patterns, my dad isolated my mom and us from almost everyone, including her family who did not approve of his behavior. Add that to the fact that Mammaw had a stroke when I was younger and moved to Tennessee to live with my aunt who could provide her with care. The moral of the story is that I'm mourning the relationship that could have been with her as much as I am mourning the passing of her life.

Mammaw was my last living grandparent. My dad's parents were incredibly influential in my life, and as I've mentioned a couple times, my paternal grandmother had a profound impact on who I am today. My maternal grandfather died 4 years before I was born.

All of this comes at the cusp of my 30th birthday when I've been thinking about my own life and going down the frequently terrifying path of dwelling in the concept of mortality. It's mind boggling to think about the fact that there is now only one living generation of my family older than me. Scary and horrible and weird and sad and bone chilling to me.

On the other hand, there are some aspects of aging that I'm OK with...I really love the person I am. I am more self-assured than I've ever been. I feel like I'm making an impact in the world with my work. I have a partner who loves me (despite my many flaws) and who helps me laugh every day. We don't engage in the petty stuff we did in our early 20's.

Myself at 30 is not anywhere near what I thought it would be like when I imagined my future at 15 or 25, but I'm still pretty damn proud.

I do regret that I didn't know Mammaw and I don't have some happy stories and anecdotes to reflect on right now. But part of growing up is learning not to beat yourself up, and when to take a lesson to heart. I'm going to stop sweating the small stuff right now and focus on what actually matters. At least for a bit! Cheers.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Bubbles are Great...Until You Leave Them

[Content note: rape culture, pedophilia]

As mentioned, last weekend, I had a fantastic trip to Chicago. It was the best time, full of laughter and love. Of course, venturing into a new city and hanging out with all kinds of folks also means that I wasn't in my safe little feminist bubble, and I sometimes forget that. My happy little wonderful bubble...that lulls me into a false sense of how the world really is.

I know all too well that assholes are out there, but I don't usually have to spend time around them, yanno? Sometimes they feel as relevant to my actual daily life as a yeti.

But I had a situation this weekend that sent me flying back into the reality of what the world is. At karaoke one evening, I was sitting next to a guy I've been tangentially aware of but don't really know. Some of the other people it the room put on an R. Kelly song, and because I can't let that stuff go unaddressed, I said, "Ah yes, a child rapist everyone. You're listening to a child rapist." Random dude next to me says...totally seriously...
"At least he's not like Michael Jackson and doesn't rape little boys."
A piece of my soul died. Yes, that's right...this guy thinks that the rape of little girls isn't as bad as the rape of boys. Apparently, girl lives aren't worth as much as boy's. (In case this needs to be clarified, it's pretty clear he's coming from a homophobic, misogynistic place. Child rape is child rape and it's all horrific.) So I said that to him, totally stone faced, "Child rape is child rape" giving him a moment to realize his fuck up but he didn't back down or THINK about what he said at all.

My skin's still crawling thinking about this. What a turd. What a dickwad. What a disgusting shit stain.

Yep...stuff's much nicer inside my happy little bubble. But out there, the rape culture is, of course, alive and well.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Today in victim blaming

[Content note: abuse, violence, victim blaming, sexual assault, rape culture]

After a lovely long weekend away in Chicago (and specifically being in a bubble) I've been catching up on the news. And FANTASTIC! Misogyny is live and well. /Sarcasm

I don't know a damn thing about sports, but I do know that people have been watching a video of Ray Rice assaulting his then-girlfriend-now-wife, Janay Palmer, (btw, don't). Some folks have been all, "Why would she marry him after that?!" And when her defense of him on Instagram was shared on Facebook, I saw quite a few people calling her "dumb" and "crazy."

Sometimes only a gif can adequately express frustration:

Thankfully, Beverly Gooden took to Twitter and started #WhyIStayed which demonstrated the incredibly complex and dangerous situation that victims of domestic violence face every day.

If you don't understand this topic...if you've never been abused or studied toxic relationship dynamics...the solution is to keep your opinions to yourself and go READ from people who do. And let me make this perfectly clear and as blunt as possible...if you hear a story like Palmer Rice's and you EVER feel the need to say something like 1) Why didn't she just leave? 2) Why did she marry him? 3) What did she expect? ...I ask that you kindly a) shut up and b) fuck off forever. That's really all I can say about that.


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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'm not so sure about "Good Enough"

[Content note: mentions of fatphobia, weight loss, harassment, objectification, and one article in the section about Playboy details an instance of the sexualization of a child.]

I've been ruminating on this topic for a while, but I haven't quite known how to put it in words. I still don't, actually, but I figured I'd at least give it a shot.

I'm someone who tries as hard as possible to be really self aware. As such, I've taken every personality test available to me. That's led me to learn very clearly that I thrive on order and structure (for example, I'm a "concrete sequential," ESTJ, and my Strengths Finder results are: Achiever, Discipline, Input, Learner, and Communication.) And I have a hard time with things being "half assed" as it were. I like it when stuff's wrapped up neatly, tasks are complete, and work is thorough.

Of course, life doesn't play out that way and almost everything we encounter in "real life" has a lot of ambiguity and messy edges to it. This is especially true of social justice and feminist endeavors.

What I mean specifically, is that I want everything to be as inclusive, equitable, and justice-oriented as possible, but it never is. It's the whole, "your fave is problematic" thing. Even people/pieces of media/companies that are awesome about one topic are horrific at another. And I can't ignore it. Once your eyes are opened to various intersecting oppressions and privileges, you can't turn it off...my brain has become rewired to bristle when people use certain language or invoke certain concepts. So I can't overlook when an awesome feminist does something shitty. It sort of taints the whole thing for me and I'm not really sure what to do about this.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Writer's Block Sucks

[Content note: mention of emotional abuse]

Things have been pretty quiet around here for a while. I mean, I'm getting up posts here and there, but nothing of substantial content. I wouldn't consider anything that I've put up as actual "writing" in well over a month.

Part of it is work stress. As I've said about 50 billion times, the fall is really busy for me, so the closer that we get to September and October, the more I'm finding myself staying at my desk later each day and when I get home the last thing I want to do is hop back on a computer and queue up a post.

But it's more than just that. There are SO MANY interesting feminist topics to be digging in on right now. Just to scratch the surface there's the debate surrounding Nicki Minaj's Anaconda video, the horrible harassment Anita Sarkeesian is facing, Beyonce's amazing VMA performance, and the "rape prevention" nail polish nonsense. I COULD say something about any or all of those topics, and usually, I already would have. But lately, I just feel like I don't have anything original to say. I've certainly been in this place before, so I know it's going to pass, but I HATE feeling uninspired. When I have writer's block like this (and that might not even be the best term...) I just kinda beat myself up about it. "Come on, brain. THINK of something to say about this." And then I don't and I'm disappointed.

I'm always working toward going easier on myself about this type of thing...not engaging in mental self-berating. But when the baseline from your upbringing is "always be the best you can be and if you don't, then you're worthless" it's much easier said than done to reset your mental self-assessments.

Ah well. My inspiration will come around again. I've just got to wait it out and chill.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Observations from Jury Duty

So I've just had jury duty and now that it's over, I can talk about it allllll I want. But for obvious reasons, I'll keep things not too identifying here.

I had a few observations that I figured I'd write about. Nothing earth shattering or anything, but interesting stuff (to me.)


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How NOT to be a white ally (and how to be one too.)

[Content note: police brutality, racism.]

Last Thursday, I attended the Austin gathering for NMOS14. Overall, it was an extremely powerful event. After the national moment of silence, the names of local victims of police brutality were listed. Family members, like those of Larry Jackson, spoke about their experiences. Local organizers called us to action and shared what we can do. Black people of all ages shared their experiences living in a world where they could be shot by supposed authorities simply for existing.

One woman, A'Driane Nieves, shared about a piece she wrote over a year go called, "America's Not Here For Us" and the experience of raising black and brown children. She commented how the American systems see these children as expendable.

From the crowd, an angry white guy yelled, "We're all expendable to them!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What I'm Reading: A Sad Edition

[Content note: violence, racism, suicide, ableism]

Things in the news right now are not great. (Of course, they never are...) but it feels all the more sadder to learn that another unarmed young black man, this time Michael Brown, has been murdered by police. The subsequent situation in the city where it happened (Ferguson, MO) is also indicative of extreme racism. I am just trying to read and learn as much as I can about it. I have really appreciated the numerous informative pieces and updates that Colorlines is posting:
Kirsten West Savali also wrote a powerful piece about her reaction to this story:  My Sweet Young Sons: Cops Are Neither Here to Protect Nor Serve You. Go read it...and if you haven't already, go read all you can about this situation. Especially my fellow white people...we can't ignore this or turn our backs on these folks.

And if you can, participate in the National Moment of Silence tomorrow night.

In other sad news, everyone is all abuzz about Robin Williams' death, by suicide. I've been surprised that a majority of the reactions I've seen on social media have been dealing with the topic with an uncharacteristic level of compassion. Discussions, for the most part, have centered on raising awareness about depression, the stigma of mental illness, and getting help if you need it.

...and then someone shared this HORRIFIC piece by Matt Walsh, who, to this point, I thought was just a character actor, but I've now learned is an incredible douche. (Don't worry, I used "donotlink" here, so you can click through guilt free.) His basic premise is that Robin Williams made this "choice," this isn't something awful that just happened to him. Walsh writes,
It’s a tragic choice, truly, but it is a choice, and we have to remember that. Your suicide doesn’t happen to you; it doesn’t attack you like cancer or descend upon you like a tornado. It is a decision made by an individual. A bad decision. Always a bad decision. 
To reduce a mental illness like this down to a "bad decision" makes my skin crawl. And here we also have the othering of mental illnesses--they're not like cancer; they don't "just happen to you." I realize that Walsh is talking specifically about the suicide when he is saying this and not the depression, but can you really parse them apart like that?

It's very close to the harmful and ableist narrative that "suicide is selfish." To this, might I recommend a piece by Katie Hurley, where she debunks this perspective and provides some good tips and resources.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Garbage post about sex and marriage is garbage

[Content note: possible rape culture]

I don't often do this, but I read such a horrible post about sex and marriage at the Huffington Post blogs, that I HAD to display it's blech-ness for a moment.

Written by Meg Conley, the piece is called "5 Reasons You Should Have Sex With Your Husband Every Night." Right off the bat, you might be able to tell my chief complaint is that no one should ever have to have sex unless they really want to...but beyond that, Conley just seems entirely incapable of even imagining that people might feel differently than her or might have lives and experiences that are not the same as hers. And that's just something that bugs me in general.

Friday, August 1, 2014

We shouldn't need to be strong

[Content note: fat shaming]

I love Gabourey Sidibe. She's a great actress. She's one of the very few visible feisty fat ladies in Hollywood. And she always seems so hilarious and cool.

But there's a quote from a recent speech she made to the Ms. Foundation that's been going around and bugging me. Not because of what Sidibe said about herself or her experience, but because of its reflection of our society.

[Image text: Sidibe pictured with her quote, "If they hadn't told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn't tried to break me down, I wouldn't know I'm unbreakable."]

Thursday, July 31, 2014

When Feminism Perpetuates Bigotry

I'm back! My trip was lovely and I'm ready to return to my routine.

I've been thinking about the many imperfections of feminism, and how the term and movement mean so many different things to different people. I think the longer it exists as an activist identity, the more "feminism" is disjointed. We're to a point where it's incredibly hard to really understand what any one person means when they say, "I'm a feminist." That sentence itself is somewhat empty to me anymore. I need further discussion to really understand what someone claiming the identify even thinks or feels.

At its core, I'm talking about intersectionality and how we approach and handle feminists that perpetuate other forms of bigotry.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Traveling

Just a quick note that I am traveling the better part of this week and next so things will be quiet around here for a while.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Strength and bravery

[Content note: rape. BIG TRIGGER on this one.]

I need to take a moment to talk about a young woman of courage.

Did you hear what happened to a 16 year old named Jada in Houston? It's all over the news right now. She was raped at a party and pictures of her assault went viral. #Jadapose became a horrific trend on Twitter where people literally mocked the position her unconscious body was in when the pictures were taken.

If this is not one of the biggest artifacts of rape culture in recent memory, I'm not sure what is.

Jada chose to do something unusual and extremely difficult. She came forward and started talking about what happened to her. As she said in an interview with Houston news, "There's no point in hiding. Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.”

As I commented last week, I can’t even begin to imagine the strength and courage 16 year old Jada has summoned to speak out about what happened to her. I hope she knows there are whole lot of us out there that respect, admire, and love the hell outta her.

I couldn't agree more than with with Michelle Denise Jackson shared in a piece titled "In Defense of Jada: The Danger of Being a Black Girl in a Rape Culture" (go read it all):
If there is any redemption to be found in this story, it is in the bravery of Jada herself. Often, victims of rape are not identified by the media, to respect and protect their privacy. However, Jada has made an incredible choice to reclaim her body and her story. She has decided to come forward and show her face publicly (under her own consent), to tell the story of what happened to her.

Today, I praise Jada. Today, I salute Jada. Today, I honor Jada. Today, I pray for healing and justice for Jada. 
This is the face of strength and bravery.



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Thursday, July 10, 2014

When friendships end

This is not necessarily the most on topic for a feminist blog, but I think that it falls under the "life" category of what I write about, so you can forgive me.

Plus I do what I want.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about the topic of when friendships end and the other day I finally got a sign that I wanted to write about it. Ronald and I are just starting to watch Seinfeld all the way through chronologically and one of the very first episodes deals with this subject. Jerry is out to dinner with a childhood friend, Joel, who he doesn't really like anymore (for example, Joel is extremely rude to a waitress.) Jerry tries to "break up" with Joel like one might in a romantic relationship and Joel is reduced to a sobbing mess. It's a pretty extreme example, but it became my motivation to officially put my thoughts about this down on paper (on screen?)