feminism

All posts in the feminism category

On Women and Enjoyment

Published September 19, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

It was a small comment on this great post by meowser on Fat Fu that set a lightbulb off in my mind.  While talking about food shaming, this really jumped out at me:

Seriously. I will never be able to understand how the same women who (rightly) opine that women should have the right to drink like men frequently balk at the idea that women should be allowed to eat like men. Sure, you can inhale a thousand calories’ worth of Cosmopolitans or Coronas and fall off your barstool and that’s badass righteous, but gods forbid you should indulge in a cheeseburger. On a bun made with white flour. With fries. And a full-sugar soft drink. (You food slut, you.)

The emphasis is mine.

That’s what this is all about isn’t it?  That’s what the objection to fat women really boils down to.  The perception that women who are fat, must eat a lot, so therefore they are food sluts.  Because if a woman enjoys ANYTHING, be it food, sex,  shopping, alcohol, working, you name it, then she must be enjoying it to excess, be gluttonous, addicted, enslaved by her enjoyment, and by extension, a slut.

Of course, feminism steps up for most of these things, and says that women should be able to enjoy things as much as men, but as Meowser rightly says, often not when it comes to food.  The slut shaming is still there, only it’s not sex or drinking and so on, it’s food.  Because so many people believe, and some of those people are feminists, that fat is still the most disgusting vice that one can have.

The idea that women enjoying anything, regardless of how much they are enjoying it, is somehow un-ladylike is antiquated and offensive.  Surely we’ve moved past the age where women were expected to be “dainty” about everything in their lives?  We’re not allowed to please ourselves in any way, instead women are expected to be pleasing to others.  And it’s not just men.  A lot of the most hateful vitriol that women suffer comes from other women.  The piece that Meowser is responding to in her blog post is by a woman who calls herself a feminist, published on Feministe.  It was really disheartening to read this from a feminist, when it’s hard enough fighting the narrow minded expectations of misogynists, without having to deal with it from within our own sphere.

Until we can shift the thinking that women enjoying themselves in any way is somehow un-ladylike and unfeminine, we’re still going to be oppressed as a gender.  It doesn’t matter if it’s sex, or food, or anything else – slut shaming is still slut shaming.

While women are forced to feel guilt for what they eat (or what they are perceived to be eating by their body shape/size), they’re not free to be equal human beings, and disordered behaviours and damaged body image will run rife.

Valuable

Published September 5, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

It has happened again, I’ve been inspired to blog by another fabulous Fat Acceptance writer.  There are some amazing writers out there, and they just get me thinking and writing so effectively.

In particular, this post by the lovely Jessica of Tangled Up In Lace, who as well as providing a great blog, has one of the most fabulous Tumblr’s in existence.  I reblog more of her stuff on Tumblr than anyone else.

Anyway, back to the post of Jessica’s that has inspired this post.  Jessica shares an experience in her post of being duped into attending an event by being given sketchy and misleading information.  She and her friend turned up to what they were led to believe was a fat positive pinup modelling shoot, but turned out to be an event to promote a porn website and BBW (big, beautiful woman) nightclub.  She goes on to give her thoughts about fat admiration and the BBW concept, which then segues into thoughts on feederism.

I get quite angry when I find people using Fat Acceptance and Fat Admiration/BBW as interchangeable concepts.  Please understand, I don’t have any issues with fat admiration, or the BBW culture per se, but I don’t believe it is right to equate the two as being Fat Acceptance.

To me, Fat Acceptance is a social justice movement.  It’s about ending prejudice and bigotry, about pride, respect, dignity and inclusion.  To have that broken down to a mere vehicle for sexual attraction diminishes the importance of what FA activists and advocates are doing to a mere “Hey I’m hot too.”  Yes, fat admiration and the BBW culture is often a very effective way to raise ones self esteem, and strong self esteem is at the very core of FA, but to break it down to merely promoting fat being sexy undermines the power of being included and respected in society as the fat people we are.

It’s great to feel beautiful and sexy.  But to have that as the primary identifier of who you are, and to be considered attractive and sexy just for your fatness and not because of anything else about you removes any depth or complexity to you as a person.

In my mind, to reduce a person to mere fatness for sexual pleasure is no different to reducing a person to mere fatness with the aim of curing or eradicating obesity.  It makes fat people “other” than the human beings that they are.

And yet, I would say a significant portion of the visitors to Fat Acceptance blogs are fat admirers/BBW fans.  How do I know this?  Let’s start with the most prominent search terms used to navigate into this blog alone.  They’re all about fat body parts, and most of them are about “hot/sexy” fat body parts.  Again, it’s lovely to be admired, but it’s incredibly frustrating to be seen as just a bunch of fat body parts sought out for sexual gratification.

I also see it in a less sexual form, where fat women are celebrated for being gorgeous and glamorous by other women, and attention being paid merely to how they look, without any consequence to the rest of them.  Their intellect, their humour, their kindness, their outspokenness, their passion, their eloquence and so on.  The very focus is on how the fat women look, rather than who they actually are.

It isn’t helped that when we finally get a voice in mainstream media, that very mainstream media focuses on how we look as opposed to what we think, what we need and want, and who we really are.

Not only does this diminish those beautiful, glamorous, gorgeous women to their external appearance, but it sends the message that women are only valuable for their looks, and that those who are not considered beautiful, or glamorous, or gorgeous have less worth, that they don’t have a place in Fat Acceptance and society in general.

All of us are worth far more than that.  Fat Acceptance is worth far more than that.

It Works Both Ways

Published July 20, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

This morning while reading tweets on the bus on the way to work, I spotted this tweet from the @PostSecret, which led me to this article from the Huffington Post.

One thing I think we have a bit of a duty to do as Fat Acceptance activists is challenge when negative language and connotations are put on to thin bodies as well as fat ones.  In the case of both the tweet from @PostSecret, and the article from the Huffington Post, while I agree we need to be questioning the body image messages sent out by these very thin mannequins, I don’t think it’s fair to refer to them as either anorexic or emaciated.  Both words imply that being very thin is by default unhealthy – and as voices calling out for positive body image for ALL bodies, I feel it’s important that we challenge these implications as well as those that suggest fat bodies are unhealthy.

In the long run, it benefits all of us, regardless of what size or shape we are.

It is important that people know that very thin does not by default equal either anorexic or emaciated.  The definition of anorexic is a person who suffers anorexia nervosa.  Not all thin people suffer anorexia nervosa.  Not all people who suffer anorexia nervos are in fact, very thin.  Likewise, the definition of emaciated is “wasted away”.  Again, not all very thin people are wasted away – or in any way unhealthy.  Instead, people who are on the extreme end of thinness can have many reasons for being so. Yes, from ill health or eating disorder, but also because they are just naturally built that way.  Like fat people, thin people have many factors in determining the shape and size of their body, from genetics, environment, to diet and activity levels.  That’s the thing about bodies, you cannot tell very much about them at all just by looking at them.

When we challenge people about the language around fat bodies, we also need to be mindful of our own language when referring to thin bodies, especially those on the very thin end of the spectrum.  For example, that old chestnut “real women have curves”.  As I’ve said before on this blog, all women are real, unless they are robots created by an evil genius, or perhaps figments of our imagination.  A woman who is thin and angular is just as much a woman as one who is fat and curvaceous.  Plus, who’s to say that fat bodies are necessarily “curvy”.  I have curvy bits on my very fat body, but some parts are pretty damn boxy too!

It’s important that we do not define womanhood by any one type of body, any one shape or size or set of measurements.  Womanhood is inclusive of all of us, not exclusive to some.

There are of course plenty of other examples.  We can’t suggest that thin people “eat a sandwich” any more than thin folk can suggest we “put down the cheeseburger”.  We can’t assume that thin people don’t have body issues because they don’t have the pressure to lose weight like we do.  We can’t assume that thin bodies are thin because they are physically active and eat less than those of us with fat bodies.

This doesn’t mean that the privilege of thinness goes unacknowledged, we all know that there are plenty of things that people with thin bodies can take for granted that those of us with fat bodies do not have the luxury of, but it does acknowledge that nobody should be judged because of their body size and shape, even those with bodies that are considered the social “norm”.

What I guess is the important message is, that if we want the world to change their attitude towards fat bodies, we need to lead by example when talking about any bodies, and squash any generalisations and negative judgements on bodies when talking about ANY bodies.
Besides, as I think it was Lesley over at Fatshionista recently said – all living things have curves, that’s what distinguishes the animal and plant from the mineral.

One type of body is not better than the other.

It’s not either/or in this situation.

It is ALL.

Stop the “Slut” Talk

Published June 22, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I don’t normally read Miranda Devine’s columns.  I read a few some time ago but found her so snarky that I’ve avoided her work ever since.  However tonight a friend posted this article from the Sydney Morning Herald on Facebook, and the headline of “Flash of Fame Spreads Sluttiness” just grabbed my attention.

I responded to my friend’s post, and realised that what was coming out of me was more than just a response, it was a full on blog post.  So I have decided to expand upon it a little here.

While I do believe that we’re experiencing an intense “pornification” of celebrity and fame, I really take umbrage with the “sluttiness” label.

This implies that it is all about the young women and bad behaviour, and says nothing about the equally sexualised behaviour of young men. Not to mention the fact that more and more, young women are pressured into this behaviour because they’re led to believe that their value lies in being sexually pleasing to men. Their “hotness” is worth more than intelligence, heart, humour, kindness, and so on.

Every time a young woman opens a magazine, turns on the telly, watches a movie, sees a billboard ad, or any other media, the message she gets is that her sex is the most valuable currency in our society.

And yet does Ms Devine challenge that cultural attitude?  Not really, instead she suggests David Jones dump Miranda Kerr as their spokesmodel – so the young woman cops the punishment for the cultural pressures she is under.  How is that the right action to take?

It also doesn’t touch on the fact that these ARE young women, who have nobody to advise them except those grubbing for their money, or cleaning them up just enough to slap them back on a stage to start the cycle all over again. If someone treated these young women as the daughters they are, then they might not be on this path of destruction.

If Ms Devine wants to challenge the pornification of western culture, she’d be best to lay off creating a stigma around young women and analyse it across our entire culture. Look at the messages we’re sending to our young people; young women who behave outrageously are sluts, young men are just “boys having fun”; sex is the most valuable currency for starters.  Perhaps we need to start to teach our kids that they have so much more to offer the world than sex and scandal.

I agree, the culture of young people in the public eye is intensely sexualised, and “pornified” and we need to address that.  But there should be no place for the word “slut” in our culture, as it creates a heavy gender bias against women when the problem lies with the entire culture, not just women.

Link Love – May 2010

Published May 25, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Ugh, I’ve been sick with a head cold for the past three or four days, so blogging has been the last thing on my mind.  I do have some things I want to talk about, but I’m not at my most articulate right now, so I think I’ll just have a little bit of a link roundup for you all of interesting stuff I’ve found around the traps on body image, fat acceptance, positive living et al.  I’ve posted most of these on the Fat Heffalump Facebook Page.

I’d like to do this once or twice a month to share some of the fab stuff I find.

Ok, let’s have a looky at what we’ve got here:

On health/diets/weight loss:

Dances with Fat talks about things people do on their doctor’s advice to lose weight.

Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size has some great excerpts from her book.

A thought provoking piece from Feminist Fatale on the dangerous lengths that people will go to to lose weight.

On the “Obesity Epidemic”:

Big Liberty talks about how the “Obesity Epidemic” is a moral panic.

On Fatshion:

Over on I Love Fatshion I talk about what Fatshion means to me.

I fell in love with this dress from iGiGi (but can’t have it cos I’m broke!)

Other fab fat acceptance:

On Spilt Milk, a fantastic piece on bullying.

Over on Oh the Places You’ll Go we see a showcase of, and interview with the stunning Teer Wayde, pinup and plus-size model.

I just want to give some link love to the wonderful Barbara over at Fat in a Free Country who is relatively new to fat acceptance but is doing a fabulous job.

So there’s a healthy portion (see what I did there?) of some of the things I’ve found fabulous and interesting around the traps over the past week.

Feel free to share something you’ve found in the comments below.

Real Women/Fake Women

Published May 1, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I want to share a photograph with you all:

Photobucket

This one popped up on my Tumblr last week, and someone else posted a link to it via Twitter as well.  I have been able to find that the model’s name is Natasha Poly and the image is from a shoot by Mario Sorrenti for Vogue Paris.

I want to point out a few things about this photograph, from a high fashion magazine.  Because I believe that the woman in this photograph looks like a concentration camp victim with a fake tan.   Now before you get all angry about that statement, read the rest of this blog post.

I would never presume to comment on another woman’s body, or suggest that a thin woman is unhealthy or ugly or anything else derogatory.  But I am going to say it about this photograph, because what we’re looking at is NOT Natasha Poly in her natural state.  It is not the woman we are looking at, but a fashion magazine’s representation of her.  We’re not looking at a real woman any more in this case.

I want you to look carefully at the photograph.  I’ll point out a few things for you.

Let’s start with the rib cage area.  Can you see the the highlights in the fake tan to define each and every rib?  Look down her right arm.  See the white highlight again, to make her arm look thin?  You will also see them on her left shoulder, collarbone and cheek bone.  And the really worrying bit?  That wee fair spot right on her right hip bone.

It also has darker patches of tan in key places.  Under the cheek bone, between the V’s of her ribcage, on the inside of her thigh, inside of her arms and a streak down the outside of her left leg.

All of this is to make the model, who I am sure is beautiful on her own, look even thinner and taller than she actually is.

Now look at some of the angles of her body.  The angle where her right hip meets her leg.  Or her waist on her left, down to the bikini string.  Take a look at her right shoulder, lifted to her chin.  Now at her right armpit around her inner arm and to her breast.  Look carefully at her left collarbone.  And finally, have a look at the length of her right lower leg.

Can you see the evidence of photoshopping there?  How the parts of her body are out of proportion or at angles that don’t fit with other angles of her body.

And of course, there’s the lighting (both real and photoshopped) that highlights the bones in her body to almost skeletal detail.

Models are beautiful women and they’re the rare examples of human beings that are tall, slim and even featured.  They’re gorgeous, and that’s why they’re models.  But what is happening more and more overtly is the twisting of the features of women in photographs, due to make-up, lighting, tanning products and poses and due to post production work with Photoshop and the like.  Real women are being turned into these ideals that are wholly unreal, and as far as I’m concerned, freak shows.

This is why I believe we have to use the term “real women” – because what we’re being presented is not in any way real at all.

It’s horrifying that even the tall, slender, beautiful models aren’t good enough any more.  They have to be painted and manipulated into taller, thinner, more unobtainable standards that no human can emulate without doing some serious damage to themselves.

What’s next for fashion magazines?  Avatar style CGI work that in no way resembles a human being?

I believe we need to stop worrying about offending each other with talking about bodies in the media and whether they are too thin or too fat, and focus on the work that is being done to images of real women, regardless of their shape and size, that takes them from photographs of real women, to caricatures of women.  Because we women are not characters, we’re people, and we shouldn’t be sold what I think of as “lies of beauty”.  This is not beauty.  Beauty is human and flawed and varied.  It’s not a set of treatments in a photo editing programme.

This is being held up to young women as the beauty ideal.  Looking at images that have been “doctored” like this and expecting their own bodies to look like this if they just stick to that diet, just do some exercise is making women and girls both physically and emotionally sick.  This is one of the reasons why in western culture, girls with perfectly healthy bodies think that they are fat, and why so many boys and men have an unrealistic ideal of the female body.

We are being presented a fake version of womanhood with photos like the above.

Instead of bickering over what constitutes a real woman or not, let’s just draw the line in the sand – real is how any given woman is in the flesh so to speak, even those who have had cosmetic surgery (which I personally don’t believe in, but those who’ve had it are still real women, we didn’t make them up in our heads) or are transgender, and anything doctored, altered, adjusted, photoshopped, edited or airbrushed away from that is unreal/fake/false.

In the case of this example I’m sharing with you, Natasha Poly is a real woman – that image above is not.

I want to see real women in fashion, beauty, entertainment, marketing and the media.  Women that should I meet them face to face, what I see is what was on the page and/or screen, not the unedited version of something that they are not and that nobody could possibly be.

The Language of Hate

Published March 30, 2010 by Fat Heffalump
*Warning: Post contains profanities that may cause distress or be an emotional trigger.  I will be using offensive terms spoken by another person in this post.

I’ve had one of those days today.  You know the days, the ones where you feel like you’re trying to empty an Olympic sized swimming pool with a drinking straw while it’s bucketing down with rain.  Where I feel like what I do around fat acceptance and feminism is just a tiny grain of sand against a huge ocean.

It all stemmed from late last night when I read on Twitter a man I chat to referring to a politician and saying “get on a bike you fat cunt”.

Now I am not ashamed of the fact that I swear, in fact I’m quite proud of my blunt language.  As Billy Connolly says, “Oh I know about 147 words, but none of them are as good as fuck.”

But to hear the term “fat cunt” used in reference to anyone, even a politician that I actually really dislike, makes my blood boil.  Because it’s not the swearing, it’s what the actual statement implies.

The word cunt is something I hate with a passion.  Because it is only ever related negatively to the female genitalia, and is about the most violent and derogative word to swear with.  It never has a positive meaning, and is so derogatory of women, as though female genitalia are disgusting, dirty, low things that the ultimate insult is to call someone a cunt.

And what really bothers me is that there is no male equivalent.  Oh yes, dick and prick are there, but can you honestly say they are as derogatory and offensive as the word cunt?

Add to that the other ultimate insult word of our society these days, “fat”, and you just take the insult to another level.

When will we be able to get through to men that this term to describe anyone is just not acceptable?  That it paints both women and the fat as the lowest of the low.

There are other hate words, to refer to people of various skin tones and ethnicities/cultures, to gay people, to people of different faiths of course.  The difference I notice is that when you hear someone utter those hate words, and protest about it, there’s pretty much always someone else who will stand up and say “I can’t believe that they thought that was acceptable.”  There is no ambiguity about them being hateful, bigoted and derogatory.

However when I protested this man using the term “fat cunt” last night, I was attacked with “Lighten up” and “somebody is cranky” and variations of dismissive attitudes towards my anger and dissent at someone using what I see as a highly offensive term.  Some of this was from women.

I honestly can’t fathom  how a woman could ever find that acceptable.  It literally boggles my brain to try to understand what would be going through a woman’s mind to think that it’s ok to refer to someone that way.

But it’s the dismissive attitudes that really got me riled up.  As though I was being petty or whinging because someone used a term that is deeply offensive to ALL women.  It opens up the old issue of the difference between when a man and a woman makes a complaint about something.  Men complain, women whinge.  Men are angry, women are cranky.  Or as my friend David said:

“Bad things annoy men, but women are cranky. I understand this is because they have wombs.”

As I said, he’s on to something there, but I think it’s more likely the vaginas that are the problem than the wombs.  There is such a hatred around the vagina as part of a woman that it has become this horrible hate word “cunt”.

So long as we accept being referred to in such abhorrent terms, women are always going to be seen as less than, lower than men, and fat women even less/lower than that.

More than anything I’m angry that despite my making it clear over many, many months that terms like this are not acceptable and that referring to women, and fat women in particular in such hateful terms is bigotry, it seems to have just flown over the head of so many people.

How do you combat such blatant displays of misogynistic, hateful attitudes?  Do you ever feel worn down by the dismissive attitudes of others?

The Woman I Want to Be

Published March 23, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I had some giggles on Sunday.  I was sitting in a restaurant with a friend of mine, when I noticed these three little girls, aged about 7 or 8 years old, making passes of our table and whispering.  I realised they were trying to sneak looks at the tattoos on my feet, which are flowers on the top of each foot (lotus on the left, pansy on the right).  After about the 5th pass, as they got close enough to our table, I turned over my left arm and said “Here, look at this one.” and showed them the bluebird tattoo on the inside of my left arm.

Their eyes were like saucers, and the little blonde poppet that was the one who was showing her friends my foot tattoos said “WHOA!!  AWESOME!!”

It was a delight to see them so impressed by my ink.

A few weeks earlier, another friend of mine had a barbecue, and as I don’t drive and he lives all the way on the other side of town, he offered to come and pick me up.  He and his two wee daughters (I think they’re 6 and 8) came to get me, and we drove the 45 or so minute drive back to his place.  When we got out of the car at his house, the younger of the two girls came up to me and said “Excuse me…?” in that cute way little kids have.  I replied “Yes honey?” to which she gave a huge sigh and said “I LOVE tattoos!”  Every now and then she and her sister would come up to me and investigate one or more of my tattoos, and at one point the older of the two announced to me that she loved purple hair.  Yes, I have purple hair as well as tattoos.

I’m in yr restaurant/house, corrupting yr children.

One of my friends who is over a decade younger than myself and I were talking about the whole thing of women we admired when we were kids, or were younger women, and it got me thinking about the fact that now, in my late 30’s, I am of the age group that can be of influence to other young girls and women.  It led me to think about the women who I admired when I was a young.  I remember that I loved any woman who was “different”.  I loved artistic women, or outspoken women, alternative women.  Still do.  I admired women who were smart, outspoken, kind, funny, well travelled, well read, individual women.  I wasn’t inspired by the picture perfect supermodel (after all, I was a teen in the golden age of supermodels), but was inspired by the quirky women, the ones who were more than just famous or known for being beautiful.

The first woman I idolised was my childhood teacher librarian, Miss Stubbs.  I thought she was fabulous, and what I remember is how smart and well read she was.  The first famous woman I remember being inspired by was Barbra Streisand.  I loved her in comedic roles when I was a small kid.  Hello, Dolly!, The Owl and the Pussycat, Funny Girl.  She was funny and loud and talked really fast, and she looked beautiful, but in her own way – not like all the other women I saw on TV or in the magazines.  As I got older, the women that influenced me were the same – strong, confident, outspoken, talented women.  In my own life, famous women and fictional women.  Annie Lennox, two more school librarians (the latter of the two was a formidable little woman, intelligent, fierce and outspoken, with a huge booming voice that didn’t seem to fit her tiny stature), a schoolfriend’s mother who had a loud laugh and a cheeky sense of humour, Aretha Franklin, Tank Girl, Sarah from Labyrinth, Anne of Green Gables, Tori Amos, k d lang, Dolly Parton, the saucy, 65+ woman in Florida who I befriended online over a common adoration of William McInnes…  All women who are outside of the box as far as traditional values for women are concerned.

Sometimes, being a fat, outspoken, feminist, intelligent, tattooed and (currently) purple haired woman is difficult.  I’m told I’m not feminine, too emotional, too argumentative, think too much, talk too much/loud, laugh to loud, too passionate am too outlandish, too wild… a freak.  Sometimes the criticism gets so loud that I have a moment where I think it would be easier to try to fit into the mold of what women are expected to be – pretty, quiet, compliant, not too outlandish or different, pleasing.  I get worn down by the fight, and think it would be easier to give up.

But then a little girl in a restaurant thinks I’m awesome because I’m different.  Or a younger girlfriend tells me that the fact that I am accepting of myself, despite my body that isn’t what bodies are supposed to look like makes her feel better about herself.  Or I meet an older woman who says “I wish I had the courage to speak up like you do.”  A friend’s daughter learns from me that happiness is not about being compliant, being pleasing, being quiet.

These moments happen, and I remember that as I grow older and stronger and more confident in myself, I am an example for other women.  In my own way, I can show other women and girls that they are valuable, valid human beings with much to contribute to the world.  I think about where I would be if I didn’t have women who were outside of the norm, who took that criticism and were themselves anyway, despite the heat they got for it.

That’s the woman I want to be.

Practice What We Preach

Published March 9, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Yesterday was International Women’s Day in case you didn’t know.  If you follow me on Twitter at all, you know, I’m sure.  Because I didn’t shut up about it all day.  But this is because it’s really important to me.

Not just for the big, obvious reasons, like the fact that gendercide is still happening all around the world, and because women suffer 70% of the world’s extreme poverty.  But also for smaller, more personal reasons, reasons of body image.

I probably don’t have to tell you that there is a far higher expectation of women than men, as far as physical appearance is concerned.  Men are not under the massive level of body pressure that we women are.  Men do not have to alter their bodies to a shape that is almost totally unattainable by adults.  Men are not expected to starve, surgically alter and work their bodies to look like pre-teens with breasts.  Men do not have to remove every trace of body hair.   Men are valued for their brains, their ability, their personalities rather than how pleasing they are to the eye.

This isn’t just perpetrated BY men either.  As well as being International Women’s Day yesterday, the Oscars were on.  Everyone loves a good frock up, myself included.  But I couldn’t believe my eyes on Twitter, Facebook etc to see women who consider themselves feminists bitching and snarking about the actresses at the Oscars.

Critique of the clothes is of course what we’re watching for.  What a hideous dress.  What the hell is that suit *actor* is wearing?  For me it was the rosettes on Charlize Theron’s bustline that had me scratching my head this year.  Clothes at a big event like that are out there to be seen and talked about.

But the bitchiness I saw was about how skinny actresses are, how ugly their hair is, what shape their eyebrows are, how their boobs looked in a dress.

From women that were demanding that Mo’nique and Gabourey Sidibe be treated with respect and celebrated for the talented actresses they are, came the most venomous body criticism of them all, only for women that represent the opposite of Mo’nique and Gabby.  It was like these women that represent what the rest of us cannot be must not be “real” women.  It seems because the criticism was about THIN actresses, that it’s ok for women to join in to.

But I don’t believe that.  If we’re going to demand that the world treat fat women with respect, dignity and fairness, then we have to practice what we preach.  We can’t criticise other people’s physical appearance if we’re demanding that nobody criticises ours.

We need to live the message we’re putting across.  Feminism isn’t about  forgoing makeup and pretty clothes and sexy shoes and getting your nails and hair done.  It’s about treating women with respect, valuing them and not expecting them to live up to some impossible ideal, especially not with the goal of being pleasing to the eye.  Be that the male eye or those of our fellow females.

If we want our not-fat sisters to a) join us in the positive body image fight for all women and b) support us in our quest to be allowed to live happily as the fat women that nature has made us, then we have to live what we’re asking of others.

I know it’s not easy when we’ve been on the receiving end of a ton of hate and snark ourselves, but I very strongly believe that two wrongs do not make a right.

It just makes for hypocrisy.

White Ribbon Day

Published November 25, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

Today is White Ribbon Day.  It is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  In Australia, the focus is on domestic violence, as this is the single most common violence that Australian women (and children for that matter) will suffer.  In fact, world wide, violence at the hands of men that women know and usually love is the most prevalent form of violence that women will suffer.

I am a survivor of domestic violence.  My father was a man who violently beat his family (in particular my mother and I) until we left him when I was 14.  It was the second time that we had attempted to leave him.  My clear memory of the first time was begging my  mother to carry through her decision to leave because I knew if we didn’t, he would probably kill either one or both of us.  I was 13 at the time.  However he continued to violently abuse me until I was 20 years old whenever I saw him.  I was terrified of him and consequently all men.

I also suffered domestic violence at the hands of my stepfather and other male relatives, whom I shall not name because I know that they have made changes to their lives and have never revisited this behaviour.

Domestic violence is particularly nasty because it is at the hands of the men who are supposed to love you.  Wives/partners and children are the victims.  The men who are supposed to love you most (fathers, grandfathers, husbands etc) are the ones doing you the most harm.  Not only does that physically hurt you, but it emotionally and mentally hurts you for the rest of your life, even after you move from victim to survivor.  These are scars that will never fully heal, despite the fact that they may fade.

Every year, on White Ribbon Day, there is a rash of “But men suffer violence too!” statements.  Not only from men too – I see it from women all the time.  This falls into two categories.  The first is the good old fashioned “What about the mens?!” where men simply fail to get the importance of the issue being discussed and think women are “making a fuss”.  More on that in a minute.

The second is when there is a legitimate case of a man being a victim/survivor and he feels voiceless.  This second category is valid and men need to be able to speak about the things they have suffered.  But what it means is that men need to create this space themselves, and not negate when women speak up about their suffering and demand change to cultural attitudes around this.

Back to the “What about the mens!?” (WATM) issue.  From the WATM article linked above from Finally Feminism 101:

No one is saying that discussions on men and masculinities shouldn’t go on. It is absolutely important to have dialogue on men’s issues, including discussions on violence done towards men. The thing is, a feminist space — unless the topic is specifically men’s issues — is not the place to have that discussion and neither are spaces (feminist or otherwise) in which the topic is specifically focused on women’s issues.

What it boils down to is this: Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues. There are a lot of feminist allies who do this, in fact, and there also a lot of non-feminist (or anti-feminist, if you really want to go there) spaces that are welcoming to this kind of discussion. Thus, the appropriate response to a thread about women is not to post a comment on it about men, but rather to find (or make) a discussion about men.

Women are conditioned from a very young age that we should be nice.  Don’t make a fuss.  Don’t whinge.  Be polite.  So it’s intimidating and annoying to some men when a day of action and awareness about violence against women gets attention.  They’re not used to having the attention diverted from them.  They don’t like being told what to do when it comes to how they treat women.   So they call it out with “But it happens to men too!”  Suddenly the focus is about them again, and they are happy.

When women pull the WATM card, it is for the same reasons.  Either they are uncomfortable with women having the focus of an issue and action being taken about it, or they’re speaking on behalf of a male who is suffering or has suffered.  Again, the latter is valid and  has it’s place, but when introduced during action for the benefit of women such as White Ribbon Day, it negates the voice that women have on that day.

From the White Ribbon Day fact sheet (pdf):

What about violence against men?

While this campaign focuses on violence against women, it is important to acknowledge that men too are often the victims of violence. Many of the victims of murder, manslaughter, and serious physical assaults are male.

Men are much less likely than women to be subject to violent incidents in the home and are more likely to be assaulted in public places. Violence against men is far more likely to be by strangers and far less likely to involve partners or ex-partners. Of all the violence men experience, far less is represented by domestic violence (less than 1 percent, versus one-third of violent incidents against women).   Boys and men are most at risk of physical harm, injury and death from other boys and men, but small numbers are subject to violence by women.

It’s pretty straight forward.  White Ribbon Day is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is one day per year.  Deal with it.  Get over the fact that the focus is not going to be on men for a day, that it is on women for this  one day, and that this issue is real, huge and needs to see cultural change before it will go away.

Want to never hear about White Ribbon Day again?  Take the oath.  Be proactive about changing the culture that it is acceptable for men to be violent towards women and eliminate the problem, and you’ll never be pressured to buy a white ribbon again.

Support article: Domestic Violence – Myths and Misconceptions

This post is dedicated to my friend Ian, who was the first man I ever trusted not to hurt me, and to Dave Earley, whose speaking up on Twitter this morning inspired me to write this post.  And all other men with the testicles big enough to stand up and say that violence against women is wrong.