Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Take Up Space

I found this on reddit. I don’t know who the artist is. If you know, please tell me so I can give them credit.
The artist’s name is Kat Kissick, and here is a link to the image, which is for sale:
https://www.etsy.com/katkissickart/listing/695095597/take-up-space-9×12-digital-print-of-a?utm_campaign=Share&utm_medium=social_organic&utm_source=MSMT&utm_term=so.smt&share_time=1554061508000&fbclid=IwAR15SEvkuMt83bIvgs0bg97oYTmdsyh_YKyPwap8RMrPRgJtwpdMaOUt4Hw

I found this image on Facebook and traced it to reddit, but I don’t know where it was posted originally.

This picture gives me strong emotions, both good and bad.

I am a plus-sized woman. I am actually what I would call fat. And for the most part, I’m okay with it. I know what I need to do to lose weight and I don’t do it. One day I will, but for now, not. But every now and then, I think this is not good.

Now I’m generally in favor of women taking up space. I believe part of the cult of thinness is about women being as close to invisible as possible. Standards of beauty for women become ever nearer to looking like a 9 year old with breast implants. We are infantilized and diminished.

And we buy into it. We police ourselves. I have had more women comment on my, ahem, lack of personal grooming of the lady parts, than I have men. Or as a friend of mine says, “Once you get naked with a guy, he has pretty much decided that what you got, he’s willing to work with.” Women are more, well, they put you down about it.

Taking up space is one way to equalize the playing field. Men take up space. They stand tall, they gesture large, they sit in a chair with arms and legs akimbo. They have no problem owning their space. Women, if we’re ladylike, sit with our legs together and tucked under the chair. We don’t make big gestures, we cover our mouths when we laugh. We try very hard not to take up space. If we want to be treated as equals, we need to learn to act like it.

I”m also down with the body positive aspect of this. Have a body. Have a big body. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. Be proud and carry yourself well and dress beautifully. Go skyclad. You carry the universe within you.

There is a goddess perspective in the image. Much like Venus of Willendorf, this is a good sized mother goddess. She is free and dancing and all of creation is within her. She is mother nature for the cosmos. She has literally taken space up into her body.

But taking up space. That is exactly the point at which I become uncomfortable with my size. I don’t fit comfortably in airplane seats. I love live theater and my body crowds the people around me. My size is rude. I am not a rude person, but I infringe on other folks’ personal space, and that is impolite. It makes other people uncomfortable, and that makes me uncomfortable.

Fat is a feminist issue, as Susie Orbach has observed. Body size is nobody’s business. But is there a limit? At what point am I taking up more than my fair share of space? When am I eating more than my portion of food? And how much of this is a uniquely American concern?

Size is political. What does my size say about my politics?

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Well World

I had brunch with my friend R today. We went to a place called Henk’s which is behind the Half Price Books flagship store. HPB was having a tent sale that looked amazing but I hardly need more books. I have no place to put them! Henk’s is a German diner. I had the Polish breakfast, which is pretty much eggs and fried potatoes with Polish sausage. It was good, especially the potato, which I miss terribly while I am low carb. (I can’t in good conscience call myself keto.) R had blintzes, which he said were like eating dessert, and a reuben.

We talked about 10,000 things, as friends do. R works in community education for mental health. He teaches Mental Health First Aid mostly to educators. Eventually the idea of a healthy society came up.

R is gay, no children. He is also an atheist. He tells this to people in his presentation because he believes it is useful in helping educators to sit with situations they might not agree with. Now my atheist friend went on to tell me an interpretation of the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan which I thought was pretty interesting. Yes that sentence is knowingly ambiguous.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it basically goes like this: A man gets mugged and beaten up on the road to Jericho. The thieves leave him for dead. Several people pass the man and ignore his plight, including people you’d expect to help him, like religious leaders. Finally the Samaritan walks by. This is someone who is looked down on for his ethnicity. He sees the man in distress, takes him to an inn, and pays the bill for the man to stay until he recovers.

Jesus asks, who is the true neighbor? And it becomes a story about how to treat other people. But like most parables, there are other interpretations. My friend R says, this is a good example of appropriate care, both care of other and care of self. The Samaritan did not take the man to his own home, and he did not allow the man’s needs to derail him from his task in Jericho. He did not try to help the man directly, instead he took him to a place where he would be cared for appropriately. He paid the bill, which apparently was not a hardship for him. So, says R, we should be willing to help out others while also taking care of ourselves.

Another friend of mine has an issue with paying school taxes since they don’t have any children. I say, pay it. One day those young people will be in charge and I want them to be basically educated and hopefully able to think for themselves. I will live in a world they shape, I am invested in what these people are like. I don’t own a home so I don’t pay property taxes which includes the school tax, but I don’t begrudge the schools money. Money makes a better school, better schools make better people. Can we do it on less money? Well we keep trying and we know what public education looks like, so I suspect we can’t.

What does a healthy society look like? I don’t claim to have the final say on that, but I do know a few things.

Yoga moms are not the face of wellness even though they are the face of wellness culture. They are what could be called “the worried well”. That is, for the most part they are doing just fine and don’t need to worry in general that they will become unwell.

Homeless people are a sign that society is unwell. How can it be that we have abandoned houses and homeless people? Seems like a no brainer, put people into homes. And yet there is all kinds of resistance to the idea. You can no doubt think of some of the reasons: who wants those people in their neighborhood, why should we give a house to someone who is too lazy to get a job, or even when do I get my free house as a contributing member of society? So now we have to look at the factors in why a person becomes homeless, because very few choose this as a life path.

Any of the isms are a sign society is not healthy. Ageism, racism, sexism and others are rooted in fear; fear that somehow there are only so many resources around and if someone gets a piece of the pie, they are taking it away from me. It’s easier to scapegoat someone if you can make them a “them”, that is, not one of us. A healthy society knows we are stronger if we share the resources rather than hoarding them.

It was a good lunch, and a good conversation. I like my friends, they are good and interesting people.


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Isms and Whiteness

I’ve been thinking a lot about isms in the past 24 hours.  Before I start, I want full disclosure that I am white cis het female over the age of 50.  I am a product of my environment in many ways.  I am trying to transcend that, but sometimes I get caught in verbiage I don’t understand or old ways of thinking.

I belong to several online support groups.  Two of them have a high overlap of people so there is an issue that started in one group that spilled over into the second group.  That issue was around perceived racism and observed name calling.

Now I will be honest that I didn’t see much of the original thread.  What I caught was a friend of mine trying to defend his position, and another person issuing personal attacks.  I understand a third party made a comment about ISIS that other people took to be islamophobic.  My friend took the position that it was basic human stupidity not racism, based on the third party being a Fox news enthusiast.  You may agree or disagree with Fox news, but they do have a particular perspective to their reporting.  Another person felt that my friend was being racist and supporting a racist.  At some point the thread disintegrated to such a degree that an admin pulled it down so I am unable to review it.  My friend got banned from the site.

My friend went to another site, and mentioned that he was banned.  Of course people wanted to know why and he told his story.  Obviously he told it from his perspective.  The other person almost immediately chimed in that he was wrong and became personally insulting.  The second group tried to get her to tone it down and stop being so rude, but she would not.  Someone moved to ban her from that site.

The other person went back to the first site and stated that a bunch of racist women were supporting my friend.  That of course got the people at the first site riled up.  So now we have two people having a disagreement that has escalated to involve two forums.

Here’s the thing, it brings up questions for me about how to talk about racism and other isms.  The big question for me is, who gets to decide when something is racist?  Is it the person on the receiving end?  Or is it the person who committed the faux pas?  Because it feels like if it’s the receiver, then there is no room to make a mistake while if it’s the committer then there’s no way to call out someone’s bad behavior.

But what if the person who committed the ism is a POC and the person who got offended was a white man?  And what if the POC rather quickly escalated to bullying behavior?  Is this prejudice?  Group one is very supportive of the POC to the point where it has been suggested my friend is gaslighting, and sealioning.  (Apparently sealioning is when you argue with someone who is trying to leave the situation, that is, arguing to argue, posturing.)  On forum number two, the dynamic is almost the opposite, with the most vociferous people defending my friend and even suggesting we ban the POC.  I don’t know her except for this interaction, and I’m not impressed with her.  She gets heated rather quickly and doesn’t seem to be able to defend her position beyond name calling and stating that certain things are obvious.  Oh, and that she doesn’t owe a random white man anything.  So she played the race card twice.

I am so frustrated by this whole situation.  My friend may well be racist, I don’t know him that well, but I think if he is it’s more institutional racism, not a personal bias.  He has been fair with me and I don’t see him being intentionally racist to other people.  Of course if we agree that the person on the receiving end gets to decide, then the POC would no doubt find him guilty of racism.  If we agree that it’s the person making the faux pas, then there’s no way to call out my friend on the part that he’s getting wrong.

He thinks I am not supportive because I don’t argue directly for him.  I will do that with the admin, not on the general website.  I don’t want to stir things up any more than they already are.  And I do support his right to stand up for someone else’s right to make a mistake.  I get that we want to be allies for POC, women, LGBTQ, and all the rest of what used to be called minorities.  I also get that my friend is being vilified for something that I can’t prove he did.  And he claims he did not do.  (I can’t prove he didn’t do it either.)

I’m so confused.

It’s not the responsibility of POC to educate white folk, but on the other hand if someone is having a problem, it’s incumbent upon them to speak up in a way that the issue can be addressed.  If I don’t know I’m being sexist, someone has to tell me, and probably that would best come from the offended party, even though in another way they don’t owe me anything.

What is the best way to handle situations like this?  Ignoring it only lets it escalate and hurts my friend.  Getting involved has only made me upset, although I don’t think I’ve come across as very upset because I am trying to be diplomatic.  Also I have mostly been asking questions, since I could be completely out of touch.  That happens as one gets older.  I don’t see engaging with the offended person since she was rather vitriolic with my friend.

It just makes me sad.

 


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Demand Better Media in 2015 — The Representation Project

Here’s what I really love about these folks:

Yes they are focused on women first HOWEVER they also talk about how gender stereotypes affect men. They also mention transgender, and considering that at this time that is still a very small number of people out of total population, even a mention is huge.

Popular media is geared toward a predominantly male, predominantly white audience, and I believe the age bracket is 16 to 35 but I may mis-remember. Any time we tell stories or include fully developed characters who are outside that target audience, we are expanding the way viewers understand human beings to be. More air time for fully realized portrayals of women, gays, POC, transgendered, children (think of all the smart-ass kids you see on Nick, for example), elderly or even middle aged, disabled, and, well, those of us who don’t fit this year’s image of what is beautiful — when you show those people as complete characters, not just a boob joke or a wheel chair joke, then you open up all kinds of possibilities.

So check this group out:

Their site:
http://therepresentationproject.org/demand-better-media-in-2015/

YouTube video:


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The Finkbeiner Test

A while ago I wrote about the Bechdel Test for helping determine sexism in popular culture, particularly movies.  Movies however are not the only medium with a trend toward biased depictions of women.  Science reporting, and indeed reporting in general, can tend to talk about women as if female participation in the great wide world is a bit of an anomaly.

Writer Christie Aschwanden was asked to write a piece for Nature magazine about astronomer Ann Finkbeiner.  Aschwanden was tired of writing pieces that basically said “this amazing person is ALSO a WOMAN” and which then went on to talk about the “unique” challenges of being female in whatever field.  (Really, does anyone ask a man how he manages as a single father, or whether he finds it difficult to balance his family with the demands of a career?)  So Aschwanden made the decision to treat Finkbeiner as a scientist and write an article about her work without discussing her personal life.

Aschwanden determined that there are 7 basic topics she wanted to avoid.  In applying those guidelines to other science reporting, she dubbed these standards “The Finkbeiner Test” in honor of the scientist she was sent to interview.  So if you want to talk about a woman who has reached a high achievement in her field, and you are concerned that you may be talking a little too much about her gender, ask yourself if you have touched on any of these issues:

  • The fact that she’s a woman
  • Her husband’s job
  • Her child-care arrangements
  • How she nurtures her underlings
  • How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
  • How she’s such a role model for other women
  • How she’s the “first woman to…”

Those may be important topics to discuss in certain circumstances.  It may help women to know how other women balance their lives, or that they are not alone in facing institutional sexism in the workplace, or even that it’s possible to have a career and a home life both.  However, if the publication has a general topic (Nature magazine, for example, covers science), then there is no reason to mention someone’s personal life.  Gender is not germane to scientific discovery therefore it is unimportant in that context and does not merit a mention.

We can recognize sexism and institutional sexism, and we can move forward away from it.

 

for more information:  http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/finkbeiner_test_gender_gap_fem.php?page=1


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The Bechdel Test

Back in the 80’s when I was in college, I ran across a cartoonist named Alison Bechdel.  Since I am also an Allison and there aren’t so very many famous people who share my name, I picked up some of her work.  The name of her strip was Dykes to Watch Out For so even though I enjoyed a lot of it, well, I’m not a lesbian so parts of it went right over my head and I lost track of her.

Turns out, Ms Bechdel made some observations about how women appear in movies.  She and some friends devised a short test for determining which movies presented the most well-rounded female characters.  And it’s quite short, just 3 questions:

1.  Does the movie have at least 2 female characters?

2.  Do they have an actual conversation with each other?

3.  Do they talk about something other than a man who interests both of them?

So, for example, The Fifth Element has several strong female characters, Leelu Dallas and the Diva.  However they don’t talk to each other so the movie fails the test.  Star Wars has only one consistent female character, so that fails too.

Pitch Perfect is about a group of female college students who enter an a capella singing competition.  The team, named the “Barden Bellas” is composed of something like 8 women (question 1), they have conversations with each other throughout the movie (question 2) and they don’t share a love interest so there is very little discussion of men (question 3).  So this movie passes the test.  And I enjoyed it very much.

Of course it isn’t a sci-fi movie so I continue looking for something that includes ALL my entertainment preferences, but then sci-fi is generally a boys game so that’s no surprise.

Maybe one day I’ll get around to scripting the movie I want to see . . .

In any case, Ms Bechdel has managed to create a simple guideline for thinking about the way women are presented in movies, and I appreciate it.