Author Archive for Shana Russell

25
Mar
09

Does our body dictate what kind of person we are?

Tonight, I was walking out of my cultural theory class and I had a conversation with one of my classmates that went something like this:

Classmate: My legs hurt.

Me: Why?

Classmate: I’ve been working with this personal trainer. I’m trying to become a better person.

Me: Through working out?

Classmate: Well, I can’t treat other people right before I learn how to treat myself. 

My first thought, as I suppose you can tell from my immediate reaction, was that going to the gym is not the way that I would love my body. This is because gyms contain 2 things that I dislike most in life: (1) exercise machinery and (2) large groups of women in spandex. 

Secondly, I don’t think there is anything wrong with working out or attaching a certain level of pleasure to it (although I don’t understand it). But, it seems to me that there is something very dangerous about employing it in this context. If we gauge our own ethics by the way we “treat” our bodies, do we then make external judgments about the bodies of others?

Being a vegetarian I feel like I walk that fine line. Although, my commitment to vegetarianism has more to do with my impact on the world than that of my own body I have to be very careful about not making judgment about what other people choose to put into their bodies. 

My classmate, who is also my friend, derives her belief about exercise from a distinctly religious context. She, too, is a vegetarian, because her religion equates diet with the way she treats her body as well as the way she treats the world. She extends this tenet into a belief that working out has some sort of attachment to morality based on this relationship. 

Did I mention that I just got out of cultural theory class? Sorry if my academic brain took over there. The point it that this is certainly not the first time we have all heard this logic before. That looking good by this narrow, exclusionary standard of beauty makes one a better person. And when it is explicit in that way it is very easy to critique because it seems so transparent. But the subtle ways that these ideas permeate our culture at so many levels…That really scares me.I really believe that it is this subtlety that allows violence against people who don’t fit these arbitrary standards to not warrant the sort of reaction that those of use in the fatosphere would expect. 

And because I was not able to share my thoughts with my friend during our short goodbye, I am so grateful to be able to flesh out my thoughts here. So, with that I am going to attempt to recover from the worst flu and get some rest.

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31
Jan
09

Why I Love Kate Harding…And You Should Too!

First things first. I sincerely hope that everyone’s new year is off to a grand start. If not, I hope for only great things from this point on. One of my new year’s resolutions is to make sure that the things and people that have touched my life over the years and continue to do so do not go unnoticed. In pursuit of this goal  I realize what a long list this is but I am confident I will get to everyone no matter how long it takes me. In light of recent experiences I would like to start with Kate.

On Thursday night I attended a book release of the anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape. The anthology includes an essay written by Kate entitled How to Fuck a Fat Woman. I will not attempt to do that fantastic piece justice by summarizing. I can only say, buy the book. Its phenomenal. 

As many of you may know I am a grad student in a gender studies program. I knew many of my classmates would be at the reading and when I found out Kate was coming it gave me a tremendous opportunity. I shared with my fellow feminists: this is Kate Harding and this is why she is so important. I was able to share with them that Fat Acceptance is both powerful and feminist and no one could illustrate my point better than Kate.

Even though I had already read her piece a couple of times by then, I was still completely in awe of Kate’s bravery. She shared her story with a fearlessness that I aspire to have. Afterwards, I had the chance to tell thanks her for writing her blog, and for giving me a platform to share Fat Acceptance with my peers. I hope many of you are readers of her blog, and if you are I implore you to take on my New Year’s challenge and share your thoughts and feelings with her. And to buy her book. (*wink wink*)

I must say that she is so dedicated to the community at the conclusion of our brief conversation she was familiar with this blog and even said to tell fashionablenerd she said hello. A message I gleefully passed along.

To conclude I will leave you with Jaclyn Friedman’s (the anthology’s editor) answer to Kate’s title question. How do you fuck a fat woman: with enthusiasm. 

Have a wonderful Superbowl Weekend.

07
Sep
08

A Pause For Politics

I’ve been putting this off for a few days now. It is time for a little venting about the election. Because this is not a political blog I will make this brief.

Sarah Palin: On the one hand I am happy that there is a vagina…I mean a woman, somewhere on someone’s ticket. And even though I don’t agree with some…most…all of her political opinions I also feel like it is a good thing that a female politician has well defined and strong positions. Unfortunately I have not had a chance to hear her speak about said strong opinions because she has been too busy giving us the run down of her not so small family, the six degrees of her military acquaintances, and the personal chef that was part of her gubernatorial package. And that is all I have to say about that. Actually there is a lot more but that is all I am going to say here.

Secondly, I know that my handle includes the word intellectual, but I can’t keep that identity up always so after watching both conventions, here is a set of words and phrases that I never want to hear again:

1. Glass ceiling (since no one has used it correctly yet and both parties are lacking some serious historical facts here)

2. Drill baby drill (seriously?)

3. Fight for our country. (Its just overused and archaic, its time for something else)

4. Executive experience (again some grammatical issues and just completely unnecessary)

5. Negro (yes you Huckabee, we aren’t Negroes any more, we’re coloreds now.)

And lastly, did anyone see Palin’s young daughter lick her hand and fix the baby’s hair? Wow. Both conventions were quite the spectacles. And in case anyone was unsure, for the sake of my uterus, I’ll be voting for Obama. End political rant. Have a great week everyone!

16
Aug
08

More Reasons to Hate Shopping

Yesterday, in an attempt to beef up my professional wardrobe, I went shopping. I normally take the extreme casual approach to business wear but working in a metro marker, I don’t know how much  longer I am going to be able to away with that.  I decided to quit cold turkey and find my own way of playing the corporate game.

As a so-called “in betweenie” I thought I would press the easy button and head to the mainstream store hoping that with enough patience and luck i would be able to find something in my size, not too tight, not a curtain, and not some god awful loud pattern. (Not that I have anything against loud patterns, but I’m more of a basic palette person)

Now, I already hate shopping but this was a really unpleasant experience. Finding my size was a scavenger hunt. I know this means nothing to the FA big picture and should be expected but it is still frustrating. Really, really frustrating. I saw so many 4s, 6s, 8s, and 10s I was almost tempted to take it as a sign and play the fucking lottery. Maybe it was some sort of retail prank show. But there was no Ashton Kutcher waiting at the register when I went to pay for my 2 shirts that took me forever to find so I guess not.

Of course, this was nothing new. What I didn’t exect however were the dirty looks I got from the ultra trendy staff. My non working alter ego is a raging hippie, so apparently my jeans and john lennon t shirt was not the uniform. They were looking at me like I didn’t belong there. No one offered to help me. I had to practically help myself into the dressing room.

After being looked up and down by the fitting room attendant, dressing and undressing were very awkward. That is something I normally do liberally and with pleasure. What a terrible feeling.

So, a day later, I am so angry that I let these douche bags really get to me. I don’t really like shopping (mostly because I am indifferent to fashion) but I have learned that finding my own unique way of adhering to the appropriate dress rules for every occasion can be creative and fun. But I just couldn’t manage to set my mind to it after encountering the same treatment in three different stores.

And then to make matters worse, I vented my frustrations on the phone to my mother who “shared” my opinion and voiced her own. She wishes that mainstream stores had more options for “today’s woman” as she says. I love my mother and I know she means well but what does “today’s woman” really mean. As far as I know, yesterday and the day before that the average woman was my freakin’ size. It makes more since to call it since the beginning of time woman! That would at least be somewhat accurate.

I don’t know what’s worse…the fact that only smaller women are permitted by society to shop in public or the fact that treating a person with dignity isn’t a universal rule. I suppose they are one in the same. It’s just so annoying.

01
Aug
08

People For the Ethical Treatment of People

In the wake of the election I have been thinking a lot about the media. The more I think about it and observe things the more I realize how much influence the media has on our cultural ideology. This is a scary concept. Mostly because the media, in my opinion, is so far removed from real life and this imaginary ideal is what people are judging themselves by.

But I think what scares me most is the response, or lack thereof, on the part of our culture. I wonder if I was just naive before or if I missed something. But at what point did racial slurs, misogynist language, and fat hatred stop setting off the radars of journalistic integrity?

It seems that every journalistic piece concerning weight loss or the so called”obesity epidemic” includes some horrific headline. Take this one, for instance. Regardless of what terribly biased and unresearched material may exist in the article, look at the title. Who’s your fatty? When did name calling take the place of truly witty headlines. And what does this say about the publication. When did mean spirited journalism become okay?

But again, what frustrates me more than anything is that true criticism of the media rarely goes beyond water cooler talk and a few radical (and awesome and necessary) blogs. At what point did people just begin to ignore these terrible stereotypes and allow slurs to become a part of everyday news reporting?

So, in my revolutionary thinking, I have committed myself to always look for a larger forum in which I can voice my criticism and my refusal to allow the media to determine how I judge myself and others. But the one thing I wish I was better at is getting other people to do this with me. Its important to put the financial pressure on these television networks and newspapers and radio programs to get some of their integrity back and stop perpetuating slander and prejudice against already marginalized groups.

That was such a soap box. I suppose I have even my own special form of idealism. Maybe its my pessimism that prevents me from being more effective.

21
Jul
08

Bad Body Day : Lightbulb!

Today was my first day at my brand new job and as a member of corporate America (part time anyway). Typically, I have terrible anxiety. For some reason, I deal with anxiety through a series of quasi-obsessive compulsive behaviors and general over-preparation.

So, amidst all of these behaviors yesterday afternoon, in preparation for work, I became fixated on finding the right thing to wear. I tried on every item of clothing in my closet that I could possibly wear to work (which isn’t as much as some people, I know, but still significant). While the purpose of this activity was, in theory, planning a weeks worth of outfits and seeing which items are okay to be paired together, it somehow became another animal.

Side note: For people who know me this is not even close to normal behavior. I have always been basically indifferent towards clothing, going for whatever makes me feel comfortable and doesn’t have to be ironed.

I began to notice how things looked on my body. I started thinking things like “Does this make me look fat?” “How does my butt look in these pants?” And what seems to be this ongoing concern over my hair. Then a light bulb went off.

Coupled with all of my other methods for dealing with my anxiety I realized that these thoughts were directly related to my brain’s poor attempt at coping with stress. I deal with the unknown by obsessing over things I can control. Being overtly body conscious is one such behavior.

My second realization was that this kind of behavior takes on a whole new meaning when you see it in yourself rather than in someone else.

So, all in all, my bad body day ended in an important realization about myself. It is so important to make connections with my behavior to continue on this journey of accepting my body and all that comes along with it.

19
Jul
08

The Weekends Top Ten

I have realized in the last week or so that my choice of literature, coupled with school and the start of a new job has made me more serious than usual. So I thought I would have a little fun. Here are the top ten wonders of my world (which usually only exists in my head) for this week.

1. Why is it that the cover of my Sizing and Sewing for Plus Sizes book has a typical size model as opposed to a plus sized one? (More importantly, why is the photo of a plus sized woman measuring a thin model?)

2. Why are there so many body conscious, relationship obsessed women in my gender studies program? (it just seems a little ironic to me, just when I thought I would find allies. I’m sure they are there I just haven’t found them yet.)

3. Why do the aforementioend women get upset when I tell them I don’t want to go the gym and work out with them even though its a nice gym (sponsored by the university) and it’s free?

4.Why does the “welcome to the team” email from my new boss say be prepared to win, but doesn’t say what we are competing for or who with?

5. Why is it so damn hot outside???!!!

6. Why does the reading list for my fall class seem a lot longer than what I can read in one semester?  (ahhh, grad school).

7. Doesn’t anybody just drink plain water anymore?

8. How can a person rant and rave about how tasty my chilli is and then when I tell them it’s vegan they look like it has suddenly become disgusting because there is no meat in it?

9. Who came up with the idea to have a wet t shirt race?

10. And why didn’t anyone think that a private women’s college may not be the right place to have one?

There you have it folks. These are the kinds of things that come to mind when you  move to a new city where you know no one. I have to entertain myself somehow. Don’t I? Have a great week.




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