Category Archives: Politics

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.

Advertisements

Snarling 12WBT: A feminist takes on the Michelle Bridges program. Week by week.


2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show

[Harvey Keitel:] Ms. Third ward, your first question – what is your aspiration in life?
[Beyoncé:] Oh… My aspiration in life… would be… to be happy.

(Pretty Hurts, Beyonce, The Visual Album).

As part of my journey at the moment to understand my body and my relationships with food and exercise, I’ve been seeking structure.

Sometimes in life I think it’s powerful to admit when you just aren’t strong at organisation. For instance, at work I bring a lot of creativity and passion to leadership in programming and pedagogy, but organising locker tags? A big fat nope. I’m never going to be the lady with a neat and tidy bedroom 100% of the time (unlike my neat freak partner whose love of order is Sheldon-esque).

And having a history of disordered eating is as it sounds: dis-ordered. Disorganised, chaotic, subject to the whims of emotion and external/internal/historical influence. I swing all over the place and cycles of restriction and binging are often exacerbated by being time poor. Exercise, which I love, also goes out the window and gets complicated by emotions and life pressures and plain tiredness. My job is high stress and emotionally/physically/intellectually exhausting. And my relationship and baby making plans have demanded a lot of me lately, and they have definitely pressured my relationship with my body as well.

I’ve sought structure in the past from nutritionists who’ve left me always wanting more, and I don’t have the cash to afford coaching intensives from expensive dieticians and they only vaguely address exercise. “Move more and eat less” is the vaaaaaguest statement ever when it comes to the huge complexities of how we inhabit and understand our bodies. What does that mean day to day? I know eating nutritionally balanced food and enjoying movement (having fun!) are things that make me feel great, but finding a structure to follow has always eluded me. I just cannot generate that shit on my own.

So I started looking for a program I could follow to help me get a handle on disordered eating and start to get into regular exercise patterns, and as a feminist, pretty much every choice sucked. Pretty much NO PLAN allowed you to eat without calorie counting, and had exercise coaching, and everything made me grumpy. Everything seemed to have fat shaming built into it and it was all about goal-orientation – the goal being to reduce body mass. Because that’s like, everything, amirite?

So, left with few truly good choices, I decided to live in the grey. Perhaps I could take what I needed from a program and critique the unhelpful bits. If I worked on my self talk at the same time as benefiting from some structure around eating and exercise, and used this as a chance to actively trigger myself and work on more helpful internal responses to those triggers, I would actually grow a lot more than if I avoided using any program. What if I used the benefits found, and challenged the problematic messages with critical reflection? It’s not a common approach, but it is a pretty genius one.

After lots of thinking, I found the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation and decided to give it my money – at around $19 a week for 12 weeks, it was a shitton less expensive than seeing a dietician and would probably have similar content.

This program is something you could have a body posi feminist field day with. Alongside the (really delicious, filling and nutritionally balanced) meals and (not too horrible) exercise plans, there is both some truly helpful and truly triggering content and thinking.

My intention? To complete the program and reflect in this blog critically as a feminist to de-construct it as much as I can and give some idea of what it feels like to be inside it. I will live out loud here, in the grey, taking good bits and critiquing the bad bits – from recipe discourse to discussion of body types. Hopefully this will act as a self reflection tool while acknowledging the nuanced reality that I live in: that to access health support, we have to work very hard as feminists on our mental health to disassemble body fascism as we encounter it all “mixed up and in” the very support we are accessing.

I refuse to be a blank eager canvas who slurps up what health gurus dish out. Nooope. Maybe, just maybe, we can talk back to the messages and triggers, pull them apart, and put them back together in ways that make more sense to us and are less punishing. Maybe having these conversations about moderating rather than rejecting health narratives is super important. I think so.

I’m going to be talking once a week about, in real terms, what it feels like to work through health messages mixed into much needed support. As well as stepping through how this negatively and positively impacts my relationship with my body, and everything in between. As a fat, queer, non neurotypical woman with disability and a history of disordered eating, who is time poor and has a real, busy life – how does the 12wbt feel in application?

In the words of Queen Bey, pretty hurts. And so very many health gurus are, underneath or even on top of everything they preach, mixing in some very painful ‘pretty’ with some good advice.

I hope other feminist women who may also be utilising some of the tools provided by the 12WBT program can follow along, and those enjoying journeys with their body in general.

I’ll also be tweeting a feminist critique throughout the process using the hashtag #feminist12wbt and you can follow me over the 12 weeks – @geekhag

Here’s to squats & snark!


How I know me: A jubilee year of personhood over numbers


TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses eating disorders, body image and exercise and eating habits. Whilst it is positive and hopefully affirming, I acknowledge it may trigger aspects of the eating disorder cycle and difficult feelings. Please read it in a safe space at a time when you feel able (or not at all). ❤

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a21/19927256/files/2015/01/img_0143.jpg

This year I refuse to be weighed or measured. I refuse to count one single calorie.

The Judeo-Christian idea of a Jubilee period is something I learned about a child from the Bible I no longer believe in, but it remains interesting to me – the idea that at a certain time in a calendar cycle, there was a time when slaves were freed and their lands returned to them and “liberty” was proclaimed. I remember reading the following in Leviticus:

“Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”

I’m not keen to co-opt concepts of Roman slavery in antiquity as a white woman with privilege, because I have zero experience or history of this in my community, yet the Biblical idea of a time when liberty and amnesty was granted is something I found interesting when I was little. It seemed a bit mysteriously wonderful to my young mind (even though as an adult it seems not at all equal to liberty or freedom or social justice. Abolishing all systems of slavery would have been a lot more effective than a Jubilee.)

I wonder in a much more general sense how often we grant liberty and amnesty to ourselves. Specifically, imagine having the state of ignorance of the statistics we all know about our bodies returned to you. Imagine giving yourself permission to say no to this way of knowing about bodies.

Imagine if you didn’t know how much you weighed, and had never known. Imagine your life if scales with the intention of weighing human bodies had never been invented, or used in that way. This may not matter to you, but for those to whom it does matter: just imagine having no concept of your body in numbers. Dwell for a moment on what that must feel like.

We are all weighed and measured at various times in our life, and we often consent to this practice without much thought, or in many cases, with eagerness. The practice of (particularly women’s) bodies being analysed through a numerical lens is something that is so culturally acceptable and preferable that we don’t stop to question it. In fact, we are told that it is part of sound medical science and a keystone to being healthy. But is it?

There’s probably a handful of times when being weighed is vitally medically necessary, but there’s very little reason the vast majority of people need to own bathroom scales. My friend Sarah gave the example of being weighed when she gives plasma (something to do with calculating how much plasma is in her blood, or how much to take, or something!). But do you need this number disclosed to you? What do you profit from knowing it?

Where does our thirst to know our body weight come from? Obviously it’s socially constructed; nobody is born with a burning thirst to know their body weight (except for the little scientists among us who may yearn to know all the things!). I personally think that the urge to see a number and keep track of it over time is much more developed among women (in this I include all women, not just cis-gendered women). In most cases, the urge to weigh oneself and the blithe acceptance that doing so is a good thing is not something seen in childhood often – I work with young children and have also worked with primary schoolers, and in my experience the majority of “weight talk” sets in with almost exclusively girls towards the end of primary school – around 12. By high-school, the process of weighing and measuring oneself and it’s cousin – calorie counting – has become entwined with social success and status, personal knowledge, and self esteem.

I don’t remember when I first began twisting a tape measure around my waist and thighs, or when I first stepped on a scale. I was probably 14 at an outside guess. I grew up in a house where my mother was not very happy with her body, and nor were my female friends, but it was never mentioned by my male relatives or peers. My mother talked a lot about food, nutrition, and the shape of her body – she hated her knees and arms and would go to great lengths to buy clothes that didn’t exhibit them to the world. Later in life she lost a significant amount of weight, and that was somewhat of an extension of the same set of feelings – except once she’d lost the weight she had many emotional processes around feeling free and unburdened of worry, yet still a fixation on numbers (and worry wasn’t far away – it could come back as soon as a few kilos were gained back). My female friends talked a lot about their bodies – mostly from the point of view of dissatisfaction and resentment. Knowing numbers was a very real agent of that – it both acted as a catalyst for bad feelings about the self, and as evidence of complicated disturbances in our psyches in which we could look at a number and see our worth, see it going up and down, betrayed or edified by what the swinging indicator pointed to on the scale.

I’ve reflected a lot on my disordered eating and struggles with body image over the years. In 2012 I engaged in probably the most marked restriction episode of my life. I live with EDNOS or OSFED (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified or Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder) that involves components of restriction and compulsive overeating, which present themselves in a cycle that has distinct characteristics that I now understand a lot more than I did as a younger woman. Golda Poretsky outlines this in her brief piece (ignore the sell at the end) ‘Why Portion Control Doesn’t Work and What to Do Instead” with a graphic that sums up how the EDNOS cycle generally works (with variations of course for most people). And there’s a mostly very good piece on Oh She Glows about binge eating (what I’d probably say is the “best fit” for behaviours I have – it’s a misconception that binge eating lacks a restrictive phase. Oh yes it does!).

In that year, that restrictive episode saw me losing a very very large amount of weight in just four months by starving myself and practicing exercise bulimia. I received massive social rewards for this, which were not very critical – nobody except one or two close friends saw through the good game I talked (oh, this is a feminist action, I feel so empowered…by my constant gnawing sense of hunger and fatigue? Hmmm.) And they were afraid to speak to me about it because they knew I would viciously reject their worry, and they were right – I would have. Because the numbers on the scale were going down, and this meant my worth as a person was increasing in the complicated dance most of us, but particularly those of us with eating disorders do. I didn’t want to hear opposing views. I was winning. I wrote an elated post on this blog about how incredible I felt and the restrictions my therapist had encouraged, and how I would never go back. Since then, I’ve gained all of that weight back and more. The cycle continued.

By radically reducing my body mass, I was winning. Unfortunately, this aspect of disordered eating and exercising is almost always met with social acclaim except in the most physically obvious cases of malnourishment, hospitalisation, and a reduction of body weight that is so observably intense that people suddenly go “oh! That’s not good…” But the processes of extreme behaviours are similarly pre-occupying, regardless of how observable your body in the process is, and the defence mechanisms to protect restrictive behaviour from critique are strong. Basically, fat people with restrictive components of disordered eating are mostly rewarded for their restrictions, regardless of the thought processes behind it and their indicators of poor mental health. In my case, that bout of restriction was linked to trauma from violent assault and feelings of being alone when my partner left the country mere weeks after that assault. My mental health took a dive, and with it went my ability to self regulate my emotions and so I went down a path of starving and power walking for hours a day. I was not a well woman.

What part did numbers play in prolonging and encouraging this restrictive episode?

The emotional hullabaloo in me each time I weighed myself on bathroom scales, or was measured by scale and tape at the doctors office was intense. You wouldn’t know from looking, but I felt huge anxiety and fear each time I stepped on the scales – and as the kilos dropped away, that began to mix with excitement and eager anticipation. Weigh in day became a craving for more and more loss. At the doctors office, the receptionist and doctor would beam, congratulating me loudly in front of the full waiting room for my “successes”. My doctor did not once stop and ask me how I was doing it, how I was feeling, and what my thought processes were. There is very little attention paid to mental health when people are clocking up the numbers (or clocking down, rather). I shouted my numbers from the rooftops with pride – on facebook, to friends, and became avoidant of people who didn’t react exactly as I wanted. My partner was bemused at my weight loss and didn’t express approval even once – he was very cautious to comment, and I think didn’t know what to make of it. He certainly didn’t affirm me. I was disappointed, and so sought out the approval of my instagram community and facebook friends – some of the most hearty approval came from other women who themselves had “struggled” to reduce their own body mass. The fixation on numbers is a self sustaining aspect of EDNOS – you will seek out whatever community you can find to feed your habit. EDNOS is a disease and it is a part of you that wants to survive. I think of it like a cockroach living inside me – it will do whatever it needs to in order to remain the last critter standing and it is very hard to root out and crush effectively.

I would like to say that the numbers didn’t matter, but they mattered hugely. Knowing at all times what I weighed was very addictive, and I would often step on the scales every day. I wanted digital scales, I wanted something more and more accurate. I wanted to see even a gram drop away. Perhaps for people who do not have disordered eating this is less intense, but it is still there. The numbers on scales and on tape measures, and the calories you count will, at the end of the day, make you Feel Stuff. And sometimes that Stuff feels good. Critiquing the good feelings, not just the bad feelings, is not something encouraged by most people around us.

A huge realisation I had was that by knowing numbers, I was engaging in not only EDNOS thinking, but in one of the fundamentally most destructive aspects of late stage capitalism – the idea that people are only worth their productivity. As a teacher, I fundamentally reject the idea that my children are only as good as their results, or the pretty things they make. What is beautiful is their learning and that’s all in their process. Their art, their music, their physicality, their cognition – all of their beauty is in their doing and being, not in the sum of their production.

So why is this different for me? In focussing on my body as a product, I separate from processes of wellbeing which can be found in eating well and moving to the best of your ability, and being in these things for their own sake – for enjoyment and vitality and loving one’s place as an alive thriving animal. EDNOS and capitalist thinking fractures my mind from my body and this divide distracts from the beauty of existing as a whole person. Beauty, as they say, moves. Why is it ok that beauty is a trophy with a number on it?

So let’s do it. Let’s ask those questions.

Why do you need to know how much you weigh? Does it make you a better partner, a better professional, a better parent, or a better person? What can you possibly get from knowing these statistics? Outside of some very small cases of medical necessity, why do you need to know?

And what happens when you know? What happens in your heart? What do you think and feel? If it is intensely gratifying for you, why is that?

What parts of yourself do you damage by knowing? What parts of you shrivel a little and change with this gratification or devastation? What happens when the number drops into the pool of your selfhood and creates ripples? What do you stop doing, and stop enjoying, and stop engaging with because you know these things?

My challenge for myself is to return to a state of not knowing how much I weigh, what my waistline is in inches, or how broad my hips are. I will not allow a doctor or a personal trainer to wrap a measuring tape around my thighs, and I refuse to do it myself. I won’t step on a set of scales, and I’m throwing the ones I own in the bin. I won’t count calories, and I will avoid reading nutritional panels that indicate them.

I won’t engage in conversations in the staffroom or with friends about kilograms and calories. I will eat my lunch away from them if I have to. And if I have the strength to insert some critique into those conversations, gently and lovingly, I will.

Does this mean I have to stop caring about my health? Actually, I have big plans for my health this year.

I plan on finding a personal trainer who can help me get into routines of moving and eating that don’t injure my personhood, but instead heal the fractures I’ve experienced and help me reintegrate body and mind. There will be goals, sure, but they will be around process and how I feel – for example “look at my thighs and enjoy how they feel in my hands and write down three positive things I do with my thighs” or “see if I walk for a while today and be thrilled for trying!”. “Make a BIG delicious salad and eat it slowly and RELISH IT.” These statements may not be perfect and I will develop others, but I am making a start on moving away from conventional ways of framing successes regarding my health. There will be times I will struggle with EDNOS and I will talk to my PT about those times and involve them – critiquing my urge to restrict or overeat and sticking to moderation and generative self-talk that encourages a disruption of the EDNOS cycle.

Basically, I’m no longer willing to be a product. I see that processes are what create states of emotional wellbeing along a spectrum – some processes need active pushback to resolve their energetically destructive influence, and others that help me and make me feel more whole need a little bit of tending to so they grow and thrive. I wholeheartedly agree with Oh She Glows who has this to say about the importance of changing processes:

I honestly do not think that I could have beat binge eating if I didn’t stop restricting my intake. This took me a long, long time to realize and I hope to be able to save some of you some time too. When I finally stopped restricting my intake, I allowed myself to eat when hungry and I stopped counting calories and weighing myself.

If you leave this article thinking that you couldn’t possibly stop measuring yourself, please think again. I actually think we can stop, as individuals, and we can resist it as a culture and move towards wellness. And I wonder this:

If for a whole calendar year you didn’t once know a measurement of your body mass or size, and asked medical and health professionals to withhold it from you too – or to not measure you in the first place – what would happen? If you simply moved and ate with enthusiasm for moving and eating, with no number known, what would happen?

What in you would grow and expand to fill that place? What could you feel and what could you stop feeling?

It’s an interesting question to ponder. Give yourself a year off – heck, maybe more! – from knowing your body through numbers, if you can.

I’d love to hear about how you’re going and maybe we can support each other.


Blurred Lines: a shining pop moment in rape culture


TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR RAPE/NON CONSENT.

I don’t watch The Voice nor do I own a television. Sometimes I’m glad of this.

However I do read Mamamia in my Twitter feed and they posted this article about a new (trout-slap-to-face) provocative video doing the rounds.

‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke has lyrics that talk about leering and crotch rubbing over a woman who won’t say she wants it when he *knows* she does. She’s a ‘good girl’ but she ‘must wanna get nasty, the way you grab me’. She’s called a ‘bitch’ and is told he has something ‘big enough to tear [her] ass in two’. Hell, doesn’t matter how you feel, girl – Robin Thicke is ‘going to take it’ because he ‘hates these blurred lines’.

The video too is a wonderland for rapists and men who need confirmation bias that rapeculture is just dandy. With nude models as arm candy – bored faces and tits out (including the very unsettling images of models with arms half covering their chests in body language that read as defensive, self protective) Robin Thicke is a hyper masculine walking cock in a well cut suit and shades. He’s the fuel MRAs with keyboards dream of. He’s what too many men aspire to. He’s the guy who is so effortlessly cool in blowing smoke in that pretty girl’s face and clamping his will over hers. You know you want it. And you’re sure not getting a choice, yeah? He whispers it in her ear in the clip enough times so surely it’s happening.

So in other words: a rape anthem. That’s what we have here.

Robin Thicke, let’s break this down in some easy steps. Let’s pull apart your choices here and talk about the obvious flaws in your ‘big dick’ logic.

1. Assumed consent is not the same as consent. Just because you think I want it does not mean I want it. Until you’ve sought and gotten an active yes, assume I’m saying no. There are no blurred lines here.

2. I can remove consent at any time. And consent for one activity does not imply consent for all. If I’m grabbing at you, assume that’s all I want until I say otherwise or until you ask and I answer. And that’s not blurry either: I have the right to do only what I’m comfortable with, and the right to stop anytime.

3. Telling me I want it over and over until I give in is not sexy: it’s coercion. On behalf of every teenage girl or wife or mid twenties girlfriend who has had her ‘mind changed’ – fuck you.

4. Body Language matters as much as words. If my body is closed, withdrawing, bored, covering up, evasive then these are all good signs that I do not want you. And I may be enjoying myself and then stop enjoying myself. Listen to my body.

5. Check your ego: leave your cock swagger at the door. It is not your god given prerogative to school ‘good girls’ and bring them to know the Personal Jesus of blowing you.

Robin Thicke, I want you to imagine for a moment that your song just became the reason girls right now are being pressured in bedrooms to have sex they don’t want.

That’s on you. How does it feel?


Ready for this Jelly: part 1:: The overview.


This is a blog post I believed I would never write.

In July of this year I weighed myself on a scale in my parents bathroom. I looked at the number and felt quite sad. I had been looking down at scales since I was in my teens and feeling sad for a number of reasons.

Sometimes the sad feeling had been because I felt self and numbers on scales were intertwined truths, or perhaps the number I saw was an echo of some truth about me. The larger the number, the greater the likelihood that I was a lazy, worthless, ‘bad’ (oh that word) person. Ugly, undesirable. Fat. Fat, for so many of us, has become a catchcry in our heads for outright disgust for ourselves, and our certainty that others share that disgust.

Often the sad feeling around my weight was a convenient catchment for self-destruction, depression and deep bitterness. It was a convenience that allowed me a trench of sorrow in which I could hunch and glare out.

As I got older, I stopped feeling so bad. At some point in 2009, I started to go easier on myself, and by 2011 my mental health was improving. Bipolar is a wacky ride fitted with highs and lows that exhaust you, and spates of starving myself and overeating (with lots of self-justifying behaviour, of course) went hand in hand with mood changes. I was the King of Everything one day, in charge of my breakable body, captain of the fragility of my living ship. The next day I was a furious storm of cooking, eating and living large – a nutty Nigella decrying moderation.

This is a good place to say: I believe in Fat Pride. I believe in being the people we want to be, and for many, that is being fat and fucking proud of it. I champion this.

The truth is, it always felt a little hollow for me. I was not proud, I was not being the person I wanted to be. I just made really good activisty fat pride sounds. I had a spinal injury and it hurt, and the weight was making it worse. I did not want to be fat because it was making me ill. And I did not feel able to run and jump and bend and fuck as I wanted to; I felt constantly inhibited by my fat body, that I no longer resented as fat, but merely quietly acknowledged as fat. With the endless possibilities of fatness came certain limitations that I was no longer enjoying.

So in July, I stepped on the scales – having not weighed myself in a long time, generally hating the process – and saw a number that I felt sad about. This time it wasn’t so much the number, but the feeling that I was doomed to my fat, my future of ever-expansion because my many attempts at ‘getting healthy’ as Mum has often put it, had petered out before. I was the Queen of giving up, and felt each loss of drive through the lens of a keen sense of anger at myself. I wanted the fruit but for some reason I couldn’t ascertain, I was unable to scale the tree. It was fucking irritating and reinforced all the feelings of hopelessness and failure I’d been mired in, years past.

I knew my partner loved me just as I was. I had pretty good self esteem, lots of friends, work I enjoyed, was educating myself. My fatness was only a factor in that it was making my daily spinal pain much worse, and so my seeming inability to pull myself up drove me crazy.

Sometime in August, after my partner had left for Canada for many months away, I called my psychologist. I wanted intervention, I wanted to feel I was helping myself and moving forward in some way. No matter how token.

Jo said several things that felt so controversial that I didn’t know if I could actually comply with them. Firstly, she told me to make friends with my hunger, because at the moment I was oversupplying my body with energy and I needed to stop doing so. My body would argue while I adjusted to smaller serving sizes, so I needed to make friends with it, with that feeling. That felt so anti-feminist that I wrangled with it in my head for weeks. Being told to be ok with a feeling of starvation seemed like the opposite of good advice. For a while I think it did disorder my eating – I took it on board to the point that I was enjoying my hunger too much, and scaring myself by eating too far below my lower calorie intake margin. Soon I got back on track and self corrected by talking to some friends and Jo about it, and I also got used to eating about a third of my previous servings. Making friends with my hunger was more about reconciling myself to a transitional period of serving size adjustment, and not about being ok with deprivation as a rule. Unless you’re a monk, deprivation is not a principle to live by.

Secondly, she made a couple of flat guidelines: no fried foods and no softdrinks (not even diet drinks). I have observed the first one and found it to be a good idea, because even the scent of fried foods makes me want to dive face first into a bucket of oil in total abandon. It’s like sprinkling a little coke on someone’s nostrils and expecting them to be totally fine and able to control themselves if you then plonk a cup of it nearby. It’s a sensory overload that opens a gateway to undoing the most important weapon I have had: focus.

The last thing she asked me to think about was saying to myself, when I felt panicky and hungry because I wasn’t eating as much or as often or as instantly as I would like was ‘this is not an emergency. I will get food soon. It’s ok, body. We are not going to die.’ And this worked, as a wee mantra, and continues to. It’s a form of mindfulness I guess – I see the hunger and panic and understand why I’m feeling it (horribly self-abusive attitudes to food as I grew up due to unstable homelife) BUT I just let it go by. And it does, and I am ok.

I have found this whole trek to be hard slog, but I’ve made solid progress towards reducing spine pain and yes – I’m also aesthetically happier in this body than before, even though there are many who watch my diminishing curves with despair (D, S). I feel more free in this body to do what I’ve wanted to, but this is not to say that my bigger body was inherently bad. I think apologising for our desire to inhabit a certain form is just as bad as the critique of those opposed to fatness, so I won’t do that, for my body and my journey with it is mine. Choosing to change your body is not an inherently anti-feminist position. Choosing to think you have the right to school a woman on how she handles her body IS.

I will be fat again when I bear children and that will be a challenge even greater for my spine. But I’ll face that too, and I’m sure I’ll be ok.

At the moment the greatest task in front of me is to consolidate my self confidence and work on trusting myself. I feel a strong sense sometimes of worry that I will fall off the horse, be unable to keep going, and so many other concerns. I am working right now on trusting myself, being gentle with myself, and quieting the yucky self esteem demons that are constantly pouncing out from under my quilt to poke and prod me. Being able to be mindful and let the eating and exercise maintain themselves each day, without emotion attached is an unattainable goal I think. But the striving towards it is so worthwhile.

I am able to appreciate the gifts of health this is giving me, and not in that ridiculous hyped sense of LIVE YOUR BEST LIIIIIFE!!1!, but instead in a quiet understanding that these things I do daily make a pregnancy more viable, make an overseas walking tour easier, make bending to lift up a pen less giddyingly painful. It is also nice to see my waist and hips do brain-bending tricks in a very tight black dress but though I may emphasise this to Facebook, it is not the grail.

To live well is always the grail.


Five useful things to do on Invasion Day instead of drinking beer.


Today is Invasion Day. If you’re a non-Indigenous person who lives on the land of the Eora nation – a place white invaders called ‘Australia’ – and you haven’t heard that this day is called Invasion Day, or Survival Day, or for some Sovereignty Day – have you been under a rock?

This is a day when we see the streets run blue and starry with people toting flags, beer boxes on their heads and beer bottles in their hands. It is a day that often peaks levels of violence, especially against women. If you’re a non-white person, it can often be a dangerous and intimidating day for you, as racism gets a free ride on the back of nationalistic hype.

Today, whities and non-whities drawn into overly sentimental discourse about “proud nations” and “what it is to be Australian” all miss or deliberately ignore – and in many cases, erase with derision – the genocide and abuses at the core of the birth of white occupation.

So how can we respond? I speak as a whitie with limited knowledge and only my own experience to go on, but speaking from there, I reckon there’s five things you can do to get the ball rolling.

Here are some things you can do to remember and respect the Indigenous owners of the land you are occupying, whether as a white person or a non-white settler who is non-Indigenous.

 

1. Read widely on the atrocities committed upon the Indigenous owners of the Eora nation during and after white invasion.

2. Read widely and begin to understand how things like the NT Intervention and income monitoring and control are racist functions of continuing white occupation.

3. Refuse to call today ‘Australia Day’.

4. Abstain from any celebrations your friends or family are holding. Let them know why you aren’t attending.

5. Look at what the Indigenous community are doing in terms of activism, strengthening and building their dynamic community and think about where you fit in that work.

 

I acknowledge as a white person living on occupied land, I have directly profited from occupation of land that isn’t mine. I have a lot to work on. I could be doing a lot more to listen to, think about and work for Indigenous people around me. Not being a racist dickhead should be pretty basic, though.

Go on, you can manage it. I know you can.


Roller Derby coverage is a feminist issue (but not like you might think)


Media coverage of Roller Derby, most of the time, sucks.

In one way, it is interesting, because you see the complex sexual politics of society writ large in terms of phrase, choices of focus, and what is omitted. Mostly, though, it just winds up being annoying. Even when coverage is trying hard, it usually fails hard too.

Pretty much the only coverage of Derby I can stand to read is that written by players, or that comes from within the community.

There, the writing is sport-focused, the theatre is handled with the sense of fun and irreverence and fierceness it embodies, personality is part and parcel and not drooled over, it just…is. There, it is extremely rare to see ugly misogyny and weird falling-over-self attempts at inverting stereotypes that just terminates in the enforcing of other ones.

This is because people in the Roller Derby community have their heads screwed on about their sport; for a start, they get that it is AN ACTUAL SERIOUS SPORT, and they’re living the respect it is due. No, members of the Derby community are not always politically correct and there’s work to do, but the deep sense of celebration of as-many-as-possible is there, and their feminism is a lived one that doesn’t have time to scratch itself because it is too busy empowering women on the ground. Yes, that’s a cliche some outside of the community are sick of hearing. And yet, it is still true.

This week has brought an exciting time for the international Derby community, with the first ever World Cup being played in Toronto. Team Australia is there, in all of it’s scary bruised and bruising glory. Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Adelaide, Victoria and Brisbane all have players representing them, and I am quietly squeeing my pants because my derby wifey Susy Pow (TOP5) is there, kicking ass and taking names.

So far, we’re doing extremely well, having moved through to the semi finals by this morning putting the boot into the admirable Swedish side. Next we face off with the US team. Nerve-wracking, but delicious, and so well deserved. Australia is a nation of polished, deeply skilled skaters.

But what of the coverage of this event, or Derby in general? This, and one other example I’ll be talking about, brings to light the following recurring issues when people outside of Derby, write about Derby.

1. Skaters are conceptually sexualised in ways that are not their choice, or necessarily reflect their play or personality. Further, any expression of sexuality is usually appropriated through the lens of male-gaze bullshit, rather than an autonomous, self driven thing that has pretty much *nothing* to do with dudes thinking they are hot. Just like the Starfire kerfuffle with DC comics, Derby girls regularly have their images and personas hijacked by leery media unsure how to frame them – and resorting to wank-bank terminology and phrasing. I’ve observed how actively Derby grrls hate this and how self-conscious and grossed-out (then, righteously angry) it makes them.

A great example of this is a pretty gross blog article on Total Pro Sports that cropped up this week and was widely flamed on social networking sites by people in the derby family. A slide-show of “sexy roller girls”, it contained both images of porn models in derby gear and pictures of non-consenting skaters whose images had been used to create an unabashed page for dudes and their tissue time. It was, in a word, fucked. And pretty much anyone who has anything to do with derby that I know, was disgusted by the bizarro appropriation of derby identity.

The article has been taken down now, I believe (at least, I can’t find it). But remaining on the site are patronising and offensive bullshit like “Spank That Ass”, an ‘article’ that has gems like the following –

“Roller derby may be just as fake as WWE Wrestling. However, when it is the women who are front and center in the action, it seems to be just as entertaining. Whether it is two females showing off some rather incredible flexibility, or just another spanking session, these babes and their skimpy tight uniforms are enough to spark interest in just about any heterosexual male.”

I mean, just…goddamn.

2. The flipside to this, of course, is the de-sexualisation of the sport by others. You know, when everything in the article is falling over itself to basically say “look, I know they’re in hotpants, but they’re not sluts”. Derby girls don’t consent to have themselves purified, either, and I think the effort to clamour actively away from the theatrical, glamorous and babein’ elements of the sport (which are fairly enmeshed) is actually the other side of the Madonna/Whore complex media seem to have when they write about Roller Derby. And don’t even get me started on second wave feminists and how they write about players. I mean oh my god, if you wear fishnets, you must be supporting patriarchy, right? Wrong.

A good example of this is in an article by The Guardian entitled “The Roller Derby World Cup: not your average bid for world domination”. It made me distinctly uncomfortable (and I couldn’t place why, until I wrote this post.)

The article is mostly good, but then I grew uneasy reading “This world of pseudonyms, quarterback stripes and hotpants can seem at odds with a serious sporting endeavour, but it all adds to the unique experience of watching and taking part in roller derby, and is in no small part responsible for its success and appeal.”

Why do we need to say that? Why can’t we just…cover the sport? The article has a clear anxiety about the ‘seriousness’ of derby, and if you troll internet forums and actually ignore the tenet ‘don’t read the comments’, you can find gems that reflect this anxiety in a more boiled down way. “Why do all derby girls dress like sluts?” and so on.

Ugh.

———–

One of the things I enjoy most in this world is seeing shit like this get shut down, though. Here’s a nice example, from an exchange between a derby girl on Reddit and some foolish person.

Fool: Check it out, dude! It’s a fun time, cute girls in fishnets (drool), and after about two rounds you will really get into it if you’re a sports type.

Derby girl: Fuck off.

——-==

In the end, all of this amounts to one thing for me: Derby is doing something right.

That people often don’t know how the hell to cover this sport means that people are uncomfortable. They stumble and stammer because they don’t know what the hell this is or how to handle it. Roller Derby is a sport that operates entirely outside of the box (except perhaps, the penalty box) and inverts, subverts, queers and fucks with every notion of woman-hood. Most skaters don’t think about it on that level and probably think this level of analysis is navel-gazing wankery (because you could be skating, man). And you know….exactly! That’s what I mean.

Derby, a sport run by the skaters and for the skaters, and most of those people being women-identified, is a clearly, boldly demarcated clearing circle with absolute boundaries. That boundary is thus – this is ours and we own ourselves and we love each other.

That, I think, is the terrifying challenge that Derby lays down. Derby Grrls are gender outlaws on skates (or off, for the vollies and NSOs and jeerleaders), doing feminism, and busting out fierce, self-possessed sexy (or not), athleticism, dork-antics, self care and care for others, skill sharing, taking hits, fundraising and fighting. Imperfect and varied, it is a full, coarse, punch-in-the-gut experience of what it is to be human in league with other humans.

Perhaps it is that – the uncompromising proud humanity of the skaters – that scares people most of all.


%d bloggers like this: