Observed: Power Dynamics

This is apropos of nothing, except that Notorious, Ph.D. demanded requested that I actually write something.

I went to Commercial Coffee Venue today, and chose a comfy chair to occupy with my drink and my knitting, which was in a loose grouping of three such chairs, but was more removed from the other two. While I was enjoying that bit of free mindspace, a couple of people, a young man and a young woman, came into the room, looking for a place to park themselves. The young woman took the further comfy chair, and the young man balked at the selection, and then made an attempt to sit down anyway. What followed was done in a language I didn’t understand, but body language told it: he didn’t seem to have a strong preference (not having immediately taken one of the many open tables), but seemed to disagree with her choice. She acted apologetic, got up and went to a table he indicated several times during the quiet exchange.

I don’t know what their story is. I couldn’t have said what was actually going on, whether either one had reasons beyond simple preference (comfort, for instance) that informed their differing choices. All I can say is that he was not the least bit deferential, and she was almost entirely so. It was to me a pantomime of power dynamics, power which he wielded, and to which she yielded.

The Fantasy of Being Thin (follow-up)

So, I’ve been reading. And reading. And reading.

And having discussions about weight, weight loss, and weight gain with people. Coworkers. Family. Friends. All this has been sneaking up on me, or rather, surrounding me, giving me multiple chances to express and explore where I am with Fat Acceptance / Health At Every Size.

Ideas like this give me pause regularly:

For [Las Vegas] to thrive the way it does on the backs of gambling tourists, you need a combination of bad math and each individual’s deep-down belief that no matter what the odds are, s/he will be the special one who hits the jackpot. Which kinda reminds me of something else, come to think of it. Hmm.

As I followed along the inevitable link trail that started in that paragraph at Shapely Prose, I found more and more that this one nebulous thought drifted upwards into my conscious mind: I will never be thin again. I can never be thin again.

If I’m really honest with myself, I still want to be. I’m still buying into the great fantasy that says some combination of exercise, nutrition and willpower will somehow guarantee that I can mould my form back into the version I had when I was 16 and depressed, or 23, when I was so upset about my newly up-to-size-ten body that I bought a swimsuit with a skirt.

Today’s conversation was the same as all those posts: Diets Don’t Work.

I also realized:

During the few times I didn’t diet before gaining weight, I was either coming back out of depression or severe stress-induced not-eating.


The only times I have maintained my weight have been when I quit worrying about it.

Despite having actual experience with the concept of Diets Don’t Work, to the extent that my entire journey from skinny child to lanky teen to average-size college student to chunky woman is a textbook case, I still, somewhere in my mind, am holding onto the idea that I will, someday, because I’m taking care of myself and being healthy and getting good nutrition, someday I’ll get skinny again.

I know I’ve read them myriad times, but I don’t think the real ideas described by Fat Acceptance and Health At Every Size have truly sunk in yet. I mean, Fat Acceptance: accepting that I’m fat, that fat is okay, accepting that fat happens. Accepting the reality that my body is not supposed to be 36-24-36, size 6 or 120 lbs., which is what the images in my head look like*.

With HAES, the same thing. My focus has to be my health. I have to eat green vegetables because the vitamins and minerals are good for me, I enjoy the flavors and textures, and my body feels good once I’ve eaten them. The magical thinking has crept into my thought processes, in the form of “all those dieters don’t know the right way. I know that it’s nutrition and exercise that will make me thin!”.

It’s insideous, the way even good habits can be bent to promote the Fantasy.

I am stronger than ever. I am enjoying good health. I have a moderately active lifestyle. I have more energy than I used to.

All these things I still forget, when faced with the thought that I need to be smaller than I am. The Fantasy bullies its way to the front of my mind, and flaunts itself around gaudily, so as to outshine those drab little images of health and vitality.

So I’m not well yet. I am learning, and struggling to see, and accept, myself for how I am, with no reservations, and to finally see the Fantasy of Being Thin as what it is: a phantasm plaguing my mental, emotional and physical health, with absolutely no basis in reality. It’s the nightmare from which I’m struggling to awake.

*They look this way, because in my mind I look thin and healthy, and the idealized images we’re given to compare ourselves to portray thin, as described by arbitrary guidelines such as measurements, clothing sizes and weight, as healthy. The disconnect between my mental image of myself and the bill of goods we’re sold is where the magical thinking happens.

Seventeen children later…

Yep, my feminist education is serving me well.

I recently read that Joe Bob and Michelle (http://www.duggarfamily.com/) have had their seventeenth child, and, although a painful thought, I’m not really surprised. I tried to find the blog entry I’d read again (was it on Feministing? Pandagon? Broadsheet?) so I could send it to Da Spouse: one of the guests at a cookout we held last weekend mentioned it, and I wanted to share.

So I searched “Vagina Clown Car” on Google.

Of course, the famous line gracing the photograph of this family (which is old, I think: I only counted fourteen children) became the title to several posts around teh internets. When investigated they yielded some seriously misogynistic lines, all in the name of criticizing Republicans, conservative Christians, or whatever.

This Arkansas couple has seventeen children and still wants more. They’re all home-schooled. All the kids’ names start with the letter J. Is it just me, or does someone need a swift kick to the ovaries?

How many minutes out of the past thirty years has she spent on her feet?

Sure. Blame her. Call her an idiot. No, better yet, call her a slut. Say not one damn word about him. Or the religious background telling her about her Rightful Place.

This is the main point to this feminist:

Among the “fun facts” listed on Discovery Health’s Web page devoted to the Duggars: A baby has been born in every month except June; the Duggars have gone through an estimated 90,000 diapers, and Michelle, 40, has been pregnant for 126 months — or 10.5 years — of her life.

That is. So. Fucking. Scary.

EDIT: Women are now being educated into their Rightful Place… at Seminary. Specifically Southwestern, a Southern Baptist seminary in Nashville.

What good is it, anyway?

annie annoyed« Even the cat tries to keep me away from those evil fem-blogs. I needed something to break up the monotony of text, so I’m copying Twisty by posting photos.

I’ve asked myself that question lately, especially in regards to reading feminist blogs. It’s something I feel I have to justify, somehow, although that comes with the awareness that the gut-twisting worry associated with Even though I’m angry more often (and that, coming from a woman, is definitely seen as negative by our society-at-large) I’m definitely learning, chiefly about myself and my privilege as a white middle-class educated Westerner.
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Feminism Friday, belated.

There’s been much on-bandwagon-jumping lately by the name of Feminism Friday (which I discovered via Thinking Girl), and I, on a Monday, have decided to start out with this. I’ve seen many ways to do this, and since I’m not in a place where I can do analysis of feminist issues with a (to me) clear voice, I am going to simply share where I’ve been, and maybe what thoughts they’ve provoked. We’ll see where all this goes, and how long I can keep it up.

Lessons this week(end) have been in discovering misogyny and the exercise of privilege in the durndest places.

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An open mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Because I don’t concentrate on multiple things (in this instance, blogs), I’ve been neglecting this one and my LJ in favor of a new WordPress blog. Warning: High Level of Opinionated Content. Reader Discretion Advised.

This, however I wanted to share. It’s a video called “In My Language“, written by A M Baggs, who writes this blog.

Watch it, and find out what it means to communicate.

Something more to think about… Identity

This post, via Thinking Girl, is from thefreeslave.

Who are you?
I am Jo, Jocelyn, Jo-chan.

What are you?
I am a scholar, singer, wife, sister, daughter, friend. Creative, passionate, fiercely loyal, hesitant, reserved, outlandish, capable. Tall, emotional, spendthrift, language connoisseur. I sing out loud in public and

What is your primary identity?
Ooh, a nebulous thing. I want it to be ME, but most often it is Student, Academic, or Geek.

What ethnic, racial, nation-state do you identify with? Or do you identify with none at all?
Anglo-American is probably the closest. I don’t always feel like I’m anything at all, especially when I’m not feeling particularly “American”.

How did you learn who you are/how to categorize yourself?
In comparison to other people, starting with my sister and mother.

How does having/maintaining an identity detract/support one being their authentic self?

If I am only one thing, then I cannot be all things that I am. If I am all things that I am, then I cannot be easily classified.

When we confront people as labels or categories, how does that affect our ability to see them for who they are?

I am blinded by the category, so that I miss all of who that person is.

Is having a simplistic, hand-me-down identity a form of ’security,’ and a strength or an ‘escape’ from the anxiety of growing into something beyond the flowerbox you were planted in? Or both?

I have used identity for security, but this was also to my harm. I was constantly watching that other person for cues as to who I needed to be. By trusting in the identity instead of myself, I lost who I was while I was being somebody’s girlfriend.

When I allow myself to be fully who I am, there is no anxiety anymore, but a much more reliable strength from a much more stable source. When I am truly myself, then I realize that the flowerbox doesn’t exist.

Do you ever ask yourself who and what you are, who and what you are supposed to be and whether you are being your truest self?

Often, but I am easily distracted from it. My greatest downfall is getting caught up with what other people think of me, and letting judgments rule my decisions, that may be phantoms in my perception only, instead of listening to what my truest self has to say.

Krishnamurti says that the drawing of lines, of distinctions in one’s mind has and does create all of the conflict, all of the war on the planet.

What say you?

He’s a wise man. It’s the divisions that I perceive to be there that keep me from participating fully in humanity, and that keep me focusing on the differences rather than the commonalities.

*deep breath* i have often heard that you know …

*deep breath*

i have often heard that you know what people are really like by how they act when they are sick. i believe that tragedy also brings out qualities that, if not hidden, were at least dormant.

tragedy also forces people to deal with their problems, and determine what is really important.

i have been having problems with intimacy lately — simply not being comfortable in close situations. it took me a couple months and a lot of learning to be able to talk about that, but i finally have. in the face of recent events, suddenly this issue that i had put off talking about became important. it was the right time tonight.

details are not important here; but i communicated what i had been feeling, and how long; that i didn’t know the cause, or the cure, if any. the most important thing is i don’t want to make any sudden changes — or repeat past behaviors that have not worked.

my first reaction when i come to an uncomfortable spot in a relationship is to turn tail and run. as soon as i feel like something is ‘wrong’, i assume that it’s a problem in the relationship, and that if i were able to do something about it, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place. so i bolt — usually straight into another relationship just like it.

that is my ‘stinking thinking’.

i don’t have to do it that way anymore. it’s really hard not to — like trying to put the other foot in the pants leg first — but all i can do is try something different, no matter how awkward it feels. the something different that i’m trying this time is to stick around, and wait and see.

what i have to do is get quiet — repeatedly — and ask myself how i am today. i also give myself permission to do or not do as i am comfortable only. i’m looking at how i really feel — and why — and what my motives are.

‘i don’t know’ is a scary answer. but so far, it’s the only one i have.