Archive for the 'Activism' Category

23
Mar
09

Taking a Bite of the Big Apple Part Three: The Serious

TRIGGER WARNING: PLEASE READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

It has taken me some time to get this post up, partly because my thoughts are so scattered, and partly because I’ve had to confront some of my own inner demons. But I think part of my continued healing comes from reading other folks’ experiences and taking the time to face my own.

So, in the first post of the series I told you all about my outfit I wore to an event I went to my first day in NYC. The event was a book launch and panel discussion for an amazing book called The Cries of Men: Voices of Jamaican Men Who Have Been Raped and Sexually Abused, written by O’Brien Dennis.  This book is raw, and I had a rough time reading it. Sometimes, it got a bit too real, too much…sometimes people’s prejudices, which Dennis outlined beautifully, got to be too much for me and I had to put the book down and walk away before I lost all hope in humanity.

But I wanted, no, needed to finish it.

As I listened to Dennis’ story, my heart broke. It broke for him, it broke for other men who share his experience, and it broke for women who have been through this too.

For Dennis, this book was groundbreaking in more ways than one. Men rarely admit to being sexually abused, or hell, abused in any capacity because it isn’t seen as “manly”. In Jamaican culture, homosexuality is frowned upon (a vast understatement, let me tell you), and the publishing of this book basically insures he can never go back home.

As I listened to the panel, my mind wandered a bit.  What makes me so sad is that society is structured to where those who suffer traumatic experiences are not allowed to by societal norms to share what they’ve been through and ask for help. They’re made to feel ashamed, dirty, worthless, the whole nine. They’re made to feel that the abuse was their fault, that they somehow wanted what happened to them.

It ought not be this way. Period. Yet every day another boy or girl, man or woman goes through the exact same thing, and maybe one or two might seek help.

Now, this post is short, because I don’t want to ramble. I want y’all to take my snippet in, go read the book, go read other books like it, and do what I’ll be doing: go find a place and volunteer. Be that shoulder for someone who is being shamed into silence.

And if you are someone who is/has been that person shamed into silence, please, please, don’t go through this alone. There are resources and I beg of you, seek them out and take them.

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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.

12
Jan
09

In Which I Ramble About Health and Age

Last week, my mother went to the doctor to have him check out her knee. It’s been “giving her the blues,” as she puts it, for some time, and she’s been limping a bit.

Once the specialist looks her over and takes some x-rays, the diagnosis comes back: she’s got arthritis in her knee. The treatment: cortisone injections and weight loss. I’ll get to the weight loss part in a bit.

So, the doc pulls out this BIG ASS NEEDLE (yeah, needles are the reason I have yet to get a tattoo) and proceeds to well, stab it into my mom’s knee. She, of course, responds with language that would make a sailor blush. After he finishes, he reiterates what will help her knee feel better: the cortisone, the anti-inflammatory medication, and weight loss. To his credit, he does emphasize that said combination therapy won’t cure her knee, but it will make it better.

As my mom’s knee is smarting at this point,  she is still swearing under her breath, and is NOT paying attention to what’s going on, the doc speaks all of his recommendations to me, so that I can remind her of them later. As he talks of the “getting some weight off of that knee” part, he eyes me and my belly. I respond by laying my patent-pending fuck-you bitch-face stare on him. He averts his gaze.

I wasn’t there to see him, and there’s nothing wrong with my knees. I suppose it was a concerted effort on his part to wordlessly (he was talking to/ about my mom, after all) get me to consider MY weight and what it’s doing to my knees. *eye roll*

Once we’re back in the car (once we get my mom’s pants back on and she stops swearing) I tell her what he said. I don’t mention him giving me the once-over. Her response: “While my knee does feel better when I weigh less, I’m more concerned with strengthening it. So, I’ll work on that. I’m not concerning myself with the rest of it, because I think he’s a liar.”

Me: “Eh? Liar? Where did THAT come from?”

Her: “He promised me something to numb my leg before he STABBED me in the knee, and he didn’t. (When I thought about it…he did say that.) He also said it would feel like a bee sting, and THAT was a damned lie. Besides, unless me starving (this is her pet word for dieting) is going to cure this, and it isn’t, I’m not focusing on all of that.”

Me: “Ok, then.”

We ride in silence for a while, before my mom quietly says: “Damn it. Old age is kicking my ass, but I’m not gonna go quietly! It’ll have to take me kicking and screaming!”

When I get home, I relay the abbreviated version to BuddingStarlet. She responds: “What’s old age have to do with it? I’m 25 and I’m considering knee replacement surgery. I have arthritis as well. I mean, I suppose all those years of dance lessons and gymnastics didn’t help, but age? Not even.”

It was here I had a bit of a realization. See, when folks are diagnosed with arthritis, often the first reaction is “Lose weight!” But what if it’s brought on with way too much activity? Maybe it’s hereditary. Hilariously, my mom’s concern had nothing to do with her weight, but everything to do with her being 45. I might add she was an avid athlete when she was younger, and has been working retail since before I was born (I’m 23.) I’m sure that helped.

My point to all this rambling is, I guess, that just as fat and health can’t be lumped together, neither can age and health. I know folks older than me who are much healthier than I am, and in fact, unless they told you their real age, you’d assume they’re much younger. It’s all relative, and I’m of the mind that you’re only as young as you feel. (And seriously? That makes me about 70. I have an old soul, y’all.)

And since my mom wants to feel HER age, I’m gonna look into some strengthening exercises for her. I’ll go too, and see if I can start feeling my age as well.

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.

01
Jul
08

In Which I Ramble About Privilege

Yeah. I’m still here, folks. Sorry about the inadvertent hiatus. I had a job interview last week (it went great; yay!) and I was helping my mom ring in her 45th year (Happy Birthday, Mom!), so I got a bit sidetracked.

But y’all know I’ve been keeping up with the Fatosphere.

So, I (as I’m sure many other people have) read Aunt Fattie’s column yesterday. Outside of the various insightful comments, one term kept popping up frequently: privilege.

It’s something I think a lot about, this privilege, because it’s something that, in my self-acceptance journey, I have become more conscious of. And it extends way beyond fat privilege for me, because I’m also Black.

See, what folks don’t realize is that there’s a hierarchy in the Black community when it comes to fat AND when it comes to skin color.

Now, it seems to be the general idea that the Black community is more accepting of fat folks (if you want my view on that as it pertains to dating Black men, click here.) It really isn’t true, we just tend to describe it a bit differently. You have skinny, then thick, then fat (and many different words to describe what comes between). In my experience, it’s been the “thick” that’s most coveted, but that’s strictly what I see (YMMV). Now, a thick girl may not understand the issues I face as a fat woman, but she’s not as privileged as say, the skinny woman. However, the skinny woman might say that the thick woman has it better because she has more curves (yes folks, I’ve witnessed this discussion.) and so on. All this to say, there’s issues at every size.

But now, I never really thought about the color hierarchy until I focused on the fat hierarchy. For example: my freshman year of high school, my best friend was a fat, dark-skinned girl. She was awesome, and we got along so well. I looked smaller than she, but that’s because I was taller. We both wore the same size.

One day, I overheard a group of boys talking about she and I, and one guy pipes up “Wait, who’s T.?”

Other dude: “Oh, that’s the big, fat crispy (in reference to skin tone) girl that hangs around FashionableNerd.”

First dude: “Oh, hell, that chick is ugly! So I know FN has to be fucked up in the face to hang around her.”

Other dude: “Nah, man, she’s a light-skinned chick. Long hair and stuff. She ain’t all that skinny, but she’s alright.”

Notice how my skin color trumped my fat? I didn’t think about it then, as I was too busy laying a sound barrage of foul language on the boys for speaking of my friend in such a manner (if y’all think I have a filthy mouth NOW…let me tell you, this is a kinder, gentler me compared to then, yo). But when I started reading more discussions about White privilege and fat privilege and so on, I realized that racial and size privilege runs so much deeper than folks realized. T and I were the SAME SIZE, but they saw her dark skin AND fat. Me? Just my skin color. Which amazes me, because, what–you can be fat and lighter skinned, and that’s cool, but a pox on your house if you have nerve enough to be both fat AND darker skinned? Boggles the mind, y’all.

The older and more militant I became, the more I noticed the color privilege I had. I would always get compliments on my “beautiful, light brown skin”, when I’d have an equally gorgeous cocoa-colored friend sitting right next to me being ignored. Coupled with the long hair I had then, I’d get random IGNORANT questions about “what I was mixed with” because clearly, my Blackness ain’t enough to garner beauty. I have to fit some European ideal, and so my mom or dad has to be White, right? {This isn’t a shot at White people, just the beauty ideal. End disclaimer.}

But besides the shunning I noticed, I found that some of my darker-skinned friends were ashamed of their skin color, much as some fat people are conditioned to be ashamed of their fat. For example, my friend A. and I wanted to go out one weekend and have some fun.  When I suggested the beach (I was living in Florida at the time), she said, “Girl, no! I can’t afford to get any darker than I already am!”

Me: “What the—wait, WHAT?”

A.: “Come on now. YOU can get darker, you’re already light. I can’t get any darker, men won’t want me.”

A. is this gorgeous modelesque woman with long dark hair and coffee colored skin. Her body wasn’t keeping her from the beach, her skin tone was, and I was just amazed at that. In fact, I figured I’d be having a hard time cause, whoa, fat chick in bathing suit! But like most folks with privilege, I never even thought skin color would be an issue. It shouldn’t be an issue at all, but the more we as a society lean more towards the European beauty ideal, the more prevalent the issue will become.

But don’t think that the lighter skinned Black woman has it easier, now. IntellectualFeminist and I had a convo awhile back about skin tone and how it affected us when we were younger. She is much fairer than myself with jewel-green eyes. Where I’d get questions about what I was “mixed with”, she’d get questions asking “what ARE you”, as if she was some newly discovered creature. But then, it’s often I would see some of the fairer Blacks be discounted in some conversations surrounding racism and the Black experience, because they weren’t “Black enough” to count. I’d find myself telling her, oh, but I know EXACTLY how you feel, but seriously? I don’t, and she called me out on that, as she should have. See how messy and tangled the world of privilege is?

I think, that in the quest of understanding one another, both inter-racially and intra-racially (did I invent words here? if so, sorry, but I think y’all get my drift) we have to look at the various levels of privilege that we may have. It isn’t a perfect solution, if one would even call it a solution at all. But it is a tactic, and one folks would do well to try out sometime.

08
Jun
08

What Do You Say

…to a good friend that’s having a bad-body day? For those unfamiliar, a Bad-Body Day is one of those days where one’s life or perception is so out of control, one feels all they can do to improve it is to turn that frustration and anger on their bodies.

My trigger is stress. When I look at my life sometimes, I wonder what the hell I did wrong to keep me from being where I wanted to be by this time. I should be in law school, with my own apartment, a nice little gig in a law firm to make some extra cash, stuff like that. Instead, I’m living with my mom, working two jobs (and one, since it’s temporary, will be ending in a couple weeks or so), school is but a semi-distant dream right now, my mom–while she’s on the mend–rarely tells me what’s going on with her financially, so I worry about being able to help out more, and my jobs don’t pay enough for me to do much. But I do what I can. And all of that frustration, all of that self-disappointment, all that anger, gets turned towards my body. When I wrote that convo between Dr. Jekyll and myself, I was having a bad day already, then I read some unsavory literature, and all that in my head equalled DIET.  I can’t fix shit else in my life right now, but if I skip a couple of meals, work out about 3 hours a day, I can fix this body! Which is absolutely irrational, I know. But I go there on occasion. I pulled myself back, but what can one say to a friend who hasn’t come far enough in her acceptance journey yet to pull herself back as easily?

My friend lives in one of the most aesthetic driven cities on Earth. She texted me today, telling me how she found herself wanting to be thin like her coworkers.  So I asked why she wanted to be thin, because it’s been my experience that thin=fixing all things bad in life. She responded that many of her coworkers are younger than her (she’s 25), thin (she’s an inbetweenie), and married (yep, she’s single). So then she caught herself and asked if maybe she was equating married with skinny. I told her probably so, but we all have those moments, and allowing yourself to think about it sometimes will help you work through it so you can reject it the next time it comes up.

And the convo progressed from there. I’m doing what I can to make it better, but she and I are so much alike, I know that it’s something she has to work out in her own head, much like I do. But I know the positive words go a long way to help too. At least, I hope what I’m saying helps.

So, I open the floor to y’all. What do y’all do when faced with a Bad-Body Day? Do you write, read a good book, or watch a funny movie? Do you take a walk and appreciate nature? What do you say to try to uplift a friend in the middle of a Bad-Body Day?

26
May
08

Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde Speak

Every now again my diet mind (Dr. Jekyll) and I (Ms. Hyde) have a conversation. Usually it takes place in my idea journal, where I keep short stories and plot lines housed. But, following a round of reading some, eh, unsavory literature on-line (I don’t follow Sanity Watchers. I probably should.), my diet brain wormed its way back into my subconscious. So, I wrote down my internal dialogue in my idea journal, and I’d thought I’d reprint it here for you (modified to protect anonymity, naturally). The acceptance thing doesn’t always come easy, y’all.

Dr. J: Ha! So you’re listening to me today. I knew I’d be able to get back into your mind.

Me: Eh. Don’t think you can overtake me. I’m holding to my new convictions.

Dr. J: New convictions? You’re still on that Fat Acceptance bullshit?

Me: It isn’t bullshit, thank you very damn much.

Dr. J: Of course it is. If you weren’t having doubts about this ridiculous movement, you wouldn’t be talking to me right now. So what diet will it be today? Or do you need some motivation? Did you notice your thighs today?

Me: No diet. I’m having a rough day body-wise, but I’m not allowing you to take over my life. Not again. And don’t think I haven’t noticed that you’ve been talking to my mama lately.

Dr. J: Oh, yeah. I mean, I can’t seem to force her to bother you about your weight, but I can sure make her speak about her weight loss. I mean, it isn’t ALL affirmative, but I’ll take what I can get. I mean, I managed to get YOUR attention today.

Me: You know what, you’re a bastard. My mother is ILL. She has colon issues! She losing weight because she can’t eat very much of anything. {Side note: her issues are non-life threatening. They just cause a whole lot of discomfort. Since this has been written, and it’s been a while, she’s gotten it under control and is feeling better.} And I’m not seeing getting excited by losing weight that way. Also: I’m gonna have to ask you to let my godmother alone. Don’t have her cosigning Mama’s weight loss.

Dr. J: Why not? Weight loss is important, so you should achieve it by any means!

Me: At the expense of my good sense? My well-being? You know what, it’s a reason you and I aren’t cool; you don’t help me lose a damned thing but my mind. And I need my mind.

Dr. J: What does Fat Acceptance do for you? Sounds like some code for giving up. So, you’re a quitter. I knew you didn’t care enough to do what you need to do. Fat is unhealthy, you know!

Me: Wrong. I accept myself for who I am. Apparently, myself is fat. It is what it is. Hell, 22 years and some odd months of dealing with YOUR tired ass hasn’t made me thin. Listening to you berate me hasn’t made me thin. Listening to you talk to me–being “concerned” for me–through others HAS NOT MADE ME THIN. What Fat Acceptance has done for me is actually enjoy working out without worrying about what the scale says. I measure my “success”, if you want to call it that, by how flexible and strong I feel, and THAT keeps me moving and having fun. Perhaps you never noticed that when I never lost weight by doing those magical exercise poses, I QUIT DOING THEM BECAUSE I FELT LIKE I FAILED. When I adopted Health at Every Size (HAES), I adopted a way to help myself feel healthy and become healthy without having that fuckin’ scale attached to my ankle. When I saw how poorly fat people were treated, FA gave me script to read from, a way to react, a way to help instead of simply wondering what to do. FA gave me a reason to really question everything that YOU and everyone else ever told me. I finally had an opposing viewpoint, instead of just ONE view that had been hammered into my head since I was knee-high to a piano bench. I’ve researched both sides of the coin. Thoroughly. And I reject you, Dr. Jekyll. Because your perception doesn’t fit my reality, and I know this rings true for others.

Dr. J: You know what, you act as if you have all this mouth, and that FA is all that wonderful. But again, you continue to let me back in. You continue to speak to me. You have to be having doubts. All must not be good in paradise, girl, because here I am. Like I told you, fat is unhealthy. You, because you are fat, are unhealthy. You ought to be happy that you’re smart and have a pretty face otherwise you’d have no redeeming qualities at all.

Me: No. See, you let yourself in because I’m having a bad day. But you haven’t made me change my mind. You weren’t present when the doctor told me I was healthy. I don’t have high blood pressure, no diabetes, nothing. My mind is powerful and beautiful, and is connected to a face that is beautiful, which is connected to a body that is, yep, you guessed it, powerful and beautiful! My weight has jack shit to do with the woman I am; fat is not an insult, it’s an adjective, and it can’t hurt me. Not anymore. Furthermore, not every fat person is unhealthy because of their fat, and they shouldn’t be abused because they happen to be fat and unhealthy. Hell, I don’t see you worrying the shit out of thin, unhealthy people. Why the hell can’t you see it isn’t any of your business either way?! Folks should not be ridiculed or hounded because of their size or health level. Period. We are not an aesthetic. We are PEOPLE.

Dr. J: So, you’re encouraging OTHER people to be unhealthy? What if diets work for them? How can you take their hope away from them! Clearly, this whole FA phase you’re going through seems really self-centered.

Me: Actually, I’m encouraging other people to take the information they have and compare it to the information I and other bloggers in the Fatosphere have. If they choose to reject it, that’s fine. I’d rather they make an informed decision rather than mindlessly following the same ideals. If one needs to make a decision about FA or not, then let it be educated. And if diets work for them, I think that’s lovely. I hope they’re happy with their progress, and I hope it continues to work. However, if the tide changes and it doesn’t stick, I hope they know it isn’t a bad thing, and they should love themselves regardless. And I also think they shouldn’t look down on those who think and act differently than they do regarding dieting. I dislike DIETS, not DIETERS. Further, I don’t seek to take away anyone’s hope. I just feel folks should know all the story and not just half. Sometimes one can do everything “right” and it still not work as one expects. Fat isn’t a moral failing. I just want folks to know that, and in that vein, it can’t be all about me, because I want everyone to know just that: fat is not a moral failing. So you go to hell, Dr. Jekyll. You’ve taken up enough of my brain today. Go annoy someone else. But know this, every day more and more people reject your ideals and standards of beauty.

Dr. J: Oh, ok. I’ll leave. But know this, the spirit of my thoughts lies in the brain of every person that comes here to harass you. It lies in every person who loses weight, keeps it off, and deliberately makes you feel bad for not trying it too. It lies in every person who gives you dirty looks when you go out to eat. I’m there. And I’ll never be too far away, darling, should you chose to come back to the side of good sense.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yeah. It’s pretty lengthy. Ordinarily, Dr. J would have won, and I’d be on diet 28379817378, but this time…no. I think I had to write out my convictions for myself to see just how far I’ve come. And I still have some work to do…so I can get rid of Dr. J permanently. I hope that anyone else that reads this can see just what the movement stands for, and is willing to see both sides of the coin. And if y’all are having a bad body day, you can reaffirm your convictions too.




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