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.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.

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?)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Revisiting safe spaces and people who try to violate them

I was recently reminded that there's a very specific kind of troll that I can't stand (perhaps the most.)...the "You can't have a safe space! I want in! Listen to me!" kind of dude.

What disturbs me most about these folks is that they can't respect boundaries. Violation of basic boundaries will always serve as a red flag in my mind for someone who is all around bad news. But beyond this--there's also the fact that they are pissy pants cry babies who are basically bemoaning not being invited to a kindergarten classmate's birthday party.

Heh.

But really...think about it...what kind of person demands access to an online a space that is not designated for them? Answer: typically a privileged one who is not used to being excluded. So when they encounter a space that is explicitly NOT about them, they react with childish indignation.

Some of the very, very, very few spaces in life that are actually designated for marginalized folks are the ones they create for themselves online. A vast majority of the world, and especially the power structures that exist, are still outwardly hostile to many of us, so we MUST make places of refuge for ourselves.

It's not that hard to understand.

Not everything has to be about YOU, personally. If you come across something that isn't for you, just be a decent person and leave it be.

The fact that I have to constantly defend spaces like this justifies the need for their existence.

Related reading:

You don't owe anyone a platform
You don't owe anyone a debate
We have a right to safe spaces
Don't like what you're reading? Cool! Move on!
When spaces aren't for you
On respecting boundaries
How to Enter Feminist Discussions at the 101 Level and Not Totally Mess Up




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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

You don't owe anyone a debate

I'm big on self care.

Probably because I work with a lot of social workers and I am reminded of the concept continuously.

At first it sounded a little "touchy-feely" and weird to me. But the more I grow, the more I know that in order to do good work, to keep up on personal activism, and to affect positive social change, self care is a must. There's just too many negative experiences you will have in this realm to NOT engage in self care along the way. With out it, you will burn out. WITH it sometimes you'll still burn out. (Which is why I take periodic breaks from Tumblr.)

Part of self care is 1) knowing that you NEVER owe anyone else a debate and 2) not engaging in one when you don't want to or just can't.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I have some questions

[Content note: detailed discussion or abortion. Includes mentions of rape and medical procedures.]

With the anniversary of Wendy Davis' filibuster last week, some really disheartening and outright upsetting Supreme Court decisions, and some recent personal interactions, the topic of abortion rights and reproductive choices has been on my mind.

It's no secret that I am unapologetically pro-choice. I think I have made that case here thoroughly. But right now my head is swirling with all the questions that I want to ask the people on the right, or those who identify as "pro-life" because these questions are what weigh on my mind when I consider this issue.

This isn't a comprehensive or even well articulated post on the subject of reproductive rights. If you need that, click elsewhere. But it is a list of questions I have for those folks...and stuff I need to get off my chest right now.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wearing makeup in a patriarchal society

In running FacebookSexism, this is a popular sentiment shared by misogynists:

[Image text, a comment from "BIG SARGE" which reads, "Chick looks beat up without makeup. Should be illegal to use it as a disguise, you don't look like that."]
That's right...wearing makeup is now a "disguise" that should be illegal. "BIG SARGE" is not alone in this opinion. There are tons of iterations of this idea out there. It's trickery. It's deceitful, etc. etc. In fact, in Googling to read more on this topic, here's what I immediately saw:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On learning

After some HORRIBLE interactions online last week, things have been much quieter for me. Which is really lovely. It helps that I also unplugged this past weekend and enjoyed hanging out with family from out of town, including my adorable 2 year old niece.

With all this good stuff as the stage for me to get back to normal life on Monday, I was in a place to reflect on a few things. One topic in particular came to mind...I began thinking about how when I strip away all of the bullshit that is dealing with harassers and trolls online, I really appreciate how much I learn by doing what I do.

And I began to ponder the actual feeling of learning something new and how great it can be, if you let it.

One of the biggest lies that anti-feminists tell about us is that we only listen to people who think like us, who share our identities, etc. The truth is that I actively try to learn from others and I follow and read a TON of diverse social justice oriented people. (But they ARE right in that I don't read anything from folks who are actively trying to oppress others, because I don't have time or patience for that, nor will I learn anything from them. The kyriarchy already taught me those lessons.)

So through the reading I do online, I am regularly faced with my own biases and misconceptions. And when I read something that doesn't mesh with what I had been thinking, there is a pretty distinct feeling.

It's an initial "WHAT?" and then a "wait..." and then an "ooooooh."

This process is so important for me. It's how I have learned to begin the lifelong process of unpacking the knapsacks of my own privilege. It's how I have learned to stop hating myself, embrace fat acceptance, and reject healthism. It's how I have learned to focus on the intersections. It's how I have learned to stop judging other women.

I think too often people stop at the "WHAT?" and react negatively to the rub of cognitive dissonance. Instead of taking a moment to even consider that what they've always thought might not be the way it is...they react defensively, double back on their own view, and shut down. It's very easy to do.

Of course, I'm not perfect and it's still a process to be open and learn when I'm given the chance. But if you're not even at least receptive to the opportunity to listen to others, how will you ever know anything other than your own perspective?


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The internet is scary

[Content note: rape culture, rape threats, harassment, misogyny, ableism]

I've had some pretty strange and sometimes scary interactions online as a feminist blogger. For the 5 years I've blogged, I've always gotten the typical "shut up bitch" type comments here and there. But becoming more prominent on Tumblr has brought out a specific kind of "troll" that does freak me out to a whole new level.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

You might not MEAN me, but you ARE talking about me

[Content note: discussions of fatphobia and body shame]

I write and talk a lot about my experience as a fat woman and the wider systems of fatphobia I see all around me. I'm not quiet about my views on ending fat shame or advocating for body positivity and the respect of personal bodily autonomy.

And yet, despite all of this, I still hear some people in my personal life make casual fat hating comments. Namely using fat as an insult against someone else...a celebrity, an animated character, whoever. Stuff like "they're so fat and lazy." Or a "fat fuck." Or just a general "Ewww" in regards to them.

I have a theory. I think it's a classic case of "Oh but I didn't mean you" and "You're not one of those type of people" exemptions that privileged people try to bestow on others when they're talking shit about someone who is actually just like us. (Whether they consciously think these thoughts or not.) Also, because fatphobia operates on a continuum and I'm not extremely fat, I possess some relative privilege. Many people in my life don't think of me as "fat" (but instead might try to describe me as what they see as a kinder term like plus sized.) I know this becasue if I say I identify as fat, they start the whole "You're not!" nonsense. Many of the same people don't think about how their offhanded fatphobic comments actually can and do affect me. And deeply bother me. They don't think about my actual lived experience and the context in which these type of statements exist and how the same hateful attitudes have been used against me. Because they know and like me, they see me as a person and understand my humanity. But there is a disconnect which prevents them from seeing the same humanity of the people their comments are aimed at.

I want to shut it down. I want to call them out and humiliate them for being so insensitive. But sometimes speaking up is much easier said than done. In a moment, just casually hanging out with friends, it's not always easy to be the one who turns things serious for a moment...who plays a "buzzkill" role, (especially when the comments are very small.) It's a role I sometimes effortlessly play while other times I just simply don't feel up to it. I try not to beat myself up about it, but missed opportunities pick at the back of my mind (and make me write rambling blog posts.)

So I'd like to put a reminder out there...using fat as an insult or generally disrespecting someone's body, even if that person is not around, even if that person isn't actually REAL, is a shitty thing to do. And it affects those around you, whether you mean it to or not.


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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

White feminism's continued failures: A short case study

Last night I went to a local event hosted by KUT: Views and Brews, which covers all kinds of topics. I was interested because this one was called "The Future of the F Word: Feminism." Of course, I was pretty jazzed to check it out.

Unfortunately, I was epically disappointed.

It's not that the discussion was horrible (there were a few "Huh?" moments.) It's not that I didn't like the panelists generally--there were some really great anecdotes shared.

It was the glaring lack of intersectionality.

From the moment I walked into the room and looked on stage, I was disappointed. 5 white, cis, able-bodied women sitting around discussing feminism? Really? It was almost laughable from the start how much of a glaring problem that was. (And the discussion revealed that they all are economically privileged as well. I believe one of them identified as queer.)

During the audience Q&A section someone asked about intersectionality specifically, but it ended up as a missed opportunity to call this out. One of the panelists extolled the virtues of inclusion and the common goals of other anti-oppression movements, but no one ever said what I wanted them to say (which would have been something like, "I'm really disappointed that no women of color are on this panel.") And there was the fact that the moderator (arguably the worst part) only asked leading question that included such cringe worthy gems as, "What do you think about Beyonce claiming feminism while simultaneously repackaging female objectification and selling it back to women?"

It was an undeniable example of how white feminism continues to perpetuate its failures. We MUST change this. We MUST actively work against feminism contributing to other oppression, silencing, and marginalization. If I had been asked to sit on that panel, I hope I would have asked if diverse views were present, and if I learned they weren't, I hope I would have declined the invite and suggested they ask someone who doesn't share my same background.

I can't help but think how much more enlightening, educational, and rich the discussion would have been with some women who came at social justice topics from very different perspectives.

To be frank, the future of feminism presented last night is one that I'm not interested in at all and I 100% understand why women of color, trans women, and other women would feel marginalized by this movement as a whole. Totally disappointing.

Fellow white cis women: do better.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Crap Marketing: Hail to the V "Wrong Body Wash" Commercial

Here's another installment in the litany of advertisements that I hate. This time from Summer's Eve:


[Video description below cut.]

There's something extra insulting about this commercial being, theoretically, aimed at women. But I guess it should come as no surprise to me that the company which has been praying on insecurities about vaginas for years would pull this crap. It is very base level, "Ewww girls!" misogyny 101 marketing (plus some cissexism thrown in for good measure.)

I guess because the public is becoming more and more aware about how Summer's Eve's original product is actually dangerous, so they're trying to diversify their product offerings.

But really, if you're trying to market a product specifically to women, why would your tactic be, "Let's make a 'joke' about how men feel emasculated by a gentle soap." So again, I'm asking, when will we ever stop the cultural association between femininity and lesser than? If Summer's Eve has anything to say about it, the answer is never.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Obvious Child: The Pro-Choice Movie You've Been Waiting For

[Content note: Mild spoilers for the film Obvious Child, discussions of shaming abortion]

[Jenny Slate in the promo pic for Obvious Child]
So I saw Obvious Child. Written and Directed by Gillian Robespierre, it has been heralded as "the summer's most important movie" from some feminists. I'm not sure if I'd go that far (because I can't remember what all is coming out this summer) but from a pro-choice vantage point...it did not disappoint.