Big Fat Carnival # 6 is up

over at Seeworthy.org Birthcycle got a link, which is fab, but there’s lots more to read. Check it out!

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If you’re reading my blog, I’m assuming that I’m the fat person you like.

So apparently, some (incredibly insensitive and inhumane) folks out there just don’t like fat folks at all, as Anyone want a slightly used politician? over at Alas, a Blog illustrates. What kind of person would ever make that sort of comparison? Yeah, partway along the road to starving to death, even some fat folks will lose weight. This doesn’t illustrate anything useful about weight loss, or diet and exercise though. Colour me absolutely disgusted.

In other news (eventually related, actually, if you just keep reading), I had a houseguest over the weekend. My friend, D, from Portland. He’s a good guy, 58-ish years old, gay, an engineer. I like him lots. I somehow don’t think I like him as much as he likes me, but equity is not always guaranteed in relationships, so I guess that’s okay. The reason that I say that he likes me more than I like him is that, for some reason, he seems to openly idolize me. That’s very odd, and kind of uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of.

It gets played out in a number of ways, one of which is that I’m simply not allowed to say anything “bad” about myself in his presence. On Sunday night after doing social stuff with people all the time for the last three days I was just feeling peopled out. I was feeling crabby and easily annoyed by people, so after nearly chewing someone out at an over-stayed-at party I said, “Gah, I feel so crabby, I’m such a jerk sometimes.” or words to that effect, and he leapt to my defence and said, “No K! You are never a jerk! Don’t ever say that! You are the kindest and most compassionate person I’ve ever met! You’re not a jerk!”

To which my reply was, “Um, dude, sometimes I am, just like everybody else. And that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.” But he wouldn’t hear of it.

It’s uncomfortable because I feel like I’m on a sort of pedestal for him, which actually makes me less real to him and less human. He has this idealized vision of who I am which bears, as time goes by, less and less resemblance to the person I actually am, both good and bad. I’m glad that most of my relationships aren’t like this.

As we were sitting in my kitchen drinking tea on Sunday evening I made the (jerky) mistake of criticizing one of the people he had travelled with. I probably wouldn’t have done it if I had been in a better mood. I knew he didn’t like her and I admit, in my crabbiness, that that’s part of why I criticized her. Bitching about a common “other” seemed easier in that moment than having further conversations about how I wasn’t a jerk (despite ironically being a real example of jerkiness, ho hum).

I said, “She is the dullest conversationalist ever.”

That’s all it took to start him up on a tirade. I just sort of let him go, but then suddenly he started talking tangentially and sneakily about her weight. Of course, he didn’t just say, “She’s so fat! And that inherently makes her bad! Because fat people are bad!” Instead, he snuck up on it the way people do.

“She eats like a pig. She has no table manners at all. Were you watching her at the potluck? She just kept eating and eating and eating! We had to keep stopping on the way up so she could eat. She claimed she was hungry, well, yeah, I can see you’re hungry, honey, just by looking at you, but that doesn’t mean…”

At which point I said, kinda startled and unprepared, “Hold up. Look. I shouldn’t have started this, that was dumb of me. Criticize her for being irritating, I guess, or for being ignorant or loud or rude, but don’t feel like you can criticize her about her weight, not to me. My mother was a big woman when I was growing up and I’ve heard enough of that crap.”

Not helping his cause of making me like him more he said, “My sister’s big too. My sister eats just like her, just like a pig. My mom was big, but she had health problems, so…”

Said I, “No. Just stop. Don’t talk to me about this. That’s it.” By this time I was actually shaking with anger and all I wanted was to get away. I felt exhausted and disappointed and like I just didn’t want to deal with this or him. I just wanted him gone and I wanted to collect my thoughts and then I wanted to throw things. But when you have your friend visiting you from Portland there’s nowhere for them to go and when you’re me, you’re just not the storming out and yelling type. I turned on the kettle so I could think about things. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t stop the tears from starting in my eyes.

Having a firm eventual grasp of the obvious he said, “You’re angry with me.”

“Yes, I’m angry with you. That’s okay, I can be angry with you.”

I looked at him, took a deep breath and made a choice.

I said, “D, you have no concept of what it’s like to live in this world as a person who isn’t the socially prescribed size. No concept. You complained to me that you’ve gained 20 pounds in the last year, but still, no one would ever look at you and say, ‘That D is SO FAT!’ and feel they had a right to make a moral judgment about you because of it. You have no idea what it’s like.

“People have often said to me, ‘K, you’re not *that* fat.'” He tried to interrupt me (probably to tell me that in fact, I wasn’t *that* fat) but I cut him off, “No, they do. Do you know what that means? That means they want to let me off the hook for being fat because they like me, so that they can continue to hold a moral judgment about other fat people without having to apply it to me too. But you know, I weigh 240 pounds. I’m fat, just like she is. In fact, she and I probably weigh about the same, we just don’t look the same because we’re built differently.

“And how do you know she *doesn’t* have a health problem, if that’s your criteria for acceptable fatness? Why in God’s name would she confide in you, you’re obviously not her friend. And why would she even know about it, considering the state of your health system?

“I outweigh you by what, 70 pounds?” he mumbled that he weighed 160 pounds, “Okay, so, 80 pounds. I outweigh you by a 10-year-old. But I’m the fat person you *like*, so you wouldn’t think of criticizing me the way you criticize her.

“When I was just out of high school and all muscle from skating without a bit of fat anywhere I went to buy pretty underwear and asked for a size 14. The tiny little woman in the store said, ‘We don’t sell plus sizes.’ and said it with disgust in her voice. Well, I’m a size 20 now, D, and it isn’t any easier. So I bet it isn’t easy for her either and you have no concept of what that’s like or what it’s like for her to be the person she is.

“I started it by criticizing her and I shouldn’t have done that, and I’m sorry I did it. And you’re right, I’m angry. I’m the fat person you like, D, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not fat. She’s the fat person you don’t like, but that doesn’t mean she’s not a person.”

There was a breathless silent portentous pause in the room. He was looking at me very intently so to avoid having to stare back at him I poured my tea and vigorously stirred in brown sugar and cream. I took a deep breath and drank a too-large swallow of too-hot tea, which, though painful, oddly calmed me down again and made my hands stop shaking.

I took another sip and another breath. Then I said, a little calmer, “To be clear, I like my body and I’m not interested in losing weight. But that’s not always easy either.”

Another silent pause filled with cautious tea-drinking, and then he said, “Thank you. Thank you for saying all of that.”

“Hmm.” said I, staring into my tea.

Said he, “I’m sorry. You’re right. It was wrong of me to say those things. I know it’s cliche to say ‘You’ve really changed my opinion’ right in the heat of the moment, so I won’t say that, but you’ve given me a lot to think about. It was mean.” Then after a pause, “Maybe that’s why I don’t have anybody.” which annoyed me a little because it sounded perilously close to self-pity and in the moment I didn’t have patience for that. I also wasn’t going to necessarily deny it, because maybe being a bit too judgmental and mean is a part of that reason.

And you know, if I’d thought it out more ahead of time I would have said more, or different, and perhaps I wouldn’t have made it so much about me. But in a way I’m amazed at how coherently and even articulately it all came out in the moment. So often when I’m upset I fumble with words and can’t say what I mean in the way I want, but for some reason this time it all tumbled out piece by coherent piece pulled along by my anger and frustration.

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SMCR – The Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

I’m attending a three-day scientific conference on Menstrual Cycle Research out at the University of British Columbia. I’m volunteering, of course, because then I can get in for free. The big topic, of course, is menstrual suppression, but there’s papers and studies being presented on all sorts of related topics, including fertility awareness, menopause, and so on. Lots of interesting stuff. It’s probably the first time I’ve ever been surrounded by a bunch of PhDs who are all experts on a topic I actually know a heck of a lot about, and it’s quite exciting to get to hear a lot of high-level discussion of the issues.

I’ll be writing a couple of posts on my palm as I go along and posting them here when I’m done. Today was the opening day of the conference, and I recognize the structure, so familiar to me now from Kim Stanley Robinson’s descriptions in the Red Mars series (he has a love affair with scientific conferences and writes about them in most of his books). There was an opening plenary and a welcome from a local Musqueam elder, and then some breakout sessions. I chose the menstrual cycle topics one, and of the papers presented today, a couple had some interesting insights. One rather large and over-reported study (two groups gave talks on the same set of research data), was, unfortunately, very poorly designed, so they didn’t really get any useful data. What a waste!

They questioned women on their contraceptive usage and their menstrual product usage, and interestingly they included as the only fertility awareness-type option, the rhythm method! Unbelievable, and many in the audience were quick to point out that “the rhythm method” is an outdated term for a very poor form of natural birth control based on the calendar, quite unrelated to the modern practice of sympto-thermal charting which has an incredible success rate.
Anyway, I’ll post more about the conference soon.

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My Journey to Feminism, part 1

When I was young I was brought up with the general idea that that whole sexism thing was over and done with and we didn’t need to worry about it anymore. This left me pretty unprepared for and ill-equipped to deal with the misogyny inherent in North American popular culture. Every time I ran up against sexism I just chalked it up to some kind of bizarre holdover from a previous era, and thought that likely the person just didn’t realize what they were saying or hadn’t meant it or that they were isolated in their sexist beliefs.

Like many young women of my generation I was indoctrinated by my peers and by the social atmosphere of schooling into believing that “feminist” was practically a dirty word and an insult. This wasn’t entirely conscious, but I do remember being tauntingly asked if I was one of those feminists and defensively declaiming the possibility; “Me? No! Of course not… I just believe that… *insert blatantly feminist belief here*.”

I was raised by two parents who took a mostly egalitarian (and in fact feminist, though they wouldn’t have called it that) view of gender relationships.

In our household and on the farm we lived on, my mother did the things she was good at and enjoyed, like gardening, cooking, mowing, irrigation, fruit picking, canning, preserving, childrearing, sewing, and knitting (she’s an incredibly talented knitter and sewer).

My father did the things he was good at and enjoyed, like chopping firewood, fruit picking, cooking, car repair, vacuuming, dusting, childrearing, pruning, and plumbing.

The necessary tasks that nobody enjoyed, like dishes, were split relatively evenly (though perhaps a little heavily on my mother’s side, because hey I’m not trying to pretend I lived in a feminist utopia). The most important thing in all of this is that I never got the idea from them that things were divided up the way they were because that was the way it had to be. While it’s true that many of my parents tasks were divided along traditionally gendered lines, they never communicated to me that this was why they were divided that way.

Then I went out into the so-called “real” world.

And you know, it wasn’t quite the egalitarian utopia I’d been brought up to expect. I met people with such complicated ideas of gender relations that I felt completely out of place and confused. Why on earth should this or that be true of me just because I am biologically female? It made no sense. But because I wasn’t brought up with the language of feminism I didn’t even have the tools to express what I was experiencing.

For example, when I was in a relationship with a man who insisted that having sex at a certain frequency (defined by him) was pretty much his right and my responsibility, I couldn’t figure out how to express what was so wrong about that. The thing is, when he wasn’t bullying me about his sexual needs and actually acted in ways more in keeping with his ideals (which were definitely proto-feminist, though he preferred the term “egalitarian”), neither could he. Yet, at some level, we both knew that it there was something wrong with that dynamic, even if we couldn’t express it or figure it out.

No amount of discomfort stopped the bullying from going on, of course, though only for a couple of months because I broke up with him soon after that began. It occurs to me now that the hardest bits of privilege for men to let go of sometimes seem to be the ones related to being able to treat sex with women as an inherent manly right. Frankly, coerced sex with a less-than-willing partner certainly seems pretty unattractive to me. Perhaps it is only in comparison to the perceived possibility of no sex at all that this sounds good.

I’ll leave the journey here at the point of confused non-comprehension, because after all, it’s late, and I do have work tomorrow. But I promise promise promise (mainly to myself) to continue this very soon indeed.

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It happened then, why is it still happening now?

So I was catching up on my blog reading after a couple of busy weeks when I ran across this post: Lord of the flies, over at I blame the patriarchy. Yeah, too true.

I remember all too well the near constant sexual harrassment that I and others endured at high school. In the course of my grade 8 and grade 9 years (I was aged 12-14 at this time) I endured the following:

  • being touched and grabbed on the bum and the breast by boys I hadn’t invited to touch me there, who were touching me only to humiliate me and make me feel bad and to assert their own power;
  • having signs posted on my back in classes and in the hallways, the most memorable of which read, “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw!”;
  • general rude unsolicited comments about my body to do with the fact that by god I had *breasts* (A-cup, fer gawd’s sakes) and my breasts *moved* when I walked or ran (like any other normal part of my body), also, if I wore a bra, that I was wearing a *bra* and this meant that I was all ready for sex (hmm, might this have something to do with my dislike of bras? other than the uncomfortableness, of course);
  • general rude unsolicited comments about my body to do with the fact that I was wearing a menstrual pad and they could see that through my clothing and did I like having something touching me “down there”;
  • general rude unsolicited suggestions that what I really needed was a good fuck, or to suck them, and that would make me happy; and so on.

At the time I walked around in a state of near-constant baffled suppressed rage, ignoring everybody and jumping down everybody’s throat (whether they were nice or not) if they tried to talk to me, because they might just be pretending to be nice so they could get close enough to harrass me some more, as happened when I started receiving “love notes” from a boy, and then a phone call at home which quickly turned to “You have great tits.” and similar not particularly complimentary comments. However true that might have been (and fer gawd’s sakes, I was 13 and had not much in the way of breasts one way or another), it was still unwelcome, and the choice of language used didn’t portend respect or hope for a relationship. I just hung up, and then endured being teased about how so-and-so “liked” me and I was mean not to go out with him for the next two weeks.

I didn’t tell my parents about much of this because I knew that even though they loved me fiercely they were ineffectual on the topic of bullying, having both been bullied as kids themselves, and knowing about my bullying just brought that back for them. Their saddened advice was always just to ignore them and not give them the satisfaction and eventually they’d go away. But this didn’t address the fact that a) it was impossible to really ignore them when they were touching me without somehow giving them tacit permission to do so, b) I didn’t really know and neither, I think, did they what ignoring them really meant (not reacting outwardly? not hearing them at all? walking right past them when they’re taunting you? avoiding the places where they would be and where the harrassment would occur?) and c) ignoring them didn’t work and they didn’t go away. They just tried harder and harder to get a reaction to know that they’d won.

In fact, in putting the pieces together now from a more educated feminist perspective, my weirdness and antisociality in high school is pretty understandable. And you know? I wasn’t over-reacting, or making much of something that didn’t matter. It mattered. It matters now and it’s still happening. The more I learn the more I get actually seriously angry. But it’s a very freeing anger. The anger of my teenage years was often anger at myself for doing something wrong that made the harrassment happen, or for not being able to make it stop, which is a very hard anger to live with.

I just want to add to all of this, perhaps defensively (I acknowledge), please don’t comment with some dismissive comment about how you would have done this or that or the other and the situation would have disappeared *poof* and that’s what I should have done. You know, when I was a shy, lonely, harassed 12-14-year-old. I get that there are reasons I was harrassed more than some people and was more sensitive to it (or perhaps the word is “conscious”) but that doesn’t make it my fault, or okay. The idea that every young woman has to have superior harrassment-evasion techniques mastered by the age of 12 or she deserves what she gets is ridiculous and only comes out of the fact that we take it for granted that young men will sexually harrass them, as unpredictably but inevitably as the rain. This attitude releases them from all responsibility.

*deep breath*

Also, boys, I would just like to give you this gift when wading into feminist arenas/debates/spaces. It will serve you well. Just remember the following: If it’s not about you, it’s not about you.

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Children of Men, specifically the birth scene

Zargon and I rented Children of Men over the weekend, which I’d actually become interested in watching only after reading this review over at Pandagon. I highly recommend it. It was an entirely enthralling film, and we fell asleep talking about it and woke up talking about it, which is always a sign that a movie engaged us.However, the birth scene? Yeah, what a missed opportunity. I know it’s based on a book by a man, in a movie directed by a man with a script written by men, but for all that, so much else was done so well that I expected better.

Here’s a woman giving birth, the first birth in 18 years. This seems to me like a pretty prime opportunity to show a birth done instinctively, without so much cultural pollution. But instead, what do they show? The same old pop culture movie birth – woman, lying on her back, panicking while pushing (uncommon – this would be more common in transition, not seconds before the birth), being reassured and directed by a male between her legs.

This is not to say that women never instinctively lie on their backs to birth, or panic while pushing, or appreciate a little reassurance and direction. But most women, left to their own devices, are more likely to assume a hands and knees position to birth in, and breath and moan in a very natural way while pushing.

I also question whether a young woman in her 8th month would spontaneously go into the birth process in such a dangerous situation unless something else was wrong. We’re mammals, after all, and most mammals don’t start birthing and do pause birthing when in dangerous or threatening situations because oxytocin (the labour hormone) and adrenaline (our dangerous situation hormone) are antagonistic, you can’t actually release both at the same time.

So this leads me to the thought that I should take on yet another part-time career, that of birth script consultant. I should totally do that.

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I know, I meant to post more, really

I really meant this to be more of a regular blog, but with my busy schedule, including my Midwifery Study Group, I’ve just been too busy. There will come a time when I post more, though. In the meantime, here’s a lovely rant:

Fat Rant on Youtube.

For the record, I weigh 232. I expect to gain weight soon, which is quite exciting.

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Access to Plan B

Biting Beaver‘s recent post regarding her struggle to obtain Plan B reminded me of my own story, so I thought I’d share it here.

I live in Canada, and like, I think, many Canadians my age (mid-20s) I had grown a little complacent about access to contraception. Degrassi High (the show that all Canadian youth both watched and mocked) had an episode about abortion, and although the characters went through their moral and emotional struggles, actual physical access to the abortion was guaranteed. I always assumed that obtaining Plan B would far simpler even than that, given that it was supposedly available over the counter from pharmacists in British Columbia since 2000.

For years now my primary form of contraception has been the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), which works very well for me and my male partner. For ourselves, we chose never to have penis-in-vagina intercourse during my carefully and casually tracked fertile times. This was part of an evolving continuum of choices we made about our contraception, and it changed gradually as we became more comfortable and confident with FAM. 

Other people choose other things, including using barriers during fertile periods, and these are all very individual choices. This is part of the appeal for me of FAM: I as a woman get to choose my own level of comfort and risk-taking in my sexual choices.

In December of 2003 I returned from an 8-week trip to Australia with family. My partner had not accompanied me and we had missed each other greatly. Because I had been travelling my fertility cycle was a little disrupted, and although I hadn’t had any signs that I was likely to ovulate I knew that the timing was generally right for that sort of thing to occur soon. For once, we chose to use barriers rather than to avoid intercourse altogether. Of course, in the midst of our passionate reunion, we weren’t as conscientious (i.e., freakishly paranoid) as we would ordinarily have been and discovered only after the act was completed that our barrier had slipped off and was lying uselessly on his stomach.

When I realized this I just got dressed and we drove over to the 24-hour pharmacy about five blocks from my house. Inside the pharmacist politely explained that although Plan B was technically available over the counter, it had to be dispensed by a specially trained pharmacist and the only one they had on staff wouldn’t be in until late in the morning the following day. Sorry, nothing they could do. Besides, it didn’t really matter, I just had to take it within three days for it to be effective.

Now, while it’s true that there is a three-day window for Plan B, taking it as soon as possible is important. The sooner the better, in fact, which was why I was at a 24-hour pharmacy at 1 in the morning. Of course, if I didn’t live in the middle of the second largest metropolitan area in Canada I probably wouldn’t be as close to a 24-hour pharmacy and would have had to wait until morning, so… fine. Wait until morning.

I decided that since the pharmacist wouldn’t be in until later in the morning I’d go to the drop-in clinic at my workplace to get a prescription as soon as it opened in the morning. Because I live in Canada all office visits are fully covered by Medical Services Plan, so I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I could afford to go to the doctor. When I got to the clinic only one doctor was on duty. He was a young man, possibly in his late 20s. I explained what I wanted and he then quizzed me for a while on what my usual birth control was and so on before announcing that he didn’t prescribe the “morning after pill” for ethical reasons.

“What??” I said. At the time I’d never heard of such a thing. I asked what ethical reasons those were exactly and he refused to explain. I asked if there were any other doctors on staff that I could see and he said that there weren’t any. I just sat and looked at him. He looked at me. I said, “Look, I didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I’m trying to do everything right. I get the feeling that you’re passing some kind of judgement on me here and I don’t like it.” He shrugged uncomfortably and opened the door to indicate that it was time for me to leave. I left.

I went up to a different walk-in clinic close to the pharmacy. I didn’t really like this one because it was often crowded and busy and the doctors had always seemed quite indifferent to me, but I figured it was better than nothing. I waited my forty minutes to get in to see a doctor and when I did I ended up with a crusty older man. I explained what I wanted. He just sat there and looked at me. By this point I was starting to feel almost… defensive about what I was trying to do, so I said something along the lines of having used a condom but that it had broken (a lie, of course, it just came off without our noticing, but I felt guilty for what I perceived to be a rookie mistake that should never have happened).

“You don’t have to explain.” he said chidingly, “That’s none of my business. I’ll write you the prescription. Ask them to give you some gravol with it because it often makes you feel quite nauseous.” And he wrote me the prescription. I went back to the pharmacy and had no difficulty filling it. I got home and took my first dose along with a gravol just over 12 hours after having what turned out to be unprotected intercourse.

Now, in the end, did I get the prescription I wanted? Yes. Was it really that hard? I suppose not. And I realize now just how lucky I was in some respects. After all, of the four medical service providers (two doctors and two pharmacists) that I interacted with, only one of them really felt strongly that I should just get pregnant as a result of a mistake whether I wanted to or not. It only took me 12 hours and three unsuccessful attempts in the second largest city in Canada to get my hands on emergency contraception.

Really, we can do better than that.

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Yesterday I felt entirely right in my body.

At first I described it as, “I just feel like I am incredibly slender today.” Later on I realized that it wasn’t so much slenderness as a feeling of “fitting”. My clothes fit well and didn’t feel restrictive and it felt like every part of my body had purpose and meaning. Slenderness is such an ideal in our society that I at first associated this feeling of ideal with slenderness, but that wasn’t the right description.

I’ve been experimenting lately with trying to move past a place of quiet acceptance of my body as it is, plumpness and all (but don’t talk about it too much), to a place of appreciating and perhaps celebrating the plumpness on its own merits. What if my body was not just attractive in spite of its faults, not just attractive because of its strength which somehow “makes up” for the plumpness, but attractive because of its strength and plumpness both? How would it feel to move all the things I have been taught to see as negatives in my body into the plus column?

Perhaps it would feel the way I felt yesterday.

This is a process I have probably already begun. There are many things about my body that I like that aren’t in the societal beauty mag standard of beauty and attractiveness. For instance, I love my breasts. As I move through my 20s they become less and less round, they ride flatter and closer to my chest, and they droop lower. Sometimes when my nipples are not erect my breasts actually cave in above them. When my nipples are erect they pull my breasts into a different and rounder shape, and this process amuses me. I love the way they look in the mirror and how it feels to touch them, squashy and soft. I can slide my fingers underneath them and warm them up.

Call me the last to really get the memo, but it hadn’t actually occurred to me that it was possible for others to love plump parts of the body other than the breasts or buttocks, just for the pleasure and attractiveness of that plumpness. I somehow didn’t get that people could find attractive a plump and roll-y belly for the same reasons that I love my breasts, because it is squashy and soft, yielding and full of inviting curves to slip fingers around and beneath.

Of course, I knew that I myself liked the feeling of my own and other plump people’s bodies, when I was permitted to touch them, and that it was as wonderful to curl up behind my girlfriend and cup her breast in my hand as it was to cup her round tummy, or to curl up behind my boyfriend and slide my palm down around the firm bottom curve of his belly. Somehow it was difficult to reconcile this tactile attractiveness with the visual for me.

Which actually leaves me thinking of my mother when I was young. She was always a larger person, close to six feet tall with entirely proportionately large hands and feet. After my sister was born she started to gain more and more weight. She hated to be looked at, or to have pictures taken of her, and she hated most of all to be touched. We weren’t allowed to touch her very often, and although she was very affectionate and loving with us in many ways, she was not very affectionate or loving with herself at all. I knew from an early age that she hated her body and that somehow we were supposed to hate it also. It was impossible and perverse in her mind that anyone could love her body as it was.

I think, in retrospect, that I, an entirely sensual and physical touch sort of person, wanted to love her body however it was, wanted to touch it and cuddle it the way a child does with her mother. Her body could have been just the body of my mother, but instead it was very much forbidden territory, so that even as a teenager, after my mother had lost a significant portion of her weight via gastric bypass surgery and intense daily exercise, I had to be very careful how I embraced my mother. If I touched her sides or belly she would break away, or protest that I was “jiggling the fat”. There was simply no room in there to explore the idea that perhaps she was a pleasurable person to touch. What an extraordinary idea!

My mother and sister both often say to me, “You’re looking good! Have you lost weight?” Of course, every time they’ve asked I haven’t, to the best of my knowledge, lost any weight at all, and sometimes have in fact gained. Then we all sort of awkwardly stand around engaging in a bizarre process that FEELS like we have to somehow find some reason why I “look good” to them but if I haven’t lost weight then it’s completely inexplicable why I would look good at all. I have felt entirely confused by these conversations before now, too caught up in their “weight loss = looking good” societal assumption to even challenge it properly.

In India a woman in a store said to me, “Oh! You are so fat!” and she said it in such an entirely pleased and complimentary way that it completely threw me for a loop. I almost burst into tears. She said it in almost the exact same way we would say, “You’ve lost weight!” in North America. I could tell she had no idea how this pronouncement could possibly be negative.

Perhaps there isn’t something glib I could toss off that would instantly educate and change other people’s perspectives, but I would like to move away from the “weight loss = looking good” assumption. Sometimes I’ve tried to just say, “Thank you! I feel good!” Sometimes I’ve said matter-of-factly that, in fact, I had gained weight, but thanks for the compliment.

I wonder if I could pull off rejoicing in gained weight in a convincing manner in our society? Would anyone ever believe it?

“Actually, I’ve gained 5 pounds! I’m very excited about it! I haven’t felt so sexy in months!”

(This post was cross-posted from my personal LJ at rainbowk.livejournal.com.)

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New Carnival of Feminists call

Check it out over at Bitch|Lab.

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First post!

I had a flash of insight and inspiration this morning. For quite some time I’ve been wanting to start my own political blog (it’s what all the cool kids are doing, and I want to play).

I couldn’t figure out what I had to say, or what I wanted to talk about. This might seem obvious to those that know me, but it suddenly came to me this morning that what I really want to write about is my feminist perspective of the politics of pregnancy, birth, fertility and contraception.

This is a very important topic to me, and has been for most of my adult life. It’s something I think about all the time, and I’ve done my homework. Over the last seven years I’ve taken many courses and read many books. I’ve researched and navigated my way around conflicting studies and standards of practice.

I’ve attended both home and hospital births as a doula, and seriously researched the possiblity of moving into midwifery or becoming a traditional birth attendant. I’ve been a member of online unassisted/unhindered/free birthing communities since 2000.

In short, these are topics about which I have a great deal to say.

On the whole, in my reading of the feminist blogosphere, issues of reproduction unrelated to abortion tend to get rather short shrift as a blogging topic. Contraception sometimes gets a lot of attention, but there seems to be quite a lot of ignorance floating around out there too, with a lot of people painting things in a kind of black and white that I’m not sure really applies.

The personal is political. I am a woman who uses contraception, who eventually intends to conceive and bear one or more children, and I know many other women who will do all or some of those things as well.

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