women

All posts in the women category

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice? I Think Not.

Published August 21, 2014 by sleepydumpling

There is something you all need to know about me.  Some of you might already know it.

I am not nice.

I have never pretended to be so.  I have no desire to be nice.  I have rebuffed every claim that I am nice.  I simply don’t play that game.

I have been an activist now for over 5 years, and still to this day people are demanding that I be nice.  They demand that I allow them to say whatever they like in my spaces online  They claim that I’m going to be the end of fat acceptance (which I no longer consider myself part of anyway) because I’m not nice enough, because they consider me rude/angry/opinionated/whatever – as though I’m so all powerful that I can bring down fat acceptance on my own.  I still deal with people demanding that I explain everything to them in fine detail, and then complain that I’m not nice when I refuse to perform on demand.  I still deal with people who seem to think that they have a right to tell me what to do in my online spaces – what I post, what comments I allow, who I can and cannot block/ban from my spaces.  There are those that declare that I am censoring them, that I am denying “free speech” or their “right to their opinion” by curating which comments I allow in my own spaces.  Five years of people telling me what I can and can’t do in my own space.

As a result of this, I am no longer allowing comments in this blog for most posts.  Occasionally I will open up the floor to share things, but mostly, I’m not here for discussion.  I’m here to write about my experiences and thoughts and beliefs.   This blog is actually first and foremost for me – it’s the place where I get to be heard, when as a fat woman, mostly in the world I am not.  When it does connect with other people, and helps them along too, I am THRILLED.  That absolutely makes my day.  But I am under no obligation to spend my life fixing or educating other people.  I fight for my rights as a fat woman, and that contributes to fighting for the rights for ALL fat women – which I am very proud of.

This blog is not a public forum.  It is not a discussion board.  It is not a debate service.  I am not attempting to create a community.  I am not a brand, a company or a business.  I’m not making money from this – actually my activism costs me WAY more than I can really afford much of the time, and I’m not affiliated with any organisation or corporation.  It is MY blog.  Mine.  100% my space, my opinions, my thoughts, my choice.   I will of course share things here that other people write and create, because I agree with them and think they are important.  But I’m not providing space for other people to determine what is done with it.

For anyone who wishes to claim that this is somehow censorship or denying free speech or others’ right to their opinions, you do not understand the actual concept of free speech/censorship.  I am not stopping you from saying whatever you like elsewhere.  Just here, in this one tiny, pretty obscure corner of the internet.  It’s the equivalent of not allowing you in my house if I don’t like you.  I’m not stopping you from going to other people’s houses, or even being out in public.  Just mine.  That is not censorship, it’s creating one small boundary.

So comments are now closed.  You are more than welcome to hit the like button at the bottom of each post, or use any of the share functions.  You’re welcome to follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook or Instagram.  You can contact me by email.  I love to hear from genuine people who bring something to the discussion without expecting me to perform for them on demand.  I’ve made some wonderful friends from people who’ve just taken the time to contact me to say hello or talk.  I wouldn’t change that for the world.  I will miss many of you who are regular commenters if I’m not able to connect with you elsewhere online, but you have all my other places of contact if you wish to keep in touch.

I am no longer going to give time, space and energy to people who wish to debate my right to live my life my with dignity and respect, just because I am a fat woman who refuses to be polite/quiet/invisible.

Of course, this is going to cause even more people to come out and say what a horrible person I am and how I’m somehow denying them something.  All I can say to that is GET OVER IT!  Go start your own blog/facebook page.

The thing is, nobody demands that men “be nice” in their spaces online.  Nobody suggests men are going to ruin an entire world movement if they are not nice.  I mean for fuck’s sake, Richard Dawkins is vile and disgusting but nobody holds him up as “ruining atheism”.  Russell Brand behaves abominably and nobody tells him to “be nice”.  I could list so many men who are anything but nice or polite who never have to deal with people demanding they tone down or be quiet.

Women are expected to always put other people’s feelings, needs and wants before their own.  We are expected to always be sweet and kind and defer to others, to be quiet and demure and polite.  We are criticised for showing emotion, for being angry, for standing up for ourselves and our rights.  Girls and women are meant to be nice.  The rest of us are just “bitches”.

Fuck that shit.

I am a lot of things.  I am angry.  I am outspoken and opinionated.  I am hot tempered and argumentative.  I am fiercely territorial.  I own these things about myself, and while they can get me into trouble sometimes, I am not ashamed of them.  When people list them as my “flaws” I do not deny them.

But I am a lot of other things that people rarely acknowledge but regularly attempt to utilise for themselves.  I am loyal.  I am protective.  I am so very compassionate and empathetic of people who are suffering that I literally read the news and cry for the wrongs in the world that I cannot fix.  I treat people I encounter in the world with kindness and respect (unless they fail to treat me so).  I am strong.  I am fierce.  I have a wicked sense of humour.  Those things are so often ignored because people would rather insist that I stop making them feel uncomfortable.  I’ve spent my whole life being uncomfortable with who I am, folks need to deal with being made feel uncomfortable a bit more often.

As a friend once said, I am a laughing lioness.  I am not now, nor will I ever be, nice.

I Stand With Shakesville

Published July 29, 2014 by sleepydumpling

It’s time for us all to break the silence.  It’s time for us to stand up together.

If you haven’t already heard about the harassment and abuse that Liss over at Shakesville is constantly under, please take the time to read her latest post.  Probably best to have read it before you continue reading here.

I am so angry about this.  Both for Liss, because I know how horrible it is to be subjected to abuse and harassment like this, but also because this shit happens time and time and time again to women online and nothing is ever done about it.  I could list hundreds of women I know who have gone through this.  Some of them I like and agree with, some of them I don’t.  It doesn’t matter – women online of all backgrounds and experiences are harassed and bullied and abused simply because they are women and are active online.

Firstly, let me state clearly that I fully stand with Melissa McEwan and Shakesville.  Shakesville has been incredibly important to me for some years now.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything over there, nor am I interested in every single post.  Because despite the abusers portraying people who read/follow/participate on Shakesville as some kind of clueless fool or victim, I’m a grown adult with a brain who can read and decide which posts are of value to me, and which I leave to other people who get something out of them.  Liss’s work at Shakesville, and that of her contributors and moderators, has been integral in both educating me and giving me food for thought to be able to make up my own mind on so many topics.  It has also been vital in building my self esteem as a fat woman, to hear Liss and others talk about their experiences, many of which I can truly identify with.  I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for years of reading Shakesville.  Not to mention that I have been directed to and met many other amazing writers and activists via Shakesville, be it by links in posts, guest posts or other commenters.

I have always felt safe when commenting on Shakesville.  Even when I disagree with something.  I know that over there, there is a dedicated team who keep the space free of bullying and work very hard to keep threads on topic and respectful.  That is a very rare environment for a woman online, believe me.

But I’ve also felt challenged by the writing over on Shakesville.  It makes me think.  Makes me ask questions of myself and others.  It’s good to be intellectually challenged about things.  It’s good to have your ideology tested regularly.  Sometimes I disagree with someone on a topic, and that’s OK.  I can choose to not read it at any time, to skip posts or give up altogether.  Mind you, nothing about Shakesville has made me feel like I needed to walk away from reading it, even when I have disagreed or been disinterested.  I like the mature, passionate, intelligent voices I am presented there.  I like that I can rely on the comments not to descend into hatred, attacks and insults.  It has inspired how I try to keep my comment policy.

Personally speaking, I am glad to have met Liss online.  She is whip-smart, funny, passionate and articulate.  She is also kind and thoughtful.  She shows she cares so often when others remain silent.  She has cute pets that make me smile and I enjoy her selfies and other photos she shares.  Even though we’ve never met in person, and we don’t talk as often as I might with other folk I know and am closer to online, I consider her a friend.  And I’m angry that a friend has been subjected to the abuse that she has.

I know this is going to draw me more harassment and abuse, because this is the way these people operate – they attempt to silence anyone who supports their target so that they isolate her further.  That is their objective – our silence.  They’re not going to get it from me.  I’m already harassed daily by those who want my silence, and even when I am not active online they come after me.  I long for people to stand with me and support me in the face of the harassment and abuse I receive, and it’s the right thing to do to stand by Liss in the face of hers.

I am no stranger to online abuse and harassment myself.

A couple of years ago I attempted to start an online magazine for marginalised women in the wake of yet another horrible example of “women’s media” being harmful to marginalised women.  Within 48 hours I was harassed, abused and bullied relentlessly, as were those who supported the project, until I had to pull the plug on it because I could not protect the very women I was aiming to give space to.  Most of it over a typo.

Daily I open my email to find hate mail telling me to kill myself, that I’m disgusting, that I am dirty, smelly, diseased and dying.  Emails describing how they’re going to rape me, beat me or murder me.  Another favourite method is to describe how someone horrible is going to rape/murder me – they delight in either creating fictional creeps/murderers/rapists or describing known ones.  Alternatively they love to describe how not even the most disgusting, creepy man on earth would touch me.

Someone was ringing my home phone regularly and laughing down the line at me or on to my voice mail, or calling me a cunt/fat slut/bitch/etc until I unplugged my phone since I wasn’t using it anyway.  I have come home to find notes stuck in my mailbox that simply point out that they know I where I live.  I have received my own address emailed to me by fake email addresses.  I have had my employer contacted by someone who demanded they demote me because they believed I wasn’t qualified enough.  I have had my work contact numbers and addresses given to hundreds of weight loss businesses, diabetes clinics and gyms/personal trainers, so that I was inundated with these businesses contacting me at work following up on what they thought was my genuine interest in their business, wasting their time, my employers and mine.

They’ve created fake social media profiles of me.  They create social media profiles just to harass me, so that no matter how many I block, they just create another one.  They leave anonymous hate on all of my social media profiles.  They email or message me gross pornography and gore.

There are pages and pages and pages of hate filled screed online about me.  I see them linked to this blog, and people sometimes send them to me out of wanting to help (it doesn’t), and sometimes the authors of this bullshit send it to me themselves, just to goad me.  There are pages discussing my hair, dissecting every little thing about it to ridicule me.  They speculate over how often I wash it and what with, what brand colour I use on it and what technique I use to colour it.  There are people who keep dossiers my online mentions of food.  Others save/download every photograph of me that is online and then deface them.  There are pages discussing my health, and dissecting photographs of me to try to find outward evidence of Type 2 Diabetes (I have it, have never hidden that).  They discuss whether or not I have pain or illnesses, rubbing their hands in glee when they think I do.

They look for mentions of my family and friends and colleagues, and try to make me believe that nobody likes me, that everyone is laughing at me behind my back, that I am alone and unloved.

Generally they just find every way to try to abuse or harass me they can.  The saddest thing is that I am just one of multitudes of women online, some of whom suffer far, far more disgusting abuse.  The objective is to drive us off the internet.  There is even a fucking website devoted to driving people off the internet, with users referring to it as “my internet”, as though they have some right to it that they can decide others don’t.  Silencing people with abuse and harassment is not criticism or disagreement.  It’s bullying.  Instead of behaving like a decent human being and just turning their back on the person they’ve decided they hate and not reading their work or visiting their website, they make it their mission to drive them away altogether.  Not content with making them unwelcome in their spaces online, they are determined to drive them out of ALL spaces online.

The truth of it is that as strong and courageous as any woman is, this constant abuse and harassment DOES cost us.  It costs us our freedom, our voice, our peace of mind and our emotional wellbeing.  It costs us relationships with people who cannot understand what it is like to be constantly abused and harassed, and with those afraid to be subjected to that abuse and harassment by association with us.  It costs us actual money to mitigate the very real dangers we face.  It costs us money in security for our homes, safe transport when we feel we cannot use public transport or travel alone safely, in software and services to block and filter and screen the abuse and attacks.  For some it costs their careers and access to education. But worst of all it costs us our physical safety.

I know exactly what is going to happen.  People are going to make excuses for the behaviour of these abusers and harassers.  They will suggest that women just ignore it, or don’t go online.  There will be those that suggest that Liss and I and other women bring it upon ourselves because we are so “opinionated”.  Others will say that we cannot take criticism – as though these things are not at all abuse and harassment. Criticism is “I disagree with you because…” or “I find the way you handled this problematic because…”  It’s not rape and death threats, stalking, harassment, name-calling, keeping dossiers and trying to silence someone.

They’ll say “Oh these are just sad losers on the internet.” as though they do no harm, or only harm themselves.  Or those around us will just stay silent.   They’ll read this or Liss’s piece, or any of the other examples of it that are written by the incredible strong, courageous women who put themselves online and they’ll just shrug their shoulders and say, “What can I do?”

The truth is, there are lots of things you can do.  Start by believing women who talk about this abuse and harassment.  Help by saying clearly and publicly “This is wrong. This has to stop.”  Signal boost when women write about the abuse and harassment they face.  When other people make excuses about the abuse and harassment women deal with, challenge them.  Tell them it is not acceptable to minimise or excuse the abuse and harassment.  Campaign online platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and any others to put in adequate security for their users – proper block functions, well moderated abuse reporting systems, clear anti-abuse terms of service requirements and strong anti-hacking/spam systems.  If you know a woman who is being harassed/abused online, listen to her when she needs to vent.  Ask her if she’s OK and if there are any ways you can help.  Often just knowing someone cares and is listening is the thing that is least expressed.  Support her if she goes to the authorities to report it.  Document anything you receive by being associated with her.

If you stumble across abuse and harassment of a woman online, think carefully before you approach her about it.  It is likely she already knows, and is finding it difficult to deal with already.  Be sensitive about it if you do feel you need to raise it.  Stay away from hate sites, use DoNotLink if you must link to it anywhere so the perpetrators don’t get the clicks/revenue.  Report abusive social media accounts.  Don’t blame the victim for the abuse, blame the perpetrators.  Point out the difference between abuse and criticism – sadly it seems a lot of people can’t discern that for themselves.

It has to stop.  Whether you agree with or like a particular woman online is irrelevant.  This is not criticism, this is abuse and harassment.  It is violence.  We know what domestic abuse is, we know what emotional abuse is, we know what sexual abuse is.  This culture of bullying, silencing and harassing women online is just another form of abuse.  And online abuse is no more acceptable than any other kind.

It’s time for everyone to stand up and clearly state that the abuse of women online is unacceptable in any form.  Not just to make it clear to the perpetrators that their time is coming to an end and that they will not be permitted to continue this behaviour, but to show support to those who suffer at the hands of these abusers.

More on That Louie Scene

Published May 25, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I had intended to run this post a few days ago, but the working week got the better of me (the crescendo of the financial year is always so intense), and I’m a little bit later than planned.  But it’s still important and I know some of you want to expand the discussion more from the previous post – thank you for your patience and keeping in topic!

So last post I was talking about the scene from Louie with the rather amazing Sarah Barker giving a stellar performance as a fat girl on a date.  My last post was a response to the criticisms of her statement that it sucks to be a fat woman were not a win for fat activism.  If you still haven’t seen the scene, or need a refresher, you can check it out here.

It’s important to note that I do have issues with Louis CK and his TV show.  But I’m not talking about those here.

Today I want to respond to some of the fatosphere criticisms of the scene with regards to dating and relationships.

The major criticisms that I have seen that bother me are:

  • She is begging for attention/to have her hand held.
  • That plenty of hot men want to date fat women, why did she go out with one that was reluctant to date her/be seen with her.
  • Men don’t want to date her because she is whiny and annoying, not because she’s fat.
  • It portrays single fat women as “pathetic” or desperate.
  • She’s “settling” when she says she doesn’t want a boyfriend or a husband.
  • Why doesn’t she just join a BBW dating site?

I find these criticisms extremely problematic.

The first thing that I have a problem with is the way that many perceive her as begging/whining/annoying.  I think that reaction actually reflects the point she makes to Louis about the double standard between when men and women talk about how hard it is to date while being fat – how he can get up on stage and joke about being single and a fat guy and people think it’s adorable, but if she tries to talk about how hard it is for her, people call the suicide hotline.  To me, suggesting she is begging/whining is deeply misogynistic.  She’s being very clear about what bothers her about the way she is treated, and she’s also calling Louis out for behaving in a way that she finds really disappointing.  She expected better of him.  But because she is a woman, it is instantly read as whining/begging.  However if a man were to outline when someone’s behaviour bothered him, he’d be considered assertive and honest.

The next point that bothers me is the suggestion that there are “plenty of hot men who want to date fat women” and “why doesn’t she just join a BBW dating site?”  I think that this reaction to the scene also demonstrates exactly what she is talking about.  She asks Louis if he has ever dated a fat girl, and quickly pulls him up when he starts to say yes and says “I didn’t ask if you’ve fucked a fat girl, every guy has done that.”  She’s calling out the constant fetishisation and objectification of fat women.  Those “plenty of hot men who want to date fat women” on BBW sites are in the majority not looking to date a fat woman – they’re fetishizing/objectifying us.  Hands up if you’ve ever been involved with a man who is all too happy to sleep with you in private, but won’t take you out for dinner, or hold your hand in public, or introduce you to his friends?  She quite rightly says that if she had offered Louis sex, he’d have taken it up straight away… what if that’s not what you want from a partner?  There is nothing, NOTHING wrong with wanting to have a romantic relationship with someone, and to want them to put some effort into that relationship.  She’s right, any woman who is willing can get laid.  But it is exceptionally difficult to find men who are willing to date fat women in the same way that they would a thin woman.

Another criticism I find difficult to accept are those asking why she is bothering with Louis if he doesn’t get it (settling).  That’s the judgement we all have to make on all of our interpersonal relationships with people who don’t quite get fat activism.  We don’t live in a bubble of fat positivity, we live in the real world and it means making decisions about whether people are worth having in your life.  Do you take up the challenge of educating them, getting them to see how their behaviour is problematic, or do you just move on.  Sure, pick your battles, some people really aren’t worth your time.  But some people are.  Some people, while initially not getting it, are more than willing to listen and work through it.  That’s what you have to decide.  I’ve not that long ago dated a guy who kept putting his foot in it, not quite understanding what bothered me, but he was willing to listen, and asked me how to get it right.  Sure, it gets frustrating at times, but I never felt that it was “settling” for me to continue to see him.  One of the greatest moments with someone who “doesn’t get it” is that moment that the penny drops and they DO get it.  I love that moment!  Some of the most important people in my life today were really defensive at first, but I thought they were worth keeping around, and now they’re my staunchest allies.

But the one that really sticks in my craw is the suggestion that this portrays a fat woman as “pathetic”.  Why?  Why is it pathetic for a fat woman to call a man out for a crappy attitude/behaviour and state clearly what she wants?  Why is it pathetic for a fat woman to say that she wants a man who will be proud to be with her and put some effort into dating her?  It’s interesting that whenever a man shows vulnerability or wants a romantic relationship, it’s sweet and romantic, but if a fat woman does the same, it’s “pathetic” and “needy”?

Interestingly, those within fat activism that have been the most vocal in suggesting that this portrays fat women as pathetic are those who have the privilege of being in a relationship of whatever form themselves.  It makes me really side eye them as supposed allies… do they really think those of us who are single and are interested in dating a man who is proud to be seen with us and puts some effort into us as “pathetic”?

I want all of you to know there is nothing wrong with being vulnerable.  There is nothing wrong with speaking about what you want and expect from relationships.  There is nothing pathetic about wanting to be in a relationship.

Personally, I found this entire scene empowering, because it articulates a lot of things that I feel and represents situations I have been in myself.  That’s what I want to see in television – realistic portrayals of the lives of fat women.  I don’t just want to see us lampooned or turning ourselves into cariacatures (a la Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids).  I want to see realistic fat women in realistic situations. Awkward conversations, guys being jerks and then getting called out on it, fat women who are angry, disappointed, exasperated, and fed up, people who don’t quite get it but are willing to try, and sometimes getting that wrong too.

I want to see all representations of fat women, not just those that tick all the Fat Activism 101 boxes.

Unapologetically Ugly

Published May 1, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Every day, when I open my email, there are a plethora of emails detailing how ugly I am.  Every day, someone leaves a comment here on this blog, or sends me an email, or trolls my Tumblr, deeply intent on declaring me the ugliest person they’ve ever seen.  They equate me to pigs, whales, elephants, hippos, manatees and all manner of animals, all of which I personally find awesome and absolutely adorable.

Once upon a time, this would have hurt me deeply.  I would have been terribly upset, it probably would have made me self harm, or driven me to isolate myself more, or stopped me from dressing the way I love to dress.

But it hasn’t done that for a long time.

Now before you deny my ugliness, which is a lovely thought of you, I want to say, it’s OK.  I’m not writing this to have people dispute the accusation.  You don’t need to tell me I’m not ugly, or even that I’m beautiful, to undo the shitty things that some people say to me.  Because other than some irritation at having to deal with continued abuse and harassment, the actual words themselves don’t hurt me at all.

I realised why today when I responded to an email that was actually lovely (not abuse, I don’t respond to those) from a woman who had always felt ugly and she told me about her journey to find her own beauty.  I got to thinking about that need to be beautiful, and I realised I don’t have that need myself. Not that I have any problem with other people needing to feel beautiful, but it’s just not there for me.

I feel absolutely no obligation to be aesthetically pleasing to others.  Oh don’t get me wrong, it is always nice when someone refers to me as beautiful, but I don’t feel it defines me or adds any value to me as a person.   Now admittedly, mostly women are expected to be beautiful, or at least aspire to beauty.  Women are often seen as prizes or trophies measured by their beauty.  I want more from my life than being aesthetically pleasing.

My having beauty does not define all of the important things in my life.  It doesn’t diminish my intellect, my humour, my compassion, my dedication, my enthusiasm, my strength, my ability to love.  These are, for me anyway, the yardsticks which I measure my success as a human being – not beauty.

Let’s not forget, beauty is entirely subjective anyway.  As much as there is a societal beauty ideal, it is not the default of what all people actually find beautiful.  People find all types of features beautiful – for every single feature of appearance there is, someone out there will find it beautiful – even the very things we ourselves might find deeply unattractive.  We can also find polar opposites of features beautiful – you can be attracted to more than one body type, or more than one eye colour, or more than one skin tone, and so on.  I know I am.  Think about the famous people that are seen as beautiful.  One movie star or pop singer may be deeply desirable to one person, and then completely off putting to the next.  Except perhaps for Tom Hiddleston, it seems EVERYONE finds him deeply desirable!

Personally, I’m attracted to people for more than just their physical beauty.  A person can be physically stunning, but deeply repulsive to me.  I can think of several famous actors who are lauded as being the “sexiest men alive” yet I find them very unattractive because I know that they have been violent towards previous partners, or have bigoted political beliefs, or are ignorant.  What I find attractive in a person extends much further than external appearance.  For example I am attracted to an infectious laugh, gentle hands, quick wit, deep intellect… I also like crooked teeth, skinny legs, smile wrinkles, hairy bodies, big feet, fat bellies… all things that other people would consider very unattractive.  A person doesn’t have to have all of those things for me to find them attractive, but I notice them on people and am attracted to them, particularly when accompanied by those non-physical attributes that I like.

That said, I don’t expect every person on the planet to meet my aesthetic.  I’m not personally offended by encountering someone that I do not find attractive.  There seems to be this mentality in men in particular that if a woman fails to be sexually attractive to him, it is a personal insult to him.  I’ve heard it referred to as The Boner Principle.  Any woman who “fails” to inspire an erection in a man loses her right to basic human respect by default.  It is the most unbelievably conceited attitude to think that you are owed attraction by every woman you encounter.

I’ve got no intention of buying into that bullshit.  My life is worth far more than being a pretty ornament that pleases others.  If people think I’m ugly, I offer no apology and feel no shame.  For some time my personal motto has been:

I’m not here to decorate the world, I’m here to change it.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Published March 8, 2014 by sleepydumpling

Yes, March 8th is International Women’s Day, and to celebrate/acknowledge it, I’d like to talk about just how life has changed for me as a woman, and with women over the years.

IWD

All my life, I felt like I wasn’t “girlie” enough.  When I was small it was because I was poor and didn’t have the pretty clothes and things that other girls had, and because I was repeatedly told I was fat.  I felt like being a girl was a competition, and because I couldn’t compete, I wasn’t “girlie”.  Then along came puberty and I really did become fat.  Add hairy and spotty into the equation, that made me feel like I had even less of a right to girlhood.  As I passed through my teens and into adulthood, I still believed that because I didn’t fit what the media, my family, and men in general told me a woman should be, I still didn’t feel like I belonged to womanhood.

My response to that was to internalise misogyny.  I started to tell myself that “I’m not like other girls” and consequently I couldn’t be friends with women or girls.  I surrounded myself with male friends, denounced anything that read as “feminine”, shaved my head and wore big clunky boots and a lot of flannel.  I thought if I couldn’t “compete” with women, I didn’t want to be like one.

You see that’s what misogyny is.  It’s the myth of “femininity”.  The myth that womanhood fits one narrow band of features and behaviours, and that womanhood is a competition between the female of our species to appeal to male of our species, and only those that “win” the attention of men are allowed to consider themselves “feminine”.  Femininity is measured by how pleasing a woman is to men – by her appearance, her voice, her behaviour and her sexual availability.

Not to mention that fat women are so othered by society in so many ways that rob them of the things that are supposed to mark femininity – society sets the standards of femininity and then denies them to fat women.  When you cannot buy the clothes that are considered acceptable, when you are not seen represented by marketing and the media, when you are treated as sub-human, you cannot participate in society as a peer.  When you are led to believe that life is a competition, and that you are not a peer of the population in general, you tend to opt out.

There is no wonder that so many fat women (as well as other marginalised women) internalise the misogyny that is continually poured on us.

But for me, somewhere about the same time as fat liberation, I found feminism.  I started to question the way women are treated in our culture, and I started to see just how girls and women are forced into competition with each other to prove this thing called “femininity”, to prove their worthiness as human beings.  I learned to value myself not only as a woman, but as a fat woman.  I learned that girlhood and womanhood are far more diverse than society leads us to believe, and that there are no hard and fast rules about what makes a woman a woman.

I also began to see just how badly many of the men in my life, those who I believed were my friends, were treating me.  I began to recognise just how many of them dismissed my opinion, ridiculed my feelings, refused to respect my physical boundaries and generally just treated me with disrespect.  I finally put an end to the friendship with the man who was supposed to be my best friend, but had been repeatedly sexually assaulting me for the entire span of our 15 year friendship – assault which I had been groomed to believe was my fault and that I deserved it, and that I was silly for feeling uncomfortable and upset about.  I began to expect better of the men in my life.  Which meant that many of the ones I already had in my life either left or had to be removed, but it meant that there was room in my life for good men (y’all know who you are fellas) who treat me with respect.  The men I have in my life these days are amazing, and I’m honoured to know them.

Another factor that changed for me on discovering feminism and fat activism is that I’ve enjoyed participating in things that are coded as “feminine”, where I did not before.  I wear dresses.  I love anything pink.  I enjoy having my nails done and growing my hair long so that I can pin flowers and bows in it.  These things are not any indicator of womanhood, but are things usually denied to women who are seen as unacceptable.  It’s nice to have the option to participate in things that are seen as traditionally feminine.

That doesn’t mean you have to perform “femininity” to be a woman, after all “femininity” is a social construct.   What  it means is that you give yourself permission to enjoy those things that are coded as feminine regardless of whether you fit society’s narrow definitions of womanhood.

I’ve realised that how others judge me is not indicative of my womanhood.  My womanhood is my identity, not for others to bestow upon me if they deem me worthy.

However the greatest benefit of feminism and fat activism for me has been the discovery that now that I don’t feel in any way competitive towards other women, I’ve discovered I really like women.  I’ve made far more women friends and they in turn have enriched my life in more ways than I can express.  I enjoy the company of other women immensely and found that we have more in common than we have in difference.

So this is for you, all of the women in my life, all of the women who read my blog and all of the women who have been convinced by others that they’re not good enough, not “feminine” enough, that they don’t belong to womanhood.  YOU determine your womanhood, not others.

Here’s to the women of the world.  May you see your own value.

Her: The Movie

Published January 25, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I just got home from a day out at the movies (with a little brunch with a friend and shopping interspersed amongst it).  I saw The Book Thief, which is wonderful, I can highly recommend it, and then I saw Her.

I want to talk a little bit about the latter, because I came away with many thoughts buzzing around my head.  Luckily I had a bit of a wait for my bus and then a good half hour bus trip, so that I could begin to gather my thoughts on the movie into some coherence to write about here.

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Let me start by saying that Her is beautifully written, shot and acted.  Visually it is gorgeous, the language of the film is quite poetic and the cast are excellent, they all give nuanced performances that felt very human and real.

But the concept of a man falling in love with an artificially intelligent operating system-woman really stuck in my craw.  At first I couldn’t work out why, humans falling in love with robots/computers/artificial intelligent beings isn’t new, but when I sat with it for awhile, I realised what bothered me.  This perfect woman that Theodore (Joachin Phoenix) has found, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johanssen), has no body.  She has a brain, she has emotions, she has humour, she has intellect, she even has sexuality, but no physical form.

The perfect woman in this film is a woman whose body has been effectively photoshopped out of existence.

We’re all used to the concept of a woman’s body being photoshopped/edited to be something it isn’t.  We’re even used to seeing the results of that editing rendering women’s bodies smaller and thinner and more unrealistic.  All the “messy” bits of women’s actual bodies have been edited away for a long time.  Cellulite, wrinkles, stretchmarks, body hair, fat… even women’s genitals are edited to the point of “perfection”, which is completely unattainable by any living human being even after extensive cosmetic procedures.  Human beings are animals and we’re innately messy.  Our bodily functions are like that of any other animal – messy.  In this case she has been edited completely out of having a body at all.  All her physical “flaws” have been removed until there is no physical form left.

It reminds me somewhat of Alexandria’s Genesis, a fictional “condition” prevalent in science fiction where female characters have purple eyes, pale white skin, dark hair, slow ageing, no body hair or periods (yet they can still conceive) and they don’t get diseases.  This condition is a lazy writer’s way of making the “perfect” woman, who doesn’t have any of the messiness of things like illness, body hair or a menstrual cycle.  Because actual women are seen as dirty, messy, leaky things.

It’s inherently a misogynistic view of women, that suggest we are somehow unacceptable for being living creatures, as human beings.  It’s acceptable for men to be hairy, flawed, smelly, sweaty and physical bodies.  But somehow it is considered far worse a crime for a woman to be any of the above.

I also take exception to the idea that the “perfect woman” is entirely there to please her man.  She is created entirely by and for him, and while she sometimes has emotions that he cannot understand or takes exception to, she never argues with him, never disagrees with him and spends much of the movie apologising to him for her questions, assumptions and actions.  In fact he gets angry when Samantha starts speaking with her peers – other operating systems, and befriends a male operating system.

If this behaviour were replicated in a human relationship, it would be an abusive relationship.  However this makes Samantha the “perfect woman” that Theodore has found.  There are other moments that are deeply problematic, but I don’t want to get spoilery on you all.  Ultimately when Samantha has very human reactions and feelings, things begin to turn sour for the relationship.

Ultimately while I could see the beauty and talent behind the film (both the cast and the director/cinematography) I came away feeling like the film was a very harsh criticism of actual women, that suggested the only way to make a woman meet the standard men are seeking was to erase her physical form and make her sole purpose to please her man.  Take away a woman’s personhood and she becomes “the perfect woman”.

A deeply misogynistic premise… and misogyny in films is so dull, we’ve seen it all before.

Permission to Geek Out – Granted.

Published October 19, 2013 by sleepydumpling

It’s no secret to anyone who follows my Tumblr that I am a massive fan of Tom Hiddleston.  It all started with his role as Loki in the Avengers films and grew from there.  This is because I’ve always been a complete geek, when I get into something, I get really into it.  I love to dissect every nuance and really get into the minutiae of a topic that I’m into.  So I’m one of those people who gets on Tumblr with a bunch of other geeks of the same flavour, and we talk about all the details of that thing we love.  Right now for me, that’s the world of Marvel’s Avengers with particular focus on Loki.

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It has always been like this for me.  I can remember being obsessed with everything Roald Dahl wrote when I was about 7 years old.  At 11 it was US Civil War history, after reading Janet Lunn’s “The Root Cellar”.  At 15, it was everything Titanic, after reading Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember” for a school assignment.  That particular obsession came back when James Cameron’s film came out in 1996.  At 16 it was the world of the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  At 18 it was Dublin Soul music, thanks to The Commitments.  All through my life, I’ve been the kind of person who really likes to delve into stuff at a detailed level when the bug bites me.  When I discovered the internet in my early 20′s, I joined so many forums and chat groups (and remember IRC?) just so I could talk about stuff I love.  I still have friends now that I met online in Titanic, SeaChange, Mythbusters, and Tank Girl forums (among others) many, many years ago.

Science fiction, fantasy and superheroes are awesome.  I used to have an extensive collection of indie comics until my stepfather dumped them all (my favourite was one called Greener Pastures, followed closely by Tank Girl).  I have played some form of computer game almost every day of my life since I was 10 years old.   I work with technology for a living.  Every working day has me designing integrated AV systems and implementing IT solutions for everything from training customers in social media to 3D printing.  I squee over shiny new gadgets.   I’m a shameless Apple fan.  I’m a librarian for God’s sake.

Yet I’ve noticed something.  I don’t qualify as a “geek” in general geek culture.  People roll their eyes at my TARDIS lock-screen on my iPhone.  They scoff at the little Thor figurine that lives on my office desk.  People make snide little comments about “fangirls” in reference to our online discussions about Doctor Who and Marvel Avengers.  When I wear my PacMan earrings guys call me a “fake geek girl”.  Dudes often explain things to me at work (and outside of work) as if I’m stupid.  A particular bugbear is some guy who has never worked with AV in his life lecturing me about what kind of TV I should buy, five minutes after he’s watched me explain to my AV vendor what integration I want in a three room combinable meeting room system.  Or the friend who asked the teenage boy working in JB HiFi which DVD/Bluray to buy even though she had already asked me and I had given her some recommendations.  Because a bored looking teenage boy in retail clearly knows more than a 40 year old woman who works with AV integration for 35 large public sites.

In general, a woman’s interest in anything geeky is dismissed and patronised.  Women are treated like “silly fangirls” and “fake geek girls” while the dude sitting beside them is wearing a wookie hoodie or has only seen the JJ Abrahms Star Trek films.  Of course, there are always a million reasons given.  Let’s look at a few shall we?

You’re only wearing that because you like the look of it!
So no dude has ever worn some form of geek culture because he liked the look of it?  How many dudes have bought an Iron Man t-shirt because it looked cool?  So what if it looks cool and a woman wants to wear it.  How is that hurting anyone?

You’re only into [insert geek culture] because [insert attractive celebrity] is in it!
Oh and dudes don’t buy comic books because the female characters are drawn hot?  Like they don’t drool over Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia or a whole bunch of other actresses who have been in sci-fi/fantasy/super-hero roles.  It’s a good thing if a popular actor is a gateway drug into a fandom.  How different is it having Matt Smith or David Tennant draw a woman into Doctor Who than an actress in a skimpy costume do the same thing for another fandom?

You’re only getting into it because “geek culture” is trendy right now!
I’m sorry?  I played my first computer game when I was 10.  That was 31 years ago.  I read science fiction and fantasy, watched anime and bought comic books from the same age.  For chunks of my teens I was ridiculed for it, so I hid it away a lot, but I’ve been into geeky stuff longer than many of the loud anti-fangirl crew have been alive.

You only play girly games, not real ones!
Firstly, lots of women play games that are traditionally aimed at men.  I work with a 40 year old woman who has played WoW ever since I’ve known her and that’s over a decade.  A girlfriend of mine loves Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Mass Effect, Call of Duty and such.

Secondly, how welcoming are these traditionally male oriented games to women?  Are there any decent female characters for them to choose from, or are women just treated as tits and arse for the male players to ogle?  If they’re multi-player games, how are women treated when they join in to play?  One only has to follow Anita Sarkeesian’s work to see why many women shy away from these games and environments.

But finally, why are male oriented games considered more “real” or valid than other types of game?  Why is Grand Theft Auto  more “real” than The Sims, Tetris, Animal Crossing, The Simpsons Tapped Out or even Cookie Mama and Farmville?  Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds are as valid as games as any shooting or driving game marketed to the dudes.  Why is spending your time playing a game that shoots people more “valid” than spending your time playing a game that slices fruit?

You don’t know anything about the history of [insert geek culture]!
How many male Lord of the Rings fans don’t know diddly squat about Tolkien?  Or male Star Trek fans know nothing about Roddenberry?  Or male Doctor Who fans who have never watched an episode prior to the Eccleston reboot?  How many male gamers out there never played PacMan, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong or have even heard of Pong?  How many male science fiction readers have never read Orwell, Wyndham or Wells?  How many comic book readers have never seen a vintage copy of The Phantom (or never even heard of The Phantom!) or collected indie comic books?  I could go on.  Why is it perfectly acceptable for men to pick and choose what geek culture they engage in, but women are quizzed and tested to prove their worth?  Besides, how often does something that is new and popular draw people into the history?  So, maybe they are only getting into Avengers because of Joss Whedon’s film, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to get totally into the whole Marvel universe and start collecting comic books.

Silly fangirls are ruining everything!
Ruining everything for who?  For men who like the status quo of no female characters of substance, of never having to feel inadequate next to a handsome male character, of not having their fragile masculinity threatened by a dude shown in a sexually attractive light.  They’re not the only people on the planet, and they’re not the only ones who are willing to fork out their hard earned cash on fandom.  So something needs to appeal to women as well as men now to make money and stick around.  Good!  Not only is there more money to be devoted to keeping something alive if both men and women can dig it, but women have as much right to stuff they can dig as men do.  We have as much right to be treated with respect, given diverse and detailed characters and to be considered when developing, writing, casting and marketing content.  Besides, if we have to sit through a movie with some woman in a gold bikini, the fellas can sit through one with a dude with his shirt off and tight pants.

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The reality is, women are not considered valid human beings, so our interests, knowledge and skills are not considered valid either.  Our wants and needs are considered “add ons”, not the default.  Our fandom is considered an irritant rather than the integral part of the machine of geek culture that it is.  Don’t let people treat your interests and hobbies as silly or unworthy.  You have every right to the geeky that any man does.  Embrace your fangirl nature if you have one.  Squee over the things you love.  Learn about technology and gadgets if you are interested in them.  Wear, create, use whatever geek culture you want, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not worthy, or you’re silly for filling your life with geekdom.  You keep these geek culture items alive as much, if not more, than any snarky dude in a Yoda t-shirt!

And don’t get me started on other systems of privilege in geek culture either!

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