Category Archives: Feminism

Bodily autonomy: from birth


It interests me how much right people feel to cuddle a newborn.

The desire to is understandable – they’re cute. They have smooshy, squished up, grunty little faces and they do baby farts and their tiny fingers are delicate and amazing.

But when this desire to hold a newborn tips over into a feeling of entitlement to hold them, I think we see something very different.

When you get huffy or upset or pressure new parents about not “getting a hold” you’re really saying that this baby is an object that exists for your gratification, instead of a person with needs and rights that you holding them may not meet in that moment.

It seems radical to some people to say that babies are people with rights. They are, though. Their bodies aren’t consumables and they don’t exist for our entertainment and pleasure. In fact, babies have no duties to us. Nor do the parents of newborns. Their role is instead to keep their babies safe, and sometimes “safe” means comforted, calm, close to their parents, and not in the arms of strangers (and yes, close family are strangers to a tiny human who has been in the world not long at all).

At 31 weeks pregnant I know I will never feel guilty for denying people cuddles with my baby once they are born if I feel it isn’t right for them to be held by someone else at that time. As their guardian, it’ll be my job to work out when being held by someone other than me is appropriate or not.

As they age, it’s going to be part of a larger patchwork of teaching them that their bodies are their own; and nobody has a right to touch them if they don’t want to be touched. There’ll be no forced cuddles in our house.

Bodily autonomy from birth means that we are our own; and touch should always be invited, appropriate and optional. Until babies can show us – and they do, quickly – who they want to be held by, and who they don’t, it’s our job to watch them closely for cues, and make decisions based on them.


Snarling #12wbt roundup week 3


Week 3 of the #12wbt was yet another mixed week of great eating, crap health, and finding my groove with exercise. I’m starting to find my own kind of routine with it, which is  different to the one marked out by the plans, but is nonetheless supported by the plans.

On Sunday my husband and I embarked on an epic hike around the stunning Sydney Harbour we are privileged to live in close proximity to. Despite the gross built up flats and metal – everywhere, metal and glass – of the city, Sydney is remarkable in that a retreat to nature is possible quite quickly when you know where to go. We disembarked at Manly wharf, beating our way through crowds swarming for a surf festival, stopped off for a burrito at Guzman and then pointed ourselves towards one of our favourite walks – Manly to Spit.

It’s supposedly 9km but my Gearfit clocked it at more like 10.5km, and you carve your way through stunning semi-rainforest which jars beautifully against sudden screes of baked salmon pink and butter yellow cliffs, jangled with wrens that follow your path. There are places to descend from the path onto white sand beaches to momentarily shed your walking shoes and cool your toes and the water is this unbelievable pale green with blooms of dark weed and rock. We saw bearded dragons sunning themselves on several occasions and I knew how they felt, basking in the surroundings. The day was hot in just the right measure, and the views of the Heads around the harbour were deeply satisfying. I feel completely sainted to live in a place like this.

image

image

There was a great feeling of achievement and also giddy tiredness when the walk was done. My friend Ange of The Feminist Locker Room said that sometimes you’ve got to “find your thing” and not be held hostage to other people’s thing. Walking is absolutely my thing. I love big treks, and I’ve never regretted a hike. I think because there’s zero “hamster wheel” feel to tramping through bush, and it’s mostly something that fills up your eyes and heart while moving your body. It’s a really integrating way of moving. All my parts connect and I feel more “me” when I’m on a big walk.

I knew Monday was going to bring specific health challenges which I’d have to include in my plan for the week. I had a sonohystogram, which for those not in the know is a special kind of ultrasound where a catheter needle is inserted through the cervix and the uterus is inflated with saline so clear pictures can be taken. It was unexpectedctedly painful, traumatic and emotionally rough, and it sent the rest of my week into a tailspin of depression and upset as I came to terms with feeling yet again pretty alienated from my body. That coupled with some tough relationship times, and it was a crap week emotionally.

I managed to get to the gym on Tuesday which was in part cathartic and in part something I was excited for – I’m increasingly pleased and cheerful to hop on the machines and have a go at stuff. My workout was fun and it was good to get some natural endorphins given how mixed up I was feeling. But as I left the gym, I was still feeling pretty low – and that day, I lost my nerve in my bid to not weigh myself.

I’ve reflected a lot on why I weighed myself that day and what that meant, and I’ve decided that it’s not a huge deal. I was feeling like shit, and compulsion took over. “Maybe I’ll have lost weight and that will make me feel better,” said my old friend, scale addiction. And just like that, I was on, and yes I’d lost weight, and yes on some level that cheered me up. This is not a good thing. That my emotions are still tied to my weight is inevitable, because one can’t simply turn off socialization and compulsion to measure one’s worth in numbers with a click of the fingers (or a blog post resolution). These things take time. Perhaps, my friend Cassie suggested gently, a better goal would be to make the spaces between weighing longer and further apart. Moderation in all things, including resolutions, because otherwise I’m just building a new prison for myself.

Lots of friends and good food this week was a saving grace. I’m happy to say that despite feeling like crap, I neither overate or restricted. I ate mostly to plan, with a bit of improvisation, and kept it pretty real. I had a small choccie. I enjoyed my morning coffees. I let my body’s rhythms happen without too many extremes despite how extreme my emotions felt at times. Not all my coping mechanisms were super, but they were mine and middling. So that’s a pretty good week, I reckon, given how much pressure I’ve been under.

We’ve decided, going into week 4, to finally take Mish Bridges advice and cook on weekends a fair bit for the week because it’s pretty hard to fit everything in. That will make my week less stressful. Here’s to the coming week and hopefully getting to the gym a bit more 🙂 and I plan on hopefully visiting my friend Sarah next weekend for some kayaking hijinks!


Snarling #12wbt roundup week 3


Week 3 of the #12wbt was yet another mixed week of great eating, crap health, and finding my groove with exercise. I’m starting to find my own kind of routine with it, which is  different to the one marked out by the plans, but is nonetheless supported by the plans.

On Sunday my husband and I embarked on an epic hike around the stunning Sydney Harbour we are privileged to live in close proximity to. Despite the gross built up flats and metal – everywhere, metal and glass – of the city, Sydney is remarkable in that a retreat to nature is possible quite quickly when you know where to go. We disembarked at Manly wharf, beating our way through crowds swarming for a surf festival, stopped off for a burrito at Guzman and then pointed ourselves towards one of our favourite walks – Manly to Spit.

It’s supposedly 9km but my Gearfit clocked it at more like 10.5km, and you carve your way through stunning semi-rainforest which jars beautifully against sudden screes of baked salmon pink and butter yellow cliffs, jangled with wrens that follow your path. There are places to descend from the path onto white sand beaches to momentarily shed your walking shoes and cool your toes and the water is this unbelievable pale green with blooms of dark weed and rock. We saw bearded dragons sunning themselves on several occasions and I knew how they felt, basking in the surroundings. The day was hot in just the right measure, and the views of the Heads around the harbour were deeply satisfying. I feel completely sainted to live in a place like this.

image

image

There was a great feeling of achievement and also giddy tiredness when the walk was done. My friend Ange of The Feminist Locker Room said that sometimes you’ve got to “find your thing” and not be held hostage to other people’s thing. Walking is absolutely my thing. I love big treks, and I’ve never regretted a hike. I think because there’s zero “hamster wheel” feel to tramping through bush, and it’s mostly something that fills up your eyes and heart while moving your body. It’s a really integrating way of moving. All my parts connect and I feel more “me” when I’m on a big walk.

I knew Monday was going to bring specific health challenges which I’d have to include in my plan for the week. I had a sonohystogram, which for those not in the know is a special kind of ultrasound where a catheter needle is inserted through the cervix and the uterus is inflated with saline so clear pictures can be taken. It was unexpectedctedly painful, traumatic and emotionally rough, and it sent the rest of my week into a tailspin of depression and upset as I came to terms with feeling yet again pretty alienated from my body. That coupled with some tough relationship times, and it was a crap week emotionally.

I managed to get to the gym on Tuesday which was in part cathartic and in part something I was excited for – I’m increasingly pleased and cheerful to hop on the machines and have a go at stuff. My workout was fun and it was good to get some natural endorphins given how mixed up I was feeling. But as I left the gym, I was still feeling pretty low – and that day, I lost my nerve in my bid to not weigh myself.

I’ve reflected a lot on why I weighed myself that day and what that meant, and I’ve decided that it’s not a huge deal. I was feeling like shit, and compulsion took over. “Maybe I’ll have lost weight and that will make me feel better,” said my old friend, scale addiction. And just like that, I was on, and yes I’d lost weight, and yes on some level that cheered me up. This is not a good thing. That my emotions are still tied to my weight is inevitable, because one can’t simply turn off socialization and compulsion to measure one’s worth in numbers with a click of the fingers (or a blog post resolution). These things take time. Perhaps, my friend Cassie suggested gently, a better goal would be to make the spaces between weighing longer and further apart. Moderation in all things, including resolutions, because otherwise I’m just building a new prison for myself.

Lots of friends and good food this week was a saving grace. I’m happy to say that despite feeling like crap, I neither overate or restricted. I ate mostly to plan, with a bit of improvisation, and kept it pretty real. I had a small choccie. I enjoyed my morning coffees. I let my body’s rhythms happen without too many extremes despite how extreme my emotions felt at times. Not all my coping mechanisms were super, but they were mine and middling. So that’s a pretty good week, I reckon, given how much pressure I’ve been under.

We’ve decided, going into week 4, to finally take Mish Bridges advice and cook on weekends a fair bit for the week because it’s pretty hard to fit everything in. That will make my week less stressful. Here’s to the coming week and hopefully getting to the gym a bit more 🙂 and I plan on hopefully visiting my friend Sarah next weekend for some kayaking hijinks!


Snarling #12wbt: fertility and self image


I’ve been struggling so much to love my body on a fundamental, deeply emotional level in the last six months.

As many folks know, my husband and I are trying to have a baby. And we got pregnant easily last October; ridiculously easily. Within a few weeks of trying. We were both excited/terrified to be parents and spent a solid two months prepping and planning for our little jellybean to arrive (who from the start we named Elliot.)

And then, as easily as they came to us, bub was gone. We lost our little Jelliot bean in early December. It was my second loss, and my husband’s first – I lost my first baby, August, in February 2009.

Since then I’ve been incredibly angry at my body. Deep down, undeniably, bone achingly angry. I feel broken, and terribly incapable.

And now, undergoing fertility testing, my body has just become a site of emotional and physical trauma. It feels like all it gives me is pain, and heartbreak. I have felt, more than once, that I’d replace it with a new one if I could.

So doing the 12 week body transformation is about way more than just eating and moving for me. It’s about starting to get to know my body again, to try and get pleasure and health back. To forgive it, to enjoy it, and to start quarrying these massive stones of anger out, so that something beautiful can flow in.

Wish me luck! 


Snarling #12wbt: Fat yoga & the importance of body listening


yoga mat

One of the things I love the most about being connected with movement, is really “listening” to my body.

I know this sounds like hippy dippy bollocks, but I woke up this morning early and didn’t fall naturally back to sleep, so I got up and did a morning yoga routine with Adriene over at Yoga With Adriene. She came highly recommended to me (along with Curvy Yoga and Yoga Glo by many friends – everyone has a great yoga favourite! I like her because she’s laugh out loud funny sometimes and makes me feel ok to experiment and trust my own instincts – which as a beginner, is important, because I have a LOT of anxiety about getting yoga movements “right”.

Fat yoga is hard, though. My body just isn’t a flat thing that can glue itself like a board to the mat. Laying prone is hard because I have an ass, and that ass gets in the way. I’ve finally kind of found a way to lay flat, which involves drawing my shoulders way back and in, and pulling my butt up to my knees. It took me a while though. Many yoga movements are not designed for fat bodies, but they should be.

I’m going to have a deeper look at Curvy Yoga and see if it’s for me. I really enjoy it when someone comes up with an idea and is like “hey! I’m going to make this accessible!” Accessibility is golden, man.

One of the things that I think could be encouraged and talked about more is “listening” to bodies, rather than wholesale listening to external messages. Bodies are not always, but often, good at telling us what we need. Mine said “wake up! do yoga!” and often it says “eat! I’m hungry!”. And learning to listen when full, or tired, or too sore to exercise, or about to pull a ligament, is really important too.

It may sound like crunchy granola nonsense, but I’m trying to get more adept at this.


Snarling 12wbt: disrupt the skinny narrative already


A comment that Mish Bridges made in one of her mindset videos last week has stuck in my brain like (as Josie Packard from Twin Peaks would put it) “some haunting melody”.

She talked about people who exercise but don’t lose weight because they eat more than their calorie burn. She cites the example of people who are “fit and strong but they’re not losing weight”.

Hold the phone, MB. What exactly are you saying here?

This encapsulates so much of what’s wrong with fitspo. It claims to be about health, but ultimately, unavoidably, inextricably, you have to WANT to be skinny too, or you’re not committed to your health. And there’s apparently something so objectively BAD about fatness that even if you’re super fit and strong, you’ve still failed. Being small is just that important.

This is an utterly toxic message. As a teacher, and a person who wants to have a child, I’m absolutely furious at the idea that fitness is not enough. Well, I actually don’t think it should be a value in itself upon which we judge people’s worth or success. But really? A fit strong fat person is always a failure because they’re…well because they’re fat?

I’m doing the 12wbt to get fit and strong and yet I’m working hard to be in love with the body I have. Because you know what, I deserve that. I deserve to be totally happy as I am. And I downright refuse to value skinny for skinny’s sake.


Snarling 12WBT Week One: sweet potato is god & nope I will not measure. Nope. Nooope.


Let your words be anything but empty: why don’t you tell them the truth? Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out.

– Sara Bareilles

This week was the first week of the Michelle Bridges 12WBT, and I started with a very open mind and a resolve to take it all on and discuss it all in myself. To be brave as I threw myself under the trigger bus. Really. And I spent surprisingly less time being angry and rolling my eyes than I thought I would (though those moments definitely *happened*).

I’m not totally sure how to break these posts down, to be honest. There’s so much to be said about fitness and eating programs, so much to be shaken out by the roots – some stuff deserves props, and that spectrum goes right through to “jesus wtf now I’m going to go cry in the shower” kind of awful. So I’m just gonna go ahead and use headers to organise myself and my many meandering thoughts.

My pre-season promises to myself

Michelle Bridges has two stages to her program. There’s the “pre-season” which comes with a whole list of tasks and homework to get you prepped for some of the Round, which took me about four weeks and included everything from pantry chuck-outs to making personal goals. The Round is the 12 weeks in which you are actively following a meal plan and exercise plan.

One of the tasks is, as I said above, making personal goals that are measurable, observable and realistic. From the very beginning I knew the BIGGEST parts of my journey were not around how many squats I could do, or how many veggies I was eating. My biggest challenges were around how I was going to let the program influence my increasingly positive and yet so fragile relationship with my body and not fucking hating it.

So here’s my promises to myself.

  • I will not measure or weigh myself throughout the 12 weeks. Why, you ask? I wrote about that right here. 
  • If the pressures and triggers of the program mean I lapse and do weigh or measure myself, I won’t punish myself for it. I’ll talk to a friend and get a hug and work out how I could respond in a more loving way to myself next time.
  • I will follow the most generous meal plan. I will not engage in crazy calorie restriction. 1200 calorie plan NOOOOPE.
  • I will train my eye away from caloric information, and focus on ingredients. I will continue to view food as experiences, not food as fuel. FUCK the idea that food is just fuel.
  • I will take care to talk back to Michelle Bridges in my head, and my own internal Mean Girl. My internal Mean Girl uses words like “should” and “must” and “bad” and “excuses” when thinking about food and working out. Whereas the loving, Sara Bareilles voice in my head says stuff like “honey you’ve got a headcold, don’t you even THINK about going to the gym. Couch, tea, snuggles and chocolate STAT.” The Sara Bareilles voice doesn’t use shame tactics. She wants me to be happy and well and acknowledges that guilt and shame and restriction are the other dangerous side of the compulsive eating coin. Brain Sara Bareilles is human, and empathetic, and knows it’s all part of a Bigger Picture. Unlike Michelle Bridges, Brain Sara Bareilles doesn’t subtly mock me (yes, she actually does this in the Mindset Video “Getting The Most Out Of Your Exercise”) for feeling shit about dragging my tired ass to a cardio sesh. She’s like “oh boy, yeah. That’s balls. Being tired is hard!”
  • I will note thoughts that focus on weight loss rather than feeling good, energetic. I will note thoughts that focus on results and not inhabiting a state of being. I will try to write them down and think about them.

So, those are my goals. Onto week one, and what it held.

Let’s tackle the first elephant in the room: the goddamned name

Nooooo, Michelle Bridges, whyyyyy. Bodies do not need to be transformed, they need to be inhabited. The word ‘transformation’ is like lighter fuel for delicate, regularly mown over self images in women.

I’m sorry not sorry, but an emphasis on “transformation” when it comes to our bodies is rarely ever helpful and is almost ALWAYS a way to other people, disconnect folks from their bodies, and make shit emotionally hard.

I feel like I would get behind a name like “12 Weeks of Eating Some Rad Food and Moving A Bit Hopefully With Friends and Not Feeling Too Shitty About It” but I guess that’s not as catchy.

The pressure to quantify is on!

Michelle Bridges REALLY wants me to weigh and measure myself. A LOT. And she REALLY wants me to count calories. In both pre-season tasks and round tasks, and Mindset Videos, Michelle is allll about those constant reminders. There’s checkins to be completed and she tells me “you’ll regret not doing this task” and “don’t forget to count every calorie”.

So far I’ve found it pretty easy to step back from this part of things. I guess I’d already done a lot of work before the program kicked off thinking about and acknowledging that this would be present. I know that calorie counting has only ever been negative for me – and honestly, I’m not sure what the point of it is in a program that already has every meal tailored. That’s part of why I actually chose the 12WBT – because I could just eat what was basically provided for, and didn’t have to do any number crunching.

There’s some really contradictory messages too – in her first Mindset Video she talks about how the “overall journey” is what counts (a globalistic, helpful thought) but then counters that one needs to focus on everyday minute details (a bizarrely contradictory, worry inducing and unhelpful, triggering thought).

12WBT is presented as white and abled and mostly for cis women

Every inspiring story is a cis woman. I mean, I think we all pretty much can take it as a given that a program like the 12WBT is popular PRECISELY because women have way more pressure to reduce body mass than men. And 12WBT is so uncritically mainstream that no, I’m not surprised that pretty much all the Inspiring Womenz are cis women.

There’s also not one single representation or exercise program provision that I can easily find on the 12WBT website or options that takes into account that many women have disability, and have a variety of bodies and thus need to/can exercise in different ways/at all. This is not inconsistent with our culture of ableism around fitspo and health tropes in general – at least the This Girl Can campaign in the UK included one participant with Down’s Sydnrome. Do Lorna Jane and those of their ilk ever advertise with representations of women who use wheelchairs? Or exercise with prosthetics? Women with blindness? Maybe they do, but I have never, ever seen this and while there’s probably some companies and organisations that do attempt inclusivity, it’s probs almost always as exploitative Disability Inspiration Porn. 

Also, with very few exceptions, all the images of women working out and all the “inspiring stories” are pretty much white women.

So, 12WBT fails on an intersectional level, which is a shame because it could have had a bit of a bash at including and representing women of colour and women with disability. It’s not like that’s really very hard. Because Australian people of colour and women with disability are, you know, kind of everywhere.

The Forums

I honestly can’t really do the forums. It’s just an exercise in heartache. It’s like seeing all my worst, fascist body negging thoughts coming out of thousands of other keyboards. MB encourages you to utilise these for support, but it’s more like collective therapy without a guiding, helpful therapist moderating the narratives and reflecting them back.

People here talk in very punishing ways about themselves, and it’s all dressed up as fitspo (fitspiration) and self determining goal oriented enthusiasm. But if you want to know how fucked up most women are by beauty and health expectations they’re conditioned to accept from a young age, just read a 12WBT forum. It’s painful, and like reading my own journal. And it hurts because I have so much empathy and solidarity for these women, and wish I could reach out to them but as I know from experience, that’s not always useful or welcome.

I really wish women didn’t need to get together to collectively bash ourselves in order to move and eat delicious nutritionally balanced foods. But it’s a part of our culture that leaps from the pages of these forums. As far as I can see, there’s not a whole lot of moderation of the community pain by the 12WBT mods, either.

So, no forums for me.

The food: delicious sweet potato and privilege

Is delicious. But not easily veganisable, at all. Vegetarian, yes, but omitting all the dairy is a pretty big struggle with the meal plans. I think a good evolution of the program would be to include a vegan option and I would be VERY eager to jump on that.

Sticking to the Move2 program, which has the most generous calorie input, I’m not really hungry and also don’t overeat (which I define as feeling too full, a feeling I find as uncomfortable as eating too little and therefore not desirable). The meals are pretty rad, and my picky husband is mostly enjoying them too. The best thing this week was the chilli beans and sweet potato which was OH MY GOD DELICIOUS. As a foodie, I’m loving the challenge of cooking new stuff. New yummy stuff! My love of baked beans for breakfast has also been encouraged, and I’ve got time for any program that recognises the Real Ultimate Deliciousness of baked beans.

One thing I really like is that you can pick and swap things in and out, and there’s still lots and lots of lactose free options, so you can minimise and exclude dairy and eggs if you’re fiddly and clever. The plans are realistic for time, the snacks are filling, and MB encourages you to prepare food on weekends and freeze it so dinner doesn’t take forever around work and exercise things.

There is some definite, hard to avoid privilege involved in the food items, and the food for week one (which took into account breakfasts and lunches for me, and dinners that included husband) set me back around $200. I can afford this as a full time worker, who enjoys relative economic privilege, but a single mum on centrelink or a student would NOT be able to afford this. This is something that is almost never acknowledged by health gurus – that “healthy eating” is quite expensive and not an option accessible by a huge amount of people. It’s a bit rich to lay a food guilt trip on someone for whom 2 minute noodles is the extent of their means. I was poor for way too many years before now, so I keenly remember being in that situation.

Anyway, I DID have bundles of energy this week due to a nice balanced meal plan and I work with toddlers. Props, MB. Props.

The exercise is not horrible but then again, I had a head cold

I was actually really pumped to do a bunch of the exercise this week but Monday brought massive relationship issues which demanded my attention and care (no, you do not go and do exercise when your spouse needs you, that makes you a shithouse spouse) and by Wednesday I had a headcold. So I got one workout in, which was a massive bummer.

The exercises laid out for the move2 program mode are actually a bit easy for me so maybe next week I might do some of the beginner mode plans because I do like to push myself a bit with exercise (not too hard, but enough to be like WHEEE, I DID A THING!).

I am not endeavouring to exercise every single day that MB tells me to (five to six workouts a week might make me cray-cray) but I am endeavouring to move as much as I possibly can. I feel like four times a week is achievable, but we will see what I can realistically fit in once I’m over this ridiculous sinus thing. I have PT on Mondays, so that’ll replace one workout. At the moment I prefer the gym to outdoors workouts, though I did feel a bit self conscious when I was there last week, squinting at my paper printout of exercises while nearby a ridiculously fit MB lookalike did step-ups so rapid I felt dizzy on her behalf.

Week one in conclusion?

Feminist eye-roll exercises aside, it’s been ok. I’m very aware all the time that I’m doing this stuff of my privilege, which has been interesting/unexpected. And I’m managing to lol my way through the bits that are emotionally hard, and soooo far, I haven’t been triggered so much that I’ve deviated from any of the goals I stated above. There were a few moments where I teetered on the edges – where I had moments of forgetting that this is supposed to be an overall guideline, not a diet. And I talked back to myself in those moments. And the talk-back worked and my thoughts naturally flowed back to healthier places.

But all in all, my head is on straight, I had a couple beers with my husband on Friday instead of eschewing them for rocket, and I’m not making myself go to bed hungry. When MB is a Mean Girl, I’m giving her a hug in my mind and fantasising about talking to her about feminism over coffee. That helps a lot – remembering that miss Mish is just as much a protagonist in her own struggle too.

I really hope there’s more sweet potato next week though. So much, you have no idea.


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