Category Archives: feminist theory

the unbearable fatness of being

Sometime in late 2007 or early 2008, I started following Fatshionista, a community on livejournal dedicated to plus-size fashion. There was a recent kerfluffle when the moderators decided to restrict OOTD (out of the day) posts to members who wear a US size 16 or higher. This alienated a substantial minority of its members, self-described “inbetweenies” who fall in the gap between plus sizes and straight sizes. The heretofore largely sedate sister community, Inbetweenies, was suddenly flooded with new members – many of whom were not pleased with the new state of affairs over at Fatshionista. Despite being at the smaller end of the size range at Fatshionista, inbetweenies had previously made up a significant percentage of OOTD posters, and the wake that trailed behind them as they moved to new ground was substantial.

The mods at Fatshionista had good reasons to change their previously more open-ended size cap. Fatshionista is a size-positive community; it’s not a place for people to come and feel good about themselves because they’re not as fat as “some” people. The mods also wanted to make people who were solidly plus-size feel welcome. While I’m wholly supportive of Fatshionista’s decision, I’m also one of the inbetweenies who can no longer post there.

This post is not another episode of “The Passion of the Inbetweenie”; I’m less interested in exploring the politics of Fatshionista’s new policy and more in investigating what it means to exist in this liminal state somewhere between marginalization and acceptance. For many years, I struggled with my participation in LGBT organizations β€” not because I was concerned about supporting the community, but because I didn’t feel like I was “queer enough.” I vacillated between taking an “ally” or a “bi pride” button every time Pride Alliance tabled in ye olde student center. Then I started making “pretty, witty, and christian!” rainbow buttons for my campus ministry’s table and decided that worrying about LGBT welcome and inclusivity in my community was more productive that staying up all night worrying about the tokenization of bisexuality in Katy Perry lovin’ college environments. (At this point, I think I’d have to elope with Cyndi Lauper to Iowa to feel adequately gay.)

Me at the Prop 8 protest in St. Louis, November ’08.

It’s a lot harder to negotiate the liminality of fatness, though, because it’s so subjective, and unlike your sexual preferences, kinda out there on display. When I said proudly in class, on embodiment day, “I’m fat,” was I reclaiming language for myself, or just promoting body hate? When I still look at myself, in the mirror, what does it mean that I see that I am fat, as opposed to, I dunno, middlingy? I love my body. I love that I have the gifts of mobility, sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, although several of those are limited or have been in the past by my disabilities. I want to be able to say, “Yeah, my body doesn’t fit into straight sizes real well, and it has fat weird places, but I’m proud of it and what I can do!” I want to reclaim fatness.

I’m just not sure if fatness is mine to reclaim.

I encourage you, gentle readers, to reply if you feel so moved; I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.


topics for after finals are done consuming my soul and thoughts about writing

Predictably, whenever there are a billion other things I should be doing, I have tons of things I want to write about. I will make a list here so I can come back to it when I am overcome by post-finals turkey-induced ennui.

– women/women of color/poc in sci-fi (I know Joy wants to read this!)
– (un)hottest things ever (also known as, when boys call me “smart” as a compliment instead of actually engaging in an intelligent conversation with me, I know they only want in my pants. on the other hand — )
– when old dudes won’t SHUT THE FUCK UP and talk even when they know nothing in group situations (church book club/buffy discussion group, for example) and how I do not know how to deal with that aside from raising my voice in a manner in which I feel is rude. On the bright side, book club is at MY place next month, and I am going to make everybody hold the stick when they talk. NO ONE talks without holding the stick. Because apparently, we are in preschool.

One thing I do want to say before I forget about it: I was helping the ex-boyfriend through several revisions of his NSF application over the course of the week, and I made many a note in the margins. (I only discovered Track Changes in MS Word this year, and can I just say, it is my FAVORITE THING EVER?????) Anyway, he had a lot of sentences where I was like “there is no reason for these words to be this big” or “ACTIVE VERBS” or “you are an engineer, stop using the word ‘green,’ this is not Real Simple, ok.” Admittedly, the last issue is not germane to this discussion.

He pointed out that these things are easier for me, because I write all the time. To which I was like, “really?” Because, in my head, I only count my fiction when I think about writing. If it’s a not a story, it’s not really writing, in my book. However, I do write in my online journal all the time. Sometimes, multiple times a day, even if it’s just to say, this icon is the best icon ever (made by timewaslost @ LJ):

Also, I write a lot of papers.

I am generally reluctant to call myself a writer, because I always feel like everything I write is too short and TRAGICALLY UN-EPIC. However, this realization makes me happy and filled with the joy of the Medusa. Or something. πŸ˜‰

This is why the internet is great. (See: Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky, which you should read.) WE CAN ALL BE WRITERS. HINT HINT HINT, my feminist theory compatriots! πŸ˜‰

tonight’s class, unrelated things

I was really tired tonight and bleaaaaaaaah because of my cold, and I don’t think I had any coherent comments I could have made that I didn’t. I was also quiet tonight because, frankly, the topics we touched on are very triggering for me.

Cyborgs: still a BAD METAPHOR. Moving on now…

Lastly – I do in fact write things that are not Buffy-related. If you’re interested in my original fiction, a short story that I wrote for Imaginary Beasts #15 is available in the IB archive here: gloves. The text is all by me, but the illustrations were done by coffeebased @ LJ, whose art I love. And yes, I do go by yet another name on the internets. I think three is my limit. I am maxed out. (But if you’re curious about what my tattoo says, now you know!)

of colds, romantic aspirations, sci-fi heroines, and DARK WILLOW

(Remember how I was like, I’m totally not going to talk about Buffy in this blog? That was a lie. But there is way less Buffy here than in my other blog, so there!)

My brain was totally on vacation last night, so I’m going to try to read the articles for today again before class. Colds are so annoying. Also, soy milk with Hershey’s Special Dark syrup? Cannot compare to the same with whole milk, but I am off the dairy sauce until I stop being so mucousy. For someone who loves dairy, this is akin to torture. MIIIIIILK. I could be in one of those ads.

Due to recent singleness, I have recently been pondering whether or not I should look for the qualities I think I want in a partner or embrace them for myself. I could be a butch, leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding Ph.D. candidate! Unfortunately, when I shared this with friends, they giggled and said, “Sorry, Olga. You are way too lipstick.”

That wasn’t even my problem with this plan. How I am going to ride a motorcycle if I don’t even drive a car?

I guess that’s going on the backburner.

Admittedly, as I expressed to my friend Rebecca, I’m pretty sure that my checklist is an improbable conflation of patriarchy blamin’, cradle Anglican, and Spike. Still, I’ll keep looking. There must be one out there. Maybe even one with a sexy accent. Who knows all the words to the secret handshake Easter hymn that I don’t even know all the words to.

I wrote an essay a while back, for a book collecting contest, about women in science fiction. I should probably track that down and post it, because it’s, uh, a HIGHLY AWESOME list.

In conclusion: I spent way too much time looking at Dark Willow fanvids last night in an effort to explain to my ex-boyfriend why Dark Willow is so much more badass than regular Willow, even if she is all veiny. (Although, problematic trope at in play here (see: Evil Magical Lesbian), which, while I think worked on the show – the show is in the context of real life, Joss! And real prejudice! Jeez.) Anyway, seriously, why are all of these fanvids SO BAD? Sigh. I guess I know what I’ll be doing once I get the hang of Adobe Premiere Pro (my project for the December intersession). Remember how I keep talking about conferences? VividCon is right here in Chicago in August and I am totally going to go. I am SO SAD that I missed the Bechdel test show this year!

class, linkpost

Last night’s class was TOTALLY awesome. There’s only one thing I would change, in retrospect – we didn’t take time at the beginning to acknowledge how personal and potentially triggering issues of embodiment may be, and reassure the class that this was a safe space for discussing those issues. We should have also encouraged people to step out for a moment if they needed to. For me, I am pretty comfortable with my body and how I relate to it, but I know there is at least one person for whom class last night was quite difficult. Unfortunately, I can’t do much about that now, but I will definitely keep it in mind for the future.

Aside from that, my arm is very unhappy, and I seriously cannot brain today. So: linkpost!

FWD/Forward is an amazing site started by friends. I actively refuse to read Feministing/Feministe/other feminist blog sites because I do not have the time or emotional energy to deal with everything going on there. I’m trying to make time for FWD/Forward because I am invested in what they are doing and also know that, unlike some other people on some other sites, they are not perennially dipping their toes in the Feminism 101 wading pool.*
Comic Book Costume Contests: Not, Actually, Burlesque Shows: in the category of “Unsurprising, But Nevertheless, Appalling”
The Spoon Theory [PDF] is well-known in the internet disability community, but maybe not so much to you, gentle reader? This article is the best basic explanation about invisible and/or chronic illness that’s out there. So when someone says, “I ain’t got the spoons…” you’ll know.

*There is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on basic stuff about feminism – everyone needs to learn somewhere. In person, I’m totally there. But I do not have the time or spoons to educate everyone on the internet.

the problem with bein’ a lady

So, I have been thinking a lot, largely because of an unrelated comment that Missy made, about my discussion board post two weeks ago. Recap for y’all: I talked about not getting negative prejudice based on gender on a personal level because of my upbringing. Also, I identify as a lady. Whee.

This is the problem with identifying as a lady, and the problem with my cognitive dissonance regarding personal experiences of sexism: I have a hell of a lot of privilege.

It is wrong to say that my childhood was largely free of sexism, because it wasn’t. It was full of positive sexism. Being a girl didn’t mean I was limited in terms of what I wanted to do or what my parents wanted me to do; I was never told to behave more like a girl. (My mom actually worried about me because I didn’t like dirt. Because, you know, kids should like dirt.) But I was also rewarded by family, teachers, and external society alike, passively and silently, for being a girl. I was a very girly child who like playing dress-up; I did ballet at the local YMCA for seven years. No one told me that I had to do these things, but everyone supported them, and me. My dad held doors for me and pulled out chairs for me; I was taught to do these things for people who were elderly because they deserved respect. I wasn’t taught to do them for girls, because that’s what boys do.

Being ladylike? That’s positive sexism, too. And I think it’s important to note when I like to dress up and be girly, and when I don’t. At work? My old job (BEST JOB EVER), totally; my current job, where no one respects me for reasons totally unrelated to my competence or the level of brain power it takes to do said job? Never. On a first or second date? Nope. I want potential partners to respect me, and I don’t want to create a ridiculously high standard that I will subsequently have to live up to. (Those occasions are generally more “I dressed myself today! (But I did think about the appropriate level of not-caring for forty minutes.)”) When I go to doctor’s appointments, I always dress nicely, but business-casual-with-pants nice.*

I’m only girly when there’s no negative consequences for expressing my femininity. And to a certain extent, I dress up when there’s a likelihood that I will benefit from positive sexism. If I am going out, if I am with my family, or with my friends – these are settings where I’m sure positive sexism is totally unconscious, but my feminine presentation will nevertheless be supported, encouraged, and praised.

Is dressing up fun? DUH. I’ve been into costuming since I was two years old and raiding my mom’s closet for her shoes and shawls. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with bedazzling myself, and I’m certainly not going to stop. But I’m not going to pretend that I don’t get hella privilege for doing it, either.

Back to the whole “lady” thing. You know what I left out there? Class privilege. Maybe not so much today, but historically? The term “lady” had an awful lot of weight. And it’s all tied in with this positive sexism stuff – definitely problematic. Wearing corsets? I wear mine, tops, five times a year. I don’t wear it every day. It’s hip, not an instrument of torture (even though I did get it custom-made for me and it’s all steel-boned and stuff!).

It’s really naive to say that I don’t understand what it’s like to be raised in sexist society, or that I don’t experience it on a daily basis, or that it’s totally ok to identify as a “lady” just because I personally associate that with my grandmas and Amelia Peabody, lady archaeologist and my childhood fictional hero. (Also, colonialism much? :/ There are some recurring and not horribly stereotyped PoC, although none a main character until much later on… it is Victorian England, so…) I benefit from sexism all the time, and because the negative sexism I experience often falls into the shadow of those benefits, it’s harder for me to see.

So, I’m owning my privilege. I can’t claim traditional aspects of femininity (dress, manners, self-presentation), without claiming their problems, too. This does not make me some kind of gender hero(ine), I must clarify: it just makes me retroactively less of a dumbass. πŸ˜‰

*Let’s not get into how totally fucked up it is that I have to dress up for the doctor and act and behave a certain way because my health problems rely on my self-report to get appropriate treatment. And then the problems I have had where people assume that my composure doesn’t mean I am not totally crazy without medication. DO YOUR JOB, PEOPLE.

great article from my friend katie

depaul folk: go here to log in to Project Muse; if you search for the title, it comes right up.

“Being Lovingly, Knowingly Ignorant: White Feminism and Women of Color”
Mariana Ortega

The aim of this essay is to analyze the notion of “loving, knowing ignorance,” a type of “arrogant perception” that produces ignorance about women of color and their work at the same time that it proclaims to have both knowledge about and loving perception toward them. The first part discusses Marilyn Frye’s accounts of “arrogant” as well as of “loving” perception and presents an explanation of “loving, knowing ignorance.” The second part discusses the work of Audre Lorde, Elizabeth Spelman, and MarΓ­a Lugones in their attempts to deal with the issue of arrogant perception within feminism, and examines how Lugones’s notion of “‘world’-traveling” may help us deal with “loving, knowing ignorance.” Ultimately, the author suggests that we need to become aware of instances of “loving, knowing ignorance,” especially if we are to stay true to Third Wave feminism’s commitment to diversity.