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Gazing at Navels and Practicing the Preached

July 17, 2010

I want to tell you a story, and it’s frankly not particularly novel.  Nor, I’m sure, will my comments be particularly incisive, or even philosophically interesting.  But I want to tell you this story because it reminds me just how difficult change is, even when it’s just the (supposedly simpler) task of changing yourself.

I went swimsuit shopping today.  Having lived in a beach town for 5 years of my life, it was bizarre to think that this was my first swimsuit shopping experience since 2003.  But it was.

It was much harder than I hoped it would be.  In the car on the way home–with a new suit, I might add–I found myself in tears.  This is in many ways an embarrassing thing to admit.  I am a feminist.  I am a philosopher.  I know that the images of beauty we are bombarded with are capitalist productions, effective in transmitting the idea that we are tragically defective and unhappy in order to sell us goods and services that will, supposedly, fix the problems behind our defects and unhappiness.  I know that the imperative to be beautiful is a mechanism for keeping women in our place.  I know that my drive to compare myself to other women is internalized misogyny.

And yet.  I give myself back pain from struggling, in vain, to hold my stomach in to make a completely flat surface.  I think about returning to my old habit of sneaking diet pills when no one is looking.  And I stand in front of that dressing room mirror, hating what I see.

The fact that this sort of story is not an uncommon one is more depressing than I care to think about right now.  Instead, I want to share with you this picture (and wonderful post) from definatalie, who is fantastic:

Image via

She continues:

This war is personal and this war is being waged on you, from within your consciousness, and it seeks to inhibit your self expression and nullify your body. This war also works to nullify whole groups of apparently odd-looking people too: fat, old, tall, short, brown, and disabled (and more!) If you’re not white, able bodied and young, the overriding message being spruiked by the beauty, health and fashion industries is that you’re not good enough and that in order to be as beautiful as you can be you have to buy clothes and make up and diet pills and encourage all your friends to consume what you’re consuming.

I want to move beyond that internalized war and self-hate.  Some days I do better than others.  On the days I don’t, the shame is double-edged–because, as a feminist, I know just how privileged I am.  I am white, I am not fat, I am still under 30, I am cis-gendered, I am mostly able-bodied.  It feels whiny and self-indulgent to spend time thinking about the ways in which the beauty industry affects my body image.

But on the other hand, I think–when we are told, in a million ways every day, not only by television and magazines, but by our mothers and sisters and friends and teachers and mentors, “We are Unacceptable as we are,” and when the process of learning to speak to ourselves and to the people around us differently is so excruciatingly difficult, even after years or decades of trying–well, then I’m not sure that it’s such a small thing.


July 3, 2010

Image via BlogTO

Hi everyone!  Due to family visits and the need to clean my house in preparation for said visits  (related note: how can toasters get so disgusting?), I’ll be away from the blog for a couple of days.  To my fellow Ontarions, Happy Pride, and to the rest of you–talk amongst yourselves!

O, Canada…

July 1, 2010

[Image: A fallen red maple leaf sits alone on a concrete background, reminiscent of the Canadian flag.]

Today is Canada Day.  I will celebrate the birthday of my adopted home in true Canadian fashion, with a hike in the woods and a trip to my city’s  festival in the park.  This particular Canada Day is a bittersweet one for many Canadians, I think–as the police misconduct and brutality of the G20 protests is still quite fresh, and Torontoans pick up the pieces of their aftermath.

Still, there is reason to celebrate the good in our home as we speak out against the bad.  But because I am still new to Canada–and because, as living here has taught me, I am thoroughly USAmerican in my assumptions and knowledge–I’ll direct you to others who have done a much better job at this than I could: Pilgrim Soul from The Pursuit of Harpyness and Renee at Womanist Musings (though, as awesome as she is, I can’t get on board with the Tim Horton’s love–sorry, Renee!  What’s the deal with the automatic cream-and-sugar anyway??).

Much love, Canada!  Thanks for the health care.

Women’s Voices

June 29, 2010
There are too many instances in the world when women’s voices are discounted.  Not just our figurative voices – the words we speak and the meanings of those words – butour literal voices too – our sometimes soft, high-timbre ululations.  We are told that we are too soft-spoken to hear, that our proclamations carry too much emotion, too much shame, too many tears.
Today I was flipping through YouTube looking at slam poetry readings for a non-blog project, and I was reminded how powerful women’s voices truly are.  In spoken word poetry, female voices are just as strong as men’s, just as effective.  In honor of those voices, I wanted to share this poem by Andrea Gibson, a truly kick-ass lady with amazing stage presence who uses words like bullets.  This particular poem is called “Pursuit of Happiness,” and it reminds me a great deal of the things we discussed back during the Boobquake debacle, when Mary B reminded us about all the baggage that comes with the notion of “saving” the women of other countries.
[Transcrip below the fold]
Read more…

Martha Nussbaum Demands Apology from Homophobic Huckabee

June 28, 2010

The hits just keep coming for Pride Month!  Philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who (noted jerk) Mike Huckabee cited as providing philosophical justification for his characterization of same-sex sex as having an “ick factor,” has spoken up to defend her work from its misuse by politicians with poor reading comprehension skills.

She writes to Politico,

In fact, I have never used the phrase “ick factor” in any of my three  books dealing with the emotion of disgust, or in any articles. I use  the term “projective disgust” to characterize the disgust that many  people feel when they imagine gay sex acts. What does that term mean, and to whom does it apply? The view I develop, on the basis of recent psychological research, is that projective disgust has its origin in a  discomfort with one’s own body and its messier animal aspects, including sexuality, and that, in a defense mechanism, disgust is then projected outward onto vulnerable groups who are characterized as hyperphysical and hypersexual. In this way, the uncomfortable people displace their discomfort onto others, who are then targeted for various forms of social discrimination.

Thus the people to whom the term “projective disgust” applies are the insecure and emotionally stunted people who campaign against equal rights for gays and lesbians, not gays and lesbians themselves.

Huckabee had previously claimed that, hey, it was totally cool for him to say that gay sex had an “ick factor” because other people said it first, including this one lady philosopher, who is famous and stuff.  While philosophers have been known to say particularly stupid things (so, FYI, simply citing one of them as a way of defending yourself against charges of bigotry is not generally what I would advocate as Plan A), and while it’s worth wondering how helpful (or, for that matter, respectful to people with developmental disabilities) it is to equate homophobia with being “emotionally stunted,” Nussbaum definitely does not hold the view that Huckabee–very publicly–attributes to her.  Her final word, then, is not surprising:

He owes me a public apology.

Breaking: Toronto Pride Drops Censorship!

June 23, 2010

We wrote previously about Pride Toronto’s foray into political censorship, which resulted in dozens of people withdrawing their support from the official Pride Week events.  Today, Pride Toronto officially retracted that position, and is allowing everyone who signs a non-discrimination pledge to participate in the march.  It is a good day for Canadian Pride.

People We Meet, People We Love

June 23, 2010