Fashion is Not For Me

My mom used to take me shopping for clothes. It was always a weird experience for me because on the one hand, it was time I got to spend with my mother, but I always knew that I would hate myself and my body by the end of it.

Although now I know that my perception of my body was flawed and that I wasn’t as overweight or fat as I thought I was, at the time I was convinced that I was, and it didn’t help that I was hearing the same message around me.

My mom’s favourite place to shop for clothes was Winners, so that is where we would go. They had a lot of nice things, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that the clothing I thought was cool, or interesting, or what I wanted to wear, were the ones that either didn’t come in my size, or I was told looked bad on me.

I kept being steered towards baggier and looser fitting shirts and clothing. It got to the point where I believed that if a shirt at any point dared show that I had a roll on my body, or showed that my belly was rounded, that that meant it didn’t fit.

As a result much of my clothing tended towards greys, blacks, and neutrals. My mother in particular favored me in creams, beiges, and white, whereas I always felt washed out in those colours. Because I was convinced that I was fat, I avoided pink out of fear of hearing comparisons to pigs. I avoided skirts and dresses, convinced that I could not look good in them. In the summer I wore jeans, terrified that in shorts people could see that my long legs were actually lumpy. I pulled at my sweaters and shirts constantly, hoping that if I stretched just enough, I could hide any pudge from showing.

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Fashion is Not For Me
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It Was Assault and It Wasn’t the First Time

CN/TW: Descriptions of Assault and Rape

I was at a party the other weekend, when the subject of my book came up.

I decided to tell the anecdote of the faith healer, the punch line of which was the description of his hand on my crotch and ass stroking back and forth, while I tried not to laugh in his face or look at my mother who was also struggling. I played it like I always do; for laughs at the absolute ridiculousness of the situation. But this time something was different. Maybe it was the look on the face of the person I was speaking to. Maybe it was the fact that I was already thinking about something related to assault. Whatever it was, even as I was laughing, I was suddenly face with the fact that what I was describing was sexual assault.

A man was touching my body in intimate places, in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. He was stroking my crotch because he knew he could get away with it. Despite the fact that my mother was sitting right there. I was in a position where I couldn’t object, and I couldn’t really refuse. Not without possible consequences.

It’s not as if the realization changed much. I was already an assault victim, having come to terms with what had happened to me at 18 years old with a doctor.

But the realization that I had been telling the story of my assault as a humorous story made me stop and think.

Continue reading “It Was Assault and It Wasn’t the First Time”

It Was Assault and It Wasn’t the First Time

Guest Post: "Women's Work"

This is a guest post from Sunflower Punk of Social Justice, posted with permission.

People would always tell my mom she was lucky she had at least one daughter. They would tell her I would help her when her parents were elderly and needed taking care of. No one ever mentioned my brothers. It was always like that; the girls in my family were expected to take care of their parents even after marrying and making lives of their own. The men were never expected to though. In fact when a man was taking care of a parent, I’d hear how selfless and wonderful that man was. My grandma ended up taking care of her mother-in-law, brother-in-law and two sisters-in-law. My grandma is the best example of a woman dropping everything to take care of someone else, often at the expense of her own health.

Now, it’s on me and my daughter to take care of my mother and grandma. I’ve heard it plenty of times. “It’s so great you had a girl. If you’d had a boy you’d be alone”. They don’t expect TJ to have a life of her own when she’s grown. If I had a boy, they would expect him to leave me as soon as he was able.

I’m the one in charge of mami’s affairs when she dies. I’m the one who has to make the medical decisions should she ever end up in the hospital. Grandma is sick and may need surgery. Who does the responsibility fall on? Mami. But since she isn’t well, it’s my job. My 6-year-old daughter is expected to help out too. I have two brothers. One of them lives with grandma. But I’m the “girl” so it’s my job to take care of everybody.

My brothers are able bodied. I am not. But I had the bad luck of being assigned female at birth. I can’t leave grandma and mami to fend for themselves without someone accusing me of being selfish. Even if I protested and mentioned my brothers, I’d be told that it isn’t proper for sons to take care of their mothers. This was made clear to me when I was nine years old and my mother had a hysterectomy. It was my job to help her wash up and get dressed. One day I couldn’t help her because I was sick. So my younger brother volunteered. My grandmother started yelling at me. She told me I was lazy and that it was wrong for a son to see his mother naked. I questioned what mami was supposed to do if she hadn’t had a daughter. I was slapped and told to stop talking back.

I wouldn’t leave mami and grandma to fend for themselves. I’m not that cruel. I wasn’t conditioned to be selfish. I was conditioned to never think of myself. It’s taken me a while to get out of that thinking. It’s taken me a while to learn to say no and to take care of my needs.

When the time comes to take care of either mami or grandma, I’ll do it. I’ll know it’s because it’s expected of me but also because no matter how hard I try I will never be callous like my brothers. I know I’ll hear all about how selfless I am and what a good daughter I am, and don’t I hope TJ will take care of me in my old age.

And I will know that if I ever need TJ to take care of me, it’s because I earned her love and respect, not because it her “womanly” duty or because she owes me.

 

Guest Post: "Women's Work"

What's the Difference Between Eugenics and Pro-Choice

A lot of people can’t really parse the difference between being pro-choice and supporting eugenics. If choice is choice, what does it matter if people choose to abort children with disabilities specifically? Doesn’t it make sense that not everyone is capable and able to care for a child with a disability? Aren’t we taking away a person’s right to choose by saying that making that decision on the basis of disability is wrong?

It can be confusing and difficult to deconstruct, until we realize that when we are discussing eugenics and why it is dangerous, we are not discussing whether or not a person has a right to choose to end a pregnancy, but discussing the bigoted ideas that may be the reason for the decision.

Pro-choice activists can instinctively understand for example why abortion on the basis of sex or race would be wrong, while not seeing that assertion as invalidating a person’s right to choose. So why do we have this difficulty with disability?

Because socially we see disability as a bad thing, so much so that we have a tendency to see disabled people as not being fully human. This may seem like an extreme representation of the opinion until you realize that there are still arguments over whether people with certain disabilities have consciousness, are able to experience pain, etc. That treatments considered torture against abled people such as ABA and conversion therapy (not to mention bleach enemas) are not only still allowed for treatment of certain disabilities, but outright fucking encouraged by charities that claim to speak for these disabilities. That the murder of disabled children is often excused and almost never results in jail time.

Continue reading “What's the Difference Between Eugenics and Pro-Choice”

What's the Difference Between Eugenics and Pro-Choice

What’s the Harm in “Female-Bodied”?

Guest post by America Yamaguchi

[CN: sexual assault]

 

“Female-bodied” is a term that is endlessly harmful.

It reduces cisgender women to their uterus. While childbearing is a massively important component of patriarchal harm, it goes far beyond that. It is also harmful to insist that childbearing or a uterus is what makes a woman a woman, both to trans people of all genders, and to cisgender women who are infertile for any reason. It compounds a major source of psychological distress to cis women who cannot have children. By the standards of “female-bodied” to mean the uterine body plan, a cisgender woman who is missing any aspect or has a dysfunction by any part, is bound to feel like less of a woman. Thus, this term directly attacks the womanhood of a variety of cis women as well as trans women.

Continue reading “What’s the Harm in “Female-Bodied”?”

What’s the Harm in “Female-Bodied”?

Children and Disability

Ever since I turned 27, the thought of children has been on my mind. At 28, I am now a year older than my mother was when she had me. I always thought that my life would go a certain way. I would get my degree, get married, start a career, and have a baby. All of this was supposed to happen before I was 30.

Then I got sick, and one by one those dreams went up in flame.

I couldn’t go to medical school. Not only that, but I might even be able to manage a regular job let alone a career.

I got a degree, but unlike I expected my whole life, I am graduating with a bachelor with no idea of when or if I will ever be able to get more.

Some things changed, but not for the worse, just became different. Instead of a husband, I have a wife. The important part of that: the love, the support, the companionship remains the same. We live in Canada for now, which mean marriage for us is possible.

And then there are children. Continue reading “Children and Disability”

Children and Disability

Unpacking the Red Pill

I’m actually sort of upset that internet hate groups have managed to co-opt the matrix red pill analogy. It is actually a really good metaphor for social justice and the way that becoming aware of privilege and systemic injustice works.

It really is like suddenly opening your eyes and realizing that everything you thought you were seeing you were actually seeing incorrectly your whole life. It’s incredible. Where the analogy fails is by painting it as a single pill.

The truth is that becoming aware of social justice issues is really like swallowing a whole bunch of different red pills, each one exposing you to yet another level of interconnected systems of oppression. This is why we get some atheist activists, and other social justice activists, falling into this same trap over and over again of thinking that they couldn’t possibly be sexist, racist, transphobic, classist, etc. because they “already swallowed the red pill” so now they could see the whole truth.

There is also this idea that swallowing one red pill makes every additional one easier to see, but that’s not true. Sometimes you can swallow multiple red pills at ones at once. But the truth is that each one is painful to take. Each one produces its own side-effects, its own difficulties. Swallowing the red pill is never easy.

It’s not just one easily exposed system that once you see a part of, you essentially get an idea of the whole. It is more like a self-replicating computer virus that infects different system files. You can cut one out, but unless you get them all, it will just rebuild again.To really solve the problem, you have to root out every single individual corrupted system file. Otherwise, the program rebuilds itself, just using a different pathway, but ultimately yielding the same result.

Take the evolution of feminism throughout the years. Each wave of feminism exposed layers of patriarchal oppression, however, by failing to consider the interconnections of various issues and the level to which the system was self-replicating, rather than fixing the problem is shifted the scope of it. Such as when the response of women trying to prove that they were every bit as capable in “masculine” fields and tasks ended up reinforcing the gender binary. The focus was on showing that women can also do “masculine things” rather than on showing that the division of actions into an either or option was not based on an accurate social model of gender. The resulting surge in femmephobia reinforced a lot of harmful patriarchal concepts that are now that much more difficult to dismantle. It’s not that second-wave feminists went too far, it is that they didn’t go far enough. It failed to take into account how the system is also supported by race, by cis-centrism, by ableism. It failed to look at the matrix as a whole.

Imagine if the matrix actually existed as a series of levels. With every successive pill you see a little more of the matrix. But if you don’t realize there are more pills to take, you might be tempted to think you see the whole matrix. Agent Smith is counting on that, because as long as you believe you are outside the matrix, they can use the parts of the matrix you are still connected to to shift your perception of the world around you.  As long as you are still within levels of the matrix however, you continue to power the system.

If we take the premise of the matrix movie that human beings are being turned into a potato battery, becoming aware of different spheres of oppression is like discovering that your potato battery is charging other batteries and working to shut off those batteries so that your battery doesn’t die. Those are the first red pills you usually take.

The hard pills to take are those that reveal that even while you are struggling to unplug the connections that are causing other batteries to drain your charge, you are recharging your own battery from other people as well. These are the pills that make us choke, that stick in our throats. These are the ones that make us want to fight and reject what we are seeing, because more than anything the matrix relies on our denial that we could be harming people even if we have no intention to.

You didn’t know. The plugs were in your back and you couldn’t see them because you were in the matrix level whatever. But intentionally or not, you have been draining other people’s batteries. Whether you knew or not, you may have been the connection that added just that extra little drain needed to completely empty someone’s battery.

So now you have to make a decision, which do you pull out first?  The ones draining others or the ones draining you? Or do you try to pull them out at the same time? Do you leave others to try and pull out the ones draining them out themselves? Do you go back to pretending you never saw the ones in your back or deny that they’re there? Do you address some but not others? What makes you decide?

The choice you make is ultimately yours, but the one you make says something about you as a person.

My choice is striking a balance between pulling out both sides. I need to pull out my own because I can’t take out the system if my battery is completely dead. But I also need to work on pulling the ones that are charging me. Sometimes, when my battery is draining too fast, I need to take a break. I might need to focus on pulling out my own for a few moments, though I never forget about the ones in my back. Sometimes, I am being drained slow enough that I can forget about pulling out my own for some time in order to focus more on pulling out the ones that I benefit from. In fact, often when I am puling out my own, it is so that I have the surplus energy to spend more time pulling out the ones that charge me.

Everyone is interconnected into the system, but not everyone carries the same number of output and input energy. Some people only have maybe one or two output cabled, while being charged by several sources. Even when this happens, you might not be retaining a high charge, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are still draining others. The opposite extreme also exists with some people being almost completely output cables and none or almost no input cables.

The system is like a web and everyone is plugged into it.

It is essential that we all disconnect and break the system. When you have any system that depends on batteries basically sharing charge in a single continuous system, that leads to combustion. Just ask anyone who has had keys and batteries in their pocket, and ended up with burning pants because the two connecting created a single circuit.

The system is a path to destruction as long as it exists because either your battery gets completely drained or you combust. That’s ultimately why systems of oppression like patriarchy end up hurting even those they privilege.

Unpacking the Red Pill

THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST OF ABUSE

TW: Discussions of Abuse

A graphic related to Beauty and the Beast has been making the rounds again. It discusses a different perspective of the movie, which suggests that rather than a representation of domestic abuse and Stockholm syndrome, that the movie represents the force of finding that special someone when you are socially outcast and isolated. It describes how both the Beast and Bell exist in social isolation. In the case of one, because of his monstrosity and in the case of the other as a result of being an avid reader and thinker in a town in which the social convention is for women to avoid books.

This graphic has some interesting ideas, but I think that even while what it said there is true, it is also important to discuss how that truth doesn’t invalidate the legitimate criticisms regarding the abusive elements of the Beast and Belle’s relationship.

The beast might be a social outcast because of the way he looks, but the way he looks is a result of his refusal to give shelter to an old woman for the night. It was meant to teach him not to judge people based on their appearance, and in the older stories it was also a punishment for being a mean-spirited and selfish brat.

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THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST OF ABUSE

ABLEISM CHALLENGE

CN: For Ableist slurs.

I have a challenge for all of my blogger friends. I want you to try and go one month without using the list of words below. For one month, in your blog posts and public opinions, I want you to not use these words. I will explain why. I will give you a reason, and regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I want you to try. For me.

Why does this matter?

The truth is that the concerns of the disabled community are often pushed to the side or seen as less important. Just a year ago there was almost a network wide outrage over being called on the use of ableist sentiments and words.  It ended with one of the more dedicated and active disability and neurodiversity activists, who has actually created a lot of the accepted vocabulary of the neurodivergent movements, accused of being a troll. The concerns were ignored, a new network was launched, and little to no progress was made in improving the use of ableist language or sentiments in our community. The verdict was in. As one person famously put it: disability activism is not a real thing.

And then the whole thing was ignored. For most people it was just not enough of a big deal.

Every few months someone writes a post asking people to not use “crazy” as a pejorative, that gets summarily ignored.

And these things do matter. In the same way that racialized words perpetuate systemic racism, and the same way that racialized words can find themselves in the most seemingly benign words, ableism too is so prevalent as to be invisible.

The sad fact is that most ableist slurs are considered the soft swears, the use-instead-ofs. Want to insult someone in relatively polite company? Chances are you may reach for one of these as a stand-by. But words matter. Language shapes our perception and when we make disability an insult, when we make ability an insult, we are implying that there is something wrong with being that way. It adds to a system that treats people with disabilities as being less than human. In some cases people go so far as to imply that people with disabilities don’t have feelings or don’t feel pain. Moreover it creates a perceptions, a link between being disabled and being otherwise incompetent.

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ABLEISM CHALLENGE