Archive for April, 2015

Disability Shaming

Posted: April 28, 2015 in Disability
Tags: , ,

I’m sick at the moment (some sort of cold in addition to my usual illness stuff) and this is probably a factor in me not thinking super clearly at the moment and having trouble trying to articulate this issue. That said I feel like this is something that I need to comment on.

In my inbox today I had a number of replies to comments I posted on a 4 month old blog post over at the Militant Baker’s blog from some hateful troll.

One of those comments was:

you’re fat, disgusting and pathetic. You can’t even wipe yourself. Do you realize how incredibly unhealthy you are?

So I can actually wipe myself. Which is an incredibly awkward sentence to even write. Because I’m not sure how that is ever in any way the business of some stranger on the internet.

And yet while the first thing that comes to mind there is “actually I can”, underlying that is a few more important issues. Like, and so what if I couldn’t? Would that be any business of some stranger online? The answer is no. Would that make me any less a person worthy of the same dignity and respect as any other? Again, the answer is no.

The thing is, I’ve noticed this trend online in comments, where it seems comments suggesting that the other person is disabled in  such a way as to need assistance (either from assistance devices or another person) with tasks such as using the bathroom are used as a means of attacking people.

Why? Why is this a go to attack?

And it’s not even just fat people. I’ve seen this happen in a number of threads online over the years on a variety of topic, the only similarity being that this is used as a shorthand for saying that someone is completely worthless.

Which of course says a lot about how we view certain disabilities. That says that disabilities where a person requires assistance from devices or another person for certain daily necessities, especially things like using the bathroom, make someone less that a person. That suggest these types of disabilities are the worst thing imaginable. Just one of many ways that we feed into this narrative that living with severe disabilities is a life not even worth living, at least according to the able-bodied normative culture.

This is a really harmful message.

Needing assistance using the bathroom does not make a person any less a person, any less deserving of dignity and respect and it does not make their life any less worth living.

Advertisements

[Image of troll dolls] Not these cute ones, but I’d rather use a photo of some cute dolls than anything more on topic.

I check out various hashtags on instagram from time to time though I don’t follow any religiously, but it was brought to my attention by someone that there were a bunch of trolls posting using various body positive hashtags and curiosity got the better of me and I checked them out. And sure enough the hashtags were overrun with trolls. Photos mocking fat people, photos of literal shit and vomit, and the usual jokes about fat people being lazy. All apparently from a subreddit called “fatpeoplehate”. Well, at least they are being honest about what they are about! No faux concern or attempts to call the hate anything else to make it sound more palatable. Their purpose is hating a group of people pure and simple. Their message is hate,end of story.

After that I kept checking back on the hashtags. They were still being overrun by these hateful messages from troll accounts that instagram keeps around despite the fact that they are very open about their sole intent being spreading hate, bullying, and harassment.

It really suck being reminded that there are people out there who even though they’ve never met you, straight up hate you because of some characteristic that has no impact on them. To be reminded that these people see you as less than human.

But despite that negativity I noticed a few things,

(in no real order)

  1. All these hateful images and messages were coming from just a handful of accounts. They were overtaking the hashtags but not due to numbers, there were far more people using the hashtags as they were intended with the occasional real photo shared here and there.
  2. The only reason these trolls were able to seem to dominate the hashtag despite being far outnumbered is because they posted constantly. What sad lives to spend so much time posting hate through a troll account.
  3. The troll accounts were just that- no name of the person behind it, no photos of who they really are, none of the normal instagram photos normal accounts have- selfies, stuff they do, friends, family, nature, their city, whatever else. There is none of that because people who spend so much of their time online hating and harassing other people do not want actually want that hate, that bullying, associated with who they really are. At the end of the day, they know they are wrong and that their behavior is unacceptable. So they hide. My instagram is on the side of this blog filled with selfies and pictures of my boring everyday life. That’s because I am not ashamed of anything I say here or there. I don’t need to hide who is behind these words.

And at the end of the day, despite all that hate, these are my take home points from this. As disgusting as these trolls are, they are a small group of people. They do not represent they views of most people. They are a few sad, pathetic people hiding behind the anonymity of their computer screen, in fear of their real identity ever being outed, because they know most people would not condone their hate and bullying behaviors.

I just want to encourage others to remember this, and don’t let a small group of hateful people bring you down.

This article showed up on my facebook newsfeed recently and it is so awesome I can’t not share it here:

There’s No Morality in Exercise: I’m a Fat Person and Made a Successful Fitness App

The whole thing is really, really worth reading. That said I also love this paragraph near the end:

What I’ve learned is: the story I got told about what it meant to have a fat body, that it must mean that I sat around all day eating deep-fried stuffed-crust pizza and watching TV—that story just wasn’t true. The story about how people who look like me hate to exercise just isn’t true. It’s so easy to let the media you see or the discourse you hear define who you are before you’ve even learned about yourself. And I bought into it for too long.

And the Successful Fitness App mentioned? Zombies, Run! I already loved this app and now there is so much more to love about it!

When we came to make Zombies, Run!, I deliberately put a line in the very first mission, when you, Runner Five, are just arriving at Abel Township, the tiny, shivering remnant of humanity left after the zombie apocalypse. I had one of the characters say: “If you can move above a slow shamble, we can use you.” Why? Because I am so sick and tired of the best and nicest exercise-based treats being reserved for people who are already in peak physical shape, and I’m sick of the notion that having fun while exercising is something you have to earn; that, until you look a certain way, moving ought to be boring and unpleasant if not outright painful. Your body is there right now. You did not have to earn a thing. It is a gift. You are a hero every time you step out of your front door to do some exercise.

I’ve heard that line before, but I never gave a whole lot of thought to it. But so much more love for the fact that this was purposeful to say running is running, even if you are slow! Especially since I run super slow and I’ve been playing zombies, run! before and thought “thank god there aren’t really zombies chasing me, because I’m not sure I’d really be successful in outrunning them for real”.

I do love this app though, not only is it just really fun to play while running, I’ve actually been meaning for awhile now to write about Zombies, Run! in terms of their representation of queer characters. I won’t say too much more on that now, because I still plan to write that post some day. So this is just one more in a long list of reasons to love the app.

And to sum it all up:

And, to be clear, there’s no moral component to exercise, no matter what the magazines might try to tell you. You’re not a better person for doing it or a worse person for not.

Ragen Chastain on her blog Dances with Fat recently had a post about coming out as fat.

I don’t feel the need to come out as fat or fat and happy personally. But I thought of this when thinking about the way I talk about being classified as “morbidly obese”. I talk about this and make sure to use this terminology not in the same way I do “fat”, I don’t want to reclaim it, but to put a face to the term.

I’m 5ft and last time I stepped on a scale somewhere around 225lbs giving me a BMI close to 44, with BMIs over 40 being classified as “morbidly obese”.

photo of myself for visual reference to what my weight looks like on me, for those who don't already know.

photo of myself for visual reference to what my weight looks like on me, for those who don’t already know.

One of my very early posts on this blog was actually about what my weight is (and yeah, I weigh even more now than when I posted that). I am publicly telling you all how much I weight because I don’t think it is something I should be ashamed of.

I’ve had a lot of people express shock at my weight and even more that I would be considered “morbidly obese”. So often we treat these numbers and classifications as so secretive and shameful and the result is most people don’t have a good mental image of what it does, or more accurately, can, look like. So people can obviously look at me and see that I’m fat, that is no shocker. But when we treat weight as something so secretive and something to even be lied about, people don’t end up with good visuals of what weights look like. I think this is even worse with bmi classifications. Especially when it comes to such negative terms like “morbidly obese”, it makes sense this isn’t something those who are technically classified as are quick to identify with, and a lot of people never bother to look at what all these classifications are to know if it fits them or not. So when people use these terms, they don’t always have a good idea of who it is they are talking about.

I talk about being classified as “morbidly obese” because this is a category most people treat as so extreme that of course people that fat deserve negative treatment. “It’s ok to be a little overweight, as long as you aren’t morbidly obese”, (in response to fatshaming) “it’s not like she’s morbidly obese!”- the overall implication is that “morbidly obese” people do deserve to be treated terribly. It’s important to me to “out” myself as THAT fat because of this. Because the next time someone who knows me wants to talk about how these things are only not ok when a person isn’t “mobidly obese”, they are saying that these things are acceptable when applied to people like me.

This isn’t to say it would be ok if the definition of “morbidly obese” was something I didn’t fall under. The point isn’t that the definition isn’t high enough up there. The point is no one deserves to be treated disrespectfully or bullied and that fat people, and even us “morbidly obese” folks are people like anyone else.

It’s about putting a face to the term, which can help to humanize the group. If you don’t know anyone personally who falls into x group, it’s easy to justify their poor treatment. Sure, there are a lot of people who will feel the same regardless of if they know someone in x group or not, but there are others for whom realizing that these people are some faceless other, but people they know and even care about, does make a difference.

Still I use “morbidly obese” in quotes because while I think it important that people understand when they use this term, they are using a term that is applied to me, it’s not one I accept or agree with. The term suggest that I weigh so much that my body weight is literally killing me (and I specifically say weight rather than fat here, since this is defined by BMI which is based on weight regardless of composition. Although I am fat and have plenty of fat on my body, BMI makes no statement as to my, or anyone else’s, body fat vs lean body mass.) According to many places I’ve found online being morbidly obese means that one’s obesity interferes with basic physical functions like breathing and walking! Which my obesity does not interfere with my basic physical functions. I do not have any of the so called “obesity related” illnesses that are mentioned with “morbid obesity” and it does not significantly impair my quality of life.

Particularly as a person with disabilities, I find all of this ridiculous. I know very much what it is like to have an illness that impairs my quality of life and ability to function, and it is nothing at all like being fat. (And there is absolutely no reason to think any of my illness are caused by being fat, since I’m sure there are plenty of folks who would claim that. I love how people are always so quick to say I must be ill because I’m fat without even knowing me or what my illnesses are.)

I’ve joined a few facebook lesbian groups hoping for some spaces to talk to fellow queer women, because in a world where the assumption is always of heterosexuality it’s nice to have spaces where you can be surrounded by other queer people. My time in these groups has never lasted long though as I get quickly frustrated with issues of misogyny, strict gender roles (in the form of butch/femme roles), biphobia, and more.

That said, from my time in these groups (all of which were open to all queer women, including bi women) there were a few questions that came up over and over again- how come some girl I know who said she is a lesbian is now dating a man? Another sometimes phrased as a question- why do all bi women end up with men- was often also just phrased as a statement as to why lesbians won’t date bi women- because all bi women will end up with a man in the end.

To anyone truly curious about this topic, I thought I would weigh in publicly, based on my experiences only of course.

Sexuality is Complicated!

The thing is, sexuality is complicated! Far more complicated than 3 little ticky boxes for straight, bi, or gay allows for. Besides that, identity is complicated and sometimes confusing as well!

I feel like this is something I need to say because I’m one of those who has had a complicated relationship with my sexuality and identity. The typical story of queer people presented to us is that of people who are 100% totally gay and have always known it since they were little kids. We talk about being in the closet and coming out in this way as well- the implication behind how we talk about it is usually that a person knows they are gay but may choose to keep it a secret (in the closet) or reveal it (coming out), but we don’t talk about or even have good terminology to differentiate, the experience of figuring out one’s sexuality. We can talk about “questioning” but that does not, in my opinion, accurately capture the long, long process of figuring out exactly where one really falls amongst those ticky boxes.

So let me tell you a little bit about my complicated relationship with my sexual orientation. I considered myself straight up through the beginning of college- the truth is I never even know how to phrase this. Looking back now there are all sorts of things I think “that should have been a clue” regarding. But at the time any attraction I had for other girls was not something I considered to be serious and I certainly wouldn’t have considered dating another girl. Rather during that time I had crushes on boys and I dated boys and didn’t feel that “straight” was in any way not fitting of my orientation. In college I started to acknowledge more the feelings I had for other women, and after that came crushes on specific women. Eventually I came out as bi though it would be a long time still before I ever dated a woman. I spent year identified as bi dating men, because it’s hard to meet queer women to date! Eventually I decided to stop dating men, I still considered myself bi but for a long list of complicated reasons I wanted to focus only on dating women,. Which mostly meant just not dating. Have I mentioned that it’s hard to meet queer women to date? Finally a few years ago I met and started dating my first girlfriend, still identifying as bi at the time. Then that ended, we just weren’t a good match romantically. After that though I started to realize that I am far more interested women than men. It was a slow process but overtime I became uncomfortable with calling myself bi- while bi does not have to mean that one is equally interested in people of all genders, the fact that I didn’t want to date men made period made it weird to me to say I was bi.

I now prefer queer but I will also use lesbian or gay. I’m about a 5 on a kinsey scale. I am far more interested in women in general and more importantly limit my dating to only women because of this. Could I end up dating a guy? Sure, but not only is less likely, we would first need to already know each other for me to start to see possible interest in that guy individually because if a guy asks me out at the bar (or any other situation) my response is going to be “no thanks, I don’t date men”. If a woman asks me out at a bar (or any other situation) my response is probably going to be “heck yeah! let’s do this!”

That said, it’s still a lot more complicated than that. The truth is, I’m still trying to figure out what level of attraction I do or don’t have for men. Which also resulted in a brief dip back into dating men recently when I was sick of being single and though “I could totally date guys! right?” Turns out, no. That went terribly and I realized, “nope, not really into guys”.

I feel a lot like I just keep trying to force myself into this straight mold but it does not fit me at all. In the end, I’m still figuring this all out!

And that’s kind of my point, it’s complicated, we don’t all always have it figured out exactly where on a scale of sexuality we fall. And sometimes we find that where we previously placed ourselves isn’t quite right. Sometimes we use labels for the sake of ease that don’t fit us perfectly. Frankly I don’t feel bad about using the terms lesbian or gay to refer to myself and I don’t consider myself a liar when I do. They are some of the closest fitting terms for my orientation that most people are comfortable with, and I don’t think I or anyone else needs to be 100% gay now and forever to use them.

Biphobia

There is another issue this touches on as well though, and that is the case of biphobia among lesbians. When these discussions would come up in these facebook groups there were always numerous comments from self-identified lesbians about how they would never date a bisexual woman for all variety of reasons. Apparently many go as far as to limit all their dating to gold star lesbians because frequently such comments were voiced in terms of how the woman in question couldn’t stand to be with another woman who ever had a penis in her. Always stated with a level of disgust toward any woman who at any time for any reason allowed herself to be tainted by dick.

It seems to me quite a bit hypocritical to be so negative toward women who identify as bisexual and then act shocked when women who aren’t 100% gay still choose to identify as lesbians. I think a lot of women who fall somewhere on a spectrum between bisexual and gay feel a pressure to identify as lesbians or gay instead of bi because of this. I do think there is a level of fleeing the negative associations of the bi label, whether consciously or subconsciously. Keeping in mind that for many woman like myself, we fall somewhere between bi and totally gay. I’m closer to the gay end so I feel more comfortable with that label. Consciously is this because of the negative connotations of being bi? No. Could it be effected me at a more subconscious level? Maybe, I couldn’t say for sure. But I think overall this has an effect on the community and how people choose to identify.

So before you go getting pissed that a woman who wasn’t totally 100% gay takes on the label lesbian, maybe take a look in the mirror as a community and ask if there is a reason so many woman who fall somewhere between bi and gay feel a pressure to identify as lesbians instead of bi women.

Dating

Now as for the last question there about why bi women “always” end up with men, it has also been my experience that most bisexual women end up in relationships with men. Most, not all. So I can understand why it seems this way to many queer women. But the why isn’t really so hard to imagine here, studies suggest the number of women who are bisexual or gay is only around 1-2% of the population. Now, the number gets higher when you ask about sexuality in different ways that isn’t based on those ticky box identifications, but when it comes to dating ticky box identifications matter imo. A woman who identifies as a straight might not be 100% straight and might have potential for a queer relationship, but I’m still not about to ask her on a date due to the fact that she IDs as straight. So when you are trying to date women, the fact that only 1-2% of them are openly interested in dating other women makes things a bit more difficult. On the other hand, finding straight or bi men in the dating world is not at all difficult. Remember how I mentioned my brief attempt at dating men again? When I changed my okcupid settings I went from almost never getting messages as a gay woman looking for women, to a full inbox and more messages than I could possibly keep up with- all from men, when I was a bi woman looking for men or women. Mix in all those lesbians who refuse to date bi women, and no shit a lot of bi women end up in relationships with men! Yet it has nothing to do with them not being truly bi, or anything inherent to being bi that it must happen, nor a factor of bi women always secretly preferring men (which btw, queer ladies, stop putting down queer relationships! The internalized homophobia is not cute.)

So there you go, my answers to these questions which seem to baffle all lesbians on facebook. You’re welcome!

So a little something about me, I tend to mentally freak out and worry about things, expecting the worst possible scenario.

Despite all my experience with it, ever time I have to give a presentation for school I have to fight the urge to literally just get up and run away. And that’s with something I do often! This is often far worse then with things where I’m out of my element and not sure what to expect.

I’ve always wanted to try some strongman training but don’t have access to a place/the equipment to do it. So when I saw a facebook friend post that he got some strongman equipment and inviting local folks over to check it out, I was excited for the opportunity. And also terrified of all the scenarios in my head about how awful this was going to go.

I might be too weak for any of the equipment even without added weights! And I have never done this before and don’t know what I’m doing. And my form is probably terrible even at stuff I do have experience with. Long story short- my mind was racing with all the ways this would go terribly wrong.

The whole drive over I was fighting that “just turn around and go home” urge.

But I didn’t. And I got to try out some strongman stuff with two very nice guys. It was fun and exciting and absolutely nothing terrible happened! It left me just all the more excited to do more strongman stuff, and excited about lifting in general. And as much as I love my home gym and working out alone, it was actually fun to lift with some other folks for once. And I was so sore after in all the best ways.

I know for lots of folks fitness activities that are new can be intimidating. Whether it be the first time in a gym, first time trying a new sort of activity or something else- people get nervous and intimidated (I sure do!)

But there are good things to come out of pushing past all that and trying something new anyways.

And I know I, for one, am definitely working on doing that more often. Getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things!