women

All posts tagged women

The Competition is a Lie

Published July 18, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

Well hello!  I’m still here, still alive (I know fat haters, you had me pegged as dying by the time I was 40!) and still keeping up with the fatosphere.  I know, I’m not writing as often as I used to – I have to focus on the boring stuff of life so much more these days, like working and paying the bills, there’s not as much time and energy to spend writing, which really bums me out.  But I am here, and I do continue to share a lot of stuff on my Facebook page.

Today I want to share some wisdom with you all.  Triggered by a couple of things really, I want to talk to all the women out there about self esteem and how you view/treat other women.  I’m currently reading a thesis I recently participated in (Tayla Hancock: Life in This Fat Body) and am hearing some of the other participants stories of how they feel in comparison to other women.  The other trigger is the almost constant surveillance I receive other women in public.  I’m sure many of you have experienced it, being out in public when you  notice a woman look you up and down (the old body check), focus on something about you (for me it’s usually my rather prodigious belly!) and then you see the expression of superiority and disdain travel across their face.  You know the look.  “Well, at least I’m not THAT fat/don’t have a big belly/fat arms/big butt etc/am prettier than her.”

I recently even had someone admit on my Facebook page that even though they’re a fat woman themselves, they find themselves looking at other women and thinking those very things.  My answer to her was “Don’t think that those women don’t know you’re doing that.  Because we do.”

I want to let you in on a little secret.  Judging other women will not fix your bad self esteem.

It won’t.  It might make you feel superior for a few minutes, but the minute you see another woman who you think is prettier/thinner/better than you, then your self esteem is going to crumble all over again.

For those of you who are subjected to the judgement of women needing to feel superior to you, take heart, their perception of superiority to you is no real reflection on your value.   Their critique means nothing.

Let’s face it – we women are taught from birth that our appearance is the most important thing about us and that life for women is a competition with each other.  To get the “best” man, “best” job, “best” home, “best” family etc we must be “better” than other women.  So it’s only understandable that we grow up to engage in those really crappy behaviours towards each other.  The reason that we do this, isn’t because we’re women, but because women are taught by our culture that we’re SUPPOSED to do this.  After all, how often do you see that in popular culture – the trope that women have to compete over a guy, or something else.  We’re not allowed to compete for things like sport or skill, as that would be “unlady-like”, but if we want the thing that’s held up to us as the ultimate goal for women – the attention of men, then we’re expected to fight tooth and claw for it.  It’s a false value system.  The truth is, the attention of men is of low value and all too abundant.   You really don’t have to compete with other women to get it, if that’s what you want.

That said, because it’s deeply ingrained and we’re taught by society that it’s how we’re supposed to behave, doesn’t make it OK.  Before we look at any benefits to ourselves, we need to be asking “Is this the right way to be treating other women?  Would I like to be treated this way?”  I’m pretty sure for most of us, the answer is a very firm no.

There is no competition.  By competing with other women, you instantly lose.  Every. Single. Time.

The way to make things better for yourself is not by pushing others down, but by recognising that we all have value and that womanhood is not a zero sum game.  The more we see value in women in general, the more we can recognise our own value.  Besides, beauty is false social economy as it does not belong to you – it’s fake currency metered out by our culture –  society can and does revoke it in a heartbeat, taking a woman from valuable to not in moments.

There are some really important facts for us to understand when it comes to our value as human beings, and to put us firmly on the path to building better self esteem.

Firstly, other women’s appearance, bodies, lives and success have absolutely no relevance to your value as a woman.  Womanhood and your value as a person is not a competition, and other women being successful or prettier or thinner than you does not make them superior to you as a human being.   Your value is something intrinsically tied to YOU, not to other people in relation to you.  There is no rank when it comes to womanhood.  There’s no real hierarchy of women.  Sure, a lot of men and society in general would love us to believe that we can be ranked and rated and should be devoting our lives to moving up that hierarchy, but it’s false.  If we are convinced to believe that, then we’re expected to compete for male attention and buy products to make ourselves “better/more worthy”.

Secondly, there will always, be someone thinner, prettier, sexier, better dressed etc than all of us.  Well, except perhaps Beyoncé.  But I can guarantee you, the most gorgeous woman you can think of still sees other women and thinks “I wish my [body part] were more like hers.”  So no matter how much superiority you build up when judging another women, it’s ALWAYS going to come crashing down when you encounter one that you decide has something better than yours.

Self esteem is built by learning your own worth, not measuring other people’s.  Seriously, the most important lesson I have ever learnt in building my self esteem is that by not judging other women, I actually stopped judging myself so harshly.  When I stopped judging other women for what they wear, how they look, the size and shape of their bodies, how they live their lives, suddenly I realised that I felt better about myself.  When you stop playing that constant comparison game, your energy is focused on so many other things and you stop being so critical of yourself.  When you are not constantly looking for someone to be better than, you also stop finding people you feel are better than you.

Finally, I think the most important thing to realise is that women are awesome.  We are.  When you learn to value other women for more than just how small their arse is or how clear their skin is, you realise that being part of womanhood is so richly rewarding.  Making friends with other women and valuing other women teaches you to value and be kind to yourself.  Once you start changing your thinking, it becomes self-perpetuating.  The more you question your attitudes towards other women and change that judgemental thinking, the better you feel about yourself, and then the better you feel about yourself, the less you feel the need to cast judgement on others.

It isn’t an overnight thing and is a learning process.  But the more you practice it, the stronger your own self esteem will get.  But I can tell you now after years of working on it, no amount of sneers at my big belly or fat arms diminishes my value as a woman.

So, the next time you find yourself looking at another woman and thinking “My ***** is better/thinner/prettier than hers.”, ask yourself why it matters.  Ask yourself how you’d feel if she was doing that to you.  And realise that so what if you’ve got a smaller arse than her or whatever.  That reflects only on you, not on her.

Or if you’re like me, and are one of the women who insecure others LOVE to treat with disdain, to use as their yardstick for their own worth, I want you to do something for me.  Next time you  notice it happening, put your shoulders back.  Hold your head up and look that woman in the face and remember that she’s doing it because SHE feels worth less, not because you are worth less.  Don’t give anyone that sense of superiority.  Smile at her, and walk away, rocking your badass, awesome self just as you are.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Furious and Furiosa!

Published May 31, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

Heads up, this post is going to be chock full of spoilers.  Continue on at your own peril!

So I am fresh home from a lovely day out with friends which included seeing Mad Max: Fury Road at the cinema this afternoon, and I cannot NOT blog about this one.  Holy crap what a movie!  I don’t normally do review type posts for movies unless they have a distinct fat theme, but this is one that I just HAVE to write about.

CCPvHmCVIAANjN3.jpg_large

I actually wasn’t going to see Fury Road at the cinema originally.  I had seen the original trilogy back when they first came out but wasn’t particularly attached to them in any way.  I remember the first one being extremely violent, and the third being kind of cheesy, but hadn’t given them much thought since then.  I had been seeing bits and bobs about Fury Road in the media for some time, and while I was thrilled to see that Tom Hardy was cast as Max (he’s wonderful in everything), I am not really much of an action movie fan, so I wasn’t all that interested.  But I’d seen some good press about it a while ago, some friends had really raved it was going to be great so I thought I might go and see it in the cinema, because it’s good to support the Australian film industry, but thought if I missed it, I wouldn’t be that bothered.

But then the “Men’s Rights Activists” started whining about it being “feminist propaganda” and I was INSTANTLY thinking “Oh sign me up for this one then!”  Anything that pisses off the MRA’s can have my money, just for shits and giggles.

Before I go on, there is a lot of talk from all perspectives about Fury Road being a “feminist movie”.  Now personally, I don’t believe there really is such thing as a “feminist movie”, short of perhaps a biopic about famous feminists or a story about the history of feminism.  What most people really mean when they suggest a film is a “feminist movie” is that it either approaches the story from a woman’s perspective, or that it simply treats women as human beings with agency over themselves.  I know, doesn’t take much to get that “feminist” label, does it?

What Mad Max: Fury Road is however, is 120 minutes of strap yourself in, hang on tight and try to remember to breathe occasionally top shelf cinema.  Right from the beginning you are thrown in to some intense action and it barely lets up for the entire movie.  I cannot remember the last time I saw a film that had me white knuckle, breath-holding, “Holy shit!” uttering engaged from beginning to end.

Now I must say, I am not normally an action movie fan.  Mostly I find them boring, because while there are lots of jaw dropping stunts and big explosions, they usually lack good narrative and engaging characters.  I need to be attached to at least one character and to feel like I’m being taken along in a story to be engaged in a film.  Fury Road has got it all.  Wild car chases, fire, big explosions, creepy villains, a flame-throwing guitar player strapped to a huge mobile stack of speakers, dust, desert, and punch ups… but it also has tenderness, courage, intelligence, kindness and a whole lot of heart.

Max is not a testosterone fueled hero.  He is a man suffering obvious PTSD who is facing his greatest fear – of being captured and used as a living “blood bag”.  His terror at being captured by Immortan Joe’s war boys is palpable.  You feel his frantic attempts to free himself from the chains and mask the war boys have put him in.   His only goal is to escape.  It is not revenge, it is not a lust for blood, it is simply escape.  Max isn’t even the protagonist of this film, even though it bears his name.

The true protagonist is the wonderfully named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron).  We don’t know all that much about her.  She drives one of Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who was in the original Mad Max film) war rigs (a big bloody truck).  She has a prosthetic arm.  She is marked with Joe’s brand, as are his war boys, a group of men bred and brainwashed as a kind of cannon fodder.  We soon learn that she is liberating Joe’s five “war brides” – beautiful, fertile young women he has been keeping as his own personal sex slaves and breeding stock.  Later we learn a little more about where she is from, but we never find out how she lost her arm, how she came to be part of Joe’s army.  We can only guess at these things.

Personally I wondered if she may have either been one of his war brides once, or if she had once had the threat of being a war bride, but losing her arm had saved her from that fate?

Furiosa is badass.  At no point are we led to believe that she is any less capable than Max – in fact, thanks to a scene where he fails to shoot The Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter) twice, and she takes the final, and successful, shot using Max as a rifle stand, we know that she is more capable at some things than Max is.  Charlize Theron puts in a hell of a performance, fighting, driving, crawling all over a moving rig, shooting and generally just kicking arse, while also managing to convey a hell of a lot of emotion, and mostly wordlessly.  We see her anger, her fear, her pain, her frustration, her worry clearly on her face.  She cares about the war brides, and she cares about the Vuvalini, her own people, when they enter the story.  At no point is she exacting revenge with her violence, merely seeking liberation for herself and the war brides.  There is one moment that she comes close, but the war brides remind her of her promise to never to kill unnecessarily.

Which brings me to the war brides.  These five beautiful women (played by Zoe Kravitz, Rose Huntington-Whitely, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton) are the embodiment of perfection in this post apocalyptic world, sex slaves of Immortan Joe who has been keeping them in a kind of pampered captivity.  These are five slim, beautiful young women who have been kept as pristine and special as any creature can be in this world.  They are frightened and traumatised.  However, not one of these young women could be called weak.  Joe’s favourite, The Splendid Angharad (Huntington-Whitely) uses her pregnant body as a human shield, they are all handy with a weapon, and willingly fight and work to ensure their freedom.

mad-max-fury-road
I also need to mention here that quite a few people who have already written about this film have raised that it’s very much a white person’s film, and yes, it is predominantly white, but many have dismissed the ethnic backgrounds of Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton and Megan Gale.  There has been a lot of assumption that all of the women in this film are white… they are not.  I also feel that whiteness has been used well – the evil villains could not get any whiter than they are in this film!  The old white men are the bad guys (and they are truly repulsive, Keays-Byrne, Carter and John Howard as The People Eater – those nipple rings! – are all MEGA gross and creepy) using violent young white men as their henchmen.  Would have been good to have some more people of colour on the good guys side to bolster that colonialist metaphor though.

One of the things I loved most about Fury Road was the complete lack of sexual/romantic connection Max has with any of the women.  He respects them.  He helps to protect them.  He even shows tenderness to Furiosa when she is wounded, but it is in no way because of a romantic or sexual connection.  He has spent the past days fighting by her side, and he clearly has respect for her and shows that in his gentleness in treating her wounds.  She is not displayed as sexual, but as strong and brave.  None of the women are subjected to the male gaze from Max or even from Nux (war boy turned rescuer, played by Nicholas Hoult, who manages to STILL look gorgeous while rail thin, bald, scarred and ultra-pallid).  We as the audience are not invited to look at the women sexually except in the context of their vulnerability to the villain, but we don’t see them through his eyes, but we see them through Max’s.  Even though there is a tenderness between Nux and Capable (Keough), it is an emotional tenderness, not sexual.

Ss-mad-max-fury-road-118

Even though Megan Gale as The Valkyrie (holy shit what an amazon that woman is!) has a nude scene, which at first I felt uncomfortable with, I realised that it was right to use her nakedness as “bait” – the Vuvalini only know that one of Imperon Joe’s war rigs is heading towards them – they have no way of knowing that it is Furiosa – what better way to bait Joe and his minions than with a “trapped”, beautiful, naked, young woman to distract them while the Vuvalini can ambush them.  Incidentally, the Vuvalini are mostly badass biker grannies from what is left of a matriarchal society, the one which Furiosa originates from.  She and The Valkyrie are the only young women of the Vuvalini left.

592554-09848d98-f9d0-11e4-abad-a935b3e0d5c5

Badass biker grannies.  I mean do you need anything more to entice you to see this movie?  Plus, the only fat women in the film have a pivotal role in saving the day right at the end, which is pretty bloody awesome.

Look, this is an amazing film.  Yes it’s a rollicking great action ride that takes you along with it and leaves you breathless by the end.  But it’s also a beautifully shot film with tonnes of nuance from it’s cast.  It’s a story of hope,  freedom and the strength of women.  Go see it.

 

 

Helen Garner – Violence and Visibility

Published May 15, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

Have any of you read Helen Garner’s recent piece in The Monthly about the way older women in society are treated?  I have, and I can’t leave it alone.  At first glance, I was on board with Helen’s issue, in that yes, it is absolutely true that society in general is terribly patronising and discriminatory towards older women.  But the more I read and the more I thought about her piece, the more I realise that there is a whole lot more that is going on than just an older woman speaking up about cultural attitudes towards older women in general.

Firstly, we can’t go past her public assault of a teenage girl on a Melbourne Street.  I don’t care how annoying teenage girls are being in public, nothing, NOTHING excuses anyone from violently pulling their hair.  Was the girl being annoying and rude – probably.  Does that make it acceptable for Ms Garner to “seize her ponytail at the roots and give a sharp, downward yank” so much that the girls “eyes bulged and mouth was agape”?  No it does not.  There has been a lot of discussion in the media and feminist writing about how inappropriate New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was in his pulling of a café staff member’s ponytail was, yet I’ve not seen one other person step up and say that Ms Garner’s behaviour was unacceptable yet.  People applaud her in the comments on the piece for this behaviour.  She has even been sharing this anecdote to others, and receiving laughter for it, even though she says herself “technically I had assaulted the girl.”  Technically nothing, Ms Garner, you assaulted that girl.  In no way excusing PM Key, his actions were inexcusable, but why is it unacceptable for him to put his hands on a woman’s hair in his words “playfully” but it’s OK for Ms Garner to violently yank the hair of a teenage girl in public?

I think Anne Theriault said it best in this tweet:

We are living in a time where there is a rising rate of violence against women.  The rate of women being murdered by their partners or ex-partners has shot up over the past months.  Women are being harassed and abused via online hate mobs to the point that they have to leave their homes, change careers and radically alter their lives.  Women are even being murdered for standing up about violence against women, and yet we have a public figure who for the mere reason that she’s an older woman, is excused, nay celebrated, for assaulting a teenage girl in public.  Violence against women, no matter who the perpetrators are, or who the victims are, is never acceptable.  Not two days ago there was an article claiming that women must claim a 50% responsibility in domestic violence and feminists spoke up and said “There is never an excuse for violence against women.” yet the same people are cheering Helen Garner on for “Showing it to that teenage brat!”

What is that teaching teenage girls?  Moreover, what is that teaching teenage boys?  In fact, I wonder what she would have done if it had been teenage boys behaving rudely in public?  How would people react if a 71  year old man violently yanked a teenage girl’s hair?

My second issue with Ms Garner is her outrage at being “rendered invisible by age”.  This sentiment has long bothered me, because it shows a blatant unawareness of privilege, and privilege across the spectrum.  It must be tough being rendered invisible by your age, but you have had the privilege of being visible in the first place.  Ask any fat woman, woman of colour, disabled person, poor person or any other marginalised person how they feel about being rendered invisible by age and it’s highly likely they will point out that they were never visible in the first place.  Or in rare cases, if they did have visibility, it wasn’t the nice kind that gets them served in shops, the best seat in a bar or doors held open for them – it’s the kind of hyper-visibility that comes with abuse, ridicule and discrimination.

Ms Garner complains that waiters move her and her friends to the back of a restaurant, at the uncomfortable seats where nobody will see them.  As a fat woman, I’ve never been seated anywhere else, unless I politely but firmly request it.  She complains that people are patronising to her in airports – spend a day with people with disabilities and see just how patronising folk can be to them.  She dares any blood technician to not look her in the eye while drawing blood – ask a black woman how many people look her in the eye when interacting with her.

The reality is, suddenly finding yourself invisible as an older woman is very much a mark of privilege.  Being blissfully unaware of that privilege is pretty insulting to those who have never had it.

To me, the ignorance of privilege and the public assault of a teenage girl are both examples of a distinct lack of self awareness that unfortunately crops up time and time again with white, thin, affluent, able-bodied women in feminism.  Ms Garner, and other women like you, you’re not invisible to those of us you’ve never noticed yourself.

So yes, I agree that in our culture, women are ignored and discriminated against more and more as they get older.  As I am now in my 40’s, I see the vulnerabilities that lie in my future, and I also see the devaluation of older women as members of society.  Older women, particularly older single women, are at the highest risk for poverty and homelessness.  Older women are more likely to be abused and/or neglected by both relatives and professional carers as their health declines with age.  Older women are discriminated against in the workplace more than younger women or men of any age.  These things need awareness and to be addressed.  But we also need to be aware of when we give passes to behaviour from privileged women that we would not tolerate from men.

Not Like Other Girls?

Published February 17, 2015 by Fat Heffalump
Comic strip by Kate Beaton aka @Beatonna

Comic strip by Kate Beaton aka @Beatonna

Once upon a time, I was the young woman in this cartoon.  I was the one that professed to be “not like other girls”.  I told anyone who would listen that I preferred men as friends, that I found “other chicks” shallow and boring.  My guy friends always told me I was “Cool, not like other chicks.”  They said they could hang around me because I didn’t “cause drama” like other women, and that I didn’t take things “so seriously”.

That was partly because I’d been taught that fat women weren’t the same as “normal” women.  I believed that I wasn’t included in womanhood, so I figured the best bet was to just join the boys and to turn my nose up at “other chicks”.

Another part was self preservation.  As long as the guys liked me, they weren’t calling me a “crazy bitch”, or making fun of me, or treating me like a piece of meat.  It was easier to fit in with the guys, than to risk their wrath.

The rest was internalised misogyny.  All my life I’ve been told women were lesser beings than men, they weren’t as important or worthy.  I was taught that women were overly emotional, too sensitive, irrational, shallow, uninteresting… the list goes on.  So I internalised that and spent my time trying to be not like what I had been taught “other girls” were.  I didn’t want to be seen as any of those things, so I went along with the guys attitudes and spent my time trying to prove I wasn’t like that.

But then something happened.  I disagreed with one of those guys who told me I was “cool, not like other chicks”.  He said something hurtful and I told him it was hurtful, and asked him not to do it again.  And boy, he and the other guys didn’t like that.  Suddenly, I was “just like all those other crazy bitches”.  I needed to “calm down” and “stop making drama”.  He told me “Everything is about you, making you happy, isn’t it?”  Thing is, he wasn’t the only one.  Every guy who has ever called me “not like those other chicks” has eventually turned on me when I stood up for myself, or did something they didn’t like.  They didn’t just tell me they disagreed with me because of X, instead they implied I was over-sensitive, or irrational, or selfish, or “crazy” (which is ableist as fuck as well as gaslighting).

All those male friends started turning on me.  I was getting “too opinionated”.  One by one, the minute I disagreed with them on anything, or asked them not to do something that hurt or upset me, they’d decide I was just like other girls, and it was too much effort to have around.  Even those I had devoted YEARS to making happy, got pissed the minute I expected to be treated with respect, or asked not to do something that upset me or someone around me.  As much as you think you’re playing it safe by being the “cool chick” around guys, they will turn on you the minute you do anything they don’t like.

At the same time this was happening, my self esteem was growing.  I started to feel like a worthy human being, who had the right to be treated with respect, and who had needs and wants too.  My confidence grew too.  Instead of being quiet and “not making a fuss” when I believed something, I spoke up.  Instead of backing down at the first sign of resistance, when I believed that something was unfair, or that I deserved better, I stuck to my guns.

As my self esteem and confidence grew, I noticed more and more that guys didn’t like me as much as they used to.  I started to question why that was, and I found feminism.  I started to understand misogyny and how deeply entrenched it is in our culture.  I learnt how many women, as a self preservation method in a misognynist culture, decided to join ‘em because they can’t beat ‘em.  That they took those messages that said women were lesser and internalised them, and regurgitated them as “I’m not like that.”

As a result of my growing self esteem and bourgeoning feminism, I realised something incredible… women are awesome!  Women are smart, funny, thoughtful, kind, and strong.  Women are great to be around.  Particularly feminist women, who tend not to talk down to other women, and instead support and build women up.  We listen to each other.  We don’t dismiss each other’s feelings as being irrational or silly.  We don’t let our egos get in the way of admitting we made a mistake, or that we don’t know something.  We share.

Consequently, I now find myself with the most amazing women friends.  Friends who treat me as their equal.  Women who are unbelievably strong and who stand up in the face of a whole lot of bullshit from a society that sees us as lesser beings.  Women who value each other.  Who support each other while supporting themselves in a lot of ways.  I can’t tell you how awesome the women in my life are these days.

I know it feels easier to play along with the guys.  To dismiss your feelings as unimportant in the scheme of things, so long as the guys think you’re cool.  It’s easy to convince yourself that other women’s feelings are irrational, overly-emotional and silly, and that you’re not like them.  I know it’s easy to not make waves, not cause a fuss, don’t “get emotional”.  It’s easier to suppress your feelings, to push things down and swallow your words and your emotions than “upset the boys”.  You want to see someone “get emotional”?  Say “No” to a man.  They go from zero to “You fucking bitch.” in seconds.

If a man can’t handle you at what he perceives is your worst, then he doesn’t deserve you at your best.

Let me assure you, articulating your feelings, and expecting to be treated with respect is not causing drama or making a fuss.  You have a right to be heard, to express your needs as a human, and to expect the same respect you put out in the world returned to you.  Being hurt by someone in your life not speaking up for you, or by expecting you to not speak up for yourself is completely valid.  It is not “over sensitive”.  You do not have to tolerate cowardly men who would rather be liked by acquaintances than stand up for the women in their lives.  You do not have to tolerate cowardly men who see their own comfort levels as more important than your wellbeing.  You do not have to tolerate cowardly men who stand over you and bellow their opinions, while they think a woman’s convictions are “selfish”.  You do not have to tolerate cowardly men who act like owning up to a mistake is a fate worse than death.  You don’t have to put up with these things to prove you are “not like those other chicks”.

I am proud to be a strong, independent woman who stands by her convictions and takes responsibility for her words and actions.  A lot of people like to call women like us “bitches”.  Well, I’ll leave the response to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler:

bgsd
I am so thankful for the strong, outspoken women in my life.  To every one of you, be you near or far, close friends or fellow feminists, you make me a better person.  I’m proud to be “one of those chicks”.