Category Archives: body

Breasts and cancer

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, I’ve recovered from radiotherapy (harder mentally than surgery because you’re completely exhausted), I’ve travelled to India (will blog more about that later), and it’s almost Christmas.

I’ve been collecting some articles about breast cancer, the cost of treatment, what we die from young (women = breast cancer), how trans people need to be careful of breast cancer, and really what you can do to ensure that you catch cancer early and get it treated quickly.

Continue reading Breasts and cancer

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A radical suggestion

At yoga last week, as we were being told how to stand in mountain pose, to stand strong and let our legs and feet connect us to the ground, to not try and hold ourselves apart from the floor using our shoulders, my yoga instructor said, “take up all the room you need”.

Take Up All The Room You Need.

Far too often women, especially fat women, are made to feel very conscious of the amount of space that they take up.  Let me quote from people who say it much better than me:

I got to thinking about just how conscious I am of the space my body takes up, and how I have to negotiate my body in a world that marks me as “abnormal”.  The more I paid attention to it, the more I noticed that almost every aspect of my life is framed around this process of moving my body around in the world. (Fatheffalump)

 

One thing that fat people often tell me makes them uncomfortable is the idea that they take up too much space.  Here’s what I think about that.  I think that our bodies take up just the right amount of space, whatever size they are.  If they get bigger or smaller they still take up just the right amount of space.  Because they are our BODIES.

It is ridiculous for people to think that they, and anyone smaller than them, take up “the right” amount of space, but those bigger than them take up too much. Spare me.

Nobody takes up too much space just by virtue of existing.  Tall people don’t take up too much space.  People in wheelchairs don’t take up too much space.  Fat people don’t take up too much space.  If you are on a crowded train and you sit with your legs completely splayed out sprawling across as much space as you can, then an argument can be made that you are taking up too much space, but it is impossible that your body takes up too much space just being your body. (Dances with Fat)

 

Fat phobia is a largely invisible form of oppression in our society. Frequently masked as concern for health (and the link between fat and health is widely exaggerated), it is nonetheless a highly damaging form of body policing, usually targeting women. In an extension of institutional sexism, women who dare to take up space are punished and ostracized, whether it be their conversational space, their body language, or the literal volume their bodies occupy.  (Fire Sea Studios)

I never considered my yoga instructor to be overly radical, but by telling each of us in that class to take up the space we needed, she showed that she understood the pressure to take up less space, the need for everyone in the class, and everywhere else, to take up the space that they need, and to be comfortable with that.

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We’re all the biggest loser

*Trigger warning for bullying, fat hatred and eating disorders*

So that terrible, terrible show “The Biggest Loser” is back on TV, which means that I will be avoiding whatever channel it’s on (I don’t watch TV enough to even know that), and I won’t be watching that TV screen when I’m at the gym.  Because regardless of how some people might see the torture of fat people “inspiring” as they learn to love/hate their bodies for TV, I just find the entire thing repulsive.

This season, according to the TV ads I’ve seen, we’re doing parent and child teaming, because with stats just pulled out of someone’s arse (because they’re not cited anywhere in the ad), if you are an obese parent, you’re far more likely to have obese children.  The dad whose interview appears on the ads I’ve watched talks about how his son comes home from school crying because he’s beingbullied about his weight and that this (Biggest Loser) is an opportunity for him to gain some confidence.

Just no.

Really, no.

The Biggest Loser, apart from being a show that even in the ad we see almost kills the father, is not a show that will help anyone gain confidence.  In the small amounts I have watched over the years, I cannot see how being screamed at by personal trainers, being forced to binge on food to the point of tears, being hounded about not doing enough, and having your body gazed upon and judged by the entire country is going to do anything for your confidence.

If that boy was my son, I would be talking to the school about the bullying he’s receiving, I’d talk to the parents of the children who are bullying my son and explaining the effects of bullying, I’d go to the Department of Education and demand more action if not enough was taken, I’d ensure that my son had proper counselling or psychological care to help build resilience, confidence and develop tools to build support networks.  I’m not saying that this family hasn’t done any of this, what I’m saying is that in my toolbox in dealing with this issue The Biggest Loser does not, and would never, appear.

I feel sorry for those who compete to enter The Biggest Loser.  I feel for all the fat hatred they’ve swallowed and believe that they only way that they’ll truly be happy is to lose weight while almost killing themselves for the pleasure of doing so.

Don’t let me be the only one telling you that The Biggest Loser is possibly the worst torture porn you will ever watch, let Kai Hibbard, a contestant in the US version tell it to you instead.  Parts 1, 2, & 3 of her interviews with Golda Poresky detail her experiences on the show, having to ignore doctor’s orders, developing an eating disorder and the bullying from the TV producers.

Do Australia a favour and do not watch The Biggest Loser.  Leave it alone, shun it as it should be shunned, and instead work on removing fat hatred from your own vocabulary and if you can, pointing it out to others as something that is unacceptable.

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This is my body

This is my body
This is my skin
These are my curves,
My corners, my moves

I do not need you to tell me I am fat
It is impossible for me to ignore
I know from the way you look at me
I know from the way you look away

I do not need you to tell me I am fat
I know whenever I try to buy clothes
Try to find clothes that make me look good
Try to find clothes that are comfortable

I do not need you to tell me I am fat
I know because I do not fit in your space
I know because I always see what I am supposed to be
Far too many attempts are made to shame me for being who I am

I do not need you to tell me I am fat
I know
You think my size is down to choice
or weakness
You judge my body and me for it’s outward appearance

I do not need you to tell me I am fat
My body belongs to me and only I know it
I know how to move in it
I know how to make it feel good
I know how strong I am

I do not need you to tell me I am fat
I am far more than a number on a scale
I am far more than the size of my clothing
I am far more than the judgement you make based on how I look

In the end
When you judge me
For things I can or cannot control
When you judge me
Based on your fears of your own body
When you judge me
For failing to meet some imaginary standard of beauty
You lose

You lose a friend
You lose a lover
You lose a mentor
You lose someone who could make a difference

This is my body
This is my skin
These are my curves,
My corners, my moves

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The crapness of music videos

Whenever I go to the gym I tend to put my earphones in and try to avoid watching the music video screen, which is huge.  Instead I focus on the display on the treadmill, other people at the gym, or the TV shows on the tiny screens.  However, every now and again I see something interesting out of the corner of my eye, or a film clip I actually like, and I catch myself watching the music videos… and wow, some of them are terrible.

As a generalisation, the film clips shown at my gym, when sung by male singers, feature women as objects, as tits and arses, as thin, gyrating people who are clamouring to have sex with the singer, or the viewer.  Interestingly though, those film clips of songs sung by women, have women front and centre, as entire beings, and generally as free agents.  The two messages don’t really go together, and I am increasingly grossed out by the male-dominated film clips at my gym (hence me not watching them).

This is a gym, a gym that believes to be fit and healthy, one has to be slim and preferably muscular.  This gym believes that I have joined solely to lose all that fat that keeps following me around, because clearly fat is an unwanted thing and not part of who I am.  And that being fat is a bad thing, and being thin is a good thing.  None of this has been said to my face, but it really doesn’t have to be with all the posters extolling the virtues of their boot camps with before and after photos.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a film clip of the Beth Ditto song, “I wrote the Book”.  Here was a proudly fat woman, singing a great song, dancing like she had every right to, and in the film clip being desired by several gorgeous men.  I was amazed – mostly because I had completely failed up until this point to even notice Beth Ditto (not watching film clips didn’t help), and also because this was so subversive.  I was exercising at the gym, an activity that many people looking at me would assume be because I hated my fat body and wanted to be thin (I just want to be fit and strong), and here I was watching a proud fat woman, dance and be desired, knowing that although outside the gym this is actually a normal part of life, inside the gym it was subversive.

So thank you to whoever programs those songs for sneaking in a Beth Ditto song.  Please note that I’d like a whole lot less of the “women as sexual objects” and a lot more of the “everyone, regardless of who they are and what they look like can have a good time” clips for the future.

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What I don’t even… part whatever

*Warning – the link for the article that I am quoting from below may be considered NSFW*

So what happens when you get a GP and Family Planning Specialist, and a Psychotherapist and Life Coach together to write about sex after giving birth?  You end up with this train wreck of an article.  Honestly I expected that two such qualified people would be able to write an article that used language that was easily understandable and didn’t read like the two authors were thinking that their 12 year old children might read it.

My first issue with the article is not the language, but instead the hetero-centrism, that the only people who give birth are women who are in relationships with men (not other women), and secondly that sometimes people who give birth don’t identify as women.

Continue reading What I don’t even… part whatever

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The beauty standard

For those of  you who don’t know, I’m heading off to Malaysia for a week starting tonight (yay!).  The oddest thing about planning this holiday has been dealing with one of my work colleagues who has bought into the whole beauty standard ideal.

She’d had a holiday about a month and a bit ago to Thailand with her partner, and we’d been sharing holiday aspirations since before she had planned that trip, so once my husband had gotten his passport organised I told her that we’d set dates and bought tickets.  She told that of course I was going to get waxed before my holidays and told me that she hadn’t been waxed since and… stuff.  Then earlier this week she came up to me and asked if I had been waxed yet (I had, but only because I wanted to be, not because I should), and then asked when I was going to get my toenails done.

I was baffled, because toes are toes… and I certainly don’t see the need to paint my toenails to make my feet something other than they are – well more colourful.  I do, very rarely, paint my toenails because it amuses me to have colours on my feet, but I don’t see it as some social obligation, or even something that is done (apparently I’m wrong in this regard).

I said, to end the conversation – which it sadly didn’t, that I might get mine done in Malaysia.  This suggestion was met with horror… because apparently they may use inferior polish which might stain (which I thought was the point), and because the hygiene standards for their tools would probably be lower than in Australia.

Apparently feet are ugly, and painting your toenails somehow makes your feet less ugly, or your feet’s ugliness less noticeable.  I actually think my feet are pretty and that my toes are cute.  What you believe about feet in general is not my concern, and I’d much rather look after my own feet without interference from other people.

After the topic changed from feet, my colleague told me a story about another work place she’d been in where she’d worked with a “not-girly-girl” who was going away on a holiday with her newish boyfriend.  My colleague asked her if she’d “groomed” herself (meaning waxed), or was she going to get groomed prior to leaving.  When the “non-girly” colleague figured out the innuendo, she said she hadn’t yet, and my colleague and another colleague explained that is was very important to be appropriately groomed and that everything had to be in the right place.  After that they then suggested to this woman that she needed to pain her toenails, and when she bought the wrong colour nailpolish (green – something I assume that she thought was attractive), they got a friend of hers to take her shopping for a better colour.

My previous (Federal Government) workplace did not have conversations in it like this.  I don’t actually have the tools for these conversations other than, “uh-huh”, “yes” and “oh really?”.  I don’t know how to challenge someone who believes that dictating how I should groom, especially when they’re not going to see it.  I know I can lie (and not even feel remotely guilty for doing so) here to a) make her happy that I’ve done something which I may or may not have; and b) get her to go to something else.

I’d much rather gently suggest to her that what she’s doing is wrong, rude, and incredibly judgemental.  This colleague is senior to me (both in time spent in the organisation and in level), so I’m not sure how I’d start such a conversation.  My current responses also involve a level of “HAH” when she goes away or I come home from work and tell the husbands about it.

It’s weird.

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