Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Feminist Thanksgiving?

A repost from 2008

This Thanksgiving, as my family sits down to their traditional dead animals, I’ll be munching on Tofurky and vegan stuffing. Whatever, I’ve been a vegetarian for eight years, I’m used to being the odd girl out every fourth Thursday of November. And, just like every Thanksgiving since I stopped eating meat, I know I’m going to get the comments and the jokes, even though it’s hardly a novelty after all this time.

What is it about Thanksgiving that brings out the super-traditional? Even in my fairly feminist household--my parents are proud of their egalitarian marriage, split the chores and childcare responsibilities pretty evenly, Dad had no problem moving for Mom's career, etc.--my dad and uncles and brothers will still watch the football game and chug (non-alcoholic) beers after the big dinner while all the womenfolk clean up the kitchen. No one even pretends that there’s an equal distribution of responsibilities. Sure, every year Dad ceremoniously asks if there’s anything he can do, but much like the ceremonious cutting of the turkey at the beginning of the meal, it’s all for show. The men have nothing to do with the preparation of the meal, and they certainly have nothing to do with the cleanup. Their role is to eat and digest, and compliment the gals on a job well done. I don’t know what would happen if this year Mom answered, “Sure, we’ve got dishes for thirty people to clean and about fifty pots and pans that need scrubbing…there’s the sink!” It’s as unfathomable as my meat-and-potatoes family deciding to share some Tofurky and forgo the bird carcass.

And here’s the strangest thing: I know that come Thanksgiving, even with my feminist heart heaving with the unfairness of it all, I’ll be in the kitchen with my mom and aunts and girl cousins, cleaning up while the guys burp contentedly in the other room.

A couple years ago, deciding to make a statement, I informed my mother that I was watching football with the boys. I expected a little anger, maybe even a flat refusal, but my mom, perhaps knowing what was to come, had no problem with it. So for the first time since hitting my teen years, I sat out in the living room and watched the big game while the big clean-up went on without me. And here’s the thing: even though I’m a huge football fan, even though watching a game with Dad is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening, it wasn’t very long at all before I was back in the kitchen.

I try and justify my own lapse back into traditional gender roles. The cleaning isn’t hard at all, I reason, not with a dozen people pitching in. It’s a safe, female-only space, our own little once-a-year, consciousness-raising event.  But the truth is, that I know it’s bogus. I know everyone should pitch in after dinner, and I know that it reinforces all the stereotypes I fight against the other 364 days of the year for the menfolk to all watch the game and the womenfolk to clean and gab.

But I also know that I’d much rather be in the kitchen chatting with my aunties, hanging with cousins I see once a year at best, and, yeah, pitching in on the cleanup, then hanging with the dudes in the living room.

Go figure.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

(Or: Why I've been MIA)

Apologies for going so long without posting. I thought I’d let everyone know what I’ve been up to.

At the end of September, I was feeling really sick: heart palpitations, my muscles were clenching, my face felt tingly and numb, I was slurring my words. From past experience, I was pretty sure that I had a potassium deficiency; unsurprising, as I had been throwing up pretty much everything for about a month. I went to the ER expecting to get the usual treatment: some IV fluids and medicine to stop the pain and vomiting, and a bag or two of potassium. Like I said, I’d done this a few times before.

Instead, my potassium was so low that I was immediately admitted to the hospital. I had been trying to fix it myself by drinking a lot of banana smoothies and Ensure, because I hate hospitals and I can pretty much do the same thing for a intestinal blockage at hone that they do in the hospital (basically, a liquid diet and rest, giving time for the intestine to decompress and go back to normal). However, I let my hatred of hospitals and my fear of going alone (my parents were out of town that week and I waited until they came back to go in) keep me from seeking treatment for too long, and I had put myself at a serious risk for a heart attack, among other dangers.

At the hospital, they put my on a liquid diet, as I expected. They tried to get potassium in through the IV, bur I was so dehydrated and my veins were so bad after years of medical treatments that after the second day they couldn’t get an IV--even the best nurses, the trauma specialists, the nurses from ICU who used an ultrasound machine to try and find one. They also couldn’t get me to keep any food down, even with the strongest anti-nausea medications. The doctor decided, after a week, to send me to UCSF where they had better specialists and tests that could be done. Also, I had two hernias that were causing a lot of pain and trouble, and there was talk of getting them repaired on that trip.

At UCSF, they gave me the complete workup. They also tried to get an IV in, and even their best people couldn’t get one started, so they inserted a PIC line. They started me on IV food (TPN). There, they discovered that the problem really wasn’t a hernia or an intestinal blockage, but that some of the tissue that had been used to reconstruct my digestive system after my intestinal rupture last year had become necrotic (died). It was why I couldn’t keep food down, why I wasn’t absorbing the nutrients of the food I could keep down, and probably some of the pain.

The head surgeon--a smart, capable guy with a decent bedside manner, but who unfortunately was the most arrogant person I’d ever met, and that’s saying something when you look at the number of surgeons I’ve had over the years--decided he wanted to do a pretty intense operation. He needed time to prepare and reserve an OR, though, so he sent me back to the original hospital to basically hang out and get the IV medication and bulk up on the IV food so I would be in the best shape for surgery. A week later, I would come back for the operation. That week, I was pretty nervous. This was going to be surgery number 15, so you’d think it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but this surgery was going to be more complex and take longer, with all the assorted risks that comes with, than most of my other surgeries. Also, most of my previous surgeries were done on an emergency basis...they happened immediately after discovering a problem, and I never really had time to sit and think about the risks. There was another new risk, as well: I had 125 cm of small intestine (the average person has about 22 feet). You need 75cm to be able function normally (well, for a given value of “normal”); if they had to remove more than 50cm of intestine, I would have to be hooked up to IV food for the rest of my life (or until they developed the technology to do a transplant). Along with it just being an enormous life suck to have to be hooked up to an IV for 16 hours a day (I did that for 6 months, thank you very much, and I feel like I lost those months of my life), the long-term projections are not so good. It would significantly lower my lifespan, and even when I wasn’t hooked up to the IV machine, I would still be too tired and sick to get out of bed and go do stuff. So this was a pretty terrifying possibility, and the doctor was not giving me good odds. The surgery had to be done, though; if they didn’t take out the necrotic tissue--even if doing so would shorten my small intestine too much--not only would I not be able to eat or absorb food, I would die from the infections. So I sat in my hospital bed silently freaking for a week.

(I’m putting description of the surgery below the fold, so skip if that grosses you out.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is the Republican Party Pro-Life? A look at the new GOP party platform

I have tried to back up every statement of fact that I make.  For the most part, I have linked to respected unbiased organizations and news sites and resisted posting to blogs and advocacy groups, and when I couldn't find an original source, I tried to state that.  That doesn't mean I always did; sometimes an advocacy group has a much better presentation of facts in a format that is easy to read and understand.  You can judge for yourself the legitimacy of the information, but remember: you are always entitled to your own opinion, but you are never entitled to your own facts. 

Republicans are usually considered the "Pro-Life" party.  They certainly are anti-choice, though of course there are a few pro-choice Republicans and more than a few anti-choice Democrats (remember Bart Stupak?)  But as a national party, the GOP takes a strong stand against abortion, and accomplished many legislative victories across the country, while for the most part, Democrats aren't nearly as committed.  Oh, they say they're for reproductive freedom, and there are Democrats in both state and federal legislatures that fight for choice, but they don't have near the amount of victories (just an impressive string of failures) or passion as their Republican opponents. 

But are Republicans really Pro-Life?  I decided to take a look at the newly approved party platform.  You can read the entire platform here.  I will be quoting the relevant bits.


On Zinnia Jones Vlog, Heather had something to say about radical feminism and transphobia. 

I think it's  a great post for so many reasons, and I'll probably be back to discuss it more later.  There was one thing, though, that jumped out and bit me.  Probably because I'm too self-absorbed, it was the only part that was at all connected to me.  I feel kind of guilty about this, because as wonderfully important Heather's video was, I'm not really going to be talking about radical feminism or transphobia right now.  Later, definitely; there are so many good things in this video, and I do think it's a good for both the transphobic radfems and the feminists who hate radfems because they think they're all transphobic to watch. 

Right now, however, I'm just going to limit this to what I have personal experience with: fuckability.

(Starting at 2:23) The sex classing of women and requisite caste system of the class (more commonly known as varying degrees of fuckability, or even more commonly as a scale from 1 to 10) has inhumanely relegated trans women with a certain remaining organ to the undesirables. They are expected to be content with either fetishization or pity fucking, along with cis women of the overweight and differently abled varieties. This particular problem has recently been the birth of a massive online “cotton ceiling” debate. We’ll get back to that.

Yes, we will definitely be getting back to the "cotton ceiling" debate, but it will have to be in another post.  I have some very strong opinions, again, as a cis lesbian radfem (gah, labels), but I hope it doesn't surprise people that the majority of the time I come down firmly on the side of trans women in this debate.  Actually, it was reading some back and forth between trans women and radfem activists on the whole cotton ceiling debate that first made me want to give up the label "radical feminist" in the first place.  I do not want to be associated with those people...but I also don't want to give up on the feminist philosophy and theory of activism that most meshes with what I see, how I feel, and what I believe will actually transform the world.  But that is a discussion for another time.

Today, in what will probably be a self-indulgent, perhaps self-pitying post (you've been warned), we're going to talk about fuckability.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thoughts on Prostitution and Pornography

Trigger Warning: Graphic description of child abuse and rape.

This is going to be bit rambly. I can't help that. I have a lot of thoughts, conflicting thoughts, and I'm going to try and get them out as best I can.

I have no personal experience with prostitution, or with what most people think of when they talk about pornography.I have been molested and raped: both times, pictures were taken. When I was nine, I was molested over the course of a year by a seventeen year old boy who was living in our house as he finished up High School.  I was easy prey; I was homeschooled, extremely sheltered (I didn’t even know what sex was), a chubby, socially isolated outcast with few friends, and though my parents loved me, they both worked all the time  On several occasions, he took pictures of me, partially undressed, in what I now realize were sexual poses. At the time, I didn't fully understand what was going on. I knew enough to be ashamed, I knew that I couldn't tell anyone. But J. told me I was beautiful and had me pose like the pictures on the magazine covers and movie posters, like a real woman.

Years later, when I was an adult, I was brutally raped just a couple blocks from my home, when I took a stupid shortcut through the park. The pictures were almost an afterthought; after he had bruised me, burned me, raped me, he pulled out a camera phone and snapped a couple pictures. The most I ever saw of him was through the glow of that phone, his bulbous nose and crooked teeth, not enough for a good description for the cops. Oh, the wondrous progression of technology.

I have lived in fear for years that those photos of me are on the internet, graphic snapshots of my humiliation and pain. I have no reason to think that they aren't. Sometimes I can't help thinking about the men who have, over the years, masturbated to those images of a scared, humiliated little girl trying so hard to be pretty, to be loved, to be a woman. I wonder if that rapist was able to get my face in the shot, or if I exist only as a headless battered vagina, if he could even get the pictures to come out when they were taken on a pitch-black night. I try not to think about it, which is really all that I can do about it.

People would be quick to point out that what happened to me wasn't really pornography, it was rape, and they would be mostly right. I didn't chose what happened, and I certainly wasn't paid for it. But I have heard too many stories from girls and boys and women who were forced to take pictures, like I was, so that men could continue to rape them in their minds over and over and over again. I can't entirely dismiss the comparison.  I also can’t dismiss the similarities between what I went through and common images in movies and magazines.  Would I still have been raped and molested without the multi-billion dollar porn industry, much of it saturated with images of raped and abused women? Maybe. But the boy who molested me wasn't an adult, wasn't any older than my baby brother is now (who seems impossibly young to me).  Would he have known what to do without porn? Would he have even thought to take pictures? Again, maybe. There's no way to know something like that. Thinking of a society without porn seems even more fantastical than thinking of a society without religion.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Religiously Motivated Child Absue

This is an OLD post (about 5 years, now) that I pulled from the blog I kept back then.*  It's still, unfortunately, quite relevent.

[Trigger Warning: Descriptions of Child Abuse--ESPECIALLY in the linked articles.]

I strongly recommend giving at least a quick glance at the series dogemperor has put together over on DailyKos about religiously motivated child abuse (Part One, Part Two, Part Three).  As someone who is a survivor** of this type of environment, I'm always amazed when people don't know about the culture of violence that many, many children are brought up in.  Like all survivors of child abuse, people who grow up in households with religious child abuse believe (for the most part) that what they went through is normal...and, worse than that, they believe the abuse is justified by being a Christian, that they deserved it.  If they are unable to get help and healing, they may start their own family believing that such abuse is the only way to truly raise good Christian children, and the cycle continues.

I think it is especially important for people to be aware of how isolated children in conservative Christian families can become.  Because parents are justifiably afraid that teachers and doctors will report child abuse (or, as these folks call it, "discipline"), kids are pulled out of public and even private schools, and sent to pediatricians who are dominionist Christians.  While my parents weren't so extreme, many children I went to church with never encountered a non-Christian in a meaningful way.  They were homeschooled, played sports with Christian groups, went to church (and were pulled out of the youth group when non-Christian kids began to attend), were not allowed to participate in outreach activities, only saw Christian doctors, and were always under the watchful eye of their parents or a trusted, like-minded adult. 

So, folks, when you see your neighbor abusing his or her child, don't assume that a trusted adult will catch it.  For many kids, that may be the case: they'll see teachers, doctors, and coaches, all of whom are mandatory reporters (though there are news reports every day about how these stop-gap messures fail).   Children raised in these very conservative, quiverfull-type homes, may never see an adult they can trust.  Call in suspected abuse.  You can do it anonymously.  Better safe than sorry, and while a visit from a social worker can suck, annoying an innocent parent is a hell of a lot better than allowing a guilty parent to continue to torture their child in the name of God.

And that's today's PSA.

*  I changed this a bit in the repost.  I wrote it back in 2007, when I was still a very committed Christian.  At the time, I took great pains to say that this type of abuse is against Christian values, and no true Christian would abuse their child like that.  I've since changed my opinion on this, and while their brand of Christianity still seems like a perversion of the faith I was brought up in, I realize that they have just as much biblical justification for thier position as I ever did, such behavior is perfectly in line with a certain type of Christianity. 

** My parents (my father especially) were quite abusive during my early years.  I don't think they were abusive out of malice, but out of ignorance.  They followed books like "Dare to Discipline" and the advice of older Christians who insisted that beating us would make us obedient kids.  (Honestly, if anything I would say that it made us a lot angrier.)  We were hit with metal spoons, slapped, pinched, forced to stand straight up (not leaning against a wall) for over an hour (and spanked if we leaned or sat down), left in dark rooms, and humiliated in public (that was and remains a favorite tool for dominionist Christians in like-minded settings...public humiliation and spanking of children in church is not uncommon). 

My mother, around the time I was eight or nine, realized that what she was doing was wrong, and stopped. She said that it was because she heard God telling her that their behavior was wrong.  It was a brave step: she ignored the advice of everyone around her (including the pastor) to do what she felt was right.  (Of course, I think that "still small voice" was her innate empathy and consience rather than the voice of God, but that's not an argument I can win.)  She's since apologized to me, and that relationship has been more than healed.  I recognize that I'm lucky in that respect.  My father, likewise, stopped his abuse.  He had an anger management problem (like a lot of cops) and was also raised in a very physically abusive environment (his mother used to hold his head under the bath water if he mis-behaved, among other things).  So he took a step back from being the disciplinarian until he got that under control.  My parents got a lot of flack because my dad didn't take the active roll in discipline, which other church members considered to be his job as the spiritual leader of the family.  But he couldn't trust himself to discipline without it becoming abuse, so he did the right thing by stopping.  By the time my youngest brother came along, my parents no longer used physical discipline at all, having discovered that other ways of parenting worked much better, and didn't violate their ethics. (Or, my mom would say, they started following God's direction in discipline. BLECH.)

I've forgiven both my parents, and I have a good relationship with them, but some scars can never be erased, and that's why I'm so passionate about this issue.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hating God

Since being out as an atheist, I have been accused many times of hating God. No matter how many times I explain that it’s rather impossible to hate someone that I believe doesn’t exist, the same allegation still comes up, many times by the same person. Maybe there are people who honestly can’t comprehend that some people just truly don’t believe in a god, and view my stated disbelief as a sort of rebellion, a childish way of lashing back at God out of anger.  They cannot conceive of never believing, because in their mind God is as real to them as the air they breathe, so it's impossible to accept actual disbelief from others.    

(Unfortunately, they don’t take this far enough to examine why I might be angry with God if that were the case…usually I’m told some variation of “you want to sin without feeling bad about it” or “you’re angry that God doesn’t give you everything you wanted.” These are both wildly inaccurate, and make me look like a petulant teenager, which might be why some believers I've encountered are so dismissive and condescending towards me. I want to explore both of these in more detail later, so stick a pin in them. Right now, all I can say is that this characterization is just plain wrong. For more insight, you can read a little about why I no longer believe in God.)

I also think that there are some believers who confuse my hatred of the atrocities of religion, and my hatred of how some believers treat other people, as a hatred for God. And while it would be too strong to say I hate religion, because I do think that good things have come out of religions (maybe in spite of the religion itself), I do hate irrationality, intolerance, cruelty, evil, and the many, many other negative effects that religions have had on our world. (I don’t have the time for a total overview; that would take a book, many books. The best book I know on the subject and one I recommend everyone read, religious, atheist, or indifferent, is: Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless.)

Yesterday, however, I came the closest I've ever come to truly hating God. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Back in Black

Sorry I've been gone for so long.  My health has been not-so-good (understatement); sometime I may talk about that more.  Scratch that: I know I'll talk about it in detail at some point, as going through health problems through the last year and a half as dramatically altered my outlook on life in several significant ways.  But for right now, suffice to say that I've been in the hospital off and on for the last couple weeks while being in bed and rather drugged even when home.  So, not a lot of chance to write.

I have caught up on some reading, however, and, again, will be talking more about some of what I've been reading over the next few days/weeks/whatever.  One book that I just finished is "Sybil Exposed" by Debbie Nathan, an absolutely amazing book book about the Sybil case and the larger MPD phenomenon.  Ms. Nathan doesn't pull any punches and documents the multitude of problems with how the situation was handled and the mass hysteria it caused, but she does it with deep empathy.  There are no bad guys or good guys, just flawed people and even more flawed system that failed everyone involved.  Brilliant book; I also want to talk more about some of the issues it raised, later. 

One thing, though: the more I read about the history of psychiatry and even current practices, the more I feel that as a skeptic and a person with mental illness, I'm trapped between a rock and a hard place.  I know that I need help, but I also feel that when it comes to the understanding and treatment of mental illness, there is a lot of bullshit and comparatively little hard evidence.  Personally, I've been screwed by professionals who used unscientific treatment methods (the ex-gay therapist comes to mind, and the therapist who tried to convince me that I had repressed memories and needed to be hypnotized).  I've been drugged to the gills by one doctor and told I was fine and didn't need anything at all by another doctor (both times leading to serious issues, including a suicide attempt).  Right now I'm coasting on a bare minimum of medication--just one anti-depressant, given by my primary care doctor--and the support of friends and family when I become seriously depressed or anxious. 

But that's not enough.  This is not a lasting solution.  It's not fair to rely so totally on my family to take care of me when I'm too depressed to get out of bed or shower, or too scared to leave my house.  And it's not doing me any good, either.  But I'm honestly terrified to find help.  I don't want to go back to being so drugged I can't think, drooling and stumbling through life.  I don't want to be mind-fucked by another well-meaning therapist.  The two attempts I've made in the past couple months have been dead ends: a frankly weird-ass therapist who was overly invasive and straight-up lied to me on one occasion that I know for sure, and a doctor who diagnosed me as bipolar and obviously in need of hardcore mood stabilizers within five minutes of meeting me, without knowing my (very) complicated psychiatric and medical history.  So, I do know I need to work to find someone.  I'm just scared.

And reading books like "Sybil Exposed" doesn't do much to boost my confidence, you know? 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Stupid-ass Questions with Easy Answers

So on one of the message boards I frequent, this gem popped up.  Knowing this poor, poor woman was crying out to the group for a little help,  I decided it was up to me (especially after I read the comments).  I'm not much of an advice columnist, but we'll see.  If this works, maybe I can branch out.

I've noticed lately, pretty much since I've been on my weightloss kick, that when I see tremendously overweight people out in public, eating gross things ect. I get very judgemental. I really don't want to be this way, and I feel bad for thinking the way I do, but I can't help but think "It's not hard to lose weight, and you shouldn't be eating that"

Is it wrong for me to feel this way?


Dear IIW:


With love,


Sunday, May 6, 2012

We've come a long way?

Repost of something I wrote years ago.

(Trigger Warning for Domestic Abuse)

Several years ago, I was watching a history channel special on JFK.  The show asserted that the reason JFK had won the election was because of two things: women and TV.  Women voted for JFK because they saw him on TV, and he was cute. 

At the time, I was living with my grandmother, who was in her eighties, and I remember asking her, "Grandma, did you vote for President Kennedy because he was handsome?"

"No, I did not," my grandma snapped back, startling me with the vehemence of her response.  "I voted for him because he said that he would raise the minimum wage, and I had five babies to feed.”

“Oh, okay,” I answered, but Grandma was just getting started.  I’d obviously touched a nerve.

What Boys Can Learn From Girls (or: Be a Pussy).

A repost of something I wrote years ago.

(Trigger Warning for homophobia, child abuse, and sexual assault.)

My brother is a decent kid, and I love him, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s homophobic. 

To his credit, he doesn’t want to be a homophobe...he’s a good, progressive boy raised by a progressive mom, living in a progressive area (San Francisco), and he has a lesbian sister (me) that he loves.  He’d never beat up or tease a gay kid--he’s stuck up for a gay kids, or kids that were perceived as gay/effeminate, at school and boy scouts, even--he’s totally supportive of civil rights for the queer community and voted against Prop 8.  I’m not saying he should get a medal for this; treating gay people like, well, people, is the bare requirement for being a decent human being, in my book.  But I say this to establish that he doesn’t hate gay people or wish us harm. 

But he’s still homophobic. 

I use homophobic in the literal sense, not the general usage of the term.  He is afraid of gay people.  Well, gay men.  Like many 19-year-old, heterosexual boys, he’s a product of our porn culture, and really likes lesbians.  At least the “hot” ones.  (But that’s a different rant, for a different time.)  Gay men freak him out.  Though he’s known several out gay boys, he’s never had a gay friend, and doesn’t want one.  He’d never dream of interfering in the lives of gay men, but he doesn’t want to be a part of their lives, either.

To his credit, he admits that this is a problem, specifically his problem and not something that gay people cause just by the fact of their existence.  To his discredit, he doesn’t think that it’s possible to change the way he feels, and has no intention of making an effort to change.  “It’s just the way it is,” he says.  “Any guy would feel the same way.”

(Presumably, he means any heterosexual guy.  It’s a little thing, but it really shows his deep bias against gay folk, even with his progressive politics.  All guys are heterosexual.  Gays are “other.”)

We had a long conversation the other day, during which I tried to get to the bottom of his homophobia.  How can a kid who doesn’t really have a moral problem with homosexuality, who actively supports gay rights, who has been raised around gay people and has gay family, still harbor a deep fear against gay men?  It came down to a couple of things.

First, he finds gay sex skeevy.  Okay.  I can understand that; I find a lot of sex gross, hetero and homo.  Hell, the time I heard my parents having sex in the shower scarred me for life, but it doesn’t mean I’m afraid of my parents.  After some thought, he agreed.  Yeah, he thinks gay sex is nasty, but it doesn’t make him afraid.  He just doesn’t think about it.  Which is good, because frankly, I think that people who like to sit around all day long thinking about sex acts in general, and sex acts that gross them out in particular, are just perverts.  (Here’s looking at you, Peter LaBarbera.)  So that explanation doesn’t work.

The real answer, we discovered, is that he’s afraid that a gay man might find him attractive.  He’s super uncomfortable with the thought of another boy checking him out.  He has no idea what to do if a guy hits on him--what will he say?  How should he act?  And, of course, there’s an underlying fear of rape.  Even though he acknowledges that it’s stupid (and arrogant), that he knows gay people aren’t roaming the streets looking to molest his ass, he’s still afraid. 

The kicker of the conversation was when he looked at me and said, totally seriously, “You’re not a man.  You can’t understand.”


Repost from my livejournal.

(Trigger Warning for disordered eating and sexual assault.)

Anorexia is a weird thing.

For a girl who was 300+ lbs throughout high school, anorexia was always the terrible disease I longed to catch. I tried being anorexic--not dieting, I mean, I tried cultivating a fear and hatred for food. Didn't work, for the obvious reasons. So I had a gastric bypass, which may or may not have been about as destructive (my intestines ruptured; I nearly died). It got the job done, and I made the decision with my eyes wide open about possible deadly consequences (though no one mentioned intestinal rupture!), so I don't waste time regretting my decision. Anyway.

A gastric bypass isn't a magic bullet, especially when you are very heavy pre-surgery. The first year, it's impossible not to lose weight, but after that, you're on your own. I got down to about 180 lbs, then went to rehab and shot up to 230 lbs pretty quick. Since I had lost over 100 lbs, I was still considered a success story, but it certainly didn't feel that way. So I resolved to try and lose weight again, and began actually doing healthy things, like limiting food intake and exercising. All for the good.

That changed after I was raped.

This Slut Votes

So a group called This Slut Votes has started to try and organize against the recent epidemic of anti-woman Republican legislation. 

I fucking love it. 

This might not be a surprise, considering the name of this blog, but I'm a big fan of reclaiming language.  You wanna call me a bitch?  Bring it.  If your definition of "bitch" is "woman who disagrees with me and doesn't snivel about it" than, fine, you got it, I'm a bitch.  After I heard my brother say, "I usually don't use this word, but Hillary Clinton is such a cunt," I was, like, if Ms. Clinton is a cunt, than I sure wanna be one, too!  

Not everyone agrees.  That's fine.  I understand that some people who've been hurt by such language in the past don't like to hear those words thrown around, or feel that "reclaiming" does more harm than good.  I've seen it argued that taking on "slut" is giving into the male-pleasure dominated porn culture, and that it can never truly be an empowering word. 

But I don't think that's what's going on here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Weight Reality

This is a repost of something I posted on facebook.

People on a message board I frequent (at My Fitness Pal, a very cool website with some assholes in the community, like everywhere) were talking about how they hate seeing fat people in public, and how fatties just gross them out, and how awful they feel when they see a fat person buying unhealthy food at the store, etc. I was so angry that I just had to reply. Here it is:

It is impossible to tell from looking at someone what their lifestyle is. Even when I was at my heaviest (300+ lbs), I still worked out and tried to eat healthy.  Hell, I was a vegan! I have a medical condition and am on medication that makes weight loss almost impossible (which is why my doctor recommended a gastric bypass, which helped but didn't magically fix). When moving hurt, I still made time to exercise in a healthy way, and I was able to keep my blood pressure and sugar levels in a good range (a better indicator of health than pant size). Weight is incredibly complex...experts and studies confirm that it is so, so much more than "eat less/exercise more." Genetics, medication, health conditions, and past lifestyle choices all play a huge part. And heavy people have often been on many, many diets...most of which, studies show, fail, and then cause excessive weight gain and slow metabolism later in life. The assumption that someone who is overweight doesn't take care of themselves, or if they just worked at it they could lose weight, is false and fed by our weight-obsessed society.

Class and money play a huge role. Have you ever tried eating a healthy diet on food stamps? It's almost impossible. My mother tried to feed a family of six on a very limited food budget...she would have loved to have fresh fruits and veggies in the house, but when a package of Top Ramen was cheaper than an apple, and actually satisfied the hunger of her children (an apple is a great snack, but doesn't cut it for dinner), she chose the item that didn't make her kids go to bed starving. Processed food is terrible for you and causes weight gain, but that's what poor people buy, because a) it's cheaper, b) it lasts, and c) it's quick to make, and when you're working 2-3 jobs and going to school (as my mom was), you don't have time to cook healthy dinners. So please don't judge the mom whose shopping cart is filled with items you personally disapprove of; you have no idea what they're going through.

And you really don't know what someone's lifestyle is like based on a quick glance in the grocery store. A couple years ago, my mom sent me the store to pick up candy and other desserts for a church party that evening. While standing in line, the person in front turned around and sneered, "You'll never lose weight if you keep eating like that." Well, considering the food all had milk in it, I wasn't planning on eating any of it. And she seriously thought I was gonna take 15 bags of candy home to eat? Is that really what people think fat folks do, sit around all day eating bags of candy?

When I was the low girl on the work totem pole, my boss sent me out to get food from Costco for everyone. So I was getting several hot dogs and snacky things. When I was walking back, a woman said, "No wonder you're fat," with a horrible, smug and disapproving look on her face. Yeah, like I was gonna eat four hot dogs on my own, and anyway, it's none of her business! I was a lot less confident then, so I was in tears by the time I got back to work, and told my boss I couldn't do the food runs anymore (she was pissed on my behalf and totally agreed...they never made me go again). I was so hurt. It takes courage to go out and try to be happy when you're very heavy, and it just takes a little comment, someone reminding you that to the rest of the world you're hideous, to make you want to go home and slit your wrists or never go outside again.

I have on several occasions been used by mothers to fat-shame their children. It's horrible on two levels: 1) because they're talking about me like I'm disgusting and the worst thing someone could be, which is SO dehumanizing and hurtful, and 2) because they are using me to scare and shame their daughters, passing on the torch of body hatred, and teaching their kids that it's okay to make rude comments about someone's weight, because fat is the worst thing you can be. Quick example: when I was a cashier, a girl was bugging her mom for M&M's. The mom said to her daughter, "Do you want to end up fat like her?" (pointing at me). I quickly finished ringing her up, then had to take a break because I started crying. (I'm a lot tougher now, but, like I said, I used to be more sensitive about my weight.)

This is just one example of many over the years.

It's the reason I always made my little sister get her own popcorn at the theatre.  She (skinny girl that she is) likes a lot of extra butter. I told her that I just can't deal with the looks (if not the comments) that I get as a fat girl ordering extra butter. It hurts; I'm not going to put myself in that position. Or if I was celebrating a special occasion or was at a restaurant I really liked and wanted a dessert, sometimes I just didn't order (or made someone else order) because I couldn't stand the looks I would get. People didn't know it was something I rarely did. They just assumed that, hey, fat girl orders cake=she must eat cake all day long and that's why she's fat. Even if I just ordered the same thing my skinny friends ordered.

I have struggled with starving myself (which is the worst thing you can do to lose weight; it just made me unhealthy and more fat), with self-injury (taking out my body hatred on my stomach with a knife), with depression, with social anxiety. Some of it can be traced to the terrible things people have said to me during my life. I'm stronger now, I understand that the people who say and do those things are really just ignorant and scared (they don't understand the complexity of weight loss; they are scared of gaining weight themselves). But it took a lot of therapy and education for me to get to this place, and I still struggle with disordered eating and self-injury.

In conclusion: you don't know what someone's lifestyle is by just looking at them, and you don't know what medical conditions might be the cause of their weight. And you don't know how hurtful even your non-verbal actions can be. Get educated, and have some compassion. Pant size is a terrible indicator of a person's value as a human being.

God Saved Me?

This is a repost of something I posted on facebook.

I need to talk about something that is deeply upsetting and problematic to me, but I'm afraid that it's going to offend people that I care about. So let me state up front that offending people is not at all my intention.

A year and a half ago, I nearly died. That's not hyperbole; it's fact. It took three emergency surgeries before the doctor believed I even had a hope of surviving, but for the first couple days, my loved ones were told that there was a good chance I wasn't going to make it. In fact, if I had been older, not in good health otherwise, or were it three years ago (before the technology used to save my life was invented), they wouldn't have even attempted to save me. I would have died.

Almost immediately, I was told in one way or another, "God saved your life."

To which I have to respond: "I don't have the words to convey how offensive that is."

(Let me try to find the words.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why I Don't Belive in God

It wasn’t because of  a tragedy.

It had nothing to do with those who call themselves followers of Christ, and yet do evil.

It’s not youthful rebellion, or a way to get back at my parents. (Note: I mean, it's really, really not.  My biggest regret about losing my faith is the hurt it causes my folks.  I get really fucking tired of this assertion.)

It wasn’t because I wanted carte blanche to run my life as I wanted.

It wasn’t because I wanted to be different.

It wasn’t because I wanted to cause trouble.

It wasn’t something I went looking for.

And when I finally accepted it, it was with deep reluctance, and I still wished there was some way to go back.

Atheism, Agnosticism, and Humanism

Labels, labels, labels. 

I dislike "atheist" as a label because, a) it really doesn't tell you anything other than "I don't believe in God," b) makes god belief the default, which I think is a mistake, and c) the word comes with a lot of baggage. 

But it's because of that baggage that I don't hesitate to tell people I'm an atheist.  People need to realize that atheists aren't immoral, baby-eating pedophiles who want to kill and rape with impunity.  They also should know that many atheists (most atheists that I know, actually) used to be sincere Christians.  In fact, in my experience (all anecdotal, of course, though I'd be interested to see someone study this) often an effort to be a better Christian, studying apologetics and church history, biblical criticism and exegesis, leads people first out of fundamentalism and biblical literalism (which cannot withstand serious, honest scrutiny), and then out of belief all together.

I have come out as an atheist to friends and family (and, more anonymously, online), for much the same reasons that I came out as a lesbian.  First, I dislike being dishonest, and I'm bad at it.  My mom and I are very close, and I can't keep a secret for long.  I couldn't play the game anymore; much like when I was playing at being straight, I knew all the right things to say and do, but it didn't take long before play-acting started making me sick.  Also, as I said, I know that most people who hate atheists (and gay people, for that matter), do so because they don't know (or think they don't know) any.  Just by being honest, I can open people's minds, a little. 

But calling myself an atheist is starting to feel dishonest, too.