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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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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A surprising experience

Before reading this post you may want to consider that it details some personal medical information about myself and my recent hospital experience.  If you are someone who doesn’t deal well with TMI, you might want to stop reading here and go and play somewhere else – you can come back when the next post is written.

On Tuesday I noticed a painful discomfort in my vagina.  I had previously had what I thought were called Barton Cysts – which had all been painful, but I knew that they could get infected and possibly need surgery to be repaired.  So I looked it up, it was indeed a Bartholin’s Cyst and I would probably need to have it looked at.  I poked at it, and it was tender and large, and so I went to bed thinking about what I was going to do about the whole thing.  On Wednesday night it was sufficiently painful and uncomfortable to stop me going to the gym, and I decided to take Thursday off to go and see my GP and see what could be done.  This was also on the recommendation of my sister who has previously had infected Bartholin’s cysts and had had surgery to resolve them.

Continue reading A surprising experience

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Fat people and fetishism

As I was travelling home tonight on the train, I looked at my reflection in the window of the train.  I saw a fat woman… and wondered, briefly, what other people thought of me.  I wondered what they’d think if they knew that I am polyamorous and have multiple partners (and a queue of people interested in also playing).  I wondered if they would think that there was something wrong with these people who find me quite sexy and sexual and who want me.

Because I’ve been on the receiving end of “they’re interested in YOU?” as well as sometimes thinking myself “why are they interested in them?”*  And it’s not fun.  Not just not fun because it clearly states that I am not a sexually attractive and overall attractive individual, but also because it suggests that the person who is attracted to me has defective taste or is broken in some way.

Or… as I have heard suggested about some other fat friends, acquaintances, or strangers, perhaps the person attracted to their fat partner has a fat fetish.  Which again is quite horrible because fetishisation (outside the fetish community) is seen as a mental illness by some or an undesirable trait by others, so to fetishise something is unappealing and gross.  It also dehumanises the fat individual – because fetishes are typically objects and/or parts of a person – not an entire person.

Clearly the idea that anyone who is fat is also a full human being who is interesting, attractive, sexy, sexual, lovable, and desirable, is incredibly radical.  How about we stop looking at the outside of people and judging what we see, and get to know people and learn who they are.  You don’t have to like them or love them, but you do have to acknowledge their humanity.

 

* Though that’s a whole other post because it’s not just how someone appears that makes me question someone else’s relationship choice – it’s a huge package of stuff – personality, political affiliations, choices, religion, etc

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It’s not very funny

There was this joke I read on a website (which isn’t known for being friendly to women), and it wasn’t at all funny.  Here it is (emphasis all mine):

A woman, wearing a sleeveless sun dress, walked into a Bar in Dublin.
She raised her right arm, revealing a huge, hairy armpit as she pointed to all the people sitting at the bar and asked, ‘What man here will buy a lady a drink?’

Down at the end of the bar, an old drunk slammed his hand down on the counter and bellowed ‘Give the ballerina a drink!’

The bartender poured the drink and the woman drunk it. She turned again pointed around at all of them, revealing the same hairy armpit, and asked, ‘What man here will buy a lady a drink?’

Once again, the same little drunk shouted ‘Give the ballerina another drink!’

The bartender approached the drunk and said ‘Tell me, Paddy, it’s your business if you want to buy the lady a drink, but why do you keep calling her a ballerina?’

The drunk replied, ‘Any woman who can lift her leg that high has got to be a ballerina!’

This joke relies to two things to make it funny – the confusion suffered by a drunk man about what he was looking at – armpits and pubic mounds totally the same, and the fact that women with hairy armpits (or “huge, hairy armpit[s]”) are gross and revolting and no one but a drunk man would buy such a woman a drink.

The joke isn’t funny as far as I am concerned.  Hairy armpits are fine, there is nothing wrong with them, and how they’d be huge… can you have huge armpits?… I’m not sure.  This joke is one in a million others which reinforces crap beauty and gender myths about what it is to be a beautiful woman.  This joke is one in a million of others which reinforces gender conformity and beauty conformity.

I call bullshit.

Be beautiful.  Love your body for it is beautiful.  It gets you from here to there (most of the time), helps you feel good (much of the time) and is gorgeous.  Be beautiful in your own way.  Don’t ascribe to society’s fucked up view of what makes a woman beautiful.  You are gorgeous.

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