Monday, June 21, 2010

And introducing a Sweet Bitch of the Week.

I thought that maybe, to stop this blog becoming a ceaseless barrage of negativity, that maybe I should talk sometimes about stuff that doesn't offend me. I realised the other day over a honey cake with my friend Sarah that I no longer read Go Fug Yourself every day any more. This hasn't been a deliberate I-will-shun-you-for-your-offensive-comments cold turkey, because I do still find the Go Fug Yourself girls really funny and I really like it when they talk about the Babysitters Club or ice skating. Or at least, I like it when they talk about the Babysitters Club when I am in a light hearted mood and their insidious slut shaming is less likely to get to me. Which probably means at about 8.05am after I have just got to work, but still haven't actually done any work yet. But when I was talking to Sarah about Go Fug Yourself and their creativity-crippling panning of celebs, she used the words 'constant barrage of negativity' to describe the website. And over that delicious honey cake and my prematurely middle aged glass of sherry, I had a hallelujah moment. I realised that this was why I had stopped reading so often, and why their website had lazily slid down the list of my Google Chrome Most Visited Sites. Because I know that when I go there it will say Put Some Pants On, blah Boobs Legsly, blah Jumpsuits Are Ugly, blah Coffee Filters, blah Well Played Bronzed Looking Girl in the Inoffensive Mini Dress and Expensive Shoes, with a Hint of Peach Lipstick. Blah. And while the Go Fug Yourself girls live a life that I can only dream about, a life of tapping on their laptops and talking about celebrities and drinking Diet Coke, I don't want to be that negative. Or at least, I want to try to not be that negative.

So I thought that maybe I could introduce some kind Sweet Bitch of the Week regular segment. Where I could lazily write up a post about someone I really like, and who doesn't offend me. A time for some unadulterated positivity. And I thought that I would start with April Flores, a porn star who performs under the stage name Fatty D, and a woman who makes me grin from ear to ear.

I basically think that April is really excellent. She has questioned American Apparel for not offering plus size clothing, and she gives a damn good Jezebel interview about it. She is also a savvy business lady, talking in that interview about her plans for a plus size clothing line and her range of Cyberskin masturbator pussies, US $200 replicas of her own genitalia. These pussies inspired an awesome and insane sounding art project, the April Flores Toy Show, where people painted designs on the vadge moulds. There are some pictures in this gallery here, and if you have ever wanted to look at a pussy toy painted with psychedelic cats now is your chance. Basically, great. If you want even more reasons to love her, she participates in some this-is-so-amazingly-sex-positive-why-the-fuck-am-I-still-living-in-Wellington events, like the Center for Sex and Culture Annual Masturbate-a-thon in Portland. I seriously need to get out of here, that shit won't be happening in Manners Mall anytime soon. Definitely not at the moment, with all the bus lane digging and what not. April also interviews so eloquently and intelligently about weight and body image and feminism and the sex industry. I have a not so secret and seriously throbbing crush on her and think she is a mega babe, and I desperately want to take her out for a whiskey and pick every bit of her well spoken brains. She is an amazing porn star, who is effing good at her job and she oozes confidence and agency. Seriously, how good does this sound? (Taken from that Jezebel interview again, seriously, go and read it.

Any last words?
I am currently interviewing my friends for a documentary I am directing calledThe Women I Know. I am doing this documentary because some of the most interesting, genuine, sincere, driven women I have met have also been adult performers and/or working in the sex industry. I am so tired of people recycling old ideas and projecting their opinions on why they think we choose sex work. I have read countless opinions about our lives and what people think our motivations are. They often create these false views on us which are judgmental and entirely inaccurate. We are not victims; we are doing this by choice and having a whole lot of fun while doing it. We are not damaged or unambitious or destroying our lives. We are defining and in control of our sexuality in our own terms.

For those who are crushing, or those who want to read some more excellent interviews, there are both words and pictures at this Bizarre photo shoot, and this one.


And April, if you ever read this, call me. You are one hell of a Sweet Bitch of the Week. I feel about you how that dude in Love Actually who holds up all the signs feels about Keira Knightley.

love actually

Monday, June 14, 2010

Thinking about acting like an idiot on the internet. And sizeism. And a picture of Beth Ditto's sweet behind.

When I had the idea of starting a blog about being offended I talked to my girlfriend about it, and I sort of hoped that maybe one day I could be the go-to person that current affairs programs would interview about being offended. I would sit on the Good Morning couch wearing earrings and a sassy top, and I would give the new Mary Lambie a knowing and vaguely patronising look and say "Yup, that is definitely offensive". This lofty goal sort of grew and grew in my brain, until everyone was afraid of me because of the huge and all pervasive power that I had to deem things as offensive. When I was talking to my girlfriend about this she said that wanting to be feared possibly wasn't the best or the most reliable life ambition, and I probably sort of agreed and waggled my head around a bit and changed the subject to talk about the most positive and non-confrontational thing that I could think of at that moment in time. Like how great my flatmate Dan's new lemon zester is and how it creates really long strips of lemon rind without getting any of the pith. Or something.

But part of the writing-the-blog-about-being-offended thing was that I wanted to NAME and SHAME. I wanted the racist and the sexist and the privileged to SHAKE IN THEIR VERY BOOTS when they read about their offensive acts, and immediately realise the error of their ways and humbly thank me for tactfully drawing their attention to it. And I would give them the Mary Lambie expression and I would accept their apology but probably still think a little bit less of them. But in the very first post, I chickened out of the naming. And not really the shaming, but without the naming it was somewhat diluted. I went instead for the irritatingly passive aggressive and weakly confrontational first letter of people's names.

But, as I am clearly fixated with naming and shaming, for the last couple of months I have been avidly collecting anything that comes up on my Facebook newsfeed that I think is negative about female appearances. I sort of started doing it for a women's theatre project I am doing, and I liked to lie around thinking about my Facebook friends sitting in the mildly uncomfortable seats at BATS, and think about them squirming, not because of the invasive arm rests but because their WORDS OF SHAME were emblazoned on the wall. And then I sort of realised that me standing on stage reading these out might make for reasonably average theatre, and that maybe my collection of statements would be put to better use where they belong, and where they came from. (Which, in case you didn't realise, is on the multi-faceted and often mindless but sometimes revolutionary Internet).

Because I have been thinking a little bit about how Facebook turns people into idiots. About how people halfway through their honours degree feel the need to join groups like I Love the Sound of Rain as I'm Going to Sleep and why people who have an important job doing something with pylons and engineering "like" the page Clapping to the Opening Theme of Friends. My girlfriend thinks that these pages have something to do with liking feeling included in a group, and liking to feel like part of an in joke. I think that she is probably onto something. But as for the rain sounds and the Friends clapping, actually everybody in the entire world likes that shit. You do not need to join a group about these things, because you would be joining a group with EVERYBODY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD THAT HAS A ROOF AND A TELEVISION. And god, why must so many of these groups be so comfortingly banal? The other day a Facebook friend of mine "liked" The Sense Of Dread When A Feather Comes Out of Your Puffa Jacket =( and I could have written an entire blog about how BORING this is, but then I realised that I had recently "liked" Where Do All My Bobby Pins Go? and I came to the painful and inevitable realisation that I am just as boring as everyone else. So I have been consoling myself with the fact that Facebook makes everyone act like an imbecile, and that it wasn't actually my fault that I thought for a second that my friends might care about my hair clips.

And so I thought that I might want to write more posts about Facebook, and the way that it gives me this sort of bizarre insight into the most stupid thoughts of acquaintances on my friends list, and how these often offend me. I thought this could be a good place to start unloading some of the things that these acquaintances have said and that I find offensive. People from places like media studies tutorials and high school and average parties in Newtown and people that my friends have slept with and I have never gotten around to deleting. And I think that I really, really want to name people, because hello Voldemort, names have a lot of power. But I think for now I am too scared of confrontation and insipid initials feel like an easier way to unpack Facebook idiocy for a little bit.

When I started a blog I think that I also really really really heaps badly wanted to write something about fat activism, but I think that anything I try to write will be so influenced by the exhaustingly amazing words of size activists like Natalie Perkins and Lesley Kinzel and Ragen Chastain and Charlotte Cooper and Kate Harding. Because I am constantly disgusted by the things that people will breezily say about fat people, because if these things were said about black people they would be completely unacceptable and borderline psychopathic. And I am angry that BMI is supposedly an indicator for health when actually all it indicates is that everyone should go and get a blood test and BMI actually just hides that heaps of thin people eat crap and don't move their bodies; and I do resent that apparently every fat person is a drain on the health system but that nobody begrudges cyclists or highly stressed lawyers or bungee jumpers of their free health care.

So I think I want to use this blog to sometimes look at sizeism on Facebook. Because when I look through all of these horribly offensive nuggets that I have gathered, it is not just people from Newtown parties who are writing this shit. It is my friends. It is people who are friends with me and heaps of other fat people, and who are educated and left wing and funny and well dressed. It is people who say stuff like this:


And I guess that this might seem kind of inoffensive. But actually, I am offended. I am offended because calling someone fat isn't just a description of their body shape. The social meaning of the word means they are a smelly, awful, unlovable pleb who eats nine Big Macs every day and probably never has sex and also definitely has diabetes and will die of a heart attack in the next seven months. Kate Harding wrote an essay about this and you should read it because she is smarter than me. But I think that this little Facebook post here by Anonymous Facebook User [AFU], and liked by three other Anonymous Facebook Users, shows how ingrained jokes about fat people are in society. And how easy they are to make. As easy as making a cake with a cake mixer, or as easy as keeping your tights up when you know that you just have to wear a pair of black undies over the top. They're so easy because you use the word fat and you immediately have a punch line. And like I said last time, this is Facebook. It is public. I wasn't aware that fat people weren't allowed to have iPads, and also that they weren't allowed to think they are "cool". God forbid a fat person uses a piece of technology in public, in case someone thinks they are trying to be impressive. Don't you realise that you can't be impressive if you are a fat person? Even if you have an extremely well paying job that means you can buy an iPad, you better not use it in public in case ANFU thinks you are trying to impress her.

Ultimately nobody is winning by making these kind of jokes. Unhealthy fat people get the message that their body is something to be ashamed of, and they don't want to spend any time nourishing it or moving it around. I don't know anyone who has ever wanted to look after something they hate. Beauty standards continue to be perpetuated, fat people continue to be othered and thin people continue to fear being fat. How is it a good thing that 50% of women aged between 18 and 25 would rather be hit with a truck than be fat? Living in fear of YOUR OWN BODY is not a good way to live, and nobody needs to live like that ever since they figured out that spontaneous human combustion is a myth.

So, Facebook. Fat shaming. I can't sum it up as neatly as I would like to. But I'm going to keep trying. Facebook makes this kind of kitchen sink anthropology pretty easy. Almost as easy as making a fat joke.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The first post of the blog that I have just created, in which I talk about being offended

I had to create this blog because the other day a girl who was in my hostel joined a Facebook group and it really offended me.

When I say my hostel, I mean the New Zealand term for the dorm like university accommodation where for the first year of university you eat dinner at 5.30pm off plastic trays and you probably have to eat your dinner beside those who enjoy 'power showers', casual misogyny and lazy drinking games as a past time. So by hostel I do not mean a backpackers hostel or a nunnery, and by a lazy drinking game I mean something like 'Hermit' where all you have to do is lock yourself in a cupboard until you have finished your beverages of choice. Or the 100 Shots of Beer Game, where participants can't stop drinking until they drink... 100 shots. Of beer. At least Scrumpy Hands requires a degree of gymnastic effort, and I Have Never encourages creative thinking, often to avoid the seemingly prerequisite slut shaming and a particular kind of exhibitionism that seems to run on low self esteem.

And so perhaps this girl shouldn't even be on my friends list, because I know her from a time in my life when weeding out those who offended you was more difficult because everyone had just moved to Wellington and needed time to work out who their friends really were. I should have expected to be offended by someone who I knew in the hazy time of first year, a time that is filled with awkward memories of the cable car and of eagerly pleasing. I would be shocked to be offended by a friend from second year or third year, when everybody splits into flats that swiftly define the scattering of the social strata. A time when my feminist and leftist and lesbianist and thespianist tendencies came sharply into focus, having been clouded by being 18 and leaving home and the need to make friends.

But when S 'liked' a Facebook page called "Holocaust jokes aren't funny, Anne Frankly, I won't stand for it" I felt really fucking offended. And when I clicked on the group itself, I felt like I wanted to cry. The creator of the group had gone to the effort to find that lovely picture of Anne, the one where her hair sticks out at the side and she grins at the camera and looks sunny and beautiful and free. This one. They had used this photograph for the display picture of a group that pokes fun at the fact that eight million people were viciously murdered, and persecuted for things they can not change, like their sexuality or their disability or their religion. A group where you can find a photograph of Anne, and written over the top of the photo it says "What's burning? Oh it's my family". I was offended that Anne Frank's name could so casually be used in jest, when she was a smiling, ice-cream eating, completely-articulate-far-beyond-her-years diary writing, bike riding, crush-getting teenage girl who was viscously murdered by Nazis. Because I don't think the holocaust is funny, and I think that Prince Harry should have been punished for his costume, and when I heard about a law student whose name begins with C dressing up as a Nazi for a racial stereotypes party that was attended by mostly white, entitled law school types I thought it was just really gross. Because really, could anything be more indicative of character than dressing up as symbol of hatred, bigotry and murder? (And on a side note, how well does this party bode for the future of the New Zealand justice system? Get out now while you still can, there's a one way Air New Zealand flight leaving for Vancouver on Sunday for $1,937).

I think what offended me further is that S has sensibly moved on from from Victoria University, and is soon to graduate from the New Zealand Broadcasting School. I feel fine about her decision to do this, and maybe if I had also taken on a similar kind of specified course I would not be writing this post from my moderately challenging desk job. But I feel offended by those who in the media industry who so easily laugh at other people, and when audiences are offended by their racism, or their insensitivity or their xenophobia or their sizeism or their blah blah blah they spout about their right to say what they want about whoever they want, and they trump free speech and journalistic freedom over the feelings of others. Yesterday I saw that a dude I know with an enviable side job writing for a newspaper, had 'liked' a Facebook group called "OMG is that Sarah-Jessica-Par....... wait... its just a horse" and I felt a similar sort of rage. I know that the ethics of humour suggest that humour is art, and I don't think that art should be censored. I am just bored with media personalities, who have such an awareness of pop culture, saying offensive things for the shock factor and the publicity. I also think that the jokes about Sarah Jessica Parker are fucking villainous and perpetuate hideous beauty standards, because a woman who is not conventionally attractive must obviously look like a horse. And if SJP looks like a horse, and that is something that we really care about, then New Zealand should probably be wiped out, because our gene pool is fucking limited. But not only are these gags problematic, SJP jokes are boring. Jokes were being made about her face ten years ago. And ten years ago, even if the jokes weren't boring, they still rested on cruelty and misogyny, the founding fathers of Internet snark.

I was talking to my girlfriend about this, and she thought that I couldn't judge people so easily based on what groups they join on the Internet. Because people just see a group, laugh about it, "like" it and then never think about it again. And that is true and she was right, like she usually is. But I am largely an irrational person, and rather than risking her growing tired of my impassioned and relentless ranting I had to start a blog to vent to the Internet instead. I don't think that S sits around all evening thinking about how glad she is that Anne Frank died, and she probably doesn't have an anti-Semitic bone in her body. But Facebook is public. Even if it makes everyone act like an idiot, Facebook is still the public sphere. Liking a group is not that same as making a joke in your lounge amongst your equally small minded and bigoted peers. When an offensive joke is told in public I feel like letting that kind of humour float into the ether without comment permits the teller to be offensive, as well as sending the message that I am sweet with hearing such bullshit. Just because it's offensive doesn't mean it's funny, and just because I'm offended doesn't mean I need to lighten up. I know that supporting freedom of speech means supporting freedom for the speech that I hate, and while I support the right for people to defend their inane and offensive jokes until they are blue in the face, I will also defend my right to write a blog about my offence. And yes, I have commented on these Facebook groups in possibly the most cowardly way; by creating a blog. The Internet really does provides endless opportunities for stilted confrontation. And yes, thanks to the button-pushingly-easy passive aggressive Facebook, I could de-friend anybody whose views I don't agree with. And lately, I have been doing just that, taking a lesson from my perceptive friend Scarlett who once de-friended an acquaintance for joining a group called 'The Only Library I Visit is my Music Library'. But now, maybe I won't de-friend so easily, as I will probably need material for the blog.

It turns out I was too hasty when I deleted Amber for updating her status with the pertinent message that Anna Paquin is "ugly". I might have needed her for my next post.