Category Archives: Advocacy

It Takes a Village: The Journey Begins

painted-daisiesMy mind has been a big jumble for several weeks, ever since I got the idea to share my journey with food in public. How do I start? Where do I start? What gets put in? Which details do I leave out?

“They” say that any journey starts with a step. So, here’s my first step. Haltingly and imperfectly, here is where I am in my life, and how I’m becoming the person I always dreamed of being. (Yes, I know that sounds like hyperbole. Trust me, it’s not.) As you get to know me, I hope you will find the compassion for yourself to reset your life, and reach for the things you don’t know you wanted.

On April 6, 2016, a confluence of events led me to change the way I thought about food.  To this point, food had been a survival mechanism.  Now, I want more.  The main motivation for this lifestyle change is this, I want to be a better steward to the members of the museum at which I work.    A healthier body means having the ability to stand, or walk, for longer periods of time mingling at events with our members, without chronic back pain.

This has almost always been about wanting a healthier, stronger body.  It’s never really been about losing weight. Although I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I do succumb to the numbers game on occasion. I need to remind myself daily that it’s about being healthier, not thinner. Because, I’ve been thinner, and I was miserable.

On April 6, 2016, I weighed 300 pounds and while I knew I was a gorgeous creature inside, I did not particularly believe I was beautiful outside. At 56, I had surrendered to my past. The past whose experiences told me I was worth less than just about anybody else in the world. That I was unlovable, and unworthy. Yet, the universe saw fit to put me in situations, and bring people into my life, who showed me the exact opposite, if only I would pay attention.

Nearly six months later, I am so happy. The happiest I have ever been at any size. And I know, deep where it’s important to really know things like this, that I am lovable, I am worthwhile and I am worth more than I ever thought possible. Ever.  And I have just begun.

Many people have asked what my “secret” is.  I giggle and tell them there is no secret.  Then, I tell them there are spreadsheets involved.  Most roll their eyes when they hear that.  Everyone wants someone, to tell them how to “fix” their lives.   I can’t, I don’t know how.

What I can do is share my journey.  All of it.  Food, emotions, getting physical.  The good, the bad, and the downright ugly.  We all have the power to heal ourselves and become the people we want to be.

But, it is work. It is hard.  Sometimes, it’s downright tedious.  Are the results worth the work?  Oh HELL to the yes.  There are paths to potential opening all around me. Some go places I never would have thought of. Some paths are to things I gave up on.  So, yes it is worth the time and effort.

None of this is possible if I’m not willing to do the work.  I do the work, the universe provides the results.  I’m learning to let go of the “how,” and just take the steps I know, the universe provides guidance every step of the way.

It’s the same for you who are reading this.  YOU do the work. You can’t just wish for change, and do nothing to make it happen. You, and only you, can do this work and make your life better. And, once you begin, you are the only one who can make you falter. You are in charge, and no one but you, not even the deity itself has the power to take this away from you.

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Review: Minions

The Minions Movie
The Minions Movie

I have loved the little yellow absurdities known as the Minions since Despicable Me.  I giggle at their antics and their lovable interactions with the three adopted girls, Margo, Edith, and Agnes.

Are there problems with the movies?  Yes.  Sexist tropes by the handful, stupid scatological jokes, and mean parents, and violence to name a few.

And okay, I get that there are huge problems with the gender stereotyping in Minions.  My friend, Melissa, at Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies has a great article about the problems of gender in animated movies, in general, starting with specific issues with Minions.

When Melissa first brought this up on Facebook, I was a little chagrined that I hadn’t actually noticed.  Minions have always been genderless, or gender-fluid to me, so the fact the three main minions were named Kevin, Stuart and Bob just kinda flew by me.  Yeah, okay they’re male names but honestly, I didn’t see anything particularly male about them.  Except Bob.  Bob has always been a goofy little boy who flirts with yellow fire hydrants pretending to be a player and failing.  As the narrator says, “Bob’s an idiot.”  Bob has always been like that, in all three movies.

Kevin is the leader.  He’s the one who steps up to go on a quest to save the minions from the mind-numbing leaderless time they’re spending in ice caves.  Minions need someone to serve, and Kevin volunteers to lead the quest.  When he sees Scarlet Overkill, it is game over for him.  He falls in love with her, not because she is some ideal of feminine beauty but because she is the most evil villain in the world and he wants to work for her.

And loveable little Stuart hauls his eyeless, over loved teddy bear with him everywhere, adopting animals along the way, including a rat he names Butchie.  He’s afraid to enter the larger world and Kevin and Bob make sure he knows they’re right there for him.

I still think it’s brilliant that Scarlet Overkill is the evil villain.  She is so deliciously over the top and up to no good.  There’s even a little girl sitting in the audience when Scarlet makes her first overblown entrance who stands on her chair and excitedly proclaims, “I want to be just like Scarlet when I grow up.”

Scarlet’s dream doesn’t reach far enough.  She only wants to steal the Queen of England’s crown because she wants to be a princess, because, “everyone loves princesses.”  Scarlet clearly didn’t get enough love as a child and her stunted childhood dream is to be a princess so people will love her.  No super villain has come from a family where there was enough joy and love and support.  They wouldn’t be villains if they had.

I also thought it was brilliant that when the minions stole the crown, the Queen started hanging out at the pub drinking pints and telling jokes with the common man.  (And yes, they were all men.)

Things happen, Kevin is made king because he stole the crown and that makes Scarlet very angry.  But all Kevin wants to do is serve Scarlet, because that’s his purpose in life, to serve.  So he abdicates, and then her coronation day gets spoiled by another super villain.

Make no mistake, Scarlet turns into a whiny, petulant child when she doesn’t get her way.  She is stuck in a childhood dream which makes no sense.  She believes that she must be pretty and have a tiny waist to be adored.  And yes, that’s a big problem in terms of gender stereotypes.  There’s also a stereotypical gay hairdresser who doesn’t quite understand why his vision isn’t better than the childhood crayon drawing of a stick figure princess with “curly” hair.

At the end of the movie Gru arrives on the scene, uses his freeze ray gun and Kevin knows where the minions belong.  This is really the story that connects Despicable Me and the minions, it’s the story about how Gru and the minions found each other.

The biggest problems I had with the movie were not the gender stereotypes but the violence.    And the stupid jokes given to Bob who flirts with yellow fire hydrants and shows the audience his thong underwear.  That was just idiotic.

For all of that, I’m glad the conversation is ongoing about problems with representation of boys and girls in movies.  About how movies sell women and girls short on a regular basis and how men and boys are shortchanged on learning to be anything other than stoic, protective, fumble fingered with emotions, and yes, stupid.

Director Pierre Coffin didn’t help himself by saying he made the minions boys because “boys are stupid” and he couldn’t imagine girls being that stupid.  If what he meant to say was that little boys do goofy things because they’re little boys and little girls don’t tend to do the same goofy things, that’s a different story.  Saying girls are smarter than boys doesn’t help.

Yes, I see the point of the criticisms of Minions, and I’m glad Melissa’s post addresses some of the larger issues in cartoons and how girls/women are portrayed.  I do get it.

From a story-teller’s point of view, it’s the story of three yellow things (out of thousands) who go on a quest to find their purpose in life.  It’s the story of how the minions met Gru.  That’s the point of the story.  That one of the villains is a woman inspiring a little girl is something we should cheer for.  That the Queen became a “regular” person is something we should cheer for.  It’s a step forward.  A small one to be sure, but it is a step.  And that’s something to cheer for too.

Book Review: Reviving Ophelia

But most important, we can change our culture.  We can work together to build a culture that is less complicated and more nurturing, less violent and sexualized and more growth-producing.  Our daughters [children] deserve a society in which all their gifts can be developed and appreciated. (p. 13)

In early adolescence girls learn how important appearance is in defining social acceptability.  Attractiveness is both a necessary and sufficient condition for girls’ success.  This is an old, old problem.  Helen of Troy didn’t launch a thousand ships because she was a hard worker.  Juliet wasn’t loved for her math ability.  (p. 40)

Girls are trained to be less than who they really are.  They are trained to be what the culture wants of its young women, not what they themselves want to become. (p. 44)

I first read Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher, Ph. D. when it came out in 1994.  Even then I was searching for me.  I was very confused about being female and looking for answers that would make me worthy in the eyes of society.  I missed what Dr. Pipher was saying.  Society is not the place to turn to for answers, it will only confuse you and set standards which are impossible to meet.  I wasn’t ready to hear that I was good enough on my own, and screw society.

Twenty years later, I returned to this book in search of answers on how to be a good auntie to the children in my life who have been raised in a society which is more pornified and sexualized than when Reviving Ophelia was first published.

I didn’t find those answers either.  Not because Pipher doesn’t offer a good explanation of what happens when puberty hits and many of the ways parenting and society can stack the deck against young women without meaning to.

I have to take it on intellectual faith that the maelstrom that is puberty and adolescence really is as described.  There was so much other dysfunction going on in my family that I truly cannot relate on an emotional level and do not have physical memories of what it was like to be a teenaged girl.

Hormones rampaging?  Didn’t notice.  Black and white thinking?  Don’t remember.  It’s hard for me because my memories involve a father who came into my bedroom at night and a mother who undermined my development at every turn.

Watching my six nieces grow has been quite the education for me.  I can see the things Pipher describes happening in them and I have learned it’s okay because it’s normal.  I’ve watched them go through these stages and come out the other end to be strong women who can face society on their own terms.  In no small part due to the parenting they received, from family prepared to teach them the pitfalls of living in a pornified society filled with highly sexualized standards for girls and women.

Reviving Ophelia is well-written and easy to read.   Dr. Pipher’s case studies are still relevant, as are her explanations about what goes on when a girl hits puberty.  That I didn’t get what I wanted from it is not Dr. Pipher’s fault, I was looking for a book she didn’t write.

 

 

The Female Pose

My friends are all feminists. All of them. Especially the men. And we often get into discussions about the pornification of society and the expectations that for women to be deemed worthy  they must adhere to impossible standards of beauty.

One of the communities I used to be active in was science fiction/fantasy fandom. While the people who welcomed me were some of the most accepting people I’d ever encountered, and were willing to teach me the not-so-secret handshake, over the years I noticed the cliques, the gatekeeping (by males), and even more sexualization of women, especially in cosplay.

It’s so sad this happens and people make up excuses for why it’s acceptable, when it isn’t.

In 2012, Jim C. Hines and John Scalzi held a pose-off to raise money for charity. The object, male authors attempting to pose in the same positions in science fiction/fantasy cover art as women are drawn. Of course, they’re drawings, because those positions are impossible to hold by real, actual women.

Today, I came across this on io9:  10 Stupid Arguments People Use To Defend Comic Book Sexism.     (I look forward to the day when links and titles to articles no longer have numbers in them.  Why couldn’t this have been simply titled “Stupid Argument People Use …”?)

The conversation continues to be the about objectification.  Reducing women to only their body, and judging them on the impossible standards of beauty as enforced by society.  We feminists rail against this all the time.  We don’t want the children of the world growing up to believe that the only worth a girl has is based only on her appearance.

We need to understand that every person we meet is a fully realized individual with talents and interests that don’t show on the surface.  It isn’t about sex.  It’s about sexualization, and objectification. And those are wrong.

How do we change the conversation?  As always, we start with ourselves.  When we see someone handsome/pretty, do we think of them as people?  Do we wonder what stories they might have to tell?  Or do we just think of them only as something shiny and bright that would look good in a picture on our walls?

Changing the conversation means we train ourselves and those around us, especially kids, to see people as people.  To see women as people.  Seeing women as people means accepting that not every body is the same, and that no matter how much you think they should do something (lose weight, stop wearing stripes, wear tighter/looser clothing, etc.) to look good to you, they are under no obligation to do so.

Every person on this planet has a story to tell that is more than just how their body looks.  We all have interesting stories, and we need to be asking about those instead of judging people by their looks.

Catcalls

I want to write something about Jessica Williams‘ story for The Daily Show about catcalling but I find myself without words.

Where do men get the idea that saying those things to women is acceptable?  When called on it, men have said, “I’m just sayin’/I was kidding/Can’t you take a joke?” to me.

Men, it is not a compliment to stare at a woman’s body (in my case, usually my breasts).  It’s not nice to stare and whistle.  It is especially not good form to say things to women on the street/in bars/etc. you would not want said to your sister/daughter/wife/girlfriend.  Why do you think this is okay?  Trust me, women don’t respond well to this behavior, and would never date some jerk who said such things to her.

Instead of complaining, which I am really good at, I am going to make a suggestion.  It’s one many advocates for girls  and women make.  Let’s change the conversation.  Instead of teaching us how to survive this bullshit, let’s teach men and boys that this behavior is not okay.  Let’s teach them that girls and women are more than their bodies, more than their appearances, and do not owe a man anything just because he whistled at her.

We are not bitches/frigid/sluts/etc. because we choose not to engage with you.  Most of the time, we are afraid and disgusted by you and do not understand why you won’t just let us be.

It’s really not that hard.