Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

Last night I finally got back to Krav Maga. I was cleared in November to slowly transition back into normal activity after many months of not being allowed to do anything that put weight on my feet. I had expected to get Krav Maga back in the mix of things much sooner, but, shockingly things have not gone how I expected since November!

Not only in terms of taking so long to get back to Krav Maga but in terms of fitness in general I have been relatively inactive. I was dealing with depression before the election and it has just been a lot worse since then.

In addition to the depression there is also a sense of these things not mattering anymore, things in my personal life. It feels sometimes like I need to be focused constantly and fighting back against the hatred and fear pushed by Trump and his administration, and fighting against the harm they are doing. (Only a week an already so much harm!)

I’m working on this mentality though. Working to remind myself that taking care of myself is an act of resistance itself and that to fight back I have to take care of myself.

Saturday I was able to go to the Women’s March in Washington DC. This especially brought it home for me how important it is to take care of myself. I couldn’t believe how sore and tired I was from the walking and standing. We were standing basically all day, and I walked around 9 miles I think. Still, I did not expect 9 miles to hurt so much and to be so hard. I know part of this is that I was already tired at the start of it from a long bus ride to DC with no sleep that was not very comfortable. But I’m sure another part of it was that I hadn’t been very active for a few weeks before the march and was not doing a great job at taking care of myself.

So I’m working on changing that. I’m working on getting myself back into better shape, so I have the strength and endurance for this fight.

grwulub

Photo of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa that says “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance”

 

 

 

 

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I feel a little bad about it, but it seems I can never go through a cultural competence seminar about LGBTQ folks without getting annoyed at some aspect of it that I feel the presenter has gotten wrong.

A major one is conflating gender identity with gender expression. So many times I’ve had these trainings teach that gender identity is how masculine or feminine one is, or how much a person fits social norms for being a man or a woman.

NO!!!

That’s gender expression. Someone female assigned at birth may be very masculine and always wear men’s clothing while still identifying as a woman. That woman’s gender identity is “woman” but her gender expression is masculine.

Another person female assigned at birth may be trans and identity as a man, his gender identity is “man”, yet he may still have a feminine gender expression.

Essentially, these two thing can come in all combinations.

Gender identity is really nothing more than the gender one identifies as. The end. There are no rules for it, no qualifications one must meet. There is no test that will tell you your correct identification based on clothing, characteristics, or sexual orientation.

For myself, I am a cis women, and tend to be slightly more to the feminine side in terms of gender expression, though I often feel very mixed in terms of it as in many ways I am. I have many characteristics deemed masculine by society, an many deemed feminine. In term of appearance I’m pretty femme though I still sometimes prefer more masculine looks.

When it comes to how I feel about my gender I actually have a lot in common with many gender queer friends who are faab (female assigned at birth). The big difference though is that they identify as gender queer because of the ways they have felt out of place in terms of social norms for women, and for me despite the ways I have felt out of place in terms of social norms for women, I still identify as a woman.

That’s how it works! Gender identity is personal and based simply on what gender(s) you feel describe you best according to your own feelings and preferences. Often this matches up with gender expression, but it does not always an does not need to.

I’ve been thinking recently about how we perceive aging and appearances.  Particularly for women.  It’s commonly said that man more attractive, more dignified looking,  as they get older, whereas for women youth is paramount.

Which is bullshit.  It really is.  Why is being young considered so desirable for women? 

I have times I look back at photos of myself in my later teen years and think I liked so much better,  and why didn’t I appreciate it at the time?  (Side note but when u do thin this,  I try to remind myself that I may feel that way about myself currently,  so I need to appreciate myself now. )
But other times,  I look in the mirror and think I like how I look now much better than when I was 18, despite all the reasons I “shouldn’t” according to whoever.  And I am still fairly young, and so subjected to little of the negativity women get about their appearance and worth as they age.  All I often hear messages about how is all downhill after 18 for women, and I think- why should I want to look 18 again?

Why should I want to be 18? What is it about being young we desire so much?  I have learned so much since then,  I have gotten wiser,  smarter,  and stronger.  I am less inclined to tolerate bullshit,  and I have a better understanding of what really matters in life.
I care less what people in general think of me,  I care less about being cool,  popular,  or fitting in.  And frankly,  I often look forward to getting even older and giving less a shit about these things as time goes on. 

I think everyone should go check out this blog post by an MIT student about research on stereotype threat, and research on ways it can be countered.

In a now-famous study, psychologists at the University of Berlin falsely told participants that they had been selected to participate in a series of tests “to measure the ability to put oneself in someone else’s position” – a fabrication devised to avoid confounding factors in their real study on gender identity priming. They prepared a text describing a day in the life of a “stereotypical woman” who takes care of her family, works part time, and is insightful, helpful, and agreeable. They also prepared an equivalently-structured text outlining the activities of a stereotypical manly man who is tough, risk-taking, and does weight training after work. Subjects were randomly given one of the two texts, and then asked: “If you were the person described in the text, which adjectives would you use to describe yourself?”

Soon after participants described themselves with either the male- or female-associated traits, they were asked to take a mental rotation test presented as independent of the first part of the study, supposedly to measure their personal spatial aptitude. On this mental rotation test, women who were “primed” with the female identity scored an average of 3.86 on the exercise, compared to the female-primed males’ average of 5.14. Okay, expected. But then when primed with the male text, women scored an average of 5.49, while men scored 5.53… wait a second, what?

As it turns out, there is zero statistically significant gender difference in mental rotation ability after test-takers are asked to imagine themselves as stereotypical men for a few minutes. None. An entire standard deviation of female underperformance is negated on this condition, just as a man’s performance is slightly hindered if he instead imagines himself as a woman. (well then.) Although this study is of course not a logically definitive answer to all things “nature versus nurture,” it does add a tremendous structural asset to the growing mountain of evidence that “natural” ability differences are confounded by identity and subconscious self-stereotyping. Demographic expectations may be subtle or overt, but they are omnipresent, and they are likely much more powerful than most of us have ever considered.

There is a lot more really great info in the original post, so go over there and read the whole thing!

Image says: If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business. -Dr. Gail Dines

A page I follow on facebook shared a link about some guy who developed a vibrating bra that was demonstrated to actually increase a woman’s breast size, I believe it said 1 cup size in 1 week.

Unsure if this was meant to be serious I googled this… I’m not sure about this dude who apparently just invented this because this is a real thing and numerous products for this already exist. So I just wasted a bit of time looking at a bunch of different breast enhancement devices- there are vibrating bras, vibrating things you put inside your bra (both of which sound more like sex toys to me, but are marketed not for being pleasurable but for increasing breast size), weird looking rolling massagers designed specifically for use on breasts again marketed for increasing breast size, weird suction cup things, and of course all sorts of creams and pills.

All of which I feel fairly confident do not even work.

Of course I have now convinced amazon and google that I am seriously considering buying these products, so I know what ads I’ll be seeing a lot of online now!

Most of these products look just absolutely hilarious, so I’m laughing quite a bit looking at these things and thinking “people actually buy this!?!” Then I remember, yes, people actually buy these, and feel rather sad. As ridiculous as they look and sound, they exist because there are people who will buy them. People are taught to hate their bodies so much that no matter how ridiculous the product, any small bit of hope for “fixing” all those flaws, and finally being happy with your body seems worth it.

It makes me sad to think of how much money is wasted on hating our bodies instead of actually doing something that really does make us happy. I know I’ve wasted more money that I would ever care to think about on things that promised to fix flaws with my body.

And this is hardly limited to vibrating bras, and breast massagers promising larger breasts. There are so many products out there that exist for no other reason than to prey on our insecurities. I see all over social media the wraps- things that cling to your body and promise instant fat loss, and also can be used to make your boobs perkier, and they make your skin softer and clearer, give you a firmer, more lifted butt, et cetera. Pretty much anything you could possibly dislike about your body, I’m sure the sales people will tell you they do because all that matters if that you buy them! The same companies sell drinks and pills that they say will cause you to lose weight, creams to remove any “problems” with your skin, and pills that give thicker, smoother, silkier, longer, hair and stronger/longer nails.

I wish we could finally see a cultural revolution, where there was no longer any market for all these products that exist for no reason other than that we are taught to hate our bodies and prioritize “fixing” them over everything else. I want to just laugh at how ridiculous these products are, but it’s sad that there is such a market for body hatred.

Comic shows a man and woman getting married. In the first panel the priest asks “Do you promise to love him in sickness and in health?” The bride answers “Yes.” Second panel the priest asks “Do you promise to love him ’till death do you part?” The bride answers “Yes.” Third panel the priest asks “Do you promise to order your OWN fries if you want them, instead of saying you DON’T want fries, then requesting a ‘taste’ of his, and helping yourself to roughly half of them?” Fourth Panel the bride says, “Wha… who wrote these vows?!” The Groom says, “Just answer the question”.

I saw this the other day, shared on a website, and honestly didn’t think too much into it at the time. Yet it’s been stuck in my head a bit since then, bugging me a bit more over time.

The thing that bugs me about this comic strip is that it plays on a pretty common trope- women want something like fries but don’t order them instead eating a large portion of their (typically male) partner’s serving of that food.

If you want fries, just order your own fries, right?

Why is it apparently so common for women to not just order their own fries?

I feel pretty sure the issue is mostly related to pressure women feel to not be seen ordering too much food or the “wrong” kinds of food. That is the part that bugs me. Makes me mad actually. That we worry, that there is any cause to worry, about being judged if we did just order what we want.

Which to be clear- I order what I want when I eat out. Still, I can certainly relate to worrying about being judged for ordering what I want. Especially because of my size, but also certainly because I’m a woman. Because femininity is associated with daintiness and being small- and so we should be eating small, dainty portions right? Or better yet just not eating those foods at all because food is for some reason very gendered in our society! Burgers and fries? Those are guy foods. Women should order a salad. There is also this social image of women as dieters, where in it almost feels like an expectation that women be dieting, and trying to eat better (and less). Even if we don’t, how normal is it to preface such things with comments about how bad we are being for eating this or ordering that? It’s not the slightest big out of place to hear “I really should get the salad but that burger just looks so good!” To the point that it starts to feel like a social obligation to make it clear we know we aren’t supposed to be eating the burger and fries.

I certainly fall into this. Especially because I do tend to eat a lot in one sitting, particularly since I practice intermittent fasting. When I eat out at a restaurant, that’s often the only meal I eat that day, so yeah, it’s going to be big. It’s just common sense it will be bigger than someone for whom that is one of 3 (or more) meals they eat that day. Because of that I do find myself thinking “I really want to order this, but what are the people I’m with/the server going to think of me ordering that much?” I think more often than not these days I end up at “well fuck what they think, I’m ordering the food I want”, but it’s also pretty clear that this is something a lot of women, myself included, struggle with thinking. I also find myself making comments about it sometimes, like I need to acknowledge to someone that I know it’s a lot of food, or even apologize for that. I remember for instance going to a Coney Island restaurant with a friend who was visiting from out of state, who had never been to a Coney before. Looking at the menu, I really wanted a chili dog. I also really wanted a greek salad. And also chili cheese fries. So what did I order? All of the above. (Also ate all of the above plus half of a big dessert dish split with my friend after. And it was good.) I also remember making some comment to my friend essentially apologizing and saying that I was about to order a whole lot of food for myself.  Which is of course completely ridiculous. I don’t need to apologize to my friend because I’m eating a  lot of food. If I want to eat it, I don’t need to justify it, or apologize for it to someone else.

I suspect though that this is the underlying reason why it is, according to popular culture at least, so common for women to say they don’t want something like fries, and then eat part of their partners. This eliminates some judgement about what the woman orders for herself- not just from her partner, but the (often imagined) judgement from other random people, as well as from herself. “I’m bad for eating this” isn’t just something people say far too often, but also something far too common for women to feel. Yes, we want the fries, but we have years of programming telling us we are bad if we give in and order them or eat them. So you don’t order them, you just eat a few of your partner’s, which maybe ends up being more than a few because damn it you did actually really want the fries.

So, I absolutely agree that if you want fries, go ahead and order fries for yourself! But also, while we laugh about this phenomena of women who won’t order their own fries, why don’t we also consider what we are doing as a culture to make women feel bad for ordering fries?

(Also, I have some frozen fries in my freezer that I am definitely thinking of digging out and cooking later tonight thanks to this post! lol.)

A lot of people have been talking about Ronda Rousey recently, especially her response to people saying she looks too masculine. Her statement was:

I have this one term for the kind of woman my mother raised me to not be, and I call it a do nothing bitch. A DNB. The kind of chick that just tries to be pretty and be taken care of by someone else. That’s why I think it’s hilarious if my body looks masculine or something like that. Listen, just because my body was developed for a purpose other than fucking millionaires doesn’t mean it’s masculine. I think it’s femininely badass as fuck because there’s not a single muscle on my body that isn’t for a purpose, because I’m not a do nothing bitch. It’s not very eloquently said but it’s to the point and maybe that’s just what I am. I’m not that eloquent but I’m to the point.

The Not-So-Feminist Message of “Do Nothing Bitches”

Now, I’m not interested in saying what has already been said, so this post is mostly just pointing folks toward what others have said already. First a guest post to Fit is a Feminist Issue: Ronda Rousey is Not Your Feminist Hero (and that’s ok) really addresses a lot of the things I thought about Rousey’s statement when I first heard it. Mainly that on one hand I think “go her!” for defending her body from people trying to tear her down. Yet also, really bothered that she does so by attacking other women, who are just “do nothing bitches”. Even more troubled too by the way this was cast as the ultimate feminist comment- calling other women “do nothing bitches”.

As Audrey says:

Yes, she is femininely baddass as fuck, and yes, she should be proud as hell of every single muscle on her body. But also, fuck throwing other women under the bus. Fuck the category of “do nothing bitch,” because it doesn’t help any of us to put other women down.

Of course, knowing the very ignorant things that Rousey has said about Fallon Fox also had me feeling a bit uncomfortable with the idea that she is a feminist idol.

And while Rousey’s been silent about her lately, one woman who’s suffered a lot of discrimination in her MMA career is Ashley Fallon Fox, who came out publicly as a trans woman in an interview with Outsports. She was almost immediately subjected to a transphobic rant from UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione, who later apologized.Mostly. (Though I thought Fallon Fox’s public acceptance of his apology was quite the display of understanding and class.) So I’m not really as concerned about Rousey putting down some unspecified DNBs as I am about her public statements about Fallon Fox, stating that she would have an unfair advantage and that having a trans woman as a UFC champion would be a socially difficult situation.

The whole issue of unfair advantage is one that many people seem happy to weigh in on, regardless of whether they have any actual medical expertise in the area. But if you’re looking for a place to start, there are some nice summaries of some of the empirical evidence that’s out there having to do with testosterone levels, bone density, muscle mass, etc.

If you don’t feel like clicking the link for the full description of how medically inaccurate it is to say that Fallon Fox has an advantage because she is trans- to sum it up, the actual experts on this agree that after a year of estrogen or testosterone suppressing therapy, trans women would not have any benefit. In fact, trans women who have had their testicles removed will typically have lower testosterone levels, and thus a disadvantage in building muscle, than cis women with ovaries which produce testosterone.

But as Audrey says on Fit is a Feminist Issue:

The point here is that none of us should be putting Rousey on a feminist pedestal. But why should we need to? Thankfully, we are not short on badass women heroes as a society, nor are we short on feminist writing. There’s no need to try and read Rousey as delivering a perfect feminist message, and there seems to be no conflict between celebrating the positive things she brings while being critical of the ways in which her messages still fall short.

So I think Rousey is pretty badass and awesome at what she does, and I’m happy to see her fighting back (verbally) against those who feel the need to insult her body, but I’m not thrilled with the way she did so by throwing other women under the bus, and we shouldn’t overlook the way she has advocated against trans women’s inclusion in her sport, despite what the medical evidence shows.

Strong is not the New Skinny

I wanted to start with pointing to that blog entry first, to start with how it is not a feminist or empowering message to tear down other women for being do nothing bitches. Also found through Fit is a Feminist Issue, though a share on their facebook page, is this article about Ronda Rousey and the “Strong is the New Skinny” saying. I’ve written a bit before about my thoughts on the inaccuracies of the saying “Strong is the New Skinny”– in short, this message does not ever seem to include women who are strong but not also thin with low body fat.

Now I feel very similar about the Arkitect Fitness article linked above as I do about Ronda Rousey and her comments. Lots of awesome, and also lots of not. In fact, the biggest problem with the article is that it does a lot of tearing down other women, apparently in an effort to empower other women. I started with something calling out the “do nothing bitches” because one thing I dislike about the Arkitect Fitness article is the way the author apparently agrees with how awful do nothing bitches are, but then accuses many women who say they aren’t “do nothing bitches” of actually being “do nothing bitches”. Specifically, he seems to have a huge problem with photos of women with fitness hashtags who aren’t actually doing anything in the photo. First off- I think if your only goal for a photo is looking attractive, that’s fine! I’m hardly one to judge, because I’ve taken and shared photos for no other reason that I think I look good.

I also am hardly in a place to judge fitness photos that don’t have any fitness activities in them- I post these a lot! I try to get photos sometimes of me actually doing things- but it’s a hassle. I don’t have a photographer with me when I workout snapping photos for me. Instead I have to try to set up my phone on a tripod, and set a timer to hopefully catch a photo of me during a lift, which will probably turn out terrible anyways because the lighting is shit in my home gym, and the places were I can put my little tripod that can wrap around stuff is pretty limited so it’s not going to be a great angle or distance. And I usually play music on my phone, but can’t take photos or videos while playing the music, so for that set I have to give up having any music playing.

So instead, my fitness photos are usually me standing in front of my mirror in running clothes before I go for a run, or random selfies between sets or after a workout. When I have time to mess around with my phone and taking photos because I’m not doing something else. And sometimes after a good workout I just want to take a selfie of me being all sweaty but feeling good from the workout, and express that sentiment with it on instagram. And personally, I see no harm in that.

That said, I really like a lot of the things the author says there:

When you’ve been in this industry as long as I have, you can tell the difference between purpose built bodies, and bodies shaped for an aesthetic ideal. Sometimes the difference are minor but what lies underneath the surface is massively different. I’ve seen people with sub 10% body fat struggle to do a handful of pull-ups. I’ve seen “fitness pros” who can’t even put their hands over their head because they’re so immobile. It’s been said that “Strong is the new skinny,” but that’s simply not true. What’s true is that there’s been a shift from thin women being the sexual ideal, to more muscular women being the new sexual ideal, and being muscular and being strong are not the same thing, not even close.

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel sexy. Everyone wants to be wanted. The problem is when people sacrifice their physical capability or even well being for the sake of fitting some visual standard. Many times that standard isn’t their own, but one shaped by culture. Take the irony of women’s bodybuilding where you have to be extremely lean to be successful, but since the absurdly low levels of body fat decrease chest size (breasts are mostly fat, afterall), many women get breast implants, because being “feminine” is one of the judging citeria.

(emphasis mine)

I can relate so much to the part about feeling compelled to fit a visual standard that isn’t even my own. It’s something I have to actively fight against a lot of the time. Whether it be looking feminine enough, thin enough, et cetera- I do feel a pressure that I am supposed to look a certain way that very often does not match up with what I want or what I like. And it’s still hard sometimes to let go of the social message about how I am supposed to look and just focus on what my goals are, or what I like about my body.

I am a bit disappointed though that in this article to demonstrate how different athletes have different bodies comparing two weight lifters, he used a super heavy weight male weightlifter with a 48kg weight class female lifter, rather than highlighting any super heavy weight female weightlifters. I mean, when we are talking about the negative effects of equating leanness with strength or health, which is far more prevalent for women, sparked by a woman talking about her body looking how it does because she trains for a purpose not appearance, why not use a woman as an example of someone who can be very strong without a low body fast percentage? They exist!

How about Zhou Lulu, gold medalist in the super heavy weight class at the London olympics:

Or Jang Mi-Ran who took the gold for women’s super heavy weight at Beijing

Or what about Sarah Robles, described as the strongest woman in America, yet while preparing for the 2012 Olympics she was living in poverty, due in part to the lack of sponsorship for women whose bodies are outside the conventional beauty ideal (thin, low body fat).

But back to the Arkitect article:

Strong is not the new skinny, strong is and always was, just that, strong. Your value is not determined by your body fat percentage. It’s not determined by your body weight. It’s not determined by how much you can lift either. Your value isn’t based on how far you can run, or how high you can jump. Your value as a person is defined by your compassion, and your work ethic. It’s measured by your kindness and your intelligence. It’s weighed by creativity and your ethics. 

Now that having muscle is cool, it’s even worse. Now you can’t be thin, you’re supposed to be muscular…but not TOO muscular, you know, you don’t want to look like a man. As someone who’s primary job is making people healthier, I can tell you that this sh*t ain’t healthy. How is it healthy when someone doesn’t want to train their legs because they’ll grow and be “too big”? How is it healthy when people skip meals because they are trying to cut their calories so they can see their abs? How is it healthy to idolize someone that trains full time, has unlimited access to supplements via endorsements, likely takes drugs, dieted down for a shoot, was shot by a professional photographer, was touched up by a professional editor, and then shoved in your face as if you’re supposed to look like that, and look like that all the time. THAT.IS.NOT.HEALTH.

(emphasis mine above)

So I’ve been thinking a bit about being inspiring to others, and then read a post on Fit is a Feminist Issue the other day about being inspiring and it made me want to post something here about it.

Awhile back someone commented on one of my running blogs saying:

I love hearing about your running. Each time I think ‘one day that will be me. One day I’ll be well enough to run’. It’s inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing.

And I was kind of shocked, in a happy way, reading that. First off, I started blogging my runs because I find it motivating in a way that’s hard to describe, and I wasn’t really sure anyone else would read them let alone enjoy reading them.

Also I never would have imagined it to be inspiring to anyone. It’s not like I’m running marathons or anything, I’m out there going slow and not very far.

While I can’t speak for the person who left that comment, I started thinking about it though, and realized that it makes sense in many ways to find more inspiration in seeing someone else through the process of something than just the end result, if that end result is something that you don’t feel like you could do. Just seeing someone else run a marathon would not for me be as inspiring as seeing someone else who struggles with running talk about the whole process of training for it, seeing the progress, set backs, frustrations- because that can make you think “Maybe I could do that.”

Also I looked up the commenter’s blog after reading that and it made sense to see that it was someone else who is struggling with chronic illness. It makes sense to find inspiration from someone else like us doing something we would like to do. I know for myself I also struggle with fitness being primarily dominated by people who are generally healthy- as most areas of life are. I don’t think it shouldn’t be of course, people with chronic conditions are a slight minority and even then the effects are vastly different based on condition and individual. I personally struggle though with remembering that I can’t expect my training to look just like someone else who is generally in good health. Our experiences will be different. So when I do meet other folks who lift or run and have similar health issues as me, it is really great to see other people like myself doing these things as well.

So that’s my own background and what I’d been thinking about this before Natalie’s post on Fit is a Feminist Issue. In her post she takes issue with being called inspiring, coming from a perspective in which it seems she is often called “inspiring” by people who are different than her in a key way because of the idea that people like her don’t normally do that type of thing. In her case, the main issue she brought up was body size. Fat people aren’t expected to be active and athletic, leading to the “inspiring” thought process of “if even she can do that, I must be able to as well”. Which is a very different kind of inspiration, because it’s based on seeing that person as less than yourself. If even this person who should be less athletic than me based on X characteristic can do this, surely someone like me can as  well.

This is pretty common with both fat and disabled athletes. Many disability activists have also spoken out about “inspiration porn”. Stella Yound in her Tedx talk says these “inspirational” images of people with disabilities “objectify one group of people for the benefit of another group of people.”  This gets to the heart of what I think is the difference between when inspiring someone is great, and when it’s kind of icky. Seeing someone who is like you, such as someone with a similar disability or another fat person, doing something that you didn’t think you could, or that you are often told you can’t do because of that characteristic, can certainly be inspiring and it’s why it’s great to see more representation. Seeing more fat athletes or athletes with disabilities is great when it comes to providing encouragement to other fat people and people with disabilities, who can feel empowered by that to be more involved in aspects of fitness they enjoy.

It becomes kind of gross and really rude though when it’s taken as “inspiring” to people unlike the person in question.

This is so often the case of how images of athletes with disabilities are used. I see all the time people sharing images or video of athletes with clearly visible disabilities- typically people either born without certain limbs, or who have had them amputated, and the message is clearly stated- if this person can do it, then so can you. So can you because you are better than this person already because you aren’t disabled. The intended audience who are meant to be inspired aren’t other people with disabilities who think “that person is like me!”, it’s people without disabilities. And the reason it should be inspiring to people without disabilities is predicated on the social belief that people with disabilities are less than able-bodied people.

Image of a potato with text saying “I’m offended by this potato”

I am so sick of hearing folks talk about how terrible it is that other people make an effort to be respectful to other people- ie, caring if something they say is offensive. And images like the potato one here being shared around social media as oh so edgy! When did intentionally being an asshole become something to brag about?

This was going to be a facebook post but I feel like this will get too wordy for a facebook status, so blog post it is!

This is actually most recently inspired by conversations I’ve seen around a free pride (alternative to the main pride which many feel is too commercialized) in Glasgow deciding against having any drag performers at the event because some felt it would be offensive to some trans people. They apparently are working on changing this policy btw.

The thing is, looking at discussions about this- I actually saw a lot of really great and thoughtful discussions about this with people talking about the role drag has had in the history of the lgbtq right movement through time, and how it has been important for many cis gay/queer people and trans and genderqueer people in being able to embrace who they are. And some trans folks spoke about why they find drag upsetting, negative experiences with drag performers, and some cis gay/queer folks talked about why they are uncomfortable with drag performances- how many performers draw on misogynistic, classist, and racist caricatures yet it’s given a pass because it’s a performance/comedy/part of queer culture.

And then other folks but in with such insightful commentary as “haha pc police going overboard!”, “the movement to not be offended is imploding on itself!”, “if you are offended by anything ever just never leave your house!” and so on.

The underlying idea behind all that of course is that the thoughtful conversations that I previously mentioned are utterly worthless. Attempting to understand where other people are coming from and find ways to be more respectful to a wide variety of people is stupid. The cool thing apparently is being an asshole just for the sake of being an asshole. If you hurt someone unintentionally and they say so, laugh at them for being a human being who has feelings- what a loser!

The thing is, there is not actually any real movement out there to never be offended. What does exist is a lot of people who have decided “hey, let’s try not to be assholes!” Who actually care to listen to what other people have to say and perhaps make changes if what they are doing is upsetting people.

I don’t think “I’m offended” is or should be the end of the discussion. And the truth is, I don’t think anyone thinks that. That may be the starting point for a larger discussion that hopefully leads to greater understanding and empathy. It is certainly not the end all, be all it is made out to be by the same people who talk about “social justice warriors” as boogie men. (Because when being an asshole is cool, social justice is bad.)

If someone tells me something is offensive to them and why I like to hope that I would consider the point they are making. I would certainly not keep doing/saying the same thing for the sole purpose of hurting them, because I’m not a sociopath. I recognize that other people are human beings with feelings, and I try to be respectful of that. If I have a reason to say something that I feel is important though, I will say it. Take for example “queer”. A lot of people, especially in my experience older people, in the lgbt community find the term offensive. If I know someone who find it offensive I will not purposefully refer to them as queer to upset them, in fact I will do my best to use their preferred identity to refer to them specifically. I won’t stop using queer in general though, because it’s still the term I feel best fits my identification and I’m not ok with being told how I’m allowed to identified. There is actually nuance to these things. And there is a huge difference between using a term because it has important meaning to you, and using a term just to upset other people or because you can’t be bothered to be considerate of the fact that other people exist and have feelings.

In contrast to my use of the word queer, many years back a friend called me out on my usage of the word “retarded” as a generic negative. And while my immediate reaction was actually rather defensive at the time, over the next few days I considered the point she made and realized she was right, and there was really no good reason for me to keep using that word. It took awhile to get out of the habit of using it, but at the end of the day there was no good reason for me to use that word. Whether I agree with people being upset by it or not isn’t even relevant, they are and it’s a word I have no good reason to need to use, so why not make an effort to be respectful? It’s not that hard.

And yet, for some reason instead of recognizing the nuance and purpose behind these discussion, there is a large portion of people who want very much to reduce this all to “haha, you’re a person who has feelings!” and cries about “pc police”.

This morning on my facebook newfeed I came across this image:

Image Description: A flyer says "Check Your Privilege Gender - Man (+50) -Woman (-50) -Genderqueer (-75) -Intersex (-100) Transgender (-300) Race -White (+100) -Asian (-50) -Latino (-50) -Black (-100) -Middle Eastern (-150) -Other (-100) Religion -Christian (+50) -Non-Religious (-10) -Jewish (-20) -Muslim (-50) -Other (-20) Disability  -Able-Bodied (+25) -Disease (-30) -Immobile (-50) -Deaf or Blind (-50) -Autistic (-200) Sexual Orientation -Heterosexual (+50) -Bisexual (-50) -Pansexual (-50) -Asexual (-50) -Homosexual (-150) Status -Plutocrat (+100) -Wealthy (+50) -Middle (+25) -Poor (-25) -Homeless (-250) Appearance -Average Body (+10) -Overweight (-20) -Underweight (-5) -Disfigured (-40) -Tall (+10) -Short (-10) Very Priveleged: 100+ Priveleged: 50-100 Non-Priveleged: -100-0 Very Dis-privelege: >-100

Image Description: A flyer says “Check Your Privilege
Gender
– Man (+50)
-Woman (-50)
-Genderqueer (-75)
-Intersex (-100)
Transgender (-300)
Race
-White (+100)
-Asian (-50)
-Latino (-50)
-Black (-100)
-Middle Eastern (-150)
-Other (-100)
Religion
-Christian (+50)
-Non-Religious (-10)
-Jewish (-20)
-Muslim (-50)
-Other (-20)
Disability
-Able-Bodied (+25)
-Disease (-30)
-Immobile (-50)
-Deaf or Blind (-50)
-Autistic (-200)
Sexual Orientation
-Heterosexual (+50)
-Bisexual (-50)
-Pansexual (-50)
-Asexual (-50)
-Homosexual (-150)
Status
-Plutocrat (+100)
-Wealthy (+50)
-Middle (+25)
-Poor (-25)
-Homeless (-250)
Appearance
-Average Body (+10)
-Overweight (-20)
-Underweight (-5)
-Disfigured (-40)
-Tall (+10)
-Short (-10)
Very Priveleged: 100+
Priveleged: 50-100
Non-Priveleged: -100-0
Very Dis-privelege: >-100”

The more I look at this or think about it the more wrong with it I notice, including the misspelling of privilege. I can’t make out anything on the flyer that indicates who created it. I’m sure they had good intentions to help make people aware of their privileges with it. Though I am skeptical of whether this is even effective for that.

The first issue with this is that privilege and oppression cannot simply be added. My experiences as a queer woman are not simply sexism + heterosexism. Rather the way I experience sexism is as someone who is queer and the way I experience heterosexism is as a woman. Or to put that another way: I don’t experience sexism as straight women do + heterosexism as gay men do. This goes the same for areas of privilege. The way I experience sexism is also impacted by my white privilege as much as by queer oppression.

This is also one reason I’m skeptical of this doing much good for helping people be aware of their privilege as this suggests that my being gay somehow cancels out my white privilege (and then some). That’s not how it works. When it comes to race my privilege is not less just because I lack privilege in things not related to race.

Next up is that a lot of the numbers relatively are off. The first that stood out to me was sexual orientation, bi and pan represent 1/3 the lack of privilege of being gay which is just bullshit. bi and pan folks experience heterosexism/homophobia just like gay folks. Passing privilege is a thing, but not one specific to bi and pan folks- it’s neither inherent to those identities nor limited to them. As a single queer/gay/lesbian* woman I often have an easier time passing as straight if I want than a bi woman in a relationship with another woman. I’m never outed by talking about a current significant other or just being with them.

*I prefer queer as an identifier but will also use gay or lesbian. On a spectrum I fall somewhere closer to totally gay than middle of the road bi. On a kinsey scale about a 5.

And then that being bi or pan is equal to asexual that I personally do not think belongs there at all. Heteroromantic asexual people (those who have/desire hetero relationships but do not desire sex) are not oppressed imo. This also reminds me of the recent Daily Show segment showing past reports from correspondent Jason Jones where he is talking to a man who says that (gay) people shouldn’t have special rights just because of the kind of sex they have. The thing is, sexual orientation is not about the type of sex one has! At most it give you an idea of the gender of people I have sex with. It is a common question of how two women have sex, but the reality is the answer is all sorts of ways! There are many different acts that two women may or may not engage in, they may have very vanilla sex, or very kinky sex. And if it’s kinky, my sexual orientation tells you nothing of if I’m a domme or sub or a switch. It doesn’t tell you what my kinks are or aren’t. Gay sex shouldn’t be extra taboo imo, but being queer is about far more than sex and it’s effect on our lives goes far beyond the bedroom.

Other categories have weird hierarchies int hem as well. Autism is the most oppressed of all disabilities? Who decided that being middle eastern is the most oppressed racial group?

There are also issues with terminology. First off I don’t get the categorization for class, I don’t see anyone identifing as a plutocrat, and wealthy folks will just think they are middle class anyways.

“immobile”, “disease”, “disfigured”- many of these seem like they were chosen by people who are not part of that group. Even though I have diseases, in context I would prefer “chronic illness”, since I think of myself as “ill” not “diseased”- there is definitely a negative connotation to that. I’m not even sure who all is supposed to fall under these categories. There are definitely disabilities that don’t fit any of them.

Then there are the cross group issues. I’d rather speak to those that apply to me, so let me talk about those. First off, short? I’m short at 5’0″ but I am not oppressed by that shortness. Even within the appearance category, it is not comparable to being fat. And fat is nearly equivalent to being poor? I don’t think so. And for me I feel being a woman is a bigger factor in oppression that being queer, though I’m not sure where I’d rank everything. But socio-economic class needs to be higher up there. Of course the problem with ranking is it is personal! To me being a woman feels like it should rate a bigger negative score than being queer but that does not mean another queer woman won’t feel differently from her experiences. And much of this goes as well to the fact that we all typically experience varying degrees/aspects of oppression. My experience being queer is different than someone who was disowned by their family when they came out. My experience being fat is different than someone who has difficulty with chairs in public spaces accommodating their size. Experience with disability varies so fucking widely I wouldn’t even know where to start there. And socio-economic status is incredibly complicated in how we define it and where one falls. By income level I am poor. But that is to some extent ameliorated by other aspects of class privilege like education.

All in all, it’s just kind of a mess. Which tends to be the result whenever anyone tries to quantify or compare privilege.