How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Gym Class

Children playing in park
I hated gym class. Like so many other nerdy, awkward kids, I despised it. I was bad at it; I was scared of it; it was a place of exclusion and shame.

And then almost overnight, I started liking gym. I didn’t just stop hating it — I actually enjoyed it. I looked forward to it. I had fun with it. And I was good at it. I vividly remember my nerdy math-teacher father jokingly scolding me about my report card one quarter, scowling and asking with mock disapproval how a daughter of his could have gotten an A in gym.

What happened?

I didn’t change overnight. I didn’t suddenly become a jock; I didn’t suddenly get good at playing with others or remembering the rules of the games. So what happened?

I was able to pick my own gym classes.

Continue reading “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Gym Class”

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Gym Class

What Is Healthy Food?

Picnic basket on a dock

(Content note: food, passing mentions of disordered eating, depression, vomiting, trauma)

What does it mean to “eat healthy”? Let’s narrow this down a bit.

What’s healthy food for someone with a wasting disease? What’s healthy food for someone with a history of disordered eating? What’s healthy for a marathon runner? A gymnast? A weightlifter? A couch potato who bikes on weekends?

What does it mean for a fifteen-year-old to eat healthy? How about a seventy-year-old? A five-year old? What’s healthy for a five-year-old who’s a super picky eater, even compared to other five-year-olds? What’s healthy for someone with morning sickness? Pregnancy cravings? Hyperemesis gravidarum (persistent severe vomiting during pregnancy)?

What’s healthy for a supertaster? A vegan? An autistic person, or someone with other sensory sensitivities? Someone with food allergies? Someone with a limited food budget? Someone who just doesn’t like vegetables no matter how they’re cooked? What’s healthy for someone in California, who has year-round access to fresh local produce? For someone in Chicago, who abso-fucking-lutely doesn’t have that? What’s healthy for someone in Bangkok? Havana? Paris? Memphis?

What’s healthy eating for someone with a history of food-related trauma? What’s healthy for someone who has strong cultural connections with the food they eat — connections that help them survive and flourish? What’s healthy for someone who’s finally giving up on dieting and is working to love their body the way it is? What’s healthy for someone with depression, for whom food is their only reliable source of pleasure? Or for someone with depression who struggles to eat at all?

Please. For the love of fuck. For the love of all that is beautiful in this world. Please, PLEASE, stop talking about “healthy food” as if it were a generic concept. Please stop talking about “healthy food” as if it meant the same thing for everyone.

There are only a handful of behaviors that are broadly healthy for most people. Eat some fruits and vegetables; move your body; drink water; don’t smoke; get a decent amount of sleep. And even these don’t all apply to absolutely everyone. See above.

If you want to “eat healthier,” think about what that might mean for you. Maybe question some unexamined biases you might have — about the supposed connection between weight and health*, for instance, or the assumptions we make about health and social class. Think about what health means for you. Do what works for you. And please, please, shut the hell up about the rest of us. Thanks.


*I urge you to listen to the Maintenance Phase podcast, or read “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon.

What Is Healthy Food?

White-Collar Grifters and Prison Abolition

Let’s look at a seeming contradiction. I am — more or less — in favor of prison abolition. (I’ll get to what that means in a moment.)

And I also want big-ticket white-collar criminals to rot in jail.

This seems like a contradiction. I think it’s not.

Here’s the thing. Yes, I support prison abolition and defunding police. But I don’t support doing either of those immediately. I don’t know anyone who does. Defunding police doesn’t mean “immediately abolish all police forces and replace them with nothing.” And prison abolition doesn’t mean “open all the prison gates today and let everyone go.” It’s a process.

Prison abolition is a process. And I don’t want that process to start with rich, white, white-collar grifters. I want it to start with people convicted of drug war crimes and non-violent property crimes. I want it to start with dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, putting the hammer down on racist police abuses, exploding the drug war into a million pieces. I don’t want it to start with Elizabeth Holmes.

Continue reading “White-Collar Grifters and Prison Abolition”

White-Collar Grifters and Prison Abolition

Bernie Madoff’s 17th Floor, and the Office of Vito Corleone

I’ve been watching the Bernie Madoff documentary on Netflix, Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street. (I suppose I could twit the creators for the unimaginative title, but I’m the one who named my blog Greta Christina’s Blog, so.) And there’s something that keeps jumping out at me, maybe because it’s such a strong visual image in a story full of paper and numbers: the 17th floor.

Madoff had a sleek, fancy office on the 19th floor of a sleek, fancy office building. But he had another office in the same building — the 17th floor. That’s where the machinery of the Ponzi scheme was happening: falsifying documents, cooking the books, flat-out forgery. Very few people saw the 17th floor. But the ones who did all commented on how strikingly different it looked. It wasn’t sleek and modern and classy. It was run-down, badly organized, with old computers and crappy furniture and boxes piled all over the place.

But this was the real office. This is where the real work was done.* The classy offices on the 19th floor created the illusion of brilliant financial minds managing the complex world of finance that we puny peasants can’t even comprehend. The actual work happened on the 17th floor — the work of fraud and deception and theft.

And I started thinking about The Godfather. Continue reading “Bernie Madoff’s 17th Floor, and the Office of Vito Corleone”

Bernie Madoff’s 17th Floor, and the Office of Vito Corleone

The Irresistible Woman’s Curse

ocean photo

(Content note: sexism, some transantagonism, references to violence, all fictional)

The Irresistible Woman’s Curse

The irresistible woman is powerful this week. It’s her special time. She’s cursed.

She can destroy flowers with a touch. She can spoil food with a touch. She can turn herself into lava. If she marches around a field three times, the pests will die. Sharks follow her, tracking her movements; she makes them her pets. She’s thought about making them her minions, her personal shark army, but that seems unethical. The tools that help her manage the power will kill any man they touch. If she touches your face, her sweat will penetrate your skin, sink into your jaw, make your fillings fall out. Her sweat can be carried by steam, sucking power out of the air to feed her own. Do not touch her. Do not even be in a room with her. Continue reading “The Irresistible Woman’s Curse”

The Irresistible Woman’s Curse

Godless Perverts Social Club in SF! Discussion Topic: Sustaining Resistance

image of protest march with text describing event

We’re having a Godless Perverts Social Club on Tuesday, October 3, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART), 7-9 pm. Our discussion topic for this evening: Sustaining Resistance.

How do we sustain political resistance for the long haul? How do we stay involved and informed, without becoming overwhelmed and burning out? How do we move forward with our everyday lives, without letting fascism become normal? Join us for a discussion about self-care, taking care of each other, deciding on priorities, taking breaks, folding resistance into our everyday lives, and more.

The Social Club is free, and all orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. Wicked Grounds has beverages, light snacks, full meals, and amazing milkshakes: please support the cafe if you can, and please tip generously. If you can’t afford cafe prices, Wicked Grounds customers have bought you coffee or tea: just ask for your beverage to paid for “from the wall.” Continue reading “Godless Perverts Social Club in SF! Discussion Topic: Sustaining Resistance”

Godless Perverts Social Club in SF! Discussion Topic: Sustaining Resistance

Charlottesville, and the Spirit of America

american flag flying on cloudy day

Content note: racism and racist history, including violence.

Reactions to the white supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville: “This isn’t America!” “This isn’t the real America!” “This isn’t who we are!”

Fellow white people in the U.S.: Please stop saying this.

White supremacy, and the violence that supports it, has been baked into U.S. culture since Europeans invaded the country. Continue reading “Charlottesville, and the Spirit of America”

Charlottesville, and the Spirit of America

Resistance Works — Exhibit A

Sign reading "Resistance Is Not Futile" with image of ohm symbol

Remember this. Resistance works.

I’m writing this three days after the last round of the Big Health Care Showdown. For seven years, Republican legislators in the U.S. have been screaming that they wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Yet despite having control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, despite arm-twisting and deceit and heavy-handed manipulation of legislative procedure (including introducing their final bill at ten p.m. for a vote at midnight), they failed.

There are a lot of reasons they failed. Even though they had seven years to prepare, the Republicans weren’t prepared with actual legislation. Their own party was divided: a large branch of the party thought the bills being proposed weren’t draconian enough. And, of course, the president is an arrogant, incompetent, willfully ignorant buffoon, who failed to do the difficult work of convincing legislators and citizens to accept the legislation, and didn’t even see the value of doing so.

But one of the biggest reasons the Affordable Care Act was saved was a massive outpouring of resistance from citizens, beseeching their representatives not to take health care from millions. The ACA was saved, in large part, by a flood of people contacting their Senators and Congresspeople: calling, texting, emailing, sending letters and postcards, protesting, lobbying, getting arrested, and organizing others to do all the above. Everyone familiar with how federal government works says contacting elected officials is effective, and when it happens on this scale, it’s hugely effective. Everyone familiar with federal government says the recent flood of civic engagement was a major reason a handful of Republican legislators broke ranks — and all Democratic legislators held firm.

I want us to remember this. Continue reading “Resistance Works — Exhibit A”

Resistance Works — Exhibit A

The Impurity Ball: A dance party spoofing purity balls and celebrating sexual freedom

Image of gloved hand holding sex toy balls, with text describing event

A Benefit for Center for Sex and Culture and Godless Perverts

You are cordially invited to the Impurity Ball, a dance party and activities extravaganza, spoofing purity balls and celebrating sexual freedom.

You know those creepy Purity Balls, where teenage girls lie pledge to stay virgins until marriage, and fathers are controlling creeps pledge to protect their daughters’ virginity? That’s what we’re mocking. In addition to dancing all night, the evening’s activities will include:

  • Impurity Ring Ring-Toss. (Take a wild guess what we’ll be tossing the rings onto! Thanks to Vixen Creations!)
  • Prom Photo Booth. Take the sexy prom pic you always wanted.
  • Debaptisms. Were you pledged to a sexual purity cult against your will? Let our Humanist celebrant undo it!
  • Impurity Supply Station. Need the devil beaten out of you (consensually, of course)? Want your own “purity rings” for your parts? Visit our Impurity Supply Station! Courtesy of Wicked Grounds.
  • Ten-Minute Dating.. The ultimate ice-breaker!
  • Potluck treats. Bring your favorites!
  • Introvert’s Lounge. Enjoy parties, but need breaks from the noise and chaos? Visit our quiet VIP lounge for Very Introverted People!
  • Dance music by DJ Victor Harris Jr.

The Ball will be on Saturday, August 5, from 7 to 10 pm, at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St. in San Francisco (near 9th Street and the Civic Center BART). Suggested donation $10-$30: no-one turned away for lack of funds. RSVP on Facebook or Meetup (RSVPs appreciated but not necessary). All proceeds to benefit the Center for Sex and Culture and Godless Perverts.

Suggested Dress:

    Wear what will make you happy — just keep your junk covered. Some suggestions (admired but by no means required):

  • Formal/ prom wear
  • Sexy and/or fetish wear
  • Sexy versions of formal wear
  • Mocking or over-the-top versions of formal wear
  • Festive, colorful, exuberant, or celebratory outfits
  • Comfortable clothes that make you happy

Hope to see you there!

The Impurity Ball: A dance party spoofing purity balls and celebrating sexual freedom

Learning With Respect vs. “Just Asking Questions”

teacher at map with chalkboard
Teacher meme by PTICA10

On one side: “I’m just asking questions! Why are you being so harsh? If you want people to learn about sexism and racism and stuff, you should be more patient.” On the other side: “I don’t believe you’re asking in good faith. You’re JAQing off: ‘just asking questions’ as a way of poisoning the well, derailing the conversation, and wasting my time.”

In conversations about sexism, racism, and other social justice issues, this meta-conversation is one of the most consistently contentious. And it can be hard to explain exactly what’s wrong with “just asking questions,” or even to precisely define what it is. But my friend and colleague Heina Dadabhoy said something recently about this issue that crystallized it for me:

If we sincerely want to learn from people, we approach them the way we would a teacher. And that means approaching them with respect, even with a certain degree of humility.

If we really want to learn from people, we assume that they know more about the subject than we do. When we don’t understand them, or when what they say contradicts things we thought we knew, we don’t automatically assume they’re wrong. We think about what they’re saying; chew it over; maybe talk it over with other people in the class, or with other people who’ve taken the class before. And when we have questions, we ask respectfully. We assume that they have informed, knowledgable answers, and we listen to those answers.

This doesn’t mean we never disagree. People have been disagreeing with teachers for millennia, with wildly varying results. Sometimes it’s just arrogant bloviating; sometimes it’s an important part of how our understanding moves forward, as individuals and as a society. (And yes, in my time as a student, I’ve indulged in the former.) Respecting a teacher doesn’t mean unthinking obedience.

But when we’re learning from a teacher, we don’t start off by disagreeing. We don’t start with a hostile or contemptuous attitude, with the assumption that they must be wrong. We don’t argue with them every step of the way, and we don’t go out of our way to trip them up or shoot holes in everything they say.

And when we’re learning from a teacher, we don’t assume their time is ours to command. We don’t get hostile if they don’t have time to debate with us — or don’t have time at the exact moment we want it. If they direct us to other resources that can answer our questions in more detail, we follow up. At the very least, we don’t get pissy with them for saying, “Here’s a book/ essay/ documentary that can answer a lot of the questions you’re asking: if you still have questions after that, come back and we’ll talk some more.” We recognize that this is part of how teachers teach, that an important part of knowing a subject is knowing where to learn more.

In fact, when you assume that your friend or acquaintance or random person on the Internet is obliged to debate whenever you want, for as long as you want, in whatever space you want including theirs, it’s more unwarranted than treating a teacher that way. Teachers are, after all, teachers: it’s their job to answer questions, and to be patient with questions they’ve answered a hundred times before. It isn’t their job to answer every single question they’re asked, on demand, regardless of whether it’s relevant or whether they’re even on the job — but answering questions and being patient with ignorance is part of what they’re paid for. That’s not true of your friend or acquaintance or random person on the Internet. If you’re asking them to explain a thing about sexism or racism or what have you, they’re already giving you their time and emotional labor for free. They’re your teacher — and they’re volunteering their time.

The reality is that women are the experts in sexism; black and brown people are the experts in racism; disabled people are the experts in ableism; etc. To be very clear, that doesn’t mean you can defend your sexist opinions by citing your one female friend who says they agree with you. There are certainly chill girls and so on, marginalized people who ignore or deny the realities of their own oppression. And there are often disagreements and debates within a marginalized group (such as feminist debates over pornography).

But if you’re talking with a marginalized person who’s conscious of their oppression and well-informed about it, and you’re sincere about wanting to understand their oppression, you need to approach them with the respect and humility you’d give to teachers. When you don’t treat people as teachers, it’s reasonable for them to assume you’re not there to learn.

Learning With Respect vs. “Just Asking Questions”