Friday, August 23, 2013

I Love Beth Ditto

[Content note: body/weight talk, sexual abuse]

I just finished reading Beth Ditto's memoir, Coal to Diamonds and I thoroughly recommend it. 

In case you aren't familiar, Ditto is the fabulous, feisty, fat, lesbian lead singer of the band Gossip. In her memoir, Ditto takes an unflinching look at her past and the path that lead her to international success. 

She begins with a detailed examination of her deeply traumatic past which includes years of abuse both mentally and sexually. She shares how the culture of her home town normalized that behavior and clearly understands how poverty plays a role in the perpetuation of it. Ditto's honest and plain way of examining the violence of her past like this might seem strange to some people unfamiliar with those situations but the tale is all too familiar for others. 

Ditto also is a vocal body positive advocate and she knows all too well how our culture considers thin the pentacle of beauty. She said:

"I have had a lifetime to adjust to seeing how people treat women who aren’t their idea of beautiful and therefore aren’t their idea of useful, and I had to find ways to become useful to myself."

She also writes about something else I've discovered in relation to body politics: that women are supposed to take up as little space as possible. She even felt this in relation to her voice:

"I often tried to make myself smaller, for survival’s sake. If my body was going to be big, maybe my voice could balance it out and be softer, sweeter, more gracious."

Thankfully for us all, she did go on to embrace that big, beautiful voice (and body!) of hers. She also wrote about doing feminist work with girls, which greatly spoke to me:

"And this is why feminism is so important. When you’re involved in feminist-oriented projects like Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls—or whatever arts festival or political group or zine project you’re involved in—it’s easy to get lost in the big picture or sidetracked by how much hard work there is. But you’ve got to remember you’re doing it for...the coming generations, so they don’t stay ignorant of their own voices and their own creative power in this world."

Amen. She also spends some time examining her path coming into her own as a femme lesbian and the learning that that femininity is not anti-feminist:

"Self-expression, even feminine self-expression, was not my enemy. The real enemy was the ideals that women are expected to live up to, and suddenly that limited style of feminism just felt like another ideal breathing down my neck."

Great stuff all around! It's a very quick and simple read (almost too quick, I wanted more.) Again, I highly recommend it. It's a great end-of-summer, or any time read, really. 

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