Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some Grossly Indulgent Self Promotion, And A Story Called Gross


I know. I know. I'm sorry. This blogging business has just gone out the window, what with the working and the minging and then being in another show at the same time and the talking about the vulvas on national television. But in the words of a Abraham Lincoln, this too shall pass, and the week after next is going to be some kind of mecca of eating dinner at normal times, doing the washing and seeing if my girlfriend remembers me. In the mean time I'm going to post this story here, a story called Gross. Gross is from The Minge-A-Zine: A Collection of Women's Writing, and it is full of the stories written by the women in MINGE, and their friends, which we collected as part of the devising process for our play, MINGE: A Celebration and Interrogation of Womanhood in New Zealand. Gross is one of 31 anonymous stories in the A4 zine, which has edited by yours truly, designed by Kimberley Berends and illustrated by Hannah Smith and Erin Banks. (Although Jem Yoshioka did our front cover art.) Basically, I'm blathering on about the zine because you can buy it! We have a shop! That sends things overseas! Three exclamation marks must mean that it's an exciting time. If you don't live in Wellington it is a cool way to support this thing I have been doing, and if you do live in Wellington you should pop yourself onto the waiting list for our remaining three performances and buy a zine in person at BATS Theatre.

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There are some things my body does that I think are gross.

I find it gross to smell a pair of tights when I take them off after walking to work and sitting in a chair all day and then walking to Kelburn and going to a meeting and then having ten beers at the pub and then dancing to Patti Smith. Those are bad tights. Those are only-can-be-worn-once tights. Well I put them in the washing machine and then wear them again but I mean they are "can’t-be-worn-consecutively-at-all-ever-tights". I find it gross, or sometimes grossly funny, when I eat gluten and fart all night. I find it gross when I eat beetroot and haloumi from Aro Cafe and my poo turns purple and my piss turns pink. Vomiting is gross. Diarrhoea, or as my dad calls it, die-horry, is gross. Underboob sweat and the milky smell of a well worn bra is gross. Squeezing a blackhead so it emerges like a triumphant maypole between my tits is really gross. Sneezing and getting drippy snot on your collar is gross. Squeezing an infected ear piercing, morning death breath, period blood clots in the bath and greasy hair are all gross things.

There is something else that my body does that is not gross.

Female ejaculation.
Squirting.
Gushing pussy fluid.
Girl cum
Vaginal geyser.

The first time this happened to me I was eighteen. I was in town with my friend Sam and we went home with two Australian DJs. As I said, I was eighteen and I feel like now that I am twenty two and wizened and bitter and skeptical I would be less inclined to believe that anyone was a DJ, but he had an Australian accent and he was staying in a hotel on the strip in Christchurch. He bought me a martini, drained the glass and then kissed me with the alcohol in his mouth. I thought it was sexy. Their hotel room had two double beds. Sam and I had sex with our maybe-DJs metres away from each other. When the DJ was fingering me, he said ‘You like that, your legs are shaking’. Thanks, I thought. Thanks, Captain Obvious.

I liked it so much that I squirted. There was a wet patch on the thin hotel sheets and I thought I had peed everywhere. The maybe-DJ said “Fuck, maaaaaaaaaan, this bed stinks like pussy.” I was humiliated. When I was leaving I couldn’t find my new Elle MacPherson undies. If I saw the maybe-DJ now I would thank him for introducing me to something awesome. Something that he thought was gross.

The fluid is not urine. It’s not regular wetness. It smells different and it feels different. It’s more like water. For me this happens more regularly now, but not on command. Sometimes it just seems to drop out. Sometimes it’s tiny little spurts. Sometimes it gushes and I feel it warm and wet on my stomach. Sometimes it’s a couple of table spoons. Sometimes it’s cupfuls and the sheets have to be changed and the bed has to air dry. It happens with G Spot stimulation, usually just before I come. I can’t really do it by myself because my arms aren’t long enough to reach inside me. My girlfriend says that first she needs to touch my G Spot, and then she has to fuck me really hard.

I do think that usually when ladies squirt in porn they might be peeing, because like I said, I can’t just do it on a whim. It looks real in queer porn though, especially when Jiz Lee squirts all over her girlfriend’s face and she loves it. I also think, from extensive internet research, that it isn’t something that all women can do. So nobody should feel bad about not being able to do this. Anatomies are really different. Just look at people's ears. Sex is not a race. Squirting and orgasms are not prizes.

But what I think the problem actually is here, is that people don’t talk about this shit. Scientists haven’t figured out what the fluid is, but they think it is from the Skenes Gland. Some tests have shown the fluid is like semen, but without the tadpoles. Maybe scientists should stop pissing around looking for planets and doing studies about everything that mothers do to fuck up their children, and they should hang out more with vaginas. Apparently not very much is known about women’s bodies because women are way less likely to donate their bodies to science when they die. So maybe now, when I die, I will donate mine under the specific clause that my gushing pussy should be investigated. I hope I live to a really old age and it makes my children smile when they have to negotiate that with the coroner or the funeral home or whatever.

Some people think that female ejaculation is a myth. I think they can come and change my sheets. So talk about it.. Gush about gushing. I shouldn’t have had to fuck an Australian maybe-DJ to find this out about my pussy.

Sometimes, when my G Spot feels awesome and then I get fucked really hard, I’ll squirt everywhere. This is awesome. This is not gross. If you think it is gross then you are an idiot.

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Minge-A-Zines are available for purchase on our Big Cartel site. NZ$7 for those in New Zealand, and NZ$10 for those who live on faraway shores. I was going to take a picture of me holding the Minge-A_Zine for further self promotion purposes, but I can't really be bothered putting a bra on. Sorry. I will save this for another day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Fury and the Furiously Busy

Despite writing a blog about being offended, and therefore living in a state of near-permanant rage, it is not that often that I get really angry. This really angry being the kind of seething anger where you feel sick and you can't see and nothing can be done about it, as opposed to my usual rage daily rage that can usually be cured by drinking wine and ranting with my friend Sarah, or by writing a furious email or buying two different types of cheese. Peter Carlisle was definitely one of those times that I felt that seething kind of anger. Another time was when my baby sister's Spanish teacher told her that she needed to watch her repuation after she kissed a boy who was not her date at the school ball, because "Christchurch is a small place" and "boys don't like easy girls". Another time was when year or so ago a friend said that Caster Semenya ought to be competing in the Special Olympics. I think if he said that now I would probably question what it was about my able-bodied privelege that meant I thought that was such a degrading insult. Still, I don't think that not quite fitting into an arbitrary gender binary is enough to classify a person as being disabled.

Another time that I felt that kind of anger was when I first saw this:

hymengel

An advert for Hymen Gel. I can't remember whether I first saw it on this tumblr or this one, but either way I felt the rage. My first reaction was the this-is-completely-fucking-ridiculous rage. My vulva is not a fucking hair tie. I don't reach for a vagina to fasten my top knot, and a vagina is not my first port of call to keep hair out of my face. But then the real rage started to set in. Rage about a culture that values virginal women, and a culture where companies exist to make money out of women who are paranoid about the tightness and the aesthetic appearance of their genitalia. Rage about a culture that values a woman for the tightness of her vagina, rather than her knowledge or abilities or experience. I also felt a smidgen of the THIS-IS-SO-MEDICALLY-INACCURATE rage, because the vagina is a fucking powerful muscle, it is not a 'use it three times and then leave it in the bottom of the shower' type of situation. And speaking of medical rage, this shit can not be good for you. These kind of products work by causing SWELLING and IRRITATION. If I get thrush from even looking at an antibiotic, I hate to think what these kinds of products do to self cleaning lady ovens.

But through the searing anger, I wondered whether this advert could even be real. So I did some googling. I found the advert listed on the Ads of the World website, made for the Salem Drug Store by the Classic Partnership Advertising company, in Dubai. I also found the Hymen Gel website, with the following mission statement:

"We provide high quality services to pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, Parapharm-aceutical and cosmetic industries in the Middle East region. We cover wide range of niche products from gynecology, skin care and pediatrics."

And then, I felt I swiftly began to feel uncomfortable about my rage, becase Hymen Gel because is a Middle Eastern product and it was a Middle Eastern advert. I felt uncomfortable for heaps of reasons. I felt uncomfortable because I don't want to sound like some white saviour, hypocritically banging on about the oppression of Middle Eastern women while my culture oppresses women in a whole pile of different ways. I might not be able to buy Hymen Gel at the Cuba Street Pharmacy, but waxers and plastic surgeons are making a mint out of Western pussy shame. I feel loathe to comment on a culture that is not my own, and a culture that I have not lived in, because I can never possibly understand the many nuances and practices and traditions and feelings. The best case scenario would be that I would inevitably end up resorting to stale stereotypes about Muslim women, and the wost case scenario would be some kind of Samantha in the market place in the second Sex and the City movie type situation. I can't deny my white privilege when I'm talking about this stuff. I can't deny that I have absorbed some of the media's fearful portrayal of Islamic culture, but I can try and unpack some of this stuff. Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things is a good place to start. One of my first thoughts upon learning the origins of Hymen Gel was about how the stakes are higher in the Middle East, because in New Zealand women are not stoned for adultery and going to the doctor to get a Certificate of Virginity before you get married isn't the done thing. And while this might be a valid point, these are simplistic thoughts. For a start, there HEAPS of different countries in the Middle East, each with different value systems. These are thoughts that other another culture, while ignoring the systemic oppression in my own. There are millions of Muslim people in the world, and I'm pretty sure that every Muslim woman doesn't feel like she has to use Hymen Gel.

I am still furious that Hymen Gel exists. I am furious at EVERY culture where women are ashamed of their genitalia, and where the abstract concept of "virginity" is prized. I am furious that companies exist to manipulate the shame that women feel through advertising, and profit from these cultural ideals. But I am a hypocrite. I have paid my own hard earned cash for a Brazilian wax. I trim my pubes. I am not immune to pussy shame. But is the hymen gel advert just an equivalent to this?




I also wanted to say, dear readers, that I apologise for the lack of posts here lately. It is not due to a want for inspiration, because I've been offended quite often recently, but for lack of time to blog about it . Forty hour working weeks (with a promotion starting soon) and rehearsing evenings and weekends for the play I am in is turning me into a psychopath. A psychopath with very little time to blog. A psychopath who only has time to eat crackers all day and who then admonishes her considerate girlfriend for making baked beans that are "too salty".

Here is the poster image for the show, MINGE:

minge poster

And while I'm at it here are some links to our Facebook page and our event, because if you live in Welllington you should come and watch. Another the reason that I've been really busy is that I have been making a zine to accompany the show, subtly and amusingly titled The Minge-a-Zine. The zine features all of the stories that we wrote and collected from our friends during the rehearsal period, in our attempt to to define and investigate womanhood, and it will be available for purchase for $6 at the show. If you don't live in Wellington, but you would like to purchase a copy of the scene you should email me, and I will post some more details here within the next week when the zine hits the printers. If you don't care about my play or my zine and you just want to read my furious rants on the internet, this blog will be back to normally scheduled fury in December. I can't wait to tackle all of the great-slash-rage-inducing things that you guys are submitting, because the most frustrating thing is not having time to write about the stuff that I want to write about. Like, I couldn't even write a post about the Marie Claire thing! (Luckily though, Lesley Kinzel wrote a really great one.)

Until next time I will leave you with this picture of me, taken as part of a MINGE photo shoot.


Photobucket

[MINGE Photographs taken by MINGE photographer Vanessa Fowler Kendall. The hymen advert photograph was definitely 100% not taken by Vanessa Fowler Kendall.]

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Sweet Bitch of the Week: The Grandmother of Orgasms


So I thought that it could be time for another Sweet Bitch of the Week post around here. A Sweet Bitch other than all of the awesome ladies who organised the abortion protest last week. The protest that I was actually able to attend because my boss read my hysterical-slash-impassioned blog on the subject and gave me a couple of hours off work. Come to think of it, my boss actually would have been a pretty good candidate for Sweet Bitch of the Week. It was a really, really great protest. There was chalk. And hoops. And way more than the reported "50 people" in attendance. Thanks for nothing TVNZ.

hoops

[Edited to add that for more photos and an excellent demo report you should head over to The Hand Mirror where Maia has written an excellent rally report, including photos and this video that Pro Life NZ took of the protest. Possibly for their spank bank?]


It was really awesome how many of you commented on that post. I was so heartened and encouraged by all of this feminist power in my city, a city that is usually powered by roti chenai and icy rain, that I was like the Energizer Bunny. If the Energizer Bunny ran on riot grrl and zines and protests and pro choice camaraderie.

But yes, I hear you loud and clear dear readers. Get on with it and get to the bit about the orgasms, you say. Your wish is my command, because we are gonna talk about sex therapist Betty Dodson, who has probably had more orgasms than you or I could shake a stick at. It is Betty who taught me about the real meaning of being sex positive and my nether regions will be eternally grateful, so I thought it might be time for me to spread the love and for you to spread your legs. I'm just going to nab this little introduction to Betty's work from an excellent interview with Dr. Lori Buckley; a podcast and transcript of which can be found here. Buckley says:

Betty is known for liberating masturbation, for hands-on women's workshops, showing women how to love their vulvas, enjoy masturbation, and how to become orgasmic. Betty is also known for her many books and films which include the books "Sex for One", "The Joy of Self-Loving", and "Orgasms for Two: The Joy of Partner Sex". Her films include "Viva La Vulva" and "Orgasmic Women: Thirteen Self-loving Divas".


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I love Betty. I can't remember whether I introduced her website to my girlfriend, or whether she introduced her website to me, but Betty is one of our mutual loves along with fried cheese and Christina Ricci. I want you to fall in love with Betty as well so I'm going to make a little list of eleven reasons why you should love her and why she is my Sweet Bitch of the Week. This is quite possibly the most mathematical that this blog is ever going to get, so lap it up numerical nerds! A word to the wise and to those who like to stay employed, these thinks are probably fairly unsafe for work.

1. I just actually love the way that Betty talks about sex. I love the way she talks about sex all over her website, which she runs with Carlin Ross, and all over her YouTube Channel, and all over her blog. I love that her work in sex education has extended to the free-for-all Internet, as well as running her own private practice in New York City, because it is this kind of positive, non-judgemental sex education that people need, not the pearl-clutching and the slut shaming and the pictures-of-pustules-and-diseases-without-any-discussion-of-pleasure-or-consent-or-thrush-or-UTIs. Just watch this video (link here). Then watch all of her other videos. Luxuriate in the way that Betty talks about sex.


2. She wrote this amazing response to the play, the Vagina Monologues, and opened up a whole new can of critical thinking. Why can't even the most pussy-centric play of our time use anatomical terms correctly? Why can't we ever talk about women and sex and women's bodies without talking about rape? Why does rape always have to be a women's issue?

3. She has the most amazing skin. Apparently her secret is "pussy power". She makes me want to orgasm into my eighties and save on my skincare routine.

4. Yes, her eighties. She is eighty one. EIGHTY! ONE! I love how she totally kills all of those stupid media representations of old person sex as one big cutesy, hilarious and/or repulsive joke.

5. She cares so much about pleasure. Because that is what consensual sex is, right? It's about doing what feels good. It's just bodies. I love how much she cares about teaching women to orgasm. I love that she runs masturbation workshops. I love that she kept running masturbation workshops after she had a hip replacement.

6. I love that her and Carlin's response to the hysterical anti-porn brigade (which my girlfriend blogged about; republished on Betty Dodson's website nonetheless) was to make a series of sex education videos. Brilliant. If you don't like something, make it better.

7. I love that she started a genital art gallery, as part of her work to normalise and celebrate different types of genitalia. I hate that it got taken down. I love that her vulva illustrations are on Scarleteen though, a sex education website for teenagers.

8. I love that there is some stuff she does that I don't completely love. I wish she wasn't quite so dismissive of the G-Spot, for example, but I get that she has an entire generation of women who expect to come from vaginal penetration alone to deal with. Also, Betty has been criticized for her support of Clitoraid, an organisation that fund re-constructive surgery for women who have experienced female genital mutilation. While I really hate Clitoraid's patronising "Adopt a Clitoris" campaign, I love Betty's response to her critics, and I love her and Carlin's tireless advocacy against FGM.

9. She identifies herself as a heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian.



10. She wrote an essay called Fucking Like a Feminist.

11. The eleventh and final reason to love Betty Dodson is simply just because this photograph of her exists. She looks like she has just popped out of training at the masturbation military. Amazing.


[If you guys are interested in this sex-positive feminism business, you should check out my girlfriend's blog that she has just started up. And tell her to post more stuff, because Stevie eats pro-sex feminism for breakfast.]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gingerly Negotiating Your Rage on the Internet


Do you know what Internet? It makes me so happy when you send me emails about your rage. I quite like getting emails in general actually, but I especially love the rage. This is possibly only because it makes me feel like I am not the only furious psychopath on the Internet, but the heart wants what the heart wants. So you guys should keep emailing me, because it makes me feel like I am reuniting with my many long lost siblings of fury. As if we were all adopted out by one extremely angry mother, and now we are finding each other through our shared distaste for idiocy on the Internet. Although, I think I'll stick with my own mum because she has a crystal necklace that spells out CUNT and she doesn't mind when I blog about cum towels on the Internet.

In the latest installment of Your Rage and My Blog, we are going to talk about this little gem here that I was sent by my pal A:

ginger hate

And A, as a sibling of Internet fury, was offended by this. She said:

'Ginger' hate has to be one of the stupidest possible sorts of discrimination. Its a hair colour! Come the fuck on. It is just senseless bullying. I think hair anywhere in the strawberry blonde- violent red spectrum is awesome. Naturally red headed people have the loveliest hair, and often wonderful pale skin freckly complexions.

People really are idiots.

Funnily enough, I happen to agree with A. And not just because I am biased. I was almost on board there with Izzy because it was a Harry Potter joke, and I do like to think of myself as bearing an uncanny resemblance to Madam Rosmerta. Almost on board, but not quite. Because I didn't find it that funny when a friend in first year explained that you call a "hot" red head a unicorn. And I didn't find this funny either:

strawberry

Decidedly no laughs there. Any possible points that I might have assigned for critical analysis of Twilight (alternatively known as Stephanie Myer's Pro Life Allegory of Stockholm Syndrome) have been counter balanced by Izzy's casual homophobia. And the strawberry blonde thing? How awkward. God forbid, letting somebody describe their body using the terms that they choose. :L indeed.

I mean, you guys probably know this by now, right? I like to be offended by stuff. And yes, blah blah, ginger hate is just a joke! I should probably calm down or get over it or lighten up or take a chill pill, or something else completely dismissive. But surely, by now I'm on record as being completely humourless and a total boner killer. So humourless, in fact, that I was one of the 700 New Zealanders who made gleefully made official complaints about Paul Henry because I'm just not that into state funded racism. So bitterly humourless, that I just don't think that ginger jokes are that funny. I don't think it's that funny to imitate all of the other types of discrimination by joking about hair colour. If it's that funny then why don't we all play a little light hearted round of eugenics? Or maybe we could sit down to a game of Khmer Rouge? Lynch mob role play anyone?

I know. Nobody is dying. It's a hair colour. But why imitate this shit? It's still bullying. It's still body policing. It's these kind of jokes that normalize how divisive our society can be. Sometimes bullying leads to stuff. And ginger hate has lead to some pretty crap stuff. And seriously, if Perez Hilton says he is going to stop bullying people, there has got to be hope for us all.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Eff You Peter Carlisle


There is a pro-choice rally in Wellington on Tuesday. I really wish that I could go. Partly because I want to feel like a proper days-of-yore feminist who goes to six protests before breakfast and then goes home to read the Beauty Myth. Partly because abortion is actually illegal in New Zealand and because getting an abortion requires already vulnerable women to jump through hoops like little sparkly-ruffed circus dogs. I'd like to go to the rally because for a woman to choose abortion in New Zealand she has to see two different doctors and she has to tell them that the continuation of her pregnancy will endanger her life, her mental health or her physical health. If she lives outside of Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland she will have to travel, often meaning many days away from work and away from her local support network. MP Steve Chadwick is currently proposing an Abortion Reform Bill to take abortion out of the Crimes Act, which surprisingly will be opposed by anti-abortion group Voice For Life. The life that they advocate for of course being that of unborn foetuses, rather than the full and healthy lives of women and their planned families. So I have a few pretty good reasons for wanting to go and protest.

But mostly, I'd like to go to the rally to say a big 'fuck you' to Peter Carlisle. I don't know who Peter Carlisle is, but he posted this on the Facebook event page for the No More Jumping Through Hoops Abortion Rights Protest and I instantly hated him:

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Needless to say, I am more than a little offended by the dismissive, misogynist, homophobic, slut-shaming and inaccurate Peter Carlisle. So were a whole lot of other open legged lesbians on the event page. Nicola made this brilliant point:

raped

Astute, although I often wish that we didn't have to use extreme situations like rape or incest to suggest that a woman should be entitled full control of her body. Hannah casually pointed out Peter's apparent lack of basic biological knowledge:

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My friend Izzy, a she-wolf if there ever was one, eloquently put Peter in his place:

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But Tessa possibly had the best argument of all:

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And just quietly, Peter Carlisle is not only poorly informed about basic biology but also about the meaning of the word contraception. He should possibly get his facts right before posting on a Facebook event filled with slutty lesbians who also happen to be pedants. Contraception is something that is used to prevent conception, so I am guessing that most women who request abortion are a little past that point. And if Peter means that women are using abortion as a method of birth control, perhaps he should go and read this awesome blog post at the Curvature. Here is a snippet:

"Because do you understand the actual words you are speaking? Do you know what birth control is? It’s right there, in the name. It is something you use to control whether or not you give birth. That’s it. Ta-da. The end. When someone says “lots of women use abortion as a form of birth control!” what they mean is “lots of women use abortion.” The extra words are unnecessary. How the hell else are you going to use it?"
I would love to go to that protest to shove it to Peter Carlisle. I would like to shove it to all of the Peter Carlisles of the world; men who think they ought to have a say in what women do with their bodies. I would love to go because full equality depends upon women having full control over their fertility. I would love to show my support for Steve Chadwick's bill, because often it is not abortion that causes mental distress, it is the obstacles that women face. I would love to shove it to Peter Carlisle for suggesting that women who have abortions are sexually promiscuous and for even thinking that the amount of sex a woman has is something that can be used as an insult. It would be great to ask him about a pile of things, like why he thinks that my being a lesbian (or at least a woman who is in a same sex relationship) somehow seems to undermine my stance on reproductive rights or why he seems to think that women are solely responsible for planning when to have kids. I would like to take him up on why he thinks it is appropriate to tell another human being to just shut their legs. I would like to tell him about how no contraceptive is 100% effective and about how nobody is perfect and about the many women who have died in back alley procedures as a consequence of limited access to safe and legal abortion . I would like to tie him to a chair and make him watch Vera Drake. I would like to ask him why he feels so comfortable with the idea of forcing his moral beliefs onto others. I would like to politely suggest that if Peter Carlisle doesn't like abortions then maybe he doesn't have to get one, but he shouldn't rob others of their personal choice.

But I can't go to the protest. I will be sitting at my desk at work devoting eight hours of my day to typing, mediocrity and capitalism. But maybe you can. Go. Shove it to Peter Carlisle.

If you live in Wellington and you want to stick it to Peter Carlisle you should go to the No More Jumping Through Hoops: Abortion Rights Protest at the Court of Appeal tomorrow, on the 5th of October. Make a stand against Right to Life is taking the Abortion Supervisory Committee to court, to try and further restrict women's access to abortion in New Zealand.Meet on the corner of Aitken and Molesworth Street at 12.30pm and wear something red. I understand that organisers are also looking for volunteers to hand out fliers this afternoon at the train station and on Tuesday morning they need help blowing up balloons. Email actionforabortionrights@gmail.com for more information or go to the Facebook event page.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Count This, Internet.

Today, I learned something from Facebook. Something other than the fact that girls from my high school are getting engaged at an alarming rate.

I was sent this charming screen cap and I learned that my big boobs don't count because I am fat. And let me tell you, Internet, that this was quite a revelation for me.

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Previously, I had been under the impression that their mere physical existence was enough to ensure that my boobs counted. I thought that surely they must count because last week I spent one fifth of my pay check on a new bra and that money has definitely left my feeble bank account. I thought they counted because the week before my period my boobs ache, like two bowling balls have been shoved in my chest. Or because of the way they bounce up and down when my girlfriend is fucking me and because of the magic of a well-timed nipple pinch. I thought they counted because of the heckling and the come ons and the cat calls and the comments, or just because of the way they fill out a t-shirt. I thought they counted because of the crescent moons of sweat that appear underneath them when I jog up the Brooklyn Hill or how sometimes when I eat risotto for dinner I'll take my bra off to get in the shower and I'll find stray grains of rice tucked in my bra. I thought that they must count for something because I can easily fit my cellphone and my lip balm down there and forget about them, and on a special occasion I can conceal a can of Pulse. I thought they counted because of how sore my back gets sometimes, which must be some indication of their weight and their presence and the fact that they count. Or because I can look down my admittedly-low-necked top and literally count them. One. Two.

But apparently, I was wrong. Because I guess, at the end of the misogynist day, the only thing that boobs count for is being sexy. And we've talked about it before, but in our culture, being fat is not sexy. But actually, I hate this and I hate this Facebook group and I call bullshit. My boobs count. Not only because they are sexy, which they are. Not only because of the sweat and the pinching and the grains of rice. My boobs count, because they are mine and I am a person.

Internet, you tell me a lot of stupid things about my body. You tell me that I am ugly and that I am also an object and sometimes a fetish and that I am an immediate death risk. I get it, you have a lot to say. But please, don't tell me that the body I eat and walk and live and breathe and dance and think and fuck in doesn't count.

I exist.

I count.


b00bs

Friday, October 1, 2010

My Fat Body - A Word On Fat Acceptance

Okay, so I know that posting this here is king of cheating because this isn't even a new post. I am working on one right now; I have my deck doors swung open looking over Aro Valley and I have a custard square from Aro Bake, both of which are critical to writing success. This article is something I have written for Jason Mann's photography project Reclaim Advertising. All of the photos that appear throughout the post are pictures of me that Jason has taken as part of the project. You can see other photos here (including this one of my lady friend) and his wonderful girlfriend Coley has written a blog post here which explains more about Reclaim Advertising, and includes some of her writing for the magazine that Jason is publishing as a culmination of his work. I apologize if some of this article is a little boring or self indulgent for regular readers, as a lot of the stuff I have touched on I have written about before on this blog. I will be less boring next time, I promise. The custard square is helping with that.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but a serious epidemic is plaguing fat people. Symptoms include headlessness, waddling and the wearing of khaki shorts. The headless fatty affliction is most visible in news stories about the obesity epidemic; news stories pinned on scientific information which is usually funded by weight loss companies or gastric band manufacturers. Often cases of headless fatty can be seen in infomercials for diet pills and for bizarre and expensive contraptions that apparently make it easier for one to do a sit up, even though all that is required is merely sitting up.

I posed in these photos for Jason Mann’s Reclaim Advertising project because I was getting really sick and tired of how fat bodies are depicted in the media, both without heads and without dignity. I wanted Jason to take photographs of me being fat and sexy, because to me that seemed like a radical act. In the media fat is not sexy. Images of headless fatties, with their waggling asses and their shifting tummies are not seen as sexual, whereas close ups on tight buttocks and rippling abdominals seem almost pornographic. In our culture ‘fat’ and ‘sexy’ are seen as mutually exclusive because the word ‘fat’ is an insult. Lately I’ve been trying to change that, just in my daily life, in between blogging and going to work and drinking whiskey. I’ve been trying to use fat as a describing word, because saying that I am fat should carry the same cultural weight as saying that I have green eyes. Which is none. Waxing lyrical about being fat should be culturally weightless, if you will.

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I decided to use the three letter F Word after reading the article ‘Does My Butt Look Fat?’ by Fat Acceptance blogger Kate Harding. Harding writes about how the word fat does not just mean fat in our culture. Harding observes that fat can mean ugly, smelly, unhealthy and lazy. Fat can mean ignorant. Fat can mean poor. Fat can mean unlovable or undisciplined. But fat never just means having more adipose tissue than other human beings.

The fat acceptance movement is trying to change that. Fat acceptance is based on the radical notion that human beings deserve respect no matter what their body looks like. It is not about promoting being fat. It is not about saying that fat bodies are better than thin bodies in the obnoxious tradition of ‘Real Women Have Curves’, because all women are real women. It is about rejecting body surveillance culture and body shame. Fat acceptance is often about separating ‘fat’ from ‘unhealthy’, and rejecting the assumption that it is possible to tell how healthy someone is based on what they look like. Fat acceptance is about how the Body Mass Index is bullshit, because unhealthy thin people are not getting the medical attention they deserve. It is about Linda Bacon’s medical mantra of Health At Every Size, because Pro-Health is more effective than Anti-Obesity. It is about ending discrimination because you can’t shame a person into being thin, because nobody wants to look after their body if they hate it. Fat acceptance is also about respecting the choices that people make for their own bodies, because health should not be a prerequisite for respect. It is about how nobody kicks up a fuss at cyclists or adventure sports enthusiasts for being a drain on the tax payer and the health care system. For me, fat acceptance has been about rejecting the urge to body snark as a bonding activity with my female friends. Fat acceptance is not just about fat people. It is for everyone, because everyone deserves respect.

I am so pants-wetting-ly inspired by the work of so many clever, insightful and provocative Fat Acceptance bloggers, whose work I have internalised and probably inadvertently plagiarised. Harding, who I mentioned above and who writes at Shapely Prose. Lesley Kinsel from Fatshionista; Natalie Perkins from Definatalie; Marianne Kirby from The Rotund, Elizabeth from Spilt Millk; Samantha Thomas from The Discourse, Frances from Corpulent; Tasha Fierce from Red Vinyl Shoes; Charlotte Cooper from Obesity Timebomb; Jessica from Tangled Up In Lace; Nick Perkins from Nicholosophy; Ragen Chastain from Dances with Fat; Melissa McEwen from Shakesville. These writers are part of a thriving and exciting fatosphere on the Internet where bloggers share their writing; where the sartorially minded post pictures post pictures and convene to discuss major ‘fatshion’ events like the release of infamous fat singer Beth Ditto’s Evan clothing range.

Saying the word fat is still hard for me, but thanks to the fatosphere it is easier than it has ever been. I have always known that I am fat. To find your best friend at my primary school you had to find someone who could fit their thumb and forefinger around your wrist. My wrist was too big. The next day I ordered only an apple from the school canteen. I was nine. By using the word fat I am trying to reverse the last thirteen years of body shame, starting with that apple. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s actually hard. Advocating for fat acceptance does not magically cure every negative thing that I have internalised about my body. I haven’t forgotten the heckling in the street or the fat jokes or the Facebook group “Big Boobs Don’t Count If You’re Fat.” I have not reached a Utopian state of permanent body love, where it rains Maltesers and where there are limitless wheels of Brie. But I am trying.

These photographs are part of that. When Jason took those photographs of me it was a counteraction to every headless fatty photograph that I see in the media. I wanted to recreate a perfume advert, and reclaiming this kind of advertising was an action against everybody who has ever said that fat people smell, or that they are disgusting. (Do you know that when Lee Daniels, the Director of Precious, started working with Gabourey Sibide he was surprised she didn’t smell?) These photographs, like pictures on fatshion blogs and like Aquaporko, a fat lady synchronized swimming team in Australia, are about normalising fat bodies and separating ‘fat’ from ‘ugly’ and from ‘unhealthy’. These photographs are about humanising fat people. These photographs are about my head. And my fat. In the same frame, at the same time. Looking sexy.


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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Rage On, My Babies: The Birth of "Your Rage, My Blog"


My dear readers, it has come to my attention that many of you are suffering from acute cases of rage. I don't hardly blame you, because we live in a time where our political representatives are either dead baby fraudsters or they see merit in banning the most vulnerable of sex workers from public vision. (Surprisingly, the Prostitutes Collective thinks that the Manakau City Bill might put prostitutes at risk. In other news, the world might remain spherical.) We live in a rage inducing time where everybody loves Christopher Nolan, which also happens to be a time where my UTI just will not fucking go away. So it is okay. I feel your rage. That is why I sit here, tip tapping at my keyboard. I needed a rage outlet or else my girlfriend was going to keep encouraging me to join a gym to deal with my aggression. So I made a blog instead, and now I just share my rage with the internet.

Basically, I've gotten an inkling about your rage recently because you've told me about it. You've sent me a whole lot of emails and Facebook messages and texts, and sometimes we have even talked face to face about how furious you are with all of the sizeist and racist and classist and ableist and transphobic and whorephobic and homophobic and misogynist and slut-shaming and xenophobic assholes that you know. So I was thinking, you guys should keep telling me about this stuff and then maybe I could actually blog about it. To do this, you should email me at alexandra.hazel.garrett@gmail.com and possibly screencap your examples of internet assholery. Examples which I can instantly and magically make anonymous through the use of Perez Hilton inspired MS Paint, and by the by, I really hope this is the first and last thing I do that is inspired by Perez Hilton. Then you guys will get to share your rage and you totally won't have to join a gym, unless you want to. And if you are going to join a gym, then you probably shouldn't join Contours, because my friend Erin told me this about it:

"Two of my workmates went to sign-up at a gym at lunch. During the fitness tests and sign-up thingy they had a weight check according to a chart on the wall. I shit you not this was the scale NORMAL > FATTER THAN NORMAL > FAT > OVER FAT"

As you probably know, I am all about using the word fat more often to try and take away some of the shame and stigma. But Contours, I'm not really sure if differentiating between 'fat' and 'normal' in such a specific and obnoxious does this. Maybe somebody could be both fat AND normal, Contours? Also, maybe not everybody wants to actually lose weight? Maybe they want to come to your gym to do this:

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[Created by Susan Surface, who is selling merchandise at CafePress, and who almost makes me want to join a gym.]

So, in the first instance of Your Rage, My Blog I am going to post something here that was sent in by my friend M, a stone cold fox who makes amazing lasagna. M felt offended when this popped up on her Facebook:

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Which yeah, that's offensive. Sure, I've never met C but this is probably just him making a little joke, because he's young and liberal and he can get away with it because obviously he's being ironic. He makes jokes like this but he's not actually sexist or anything. But actually, the things we joke about are the things we think about. And in the words of Bidisha from the Guardian, casual sexism is nothing but misogyny.

Is this supposed to be funny because equality has apparently been achieved? Because it isn't and because it hasn't. Women are still paid less than men. Abortion law in New Zealand is classified under the Crimes Act, not the Health Act, and I can't tell anyone that I'm making a play about womanhood in New Zealand without them asking if it is about periods. Which is another kind of intentionally-humorous-but-actually-derogatory statement, or in this case a question, because women are obviously so hysterical that we all couldn't hang out together without talking about menstruation. Which is actually just offensive in itself, because if we wanted to make a show about periods, or any-fucking-thing about the female body we should be able to do so without derision or even the subtlest of sneers. Because if we did, it might be fucking brilliant. Possibly somebody might even want to see it, what with the prevalence of menstrual bleeding among half the planet. But then again, every single review of the Vagina Monologues at the Basement prefaced itself with some kind of OH MY GOD HOW EMBARRASSING AND 90'S, A PLAY ABOUT VAGINAS, OH MY GOD HOW UNCOMFORTABLE commentary. But hey, I'm probably overreacting. What's the point in living, if you don't have a dick? LULZ!

Just quietly, C, was it nice when you were being kept alive inside the body of a woman for nine months? Was it good having a dick then? How about when your little minuscule baby dick was pushed through your mother's vagina and into the world, or when you emerged from the gaping hole in her stomach? A hole in the body of the woman who gave you life. I'm kind of loathe to place too much emphasis on motherhood here. Ladies shouldn't be defined by their ability to breed and there are a whole lot of women who can't have babies and who don't want to. Also because it is this kind of naturalisation of maternity and of women's work that means that stay at home parents don't get paid, and teachers and carers and nurses don't get paid very much, because it is natural and it is what women do and they are supposed to enjoy it, not get paid for it. And also, because there are people who neither have dicks nor are women, and people who have dicks but also consider themselves as female, and I don't want to get too gender binary up in here. So, C, I am aware that my argument is a little problematic, but maybe the next time you go to assert your masculinity through some casually misogynist joke, you should just remember that your mother actually gave you your dick. Maybe you should shake what your mama gave you and learn to treat women with some respect.