Category Archives: Featured

Why we need fat activism

This shouldn’t be necessary, but it is, especially after the ridiculousness that was Sunday’s “Dear Abby” response.

We need fat activism …

Because fat people are still discriminated against in our homes,
in our jobs
, in our schools, in the streets;

Because fat people are still denied basic rights;

Because some people really don’t understand that fat people are not driving up healthcare costs;

Because fear and hatred of fat people is so common that some of us are afraid to leave our homes;

Because when we choose to put ourselves first, for whatever reason and in whatever manner, we are told we are being selfish and unhealthy;

Because even our families do not always accept us as we are;

Because we have almost no fat spaces of our own;

Because when we try to create fat-only space, average and slender people demand to be included;

Because we are told to lose weight or we will die;

Because when we choose to reject diets and diet culture and make peace with our bodies we are attacked, insulted and rejected;

Because people do not understand that diets don’t work;

Because when we are raped, people say we should be grateful anyone even bothered to have any kind of sex with us and our attackers aren’t held accountable;

Because when we express anger at being treated like second- and third-class citizens, or like some strange not-human thing, we are told we are imagining things — and just lose weight already;

Because we are the unwilling victims of experimental medicine;

Because when we explain why we need fat-only spaces, we are told we are only justifying our “illness” to one another and then given condescending lectures about why should lose weight;

Because fat people who have become thin look at us with pity and revulsion and say, “I used to be fat, too, but I lost the weight and so can you. If I can do it, anyone can!”;

Because those of us who have rejected diet culture in favor of cultivating healthy habits are told we are “glorifying obesity”;

Because a paradigm shift is long overdue;

Because not all feminists take fat women’s troubles seriously, and we are ignored and overlooked in order to take care of things that affect “all women”;

Because even when we do try to assert and fight for our rights, we’re told we take up too much space and that the real reason we’re angry is that we’re not thin;

Because there isn’t enough room to list all the reasons;

Because together we have the strength and courage to take the risks and make the choices;

Because too much of the world we live in wants us silent or, preferably, dead;

Because Audre Lorde was right — “our silence will not protect us.”

Based on “We Are Lesbian Separatists And We Won’t Be Silenced” by jody jewdyke. I recently reread her work and realized so much of what she wrote rang horribly familiar, just for different reasons. No copyright or intellectual infringement is intended. No appropriation is intended, only the acknowledgment that fat oppression is real and is one of the multiple oppressions that still exists.

How “Cheap Amusements” helped change women’s gender identity

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The search for a “good time” is nothing new. Americans (all humans really, but for this post’s purpose we’ll be precise) across the centuries have sought a fun escape from the humdrum of everyday life. Historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, folklorists and sociologists have all looked at what drives us to do what we do.

Again, nothing new here.

But studying people’s pursuit of that fun and, in particular, studying how it changed American culture? That’s something else entirely, and it’s what Kathy Peiss does in Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York, an engaging and enlightening look at the young wage-labor working women during the latter half of the Progressive era. She uses popular culture history, feminist thought and women’s labor history to show the emergence of leisure culture among young white (European immigrant and Anglo-American) working-class women. These women, she argues, were actively involved in reconstructing cultural notions of gender, as well as heterosocial versus homosocial interaction. She also shows that the “reorientation of American culture” began not with the “elite 400,” but with the single working-class women in urban centres.

Working-class women’s leisure choices re/constructed gender identities and helped to mostly destroy the cult of “true womanhood.” Commercial dance halls, for example, often offered far less regulation and more heterosocial behavior than their middle-class counterparts; they also had lower admission and hatcheck prices for unescorted women. This served as inducement to attend dances without an escort or companion. These young working-class women rejected the social patterns of the previous generation. They flouted middle-class expectations of respectable behavior and domesticity. Instead, Peiss argues, they indulged in a world that promoted pleasure and enjoyment.

However, their choices also lead to their commodification and the commodification of women’s sexuality in general. Because many of these women were economically dependent upon “gentlemen friends” for part of the entertainment, an unbalanced scenario of “treating” developed. Treating could be anything from buying a woman a drink to helping out with her rent, depending on the extent of the relationship, and a certain amount of reciprocity was implicit. These young women’s casual contact with male strangers and wild and carefree dancing had shattered Victorian notions of decorum and propriety, but their flashy dress and those relaxed attitudes, combined with treating, blurred the lines between respectability and prostitution. Sensuality and sexuality (especially women’s sexuality) became something that could be bought and purchased legitimately.

Rather than “trickling down,” this new socially proscribed female gender-identity moved outwards to embrace others of the working class at the same time it moved up into the middle class and elite. Peiss posits this heterosociality and relaxed deportment became accepted behavior via commercialized entertainment, which began to spread the idea to the population at large through movies, nickelodeons and tamer versions of the large commercial dance halls. Modes of dress and interactions between the sexes were circulated through commercial entertainment, and previously unacceptable behavior gained acceptability among the middle-class. And all this spread so rapidly and thoroughly that middle-class moral reformers — who may or may not have been genuinely concerned with the working woman’s plight — were forced to dilute their message of cross-class sisterhood to maintain relations with working-class women. This weakened an ideology already being challenged by more liberal thinkers.

Was this all part of a larger cultural transformation? Yes. Peiss’ point, however, is that the reshaping of women’s gender-identity and its prohibitions were due in large part due to the young urban working-class women in the early twentieth century. By exploring the genesis of commercialized entertainment, as well as early twentieth century women’s labor history, this study neatly shows how the two were intertwined and how the middle-class was already changing. While a more in-depth look at the differences in immigrant/second generation and multi-generation American women would be beneficial, the connections Peiss draws between women’s wage-labor, leisure time and commercial amusements cannot be easily dismissed.

Music Monday: Be Inspired

Today’s Music Monday post is all about inspiration, body positivity and self-love. Not feelin’ it today? Maybe these songs will help.

Try by Colbie Caillat

The masks we wear? They’re not necessary and you don’t need to change to be you. Or, more importantly, to like you.

All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor

It’s not just a curvy girl anthem, it’s a body love anthem. “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” Yes!

You and I by John Legend

Beauty is more than surface deep. Accept that compliment, because odds are it was given freely and meant sincerely and your partner is with you because she or he wants to be. See through their eyes once in a while. You might be surprised what you find.

Brave by Sara Bareilles

We all know words can hurt. When they’re trapped inside, when we don’t let them out? That’s when they do real damage. Be brave and let it out.

Follow Your Arrow by Kacey Musgraves

Life is short. Is it really worth living up to other people’s (sometimes unrealistic) expectations? Just do your own thing.

Roar by Katy Perry

This one is probably pretty self-explanatory. However, I chose a non-official video for this song because Amanda Trusty’s performance is amazing and full of self-empowerment. Also, it’s possibly NSFW. You can find the official video here.

It Gets Better by Rebecca Drysdale

Because despite all the work ahead, all the oppression people deal with every single day, it DOES get better. Watch it twice. Then again. It’s so worth it. Then take it with you, cause really, it doesn’t matter what your “weird” is — it gets better.

So, what songs inspire you?

Going Blue

It’s summer in the northern hemisphere and, in many places, that means highlights and streaks and trying to avoid the dreaded “chlorine green.” It also, of late, has meant more heads of hair sporting colors not usually found in nature.

Fun as these colors look, and as much as I wanted blue hair to match the dress I was wearing for a weekend house party, I was reluctant to commit. To get the vibrant brights or pastels requires pre-lightening (bleaching); this makes the color a permanent change.

Yeah, not really ready for that. I like being a dark redhead.

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A trip to Sally Beauty led me to a selection of semi-permanent colors. Most include a note to the effect of “for best results apply to light of pre-lightened hair,” but also include directions for applying to darker or untreated hair. After reading scores of reviews and being generally indecisive in the aisle, I eventually decided on Ion Color Brilliance Brights in Sky Blue.

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The color comes in a tube and you do not mix it with anything — apply directly to hair. In retrospect, I should have sectioned my hair and used a bowl and brush to put the color on. Instead, I gloved up and did it all by hand.

Because there’s no ammonia or peroxide the instructions say to leave the color to process for 40 minutes. The majority of the reviews I read suggested leaving it for an hour and adding a little heat from a hair dryer. Well, I figured, what the hell?

Let’s just say … if you aren’t used to putting color on your hair, or putting it on without an applicator bottle, it gets a little messy.

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See what I mean? Messy.

The only upside? The color will come off skin easily. Soap and water got most of it and baby wipes got the rest.

So after waiting an hour, rinsing til the water ran clear and my bathtub had turned from green to blue, this was the result:

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Don’t look too happy, do I?

Overjoyed, I was not. That said, it could have turned out much worse. In low light my hair looks black; the blue isn’t visible without strong light.

Most of the friends, acquaintances and random people I saw over the weekend liked the color. A few thought I should make it permanent. Others thought I should go the “lighten, then color” route for a more vibrant shade.

I think I like being a blue head, but … hmmm.

I’m still on the fence.

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Throwback Thursday: Grandparents’ Wedding

A little personal history for this Throwback Thursday. The wedding of my grandparents Faye Yandle and Frank Furr, on June 13, 1954, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fun facts. Despite his civilian attire, my grandfather was at the time a member of the U.S. Navy. My grandmother gave up a full music scholarship to UNC Chapel Hill to marry him.

Click the image to enlarge.

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Changing Ideas of Beauty?

We like to talk about the Beauty Myth, and how women’s magazines, television programs and books and blogs galore have perpetuated it. And that’s all very true, it’s a real thing.

That said, the idea of a female standard of beauty that’s unattainable by all but the wealthiest is nothing new. Here’s an excerpt from “The Ladies’ Toilette” in “La Belle Assemblée,” a fashionable women’s publication from the early nineteenth century.

Of Cleanliness.—The toilette without cleanliness fails of obtaining its object. A careful attention to the person, frequent ablutions, linen always white, which never betrays the inevitable effect of perspiration and of dust; a skin always smooth and brilliant, garments not soiled by any stain, and which might be taken for the garments of a nymph; a shoe which seems never to have touched the ground; this it is that constitutes cleanliness.

Cleanliness can vary from culture to culture, even here in the West. But the writer’s idea of cleanliness stretches my credulity, and I’m the daughter of a nurse and a clean freak.

Bathe regularly, check; clean clothes, check.

Skin smooth and brilliant? Ummm, how ’bout no? My skin has never been smooth and is only rarely brilliant, but it’s always clean. Unless I’ve been doing something to make it dirty. 😉

No stains? Well, I always strive for this, but stains happen and some stains just will not come out. And honestly, if it’s a small stain in an out-of-the-way spot, I don’t really care and no one ever notices. So yes, I’m going to continue to wear my favorite sundress, thank you very much.

“Garments of a nymph?” Well, doesn’t that bring to mind our youth-obsessed culture? Have you seen Vera Wang’s new wedding dress promo??

Shoes. I have a love-hate relationship with them. They’re pretty and I want them, but I hate wearing them — I’d rather go barefoot. That said, I keep them clean and in good repair, but they’re SHOES, you walk on the (sometimes dirty) ground in them. Besides, some of the most comfortable pairs are the most worn.

To this might likewise be added a scrupulous care to avoid every thing that can indicate functions which undeceive the imagination. Women, among the ancients were nymphs, nothing about them belied the graceful imagery of the poets who immortalized them in their works. At Home and at Athins a woman could neither spit nor use her handkerchief in public. If she had a cold, she was under the necessity of remaining at home.

Stay home if you have even a sniffle? Well, yeah, somedays that sounds downright appealing. Other times? Uh, no.

Guess that means staying at home during your period, too. I expect there are many women that would not bother AT ALL. Heh.

For those interested, the rest of the entry can be found here.