Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's good to know that women at *either* extreme can expect shaming...

Well, now... this thread is really interesting. Lauren, over at feministe, posted about a series of photos of female body builders, and how she found them interesting because, in her words:
It’s interesting to me that many female body builders who work on attaining what are considered masculine traits play up their feminine characteristics, perhaps to counteract the kind of physique that is usually culturally marked male, sometimes to an extreme that appears to be a conscious genderfuck. Whatever the case, the human body is so, so cool.

Which, hell yes! The human body is really cool. I'm constantly fascinated by the ways that our bodies move and grow, by the infinite variety of shapes and sizes of our parts and wholes, by the uncountable variations that all of our parts come in. It's really amazing to me.

But, that's not the bit that rocked my brain this morning. The bit that blew my mind was the comments that Lauren's post prompted from a lot of people. The very first comment in response to her post was about how "disgusting" the women look, and how the commenter simply doesn't "find that type of body attractive at all". I'm not going to do a count, but a surprisingly high number out of the 53 responses are echoing that basic sentiment--that each of these women is a "representation of grotesquerie".

There were, thankfully, a number of people who stepped up to point out that criticisms of these women as unattractive misses the point, and that those kinds of comments were, to say the least, not cool. But, that being said, it still seems like one of those times where an awful lot of people engaged in some pretty shitty behavior without really taking the time to analyze it or learn from it.

I don't know why I'm surprised that these sorts of blow-ups still happen. Honestly, I guess I'm not surprised at all. I've written about it too many times and seen it come up too many times for it to really be surprisng.

So, get out your broken records: It doesn't matter if you find those women attractive or not. They're very likely not doing it for you. That you find body building "grotesque" is completely beside, behind, or even miles away from the point. Nobody gives a shit that you find it disgusting. If you find it disgusting? Don't do it. Nobody is trying to make you become or date a body builder--certainly, nobody writing at Feministe is.

When you start talking about women's bodies with terms like "disgusting" "grotesquerie" "disfiguring" or disturbing", you're engaging in exactly the kind of body shaming that a lot of us have been fighting against. So, thanks for that. A woman who can bench 450 lbs without breaking a sweat is no less deserving of respect than a woman who weighs 450 lbs. It's one thing to question the social forces that lead us to view our bodies in various ways. It's quite another to look at pictures of particular women and proclaim them gross.

And the conversation is almost exactly like the typical fat shaming thread. If we remove the specific references, it's practically a MadLib:

"Hey, look at these pictures of women X who break the typical beauty mold. This is interesting."
"Oh my God. Those women are gross. I don't find them attractive."
"Yeah, they're nasty. And also, they're damaging their health because Y."
"You'd have to be dumb to think that these women are attractive or healthy, because Z"

It's the same pattern over and over and over.

And it's completely bunk.

So, here's my advice: If you find yourself on a feminist thread--or, hell, anywhere else, for that matter--about women's bodies, and you're thinking of posting a response that consists of or is related to "Wow, that's gross/ugly/nasty/disgusting", take a moment and

Don't do it. Just don't. Because the odds are really good that what you're about to do is make some ignorant, superficial insult about another woman's body. A woman that you probably don't know, will probably never know, and about whom you're probably woefully uneducated about. You're thinking about posting how unhealthy she probably is? And about how your disgust is justified because you're really concerned about the health implications? Yeah, that's bullshit. You're more than likely not her doctor, so you're really not in a position to give her health advice.

Maybe you're actually interested in and concerned about a larger social issue? Maybe you're concerned about ways that the commercial cosmetics market and the entertainment industry push a certain beauty ideal? Maybe you're worried about systemic problems that involve body dismorphic disorders? Maybe you're genuinely concerned about the ways that we view our bodies? That's great! Channel that interest and make a difference. But, remember that slamming and insulting and mocking a particular woman or a group of them is not the way to do that. That's not helping--that's adding to the problem. You want to talk about the larger issues, do that. But don't throw those women under the bus in the process.

If you can't talk about about the ways that our society idealizes unrealistic body types without calling another woman "gross" or "disgusting", then you're doing it wrong, and you should take a minute to figure out why.

Monday, November 10, 2008

So... what is an adult again?

This story is very sad. Details are still coming out, so it's hard to say what to think of everything, but one thing really strikes me as... well... odd. The story: A child, 8, shot and killed his father and his father's friend on Wednesday. The current report is that this was not a spur-of-the-moment thing, either, but that the child planned the attack out. There's speculation that he might have been abused, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence of that yet. The part that I'm currently bothered by is the fact that the police want to charge him as an adult.

An eight year old. Charged as an adult.

Now, maybe someone has some insight into this that I'm missing... but if we're at the point where we charge eight-year-olds as adults, what is the point of having a distinction? Why not just make all murder trials "as adult" then?

Because it seems to me that we, as a society, have agreed that there's an important emotional/intellectual difference between adults and children, and we've generally placed the transition at 18. Now, that's sort of arbitrary, and that's why we recognize that there's some leeway, and sometimes we see value in charging, say, a 17-year-old as an adult. But at eight, a child is less than half the age we consider an adult--still a decade away. If that's not firmly in the realm of "child", what is?

And if the argument is that we need to more harshly punish this kid for what he's done? If we don't have a serious enough punishment to fit the crime? The solution isn't to charge him as an adult, but to fix the laws that we think are broken and need to be fixed.

It seems profoundly screwed up to me that someone as young as eight is going to be charged as an adult.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Just a reminder of what is at stake.

I know that a lot of people get it, but there are people who don't.
The passing of Prop 8 is a failure on a many levels. It's a failure from start to finish.

That a modern society should even question the right of same-sex couples to enter into a marriage is a failure.

That a modern society should vote to prohibit same-sex marriages is a failure.

That a modern society would even think that it's legitimate to vote on other people's rights is a failure.

Our rights should not be subject to the whims and passing fancy of other people. Our rights should not be up for popular vote. The rights of a minority should not be subjected to tyranny of the majority.

We should have the reasonable expectation that our rights be honored by those around us, whether they like us or agree with us. I'm profoundly disappointed by the fact that Prop 8 and others like it succeeded, but I'm just as profoundly disappointed and saddened that so many people consider it right to have voted on the issue at all. That we, in 2008, still think that popular vote is a fair and right way to determine whether someone should be allowed access to his/her rights... is disturbing.

Would we accept, in this day and age, a ballot initiative to prohibit women from owning property? Would we accept the notion that it is fair and right to vote on whether Asian people should be allowed to register to vote? Would most people just accept it if someone suggested we should vote on a reinstating slavery?

People should not be denied their rights because the majority takes a vote.

Already, on some of the forums I visit, people are saying "but, gays could have civil unions! What's the problem?"

The problem are the over 1,000 benefits that are associated with marriage, most of which do not come with civil unions. The problem is in pretending that seperate is equal. The problem is in telling one group of citizens that their rights and their relationships are less valuable and less "real" than others.

There are over a thousand laws associated with marriage, many of which provide benefits and privileges to married couples. It's a long list, but worth looking at.

Someday, history will vindicate. The best I can do, sometimes, is take solace in the fact that history will prove us right, and we'll eventually recognize that institutional bigotry is wrong. But, I know that doesn't help people in the here-and-now, and that doesn't help the people who are actually hurt by these sorts of laws. I can only hope that history comes soon.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tonight's Town hall meeting in Cambridge, MA...

This is What Women Want is putting on a town hall meeting tonight, as I mentioned last week. There's been a slight change in venue, however. The meeting will be taking place at Lesley University Ampitheater, at 1815 Mass. Ave in Cambridge. Hope to see you there for this very exciting post-election meeting.

If you can't make it, don't fret, you've got another option. Thanks to the wonderful world of web technologies, you can catch the Town Hall right here!

That's the feed, friends. If you've got questions, send them through the chat function there, because I won't be here to pass them along, but people will be taking questions from the feed and asking them at the event.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Support Obama? No candy for you!

Okay, seriously?

What is wrong with people? It's Halloween. You're going to turn kids away from your door because their parents support the other guy? Really? That's some kind of ass-hattery. Little kids are little kids, and there's no way of knowing whether they'll swing towards or away from their parents politics as they grow. And I think it's pretty low to campaign through children, anyway--if you're giving out candy on Halloween, give it out. Don't try to push your politics on kids coming to your door. Disgusting.