Archive for the ‘Body hate’ Category

Does this binder make me look fat?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012


It’s Love Your Body Day 2012, everyone!  I’m celebrating by having pizza for lunch and feeling really, really terrible about it.



Ugh….that triangle skirt looks like a slice….  *burp* …. I made sure I had a salad and hummus for dinner.

I wish I loved my body every day.  If I did, I would have vast supplies of psychic energy available to me if I dropped the daily anxiety about my wobbly bits–oh, the things I could accomplish!  Instead, I grow mushier and gushier every year, unlike the Yummy Mummies I see on the newsracks at Target and Cub Foods.  Why is it that I get softer while Madonna, who is also 12 years older than me, gets harder?

I’ve already written truckloads about bodies, body image, and body shame.  Check out these posts for ideas that can be safely chewed on without gastric distress:

  • Perfect diet. (Minnesota Women’s Press, July 2007) In which I reflect on periods when I was quite thin due to some really horrendous circumstances that had nothing whatever to do with health–quite the opposite, actually.
  • The stories bodies tell. (Minnesota Women’s Press, June 2009) In which I admit that I weigh more than I did when I wrote that 2007 column, and how much that irritates me.
  • It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, so let’s talk about it. (February 2011) In which I write a blog post that refers back to the 2009 column that mentions the 2007 column AND a piece I wrote for HipMama many moons ago.

And around and around we go.

It’s like I’m stuck.  Trapped in three cold, metallic rings that are squeezing me, crushing me, HOLDING ME BACK!




Do you feel that way, too?



We are all made of scars

Thursday, September 27th, 2012


One of the great things about working for a feminist media outlet is being assigned stories that are actually a pleasure to research and write.  In fact, I regularly get hipped to people, places, and things that make me kick myself and think “why the hell didn’t I know about this?”  In the last year alone I’ve learned about the fab musical “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding,” the wildly talented pop-funk singer-songwriter Mayda, and now, the photography project Of Scars.



You can read my full-length feature for the Minnesota Women’s Press here.  It contains the who, what, where, when, why and how of the project, which in their words “explores all the facets of living with the emotional and physical scars of breast cancer through photography, education, networking and community outreach.”

On my blog, however, I can be as opinionated and decidedly non-newsy as I please.  I can tell you about how I’ve been thinking about Of Scars nearly every day since Kate and Elli allowed me into their studio to take a peek at the pictures.



I’m a feminist, but I hate my body.  As I’ve written here before, I am a feminist because I hate my body–I recognize that patriarchal capitalism wants me to hate my body, and I’m fighting that shit every time I look in the mirror.  Self-acceptance is a truly radical act, and one I’m striving towards every day.

Most of the time I fail.

In my Women’s Press piece, I make reference to a “smiling model who posed topless in a Wonder Woman costume” (above, she appears in the SFW version from the Of Scars website). Here in my blog I can add that her smile was one of the fiercest, most kickass things I’ve ever seen.  As I held her photograph in my hands, I wondered what it would take for me to feel the same fearlessness about myself.  Here was my genuine, unedited, terrifying thought:

Would my body need to be mutilated for me to appreciate it?  Would it need to be pulled back from the brink of death to be loved unconditionally?  

Several days ago, Lady Gaga responded to criticism about gaining 25 pounds by posting pictures of herself in a bikini on her website.  She looks fabulous, as shapely and delicious as Marilyn Monroe in her prime.  As much as I appreciate the gesture, as well as Gaga’s admission of eating disorders and her hope to “BREED some m$therf*cking COMPASSION” by doing it, I couldn’t help experiencing another genuine, unedited, terrifying thought:

Are you kidding me? This gorgeous young woman is supposed to be the face of “bravery” and “body acceptance”?!  Give me a break.  Where are HER scars?  If she truly was bulimic, she has ‘em–bite marks on the fingers she used to make herself puke.  I want to see THOSE.  

These decidedly NON-compassionate thoughts are my scars on display.  These scars have covered decades of cuts, some big (“outta my way, fat bitch!) and some small (“you need foundation to cover up that splotchy skin of yours”).

Kate told me in her studio that breast cancer magnifies and multiplies everything women feel about their bodies and by extension, themselves.   I think she’s right.  I’m grateful that she and Elli are using their art and their studio to begin this important conversation.  We all have scars to share with each other, and ways we can learn from one another, no matter what the demon we’re battling.

If you’re in the Twin Cities on September 29, you can view Of Scars, the photography exhibition, for yourself.  I’d like to know what you see.



All photos of non-internationally famous pop stars by Of Scars and are used with permission.


Loving the body, feminine and otherwise

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

This post is part of the Love Your Body Day blog carnival.

Image by Kyla Hollis, grand prize winner of NOW’s 2011 Love Your Body Day poster contest


Today is Love Your Body Day, a yearly event sponsored by the National Organization for Women Foundation.  Billed as “a day when women of all sizes, colors, ages and abilities come together to celebrate self-acceptance and to promote positive body image,” it’s also a day in which I force myself to admit publicly that beneath my Battle-Hardened, Bad-Ass, Nearly-Forty Feminist facade beats the heart of a quaking 15-year-old girl who hates what she sees in the mirror.

It’s also a good day to mull over what I’m learning from the latest entry in my ever-growing Feminist Book Pile: Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl: a Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (look for it in the nifty Amazon widget on the left of your screen)Published in 2007, it is a fascinating unpacking of cultural misogyny everywhere, including within the feminist community.  And we’re not just talking about the exclusion of transwomen from supposedly feminist places like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, though Serano gives Mich a whole chapter.  As she writes:

While past feminists have gone to great lengths to empower femaleness and to tear away all of the negative connotations that have plagued women’s bodies and biology, they have allowed the negative connotations associated with femininity to persist relatively unabated.  Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that, while most reasonable people see women and men as equals, few (if any) dare to claim that femininity is masculinity’s equal.

Bam!  I’m a ninth-grader in front of that mirror again, bewailing my failure to conform to what Cover Girl, Seventeen magazine and my mother all expect of me.  How could I possibly escape their collective pressure?  For me, the way out was to opt-out.  In 1987, I decided I would dress like the Replacements for the rest of my life.

Beauty-go-round rejected!  Fuck you, L’Oreal!  Kiss my ass, Vogue!  I’m a perfect feminist…right?

Writes Serano:

The greatest barrier preventing us from fully challenging sexism is the pervasive antifeminine sentiment that runs wild in both the straight and queer communities, targeting people of all genders and sexualities.  The only realistic way to adddress this issue is to work toward empowering femininity itself….indeed, a feminist movement that encompasses both those who are female and those who are feminine has the potential to become a majority, one with the strength in numbers to finally challenge and overturn both traditional and oppositional sexism.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go polish my nails.

"There is no power like my pretty power…."

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Who said it? “There is no power like my pretty power…there is no power like my UGLY UGLY POWER!”*
The answer appears after this exclusive (!) excerpt from The Radical Housewife, in which I expound at length upon just one of the tensions existing between Second and Third Wave feminists–BEAUTY. And the lack thereof.

Like it or loathe it, a woman’s appearance means something. Whether you wear heels or Doc Martens, no “choice” can be made independently in a consumer culture. Free will does not exist. Such was the revelation I found in my college media studies curriculum after Professor John Schott handed us syllabi that would challenge our deeply held beliefs about soap operas, Madonna videos and Cover Girl commercials. Symbolic language? The object and the objectified? Semiotics? Jacques Derrida?!! What the fuck??

Let us cool our Prada boots while we return to the thoughts that began our chapter, a consideration of the second wave’s flaws. Betty Friedan opposed lesbian leadership in NOW for many reasons, one of which is how they looked. Many lesbians of the time didn’t sex up their drag the way Marlene Dietrich did—they took off their bras, let down their hair, and rubbed off their makeup. I see no problem with this, but remember: I was born in 1971. My cultural touchstones were the rough and tumble kiddos on Sesame Street, not prim maidens like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. Once upon a time the sight of a woman in pants was so transgressive as to inspire revulsion: not because the pants were ugly by themselves, but because the act itself was so outrageous as to be unfathomable. Susan B. Anthony stopped wearing bloomers when she sensed they were distracting people from her suffragist message.

Her words didn’t matter as much as her clothing. Sound familiar?

Over time, the pants really did get ugly, and someone heard something from someone about the burning of a bra. The fact that no bras were harmed during the 1968 Miss America protest is a truth so persistently rejected that the story remains a long entry in the debunking website, right up there with alligators in the Manhattan sewers and death by Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola. The message was clear: FEMINISTS BURN BRAS. According to Newtonian physics, without the support of sturdy underwire, perky tits will eventually droop. According to the marketing department at Maidenform and the pages of Playboy, girls with droopy tits are gross. Therefore, feminists are gross. QED.

When I ask around for nominations for Best Feminist in America, no one names Friedan, who inspired the Second Wave, or Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who kick-started the first. Almost every single person will name Gloria Steinem. A fine feminist, to be sure: a powerful activist, writer, speaker, and thinker. But you remember her before all others because she is very, very pretty.

Much of the Third Wave has consisted of studiously breaking down this feminists-are-ugly stereotype, and not just because heterosexual feminist women were getting desperate for a lay. Women of the Second Wave who rejected consumer culture were brave in numbers. The times were a-changin’, and plenty of men were breaking down long-cherished beliefs themselves—resisting the draft and militarism, embracing androgynous hair and clothing, recognizing their part in perpetuating discrimination.

Reagan’s election in 1980 and the defeat of the ERA in 1982 brought all the marching to a grinding halt. The communal spirit of the Second Wave fragmented. Reaganites declared a new era of rugged individualism, of freedom. Not the freedom that comes from constitutionally-enshrined gender equality, though; this freedom was that of the lone cowboy riding into town with nothing but a knapsack and a gun, free to blast his way to prosperity in pursuit of the American Dream. There were no cowgirls in Reagan’s America. His pal Schlafly made sure they were all at home, boiling diapers over an open fire.

Second Wavers in Reaganland soon realized that opposing the forces of capitalism required a lot of difficult emotional work. To delve inward for clarity is much more challenging than, say, purchasing a finely woven shirt that telegraphs that confidence for you. If self-acceptance is available at Macy’s, in a Chanel bottle of beveled glass, then to the mall we shall go! Sitting in the lotus position is for suckers.

I call myself a radical in every sense, but even I gave into temptation and bought a bottle of Oil of Olay at Target. I stopped using it not because I suddenly realized that true beauty comes from within, but because the acids meant to slough off my aging (read: ugly) skin made my face break out in a rash, and rashes are not only uncomfortable, they’re ugly.

Betty Friedan suggested that liberal feminism, in which changes are made by working within the system, would result in greater gains for women. Which is more effective—the pretty power, or the ugly power? How to you obtain the power held by men—by taking it, or by convincing them to give it to you? Do you attract more flies (button or zip) with the sweetness of honey or the sourness of vinegar? Am I really the power player in my marriage because my husband’s salary pays for the Secret Powder Fresh deodorant and rounded-tip Tampax that he will never use?

Oh my god……I can’t believe I use DEODORANT. I want to smell pretty. So much for being radical.

*Come on, could that REALLY have been said by anyone other than Courtney “Pretty on the Inside” Love? She may not understand sobriety, child-rearing, or anything else about human relationships, but she sure as hell knows about power, baby!