Guest Post: Shit Your Heart Out, Kardashians

This post is by Sam Farooqui, one of my favorite ex-Muslims on the planet (and there are dozens of us! dozens!) Sam posts extra-good Facebook content all the time, but this piece in particular was super-extra good. In it, Sam says what I was hoping someone would say because I didn’t know how to say it myself. Check out Sam’s Twitter for bite-sized humor and wisdom.

Jameela Jamil, of The Good Place on NBC, has been vocal about body positivity for a while, and recently, she’s started getting some backlash for some of her statements. So Vox (that fairly young publication that curiously feels like it’s always existed) put out a “people are saying _____, other people are saying _____, here’s some context” article on the subject. I’d been seeing a lot of this fuss about Jamil over the past few days(? weeks?), mostly in the form of people on Twitter posting some vague-ass asides. If you’ve been in some of the pockets of Twitter that I have, you know what I mean.

Seeing that someone (an official publication, no less) finally compiled the actual complaints against her was almost a relief, because it means that those complaints can be properly discussed out from under the tandem shadows of ambiguity and brevity. But because this article simply recounts the basic facts and context of the situation, this article continues to perpetuate views I feel are unfair to Jamil (although it avoids perpetuating the heavy rhetorical tilt that’s been prevalent elsewhere, thank fuck). Continue reading “Guest Post: Shit Your Heart Out, Kardashians”

Guest Post: Shit Your Heart Out, Kardashians

Reducing Ourselves to Numbers: When More Is Less

Content Notice for Body Image & Eating Disorders

Once upon a time, society told me that my worth began and ended with my body. More precisely, I, like everyone else in my context, had been born into a society where other people thought that a designated-female person’s body held the beginning, the end, and everything in between when it came to her value.

I grew up in a particular version of Purity Culture where more was less in terms of how much of your body you revealed; the more you covered your body, the better of a person you were assumed to be. Women and girls were judged by the fit of their dresses, the opacity of their leggings and tights, the arch of their brows, the polish on their fingernails. Their faces were scanned for traces of makeup and religious teachers consulted about the Sharia legality of brown eyeliner on brown skin. A secret point system existed that was used to assess the merit of female human beings and decide how they were to be treated: Avoided, Befriended, Befriended Closely, Befriended Closely Enough to Ask for Marriage to a Male Relative.

In the broader context of society, the point system was more obvious, the scale by which my value assessed more literal. My awareness that less was more began with playground bullies, some of whom were relatives, and was later confirmed by doctors and other medical professionals. Before that, my higher-percentile height and weight were considered assets, signs that I was growing up healthy and strong and fast. At some point, the numbers began to weigh my value down, what once indicated success mutating into an a sign of failure. “Big girl” went from being a compliment to a slur practically overnight. Continue reading “Reducing Ourselves to Numbers: When More Is Less”

Reducing Ourselves to Numbers: When More Is Less

Everything That My Tits Have Gotten Me in Life

Content Notice for Sexual Harassment and Body Image

This past weekend, a friend of a friend insinuated that the reason I had been able to get two beers at this particular brewery instead of the single one he had managed to procure was my breasts.

Never mind that the bartender who had given it to me was the female one, not one of the two male ones, and that one of the beers was a half-pour. Never mind that I was wearing a high-necked dress, had another person in my company, had been a regular at the brewery’s former location, was in line far ahead of him, and was behaving rather sedately, especially compared to how loudly and boisterously as he was acting.

Nope, it must have been my breasts.

Had it been a passing remark, I would have rolled my eyes and let it go. Instead, he went on to hurr-hurr about it with another male friend-of-a-friend, so I was compelled to point out the most dramatic and most recent example of what my breasts have actually gotten me: rape threats.

There are plenty of other things my breasts have gotten me.

Continue reading “Everything That My Tits Have Gotten Me in Life”

Everything That My Tits Have Gotten Me in Life

BMI Is Bullshit, Even for the Decidedly Non-Athletic

[Content Notice for Eating Disorders]

I am a “good fatty” in the sense that I haven’t engaged in long-term unrestricted eating in many years and I make an attempt at an exercise regimen. I am a “bad fatty” in that I occasionally take breaks from my restricted eating plans, don’t engage in physical activity on a consistent basis, and am unapologetic about the fact that health can be attained even by those dubbed overweight or obese based on the BMI.

Recently, I discovered something about changes in my body composition that could be used to argue that I’m a “good fatty” — but I’m far more interested in its implications about BMI.
Continue reading “BMI Is Bullshit, Even for the Decidedly Non-Athletic”

BMI Is Bullshit, Even for the Decidedly Non-Athletic

A Window Into Lookism & Why Your View Matters

TW for Body Image Issues

When you change your clothes, take a shower, or otherwise do things in the nude in a private space, and that space has a publicly-facing window (i.e. a hole in your wall where the only thing separating your bare flesh from the outside world is clear glass), do you close the blinds or draw the curtain?

If you don’t for whatever reason, this isn’t for you. Also, I hope you don’t get arrested, since exhibitionism is genearally frowned upon in the eyes (or should it be the mouth) of the law in most places.

If you do obscure the world’s view of your body, why do you do so?

If you’ve never thought about it, this might be for you. If your answer is something along the lines of “peeping Toms” or “creepers,” then this is definitely for you. You assume that someone who hopes to do so might catch a glimpse of your flesh.


Some people don’t expose their bodies for general consumption not because they fear others’ arousal in response to our exposed flesh, but because they fear something else. They fear the viewer(s) may become disgusted.

There are certain body types that are demonized and stigmatized in society. Bodies that are hardly, if ever, depicted as delicious, enticing, inviting, and/or beautiful. Bodies that are hardly represented in the visual media that we consume. Bodies, in the rare instances that they are depicted, as portrayed as ugly, smelly, disgusting, awkward, horrible, even monstrous. Any individual’s personal feelings on the attractiveness of those body types doesn’t invalidate how the majority (or perceived majority) of society doesn’t feel that way — and isn’t exactly shy about letting people with those body types know how gross they are.


Disgust and arousal aren’t mutually exclusive, either. If a woman’s body is outside society’s widely-accepted norms and yet found be attractive by a man looking at her, he might take his disgust at being attracted to her and project it onto her. That sort of resentment is, at best, distasteful, as when men refuse to be seen in public with certain types of women with whom they have sex. At worst, it can be a dangerous thing.

Women who can, most of the time, safely assume that their bodies will be considered desirable rather than disgusting lead different lives from those for whom such is not the case. Much of what is described by Men’s Rights Activists as “female privilege,” like paid-for dates, free drinks, and other preferential treatment, would more accurately be called “ways in which certain types of women are treated favorably by men.” Both men and conventionally attractive women often fall into the trap of assuming that conventionally attractive women’s experiences apply to all women, effectively erasing the lived reality of women who aren’t conventionally attractive.

It can be very difficult for conventionally attractive women to acknowledge that they have looks-based privilege. Part of this is the social training that makes women feel that they must deny any compliments they receive. As difficult as it can be to do so, being sensitive and cognizant of these differences is key to ensuring better and more accurate communication and understanding. In already-fraught conversations about gender, sexism, and harassment, avoiding the assumption that what applies to conventionally attractive women applies to all women is key in ensuring that women who aren’t conventionally attractive aren’t further devalued

In a world where calling a woman unattractive is considered an expected, if not quite valid, rebuttal to her ideas, it’s accurate to acknowledge lookism. In a world where all women, hot or not, are subjected to misogyny, it’s critical in ensuring that we see problems in an intersectional, rather than reductive, fashion.

A Window Into Lookism & Why Your View Matters

Growing Up Online: Why & How I Care About the Comments

This post contains graphic discussions of bodies and pornography. TW for body image issues.

I can’t pretend that some of my reasons for engaging in the comment sections aren’t personal.

I first hopped online when I was just over a decade old. As I had been socialized almost exclusively among other Muslims, the Internet was my chance to interact with people who resembled the mean and mode in American society far more than my family and community did. Had I stayed a good Muslim girl, what I learned online about gender and sexuality would have affected me very little. Instead, I left Islam and began to navigate the world of dating and sex with the assumption, courtesy of the comments, that I was so physically repulsive, any male attention would be a boon.

Because almost every body type can be found depicted in a sexualized fashion online, the Internet is often hailed as a great sexual equalizer. It is far from so for those uninterested in seeking out visual sexual imagery. I fell into that camp; accordingly, whatever I saw in the way of porn was a video or picture link that I encountered on non-porn sites.


I am a child of the much-maligned self-esteem-obsessed 1990s. Jean Kilbourne had made her Killing Us Softly presentation at my school, I had heard Oprah talk about loving yourself, and so on. Despite all that, I fell for the Internet’s version of the beauty myth. I failed to apply media literacy to what I saw online since what I read did not represent The Media. No one was trying to brainwash me into thinking that I wasn’t beautiful so that multinational corporations could sell me stuff, the commenters were men directly informing me of their desires.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with people expressing their sexual desires. The problem was that they didn’t stop at “she’s hot” and instead defended their lack of interest in the women they found unappealing with incredible vitriol. Their vicious verbal evisceration of images of women whom I found to be impossibly attractive led me to wonder how exactly I could hope to be found beautiful by anyone but my mother. Any dissent from the overall opinion of women was so rare that, out of all the things I saw in the hours and hours I spent online, I can remember the specific instances when it occurred.

In two words, I learned that what straight men physically craved in women was not me.


Convinced that I had to compensate for my utterly flawed body, I paid attention to the most-repeated complaints that straight men made of straight women. As was the case with my exposure to porn, I did not seek out the information as much as stumble upon it during my usual Internet use. The consensus in the comments was that women are invariably terrible for a variety of reasons and the only reason to bother with them is their sexual desirability. Although my own experiences directly contradicted many of the things the men said about women, I resolved that no man would ever complain about me like that. After all, with my inadequate body, what else did I have to recommend me to a man? It took me years to even realize that I had such a hot mess of internalized misogyny entangled in my brain, let alone that I ought to rid myself of it.

My particular extenuating circumstances are certainly not common. Being young, naive and online, however, is a situation that grows more common by the day. Whenever someone tells me that it’s not worth the effort to provide a dissenting voice to a shitty opinion on a mainstream website, I relay the implicit message back to my teenage self and her current-day compatriots:

No one’s time and energy, even in the small amount that is required to drop off a comment, is worth your coming to understand that what is said here is not the only way of seeing things.

This is not to say that I recommend that everyone get on YouTube or any of the other more mainstream yet vile places and engage in ceaseless debates with obvious trolls. Lowering yourself to the level of the lowest common denominator can affect life outside of the comments there, and not in a good way. What I do advocate is, at the very least, a drop-off.

Whenever I can, I drop off a simple “no,” “that’s not always true,” or pointed “for you” into comment sections dominated by unquestioned yet horrid opinions. By this, I mean that I make as reasonable (and pointed as well as funny, if I can manage it) of a comment as I can muster, downvote a few things, and leave. This isn’t due to some vague hope that the asshole I’m responding to will suddenly have a change of heart thanks to a single comment, it’s so that the kids following along at home know that the opinions they’re reading are, at the very least, not quite unanimous.

Growing Up Online: Why & How I Care About the Comments

How to Stop Patronizing Your Fat Friend: Self-Loathing Edition

Trigger Warning for Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders

So you’ve stopped making the political into the personal when it comes to your fat friend. That’s awesome! Thank you so much for hearing what your fat friend has to say rather than your own internalized assumptions about her feelings.

“But sometimes,” you tentatively begin, “I hear her actually hating on herself. I hear her call herself worthless, ugly, and so on. What should I do then?”


Definitely, definitely don’t tell her to just love herself, ignore the “haters,” or otherwise pretend that your assessment of her attractiveness will make it all okay.

In addition to robbing us of our ability to discuss that which affects us, telling fat women to self-love away anti-fat bias asks quite a lot of us. Are we just supposed to turn ourselves into rubber and all of the fat-haters into glue? Ignore everything that we happen to see or overhear? Pretend that everything that is said to us was never uttered?

I’ve worked my ass off to feel good about myself but I have my down moments. A head-pat that frizzes up my carefully-arranged hair and a “you should give yourself more credit, hun” doesn’t help me in those moments. All the self-given credit in the world won’t change the fact that sizeism is, indeed, A Thing, and that my experiences are real. One person’s individual feelings doesn’t exactly change all of my external experiences.

The relentlessness of the message that fat women are repulsive means that fat women have to grow quite a thick skin in order to be confident at all. To make matters worse, confidence in fat women is often mocked and derided even more than their fatness is. One person’s declaration that a particular fat woman isn’t “actually fat,” that she is “proportional,” that she is worthy and beautiful, won’t magically make all that disappear.


What to do about your fat friend, then?

If she mentions any kind of positive feelings towards her body, you should be damn proud of her. She has managed to resist a pretty incessant message in favor of being happy with herself and living a full life. Direct some kudos her way.

On the flip side, if she mentions anxieties about her body, blaming her for not being confident enough is a rather jerkface move. Think about just how hard she would have to work to never once internalize the message she’s constantly being force-fed. Give her some of that credit you think she isn’t giving herself in her moments of self-hate and refrain from blaming her. Instead, offer the truth: that you feel she’s a worthwhile person and that you’re not sure what you can do to help her feel better, so until she indicates otherwise, you will offer a friendly ear, sympathetic murmurs, and a hug if she wants one.

How to Stop Patronizing Your Fat Friend: Self-Loathing Edition

How to Stop Patronizing Your Fat Friend: Fatphobia Edition

Trigger Warning for Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders

Ah, fat — that charged, overloaded, connotation-carrying word. There is a lot I could say about the word, but for the sake of my point, let us fast-forward past the debates over fat-shaming, Health at Every Size, thin privilege, BMI, and so on. Let us make even more haste as we zoom right past people who simply hate fat people for whatever (or no real) reason.

Oh, and for the love of all that is creamy and delicious, let me acknowledge that I am aware that thin women face incredible amounts of body-shame, body image issues, and lookism as well. My discussing issues related specifically to being a fat woman does not invalidate thin women’s problems and pain. As a lifelong fattie, I simply cannot speak for them.

I want to focus on the well-meaning friends, relatives, and lovers of fat people who, in their haste to reassure the people they care about, can’t see the difference between discussions regarding external reality versus talk about self-image.

Over and over again, well-meaning people take away fat women’s ability to discuss the issues that affect them. Often, when a fat woman dares to mention anti-fat bigotry in society, she is told that she should “accept herself” or some variation of that sentiment thereof. Alternately, she might be told that the person in question finds her attractive. What happens is that the assumption that all fat women need to be cheered up and reassured takes precedence over anything the fat woman in question is actually saying.


Some of the most confident, self-assured ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering are lectured about self-esteem and self-acceptance instead of having their thoughts acknowledged when they speak of anti-fat bias. How incredibly condescending it is to insist that someone is talking about personal sadness when they are describing the reality of their lived experiences. How disappointing it is to the lady in question to find that others’ perceptions of her self-image automatically override the words coming out of her mouth.*

Although I’ve lost a decent amount of weight in the past 18 months, I still firmly qualify as fat, especially here in sunny, superficial Southern California. After years of self-loathing followed by years of working on my self-image issues, I’ve come to a few conclusions, conclusions about which I speak only using the most carefully-curated of words. No matter how much I try to denote exactly what I’m saying, I still get well-meaning but wholly misguided people attempting to soothe me where I needed no comfort in the first place. Worse, their focus on what they perceive to be the issue, i.e. my self-image, robs me of the power to talk about a real issue that affects me, i.e. fat-hate.

I do not think that I am ugly. Au contraire. Why would I spend so much time and effort on buying fun clothing, experimenting with make-up and hair products, and hunting down cute shoes that fit my size 10-11 wide feet — because I think I’m not worth looking at?



There was certainly a time when I thought I wasn’t worth much at all. I shrouded myself in dowdy clothing and applied overly-thick black lines around my eyes, hoping to bring attention to what I thought was my only good feature. That time is well behind me, thank you very much, and I’d like to be treated as the woman I am, not the self-loathing girl I once was.

Though the personal is often political, the political is not always personal.

So if I don’t think I’m ugly, why bring up fat hate? call myself fat or a fattie? mention anti-fat bigotry that has been hurled in my direction?

As good as I feel about myself most of the time, that I don’t live in denial of fat-hate doesn’t mean that I think of myself as unattractive, it means I acknowledge my reality and my lived experiences. I direct attention to society’s hatred of fat people for the exact same reasons that I clamor for attention for unfair discrimination of any kind: in the hopes that people will recognize what they’re doing and, you know, work to change it.

I’m talking not about any perceived ugliness in myself, I’m talking about how ugly society can be.

So, how exactly can you stop patronizing your fat relative, friend, or lover when she speaks of that kind of ugliness? If she mentions society’s shitty treatment of her, you can stop denying her experiences and instead say, “Wow, that is really shitty!” Even better, when you see shitty behavior, you can call it out or at least not participate in it.

* If she is actually hating on herself, that’s a different matter, one to be addressed in a future post.

How to Stop Patronizing Your Fat Friend: Fatphobia Edition

The Great Face-Paint Debate

Recently, the Internet (especially its feminist and feminist-flavored corners) has exploded over the topic of makeup. For many, the personal became political and vice versa. The aspect of the debate that seemed to have been missed by many in both the pro- and anti- makeup crowds is the variation in perceived cultural pressure regarding feminine conformity, including makeup.

In other words, that some women don’t feel forced to wear makeup doesn’t mean that others can’t feel that way.

Continue reading “The Great Face-Paint Debate”

The Great Face-Paint Debate

Intention vs. Reality: Why BMI Is Not Just a Tool

The new year is upon us. Last night, many people drank to excess, placed too much significance on where their lips were as the clock struck midnight, and woke up with their heads feeling like some epic battlefield of yore. Some of those same people, along with countless others, are at this moment shaking off the hangover and proceeding to attempt weight loss under such euphemisms as “getting healthy,” “getting fit,” “eating right,” or “taking better care of myself.”

Yesterday, a piece was published on CSI’s page that addressed the concerns some have regarding BMI. While there are many issues with the way in which the piece addresses anti-BMI arguments, what stood out to me were some assertions about BMI and its uses that rang entirely false: namely, the notion that BMI is just a tool and is never used in unscientific, reductive ways by the medical community and world population at large. Continue reading “Intention vs. Reality: Why BMI Is Not Just a Tool”

Intention vs. Reality: Why BMI Is Not Just a Tool