We’re not public property

A quote from Rachele’s amazing rant about the scummy, scamming diet company “Venus Factor.”

Fat women shouldn’t have to be afraid to post their photos on the internet. We are not public property. We shouldn’t have to worry that a diet company is going to use our photo and fat shame to sell their “system” or that forums are going to post disparaging comments alongside our photos. We shouldn’t have to deal with rude trolls sent to our websites to bother us. It isn’t about legalities, copyrights and watermarking, it is the culture of fat hate that encourages and approves it.

-Rachele, Fat Babe Designs

Read the entire story of how her picture was stolen by a scummy, scammy diet company called Venus Factor here.

This type of thing is, sadly, common — women are considered public property on the internet, and especially fat women. We are used as “inspiration” pictures — heads cut off, of course, because heavens forfend we’re treated like actual people — for people wanting to lose weight. We are attacked in large number by misogynistic, fat-hating trolls, because we dared to put pictures of ourselves up without the requisite apologies for even existing. Our pictures are stolen for snake oil salesmen to use in their ads for fake diet companies.

It shouldn’t take mass activism or a social media campaign to get a company to take down stolen pics. One note from the owner of the pics should be enough. But, again — fat women are not considered people. Misogyny + fat hate means we need to go the extra mile just to be treated like human beings — we have to fight for people to give us some common human decency.

Rachele has my unconditional support as she traverses the roads of fighting these guys legally, and if I have any money to spare I will donate some to help pay her legal fees. She is fighting for all of us fatties — especially those of us with a smaller voice, fewer followers — and showing these gross companies that we’re not taking this shit lying down anymore.

I am tired of being treated as less-than human, as public property.

I am Katje. I’m fully human. I am not public property. My body is a dictatorship, and I am its ruler. You do not get to treat me as anything less than a fully sovereign human being.

Thoughts on the Robocop Remake

I’d call it disappointing if I’d had any hopes for it in the first place.

There are no spoilers in this post — nothing you wouldn’t know from watching the trailers. But, I’ll put part of it behind a cut anyway.

Our brother in law took us out to see Robocop last night. We weren’t going to see it otherwise; it was definitely something we didn’t want to pay money for.

It wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. It wasn’t terrible.

It wasn’t awesome, either.

Continue reading “Thoughts on the Robocop Remake”

Why I don’t suffocate my skin for the sake of acceptable femininity (ie, why I don’t wear antiperspirant)

I don’t wear antiperspirant. I haven’t for years — not since I was young and impressionable and believed capitalist patriarchy when they said so long as I sweat at ALL I was gross and unfeminine and boys would never want to kiss me.

There’s a Dove commercial (I think it’s Dove; they’re great at doing problematic things disguised as progressiveness) that does this big long “Ode to the Armpit”, talking about how the armpit is an undervalued bit of flesh and constantly gets mistreated by shaving or waxing. They then go on to talk about taking care of the armpit the way it deserves…

…by using this certain antiperspirant on it.

Because nothing says love like suffocation!

I don’t wear antiperspirant. I haven’t for years — not since I was young and impressionable and believed capitalist patriarchy when they said so long as I sweat at ALL I was gross and unfeminine and boys would never want to kiss me.

(This made worse by my father saying, basically, the exact same thing when I hit puberty.)

I used to wear antiperspirant on a not-regular, but not-once in a while basis. Why? Because then it was my only option for smelling how I wanted to smell. I used to wear Old Spice deodorant. I hate smelling like Old Spice. I like the smell of it, but on other people. (Specifically Mr. Katje.)

But there were no options for me! If I went to the deodorant aisle, the “women’s” section — ie, the ones that smelled how I wanted to smell — was nothing but antiperspirant. The “men’s” section had actual non-antiperspirant deodorant.

I turned to natural deodorants in an attempt to find something that smelled the way I wanted to smell — and failed miserably. I have always had very strong sweat, both in amount issued by my body and smell. Even when I wore antiperspirant, it didn’t work for as long as it said it would. By the end of the day I was sweating through it, and stinking even worse.

Natural deodorants were no match for my super-sweat. They’d last an hour, if my luck held out.

So I started using antiperspirant on occasion. Not for daily use, but for going out to parties or with my friends or on Halloween night. It would wear off by the end of the night. But, I thought to myself, at least I smell like flowers instead of musk.

And then the pain started. The more I used antiperspirant, the more my armpits hurt. It felt like a knife was being stabbed into them.

I’d heard stories about antiperspirant and breast cancer, and I panicked. Put it down and didn’t pick it up again.

I mean, even if there is no link between antiperspirant and breast cancer — you’re blocking your pores for hours on end. You’re blocking an area that’s meant to sweat from sweating. That cannot be healthy.

I went back to wearing deodorant, searching high and low for “women’s” non-antiperspirant. Every time I found one, it would be gone from the shelves within months and I’d have to start my search again.

Recently I found one that hasn’t disappeared yet (though I may have bought 7 sticks of it right off the bat, out of fear). It smells like roses — my favourite scent — and it actually lasts most of the day (depending on how active I am).

It helps that I don’t live in Hawai’i anymore, too. 90 degree days are not a friend to the person with the terrible sweat problem.

It really says something that I have to search high and low to find a “ladies'” deodorant that isn’t antiperspirant. We, as a culture, do not want women to sweat. It’s “not attractive”. Whereas the “men’s” section is FULL of deodorant that’s not antiperspirant — yes, there is antiperspirant there, but not in the same ratio as there is for “women’s” deodorants.

(You’ll notice I’ve been putting “men’s” and “women’s” in scare quotes. This is because our segregation of deodorants into gender categories based on what kind of scents they have and whether or not they stop you from sweating is absolute bullshit. If a woman wants to wear Old Spice because she likes the smell of it on her, that’s awesome! She should go for it! And if a man wants to wear a rose-scented deodorant, he should also be able to go for it! Instead there is stigma around more floral or “light” scents as being a “woman’s” territory, and stronger scents are seen as more “masculine”. Scents are not gendered. There’s just what you like and what smells good on you. I happen to prefer the scents assigned me as someone socially-classed-as-woman, but that does not negate my genderqueerness.)

The pushing of antiperspirant on women is yet another way our patriarchal culture tells women to abuse their bodies for the sake of being seen as worthy — in this culture a woman’s worth is measured by her sex appeal, and we’re told that sex appeal does not exist if there is sweat. (Which is stupid; I mean, what do people imagine happens when you have sex? THERE IS SWEAT INVOLVED. At least there is if you’re doing it right.)

If you want to wear antiperspirant for your own, personal reasons, and it doesn’t have any ill effects on your health, or even if it does — get on with your bad self; I’m not going to tell you to stop. That is between you and whatever god of armpits you worship.

But if you’re wearing it because you’re expected to? If you don’t like wearing it because it hurts? If you would rather quit but feel you can’t?

Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s self-care to stop your pits from sweating. Don’t let the commercials fool you either.

You are not required to wear antiperspirant if you do not want to. Sweating is a natural human function for all genders, no matter what the corporations tell us.

Reading more women authors

In 2014 I am actively seeking out more queer, trans*, disabled, indigenous, mixed race, and women of colour authors, and shying away from my favored genre of SFF.

This is not actually something I need help with, in the most general of terms. I tend to read women authors by default, and often have to work to seek out male authors.

I consider myself lucky — in this one, small way, my brain has escaped patriarchal programming.

Well, perhaps. I think I still read a disproportionate amount of cisgender, white, able-bodied, women authors, and I often only read the speculative fiction/SFF genres. My defaulting to women authors still does not yield much diversity in what I read.

So I am taking a page from Lilit Marcus’ book, here in 2014, and actively seeking out more women authors — but more specifically, queer and trans* women (including genderqueer folk who are socially classed as women/assumed to be women), women of colour, indigenous women, mixed race women, and women with disabilities. Also, I’m going to attempt to branch away from SFF and read other genres.

I won’t be reading women exclusively — as I said, I already default to reading women authors, so I actually have to actively seek out male authors most of the time. However, if I read a book by a man, I will then read 2 by women.

And I’m not sure how many books I’ll get read. I don’t do much reading these days; I think university killed my joy in it. But I will try; I will work very hard to read several books this year, and to seek out different types of books by more queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, WOC, and disabled [women] authors.

Are you participating in #readwomen2014?

(Worth noting: the hashtag was created by Joanna Walsh, and most of the credit for the idea is given to her — but Lilit Marcus deserves credit for the idea, and I’m giving her her due.)

And if you have any recommendations for books by queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, disabled, and/or women of colour authors that are not SFF, please let me know in the comments!

 

A little foreknowledge can save you a lot of heartache…

I’d rather know as early as possible someone’s political or religious beliefs — because they could negatively affect my life.

This prompt comes from the ebook of 365 prompts put out by the Daily Post blog.

“It’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know.” Agree or disagree?

Disagree, very much.

In my experience, it’s better to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t know very well. By the time you’re already friends with someone, if they’re a good friend (or if they’re family), if you have severe disagreements with them on the subjects of religion or politics what good comes from discussing them? Unless you really are the rare pair who can discuss it without wanting to murder each other.

Most of my politics are tied up in my life or death. That’s how it is when you’re a member of an oppressed class in an oppressive society. Abortion rights aren’t a quaint mental exercise for me; they’re a matter of whether I live or die. Fat acceptance isn’t me whining because I don’t want to lose weight; fatphobia has very real consequences for the health of fat people, and I deserve to be treated with respect no matter my size. Equal rights and protections for trans* folks aren’t just some abstract thing I can talk about with buddies over a beer; they affect my friends, they affect me — they affect our lives and safety. If I decide to present as male and I get into a situation where the cops need to see my ID, guess what? My life is at risk, because if they see “F” under sex and I don’t match what they expect in their brains, there is no telling what they’ll do.  If I go to a doctor who decides that all my problems are because I’m fat and they misdiagnose me, that could have real, life-or-death consequences for me — and I’m not even getting into the mental health issues that come from living in a society that’s geared towards hating fat people.

For these things that are life or death for me, there’s no room for disagreement. Because disagreeing that I deserve the right to terminate a pregnancy without legal interference is saying that I don’t deserve to have agency over my own body. Disagreeing that I have the right to present as male without fear is saying I’m not a person to you. Disagreeing that I have the right to respect no matter what my size because you’re “so concerned for my health” is saying that what really matters is not my health, but your comfort — because if you knew anything about my health, you wouldn’t say a damn thing about my needing to lose weight.

As for religion, it’s not a life or death situation for me, at least not here in Canada — but it does have a lot to do with my mental health, my happiness, my life going smoothly. If I’m making friends with someone, I’d rather know early on if they’re going to try to convert me to something else every chance they get, or if they’re going to call CPS to protect my (future) kids from my “devil worship”. That’s an actual worry for someone who IDs as a witch, by the way. Don’t kid yourself that it’s not.

I want to know if someone is the type of person who believes, truly believes, that they cannot be moral without religion to guide them. Because I don’t want to know those people. If religion is the only thing stopping them from hurting other people, then I don’t want to be around if they have a crisis of faith.

I’d rather discuss politics and religion early on in a relationship. That way, if they’re a transphobic misogynist who doesn’t really believe I’m a person with rights and freedoms, I know to not let them any further into my life. That way, if they’re not bigoted, but just very uneducated, I know exactly what I’m getting into and can decide if I want to spend the spoons on educating this person. That way, if they’re the proselytizing type, they know early on there’s no point to try with me — I’m not open to conversion tactics — I know early on that I may need to be prepared to kick them out of my life, if they don’t stop trying. That way, if they believe that religion is the only way to have a moral compass, I can say goodbye early on. I prefer my friends to be able to steer their ships with their own moral compass regardless whatever god or gods may be in their lives.

I try to keep the peace with people I still want to be friends with, even if they disagree with me on politics or religion. (There are not many people like this in my life, for the record, and those that are disagree with me on portions of politics that aren’t life or death for me.) Discussing these things only comes up if I think we might actually make progress, instead of talking past each other and getting angry.

And as for talking religion or politics with random people on the internet…. Well, what do you think my blogs are for?

Dreams Made Flesh

When I got home there was a box outside my door — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister!

I got home exceptionally late today. Or exceptionally early, depending on your point of view. I was supposed to arrive home on the 1st, and ended getting back at 5am on the 2nd. Not having slept, it’s technically still the 1st for me.

Anyway. When I got home there was a box outside my door. A box covered in Amazon Prime stickers.

That’s funny, I thought. I’m not a Prime member. Also I don’t remember ordering anything.

Then it clicked — it must be my Christmas gift from my best friend/sister! I knew she was getting me something via Amazon, and I’d totally forgotten about it during the week+ vacation/down time during the cold from hell at the Ogre’s place.

(By the way, that cold? Still sticking around. I am more than ready to be well, thanks, Universe.)

I hustled inside and put down all my things (I had a lot of things) and excitedly grabbed the box. It was addressed to “Babby van Loon” — definitely from my sister; that’s her special nickname for me.

As I brewed some coffee in my Keurig (mainly to test out if the cups I’d been given for Christmas would work in it — they’re the “we work in most coffee systems” kind, not Keurig-specific ones — and they do) I grabbed a knife and carefully cut the tape on the box. It was difficult, because I was as excited as a…um. Kid on Christmas. (There has to be a better analogy out there somewhere.)

When I pulled away the plastic packaging, what did I find?

Christmas gift from my bff/soul-sister arrived! She knows me so well. <3Only an omnibus edition of one of my most beloved book series — The Black Jewels Trilogy.

I’ve read this trilogy several times. I adored it so much in high school and college that I would constantly lend my copies out to people, just so they could see how amazing it was — then I’d buy a new copy, and the cycle would begin again. Hence why I didn’t have a copy till now, and it was on my wishlist on Amazon.

The Black Jewels Trilogy is one of my biggest inspirations as a writer. When I read The Black Jewels Trilogy, I learned that it was possible to write a matriarchal society in fantasy that wasn’t some anti-feminist screed. (I know there are probably other writers who have done this, and likely before Anne Bishop did. That doesn’t matter, here — what matters is The Black Jewels Trilogy was the first series I read where that was a thing.)

I’ve heard people call The Black Jewels Trilogy “fluffy”, and I’m sorry, but that’s bullshit. There’s romance, and some characters do get to live happily ever after — but this series is dark. There is sacrifice. There is loss. There is some seriously messed up crap going on. There are big stakes. The Black Jewels Trilogy is anything but fluffy.

If I read it again today would I love it as much as I did in high school? I don’t honestly know. I’ve changed a lot as a reader and a writer since the last time I read the books. I’m more critical now, especially of things I love. I’m sure there are lots of problems in The Black Jewels Trilogy.

But honestly, I’m just not interested in deconstructing it and picking it apart. I may do that with other things I’m a fan of, because it’s good to pick apart the things you love — to admit that nothing is perfect, that everything has its problems. That way when you trash the stuff you hate, no one can get on your back for only picking on things you have a loathe-on for. (Or, well, they can — they just won’t have much of a solid foundation on which to base their arguments.)

The Black Jewels Trilogy, however, remains one of my first fandom obsessions, and still one of my favourite book series ever. I read the continuation books as they came out, most recently The Shadow Queen, Shalador’s Lady, and Twilight’s Dawn. I loved them all as much as I remember loving The Black Jewels Trilogy — so perhaps, if I reread the Trilogy today, I would adore it as much as I always did.

I refuse to pick it apart. It’s a solace for me; it’s a comfy blanket. It reminds me that sometimes the broken and the beat down can repair themselves, can win against the forces that try to tear them apart. It reminds me that love prevails.

I’m not pulling at those threads. I’m not pulling that blanket apart.

I’m putting the book in a place of honor on my shelf, and when I have some time to read some fiction this year — I’m pulling it down and reading it again.

Thank you, sister. You knew exactly what I wanted, but more — you knew exactly what I needed. A reminder that the stories I write — the stories inspired so much by The Black Jewelsare important to other people, just as The Black Jewels are important to me.

I’ll “Fat Talk” as Much as I Gorram Please

What I take issue with in this video is the labeling of self-hatred as “fat talk”.

Trigger warning: fatphobia, silencing, diet talk

Someone shared this on Facebook yesterday. It’s a video by Special K about “fat talk” — their special term for “self-hatred”.

(Content warning: may cause indescribable rage. Also fairly fat-shaming, and definitely silencing.)

It was shared via Upworthy, the content aggregator with the emotionally manipulative titles. The title for this video was “First These Women Were Offended. Then They Realized Who Was Being Offensive.”

Are you rolling your eyes yet?

There is a MASSIVE problem with this video. HUGE. You could even say it’s a FAT problem. So let’s talk about it.

First, let’s get this out of the way: self-hatred — whether it comes from internalizing the kyriarchy’s unreasonable expectations of you or from mental illness — sucks, no matter what form it takes. If you’re hating yourself, you should work on not doing that any more, because self-hate harms you. You’re worth feeling better about yourself. You’re worth good things. Self-hate is not a good thing.

What I take issue with in this video is the labeling of self-hatred as “fat talk”. The assumption that any time a woman/person socially-classed-as-woman says she’s fat, she’s hating herself.

This not only reinforces the idea that fat is always bad, it also polices how other folks self-hate. If a woman says “I’m so skinny,” as a form of her own self-hatred, she’ll likely be met with cries of “I know! You’re so LUCKY! I wish I were that thin.” Yet a woman saying “I’m fat” is met with “Don’t be so hard on yourself! You’re really pretty!”

As if fat and pretty can’t go together. (News flash, they can, and they do. So do fat and fabulous, or fat and gorgeous, or fat and sexy, or fat and smart. I am a prime example.)

Partners in Crime (Doctor Who)
Ok, so it’s less neutral in Doctor Who. Still, wasn’t the fault of the baby Adipose! Besides, they’re totes adorbs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fat’s a neutral term, folks. Ok? It means “abundance of adipose tissue”. Ask any person who actually knows something about the body and they’ll tell you: adipose tissue itself is not a negative. It’s a necessary part of the human body. We need fat to survive.

(And no-fat diets, by the way, are basically the worst thing ever for you. Just so you know.)

Is too much fat bad for you? Maybe. Maybe not. The truth is, we don’t actually know the full truth there — there are a lot of correlations between being “overweight” (why that word bugs me) and health issues, but they aren’t actually causation. (For more about fat, disease risk, and correlation vs. causation, read this post.) What is likely quite bad for you is a heavily sedentary life and a lot of processed food, which is related to weight gain, yes, but not the sole factor.

This doesn’t mean fat is always unequivocally bad. Nor does it mean that fat is unattractive.

Yet by labeling self-hating talk as “fat talk” exclusively, this video says that fat is always bad. Fat is always unattractive. Fat, in fact, is the ONLY thing that’s bad about you — go on and self-hate about anything else and we’ll cheer you on! But don’t fat talk, ladies. You don’t want to call yourself fat, do you? Why would you want to be a fatty fat fat fatterson? That’s bad.

Think I’m reading too much into it? Direct quote from the video:

Reversing the fat talk. Making it positive talk.

They are outright stating that fat is negative. Always. Videos like this make it harder for fat acceptance activists to do what we do.

This video is being hailed as some sort of amazing breakthrough on body image. Sorry, no. It’s more of the same old bullshit that continues to throw actual fat people under the bus. This is glaringly apparent with the phrase that shows up on the screen midway through the video: “You wouldn’t talk this way to anyone else. So why do it to yourself?”

Oh, huh. I guess all the fat-hatred I’ve had lobbed my way over the years is my imagination? Because, you know, no one would EVER talk that way to ANYONE else. I guess I was hallucinating.

The video ends with a big silencing fest. Women literally shushing each other, and the camera, saying “Let’s fight the fat talk!”

I had no idea that silencing other women was supposed to be a big win for women and body image. This video is saying “Shush anyone who says they’re fat.” Thanks, but no thanks — I get enough of that already from “well-meaning” folks. I really don’t need another source urging people to fight us fatties on our own damn territory. I mean, how very dare we reclaim a word that’s been used to marginalize us?

After the video, Upworthy has a credit note, and they make this comment:

So this is just a bit hypocritical coming from a food company that runs ads that ask “What will you gain when you lose?”

No, Upworthy. It’s not hypocritical at all. Special K is, in fact, saying the same thing they’ve always said — FAT IS BAD. They’ve just put a different spin on it, and you and the rest of the internet have bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

In which I yell into a microphone and shake like a leaf.

This is me at the VanSlam on Monday night. I haven’t watched the video and probably won’t. I have issues with watching myself on video and am not in the right headspace to do so today or maybe ever.

But, you know, if you wanted to see me perform “Blood Candle”…there you go.

Now, back to work, from which I am totally letting myself get distracted.

I didn’t use to think I was pretty; or, In defense of the selfie

If you spend any time on the internet you know that the word selfie often takes on connotations that are disparaging. Only self-centred hipsters do that, people might say, or Selfies are for women/girls who are attention-whores. (And yes, women are always “attention-whores”; they are never simply self-centred. Hooray sexist gendered language!)

And perhaps the selfie has become a bit gratuitous, just like not everyone needs to see every picture of every meal you eat. (I am a fan of taking pictures of particularly appetizing looking meals, but trust me, you are not seeing my full diet if you look at my Flickr account.) Even if it has become somewhat gratuitous, I fail to see it as a wholly bad thing.

In fact, I see it as a good thing.

When I was in high school I did not spend a lot of time looking in the mirror in order to take account of my many good features. I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror popping zits or telling myself about my many imperfections: my eyebrows were too thick, my eyes had dark shadows under them, my skin was oily enough to end America’s dependence on the Middle East (too soon?), my hair was gross (and I dyed it constantly, in defiance of its old carpet-like natural colour), my pupils were different sizes and that was WEIRD, I had a double chin which was undoubtedly gross…the list goes on.

I did not like myself. This should be expected; I was being raised in a world that didn’t like me, that spent a lot of time and effort in telling me all the ways I was imperfect. The media is tailored to give young girls and women (and boys and men, to a lesser extent) such insecurities about themselves, because it is a byproduct of our society — the same society who raised our mothers to believe the same thing, and to say the same things about themselves.

My mom is pretty much perfect in my eyes, so don’t think this is going to be a mother-blaming post; it’s not. But she doesn’t love herself the way she should — the way I think she should, which is how I love her. Unconditionally, wholly, with the view that she is a goddess. She is, to me. I think she’s beautiful and I love her and she’s my mom.

But she was raised in this same patriarchal society that I was, and she was given the same messages: her worth is only inherent in her fuckability, and her fuckability is determined by her attractiveness. My mom was always called a handsome woman, which is a “kind” euphemism for “not feminine enough”. And we all know if you’re not feminine enough as a woman, you’re not beautiful.

To which I say: fuck that, my mom is beautiful. And screw traditional ways of looking at femininity or masculinity anyway. She identifies as a woman and considers herself feminine; that’s enough for her it should be enough for everyone else.

Basically, if you think my mother isn’t feminine enough, or beautiful enough, or anything enough, I have a very short pier off which I’d like you to take a long walk. With these barbells tied to your feet, please. There’s a good lad.

Because of all this patriarchal bullshit that tells women, or people being raised as women, or people who are socially classed as women, that our worth is directly connected to our beauty, and our beauty is judged in very narrow terms, my mom and I have spent most of our lives not liking ourselves very much. Physically, I mean; I think we’re both doing rather better on the liking ourselves mentally or even emotionally or spiritually, but it’s still a huge struggle for us to like our bodies, or our faces.

But I have been working to change this about myself, and the selfie has been helping me.

I started taking selfies in my late teens, on the cusp of adulthood. Most of them I hated, as I hated myself, but every once in a while I’d get a good shot, with good light, or the just right angle, or the perfect expression. Often these were “Myspace angles”, ie, angles where I was looking up at the camera, to minimize the fat rolls under my chin and to make my breasts look more impressive; obviously I was still very much in the woods of self-loathing for a great many years.

But these selfies served their purpose.

With every good shot, I chipped away a little bit at the thick shell of gods I’m so ugly that surrounded me. Every time I did this, I came closer and closer to realizing that…hey, I wasn’t bad looking. Hey, maybe I was kind of attractive. Hey, wow, I’m fucking gorgeous.

Until finally, this week, it culminates in this: my being able to take a selfie of myself without make-up, without a bra on, without a Myspace-angle — just me in the clothes I threw on after my shower to sit around my hose — and to look at it and say, “Yeah, I’m pretty hot. I can see why the Ogre would want to bang me. And hell, probably other folks too; he’s just the only one of which I’m aware.”

20130904_231841_Anne_Vignette_Intertwined

And some people may find this a direct contradiction of my feminist ideals; after all, I think it’s pretty gross that our entire society values women in terms of their fuckability. It is.

However. While our society is patriarchal/kyriarchal in nature, and while these messages are mostly directed at girls and women, I do believe the lack of self-esteem that comes from one’s own perceived lack of fuckability transcends gender. I have known people of various genders who feel shitty because they feel ugly, and they believe that ugliness leads to them being unfuckable. Yes, many, many women, but many men too, and many non-binary folk (like myself).

I don’t think that our inherent worth is tied up in our fuckability/beauty, but I do think that our perceived self-worth matters a hell of a lot. This is one of those areas where self-care intersects, somewhat awkwardly, with feminist activism, for me — I can’t be an effective activist if I’m mired in self-loathing to the point of not being able to leave my bed. So if that means taking selfies until I feel that I’m worthy as a human being, even if my worth isn’t actually tied to my physical attractiveness and I’m basing this entire process on what is essentially a lie told to me by society, well, that means taking selfies until I feel I’m worthy as a human being.

I’m all for dismantling the patriarchy, for dismantling the fucked up, toxic society we live in. Yes, it needs to change; we need to stop equating physical attractiveness (which is subjective anyway) with human worth. We really do.

But it’s really hard to get down to the work of actually dismantling this oppressive, toxic wasteland, if depression and anxiety and self-loathing have conspired to keep you curled up in bed, unable to even get up to turn on the lights. If someone needs to feel they are attractive in order to have the strength to carry on, then they need that and it would be downright cruel (and possibly, an act of silencing and denying their agency) to try to take that away from them.

Furthermore, as a fat woman/person socially-classed-as-woman, taking selfies that proclaim to the world your attractiveness is a downright subversive act. And I don’t think I need to explain why.

So leave folks who take selfies alone. Chances are, they’re searching for this same sort of self-care. Maybe it’s not the self-care route you would take, but that doesn’t invalidate it. Maybe you think there are too many out there, but hell, there are too many blogs out there and I’m sure that’s how many people find ways of caring for themselves.

And if it bugs you to see selfies from people you perceive as ugly, then that’s just proof that selfies need to continue for a while yet. Yes, I will normalize my appearance to the world and myself, because I’m not ugly, so fuck you.

A toast to the selfie! May it continue, until we don’t need it anymore, and then may it be a fun choice that anyone can make, or not make, as they will.

-Kat

Independence! …from harassment. Hopefully. Someday.

(x-posted here.)

If you’re involved in the SF-o-sphere you may have seen the internet go boom in the past week. Elise Matthesen was sexually harassed while she was at WisCon, and formally reported it.

This is actually news, because reporting is so rare – mainly because society in general makes it incredibly difficult for people to report this sort of thing and incredibly easy for the perpetrators to get away with it.

Elise asked several friends to post her essay on their blogs, including John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig, both of whom I already read on a semi-regular basis. (There is a list of the rest of the posts here, along with a resoundingly thorough link round-up.)

I’m not going to talk much about the event itself, because I’m not really all that active in the SF-o-sphere or the Con circuit. I’d like to be, for the latter, but I’m not. (I also haven’t done nearly enough reading yet about the incident, nor was I present for the convention. So I don’t feel comfortable speaking at length about it.)

What I am going to talk about is one specific reaction that has come out of it – John Scalzi’s new policy on cons and their anti-harassment policies, or lack there-of.

He’s said that he will not be a guest, guest of honor, or participant at any con unless these guidelines are met:

  1. That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action.

  2. That the convention make this policy obvious by at least one and preferably more than one of the following: posting the policy on their Website, placing it in their written and electronic programs, putting up flyers in the common areas, discussing the policy at opening ceremonies or at other well-attended common events.

  3. In cases when I am invited as a Guest of Honor, personal affirmation from the convention chair that a harassment policy exists, that it will be adequately publicized to conventiongoers, and that all harassment complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly, with no excuses or rationalizations for delaying action when such becomes necessary.

(The Mary Sue has also done a write-up about this.)

This is important, obviously, because John Scalzi is using his powers for good. He has leverage with cons because he’s an award-winning, well-known author in the SF circuit. They want to put him on the guest list to attract fans to come to the con, because fans coming to the con means the con actually goes on. (You can’t run an event without money flowing somewhere.) This is Event Ecology 101.

What’s even better? A lot of people are co-signing. Myself included.

While many of us do not have anywhere near the same clout as Scalzi does, numbers matter. Enough committed people can start a revolution. There are 377 comments on the co-signing post at Scalzi’s blog.

Numbers matter.

Hopefully, with enough co-signers + Scalzi’s clout, cons that do not have harassment policies will get them. If your favourite con has no such policy, I urge you to write them and tell them they’ll lose your business until they get one. 

I realize some people are not going to see the point of this. People who don’t get harassed, or, if they do, are able to deal with it without much trauma. Whatever, you may say, it’s just a part of going to cons. 

No, it’s not. It’s not “just a part” of life, either – or it shouldn’t be. And what you allow, continues. 

I’ve been to one fandom con in my life. Dragon*Con, 2009. I was lucky, because I was there with a large group of friends – friends who watched out for me, protected me, looked after me. Especially when I was twenty sheets to the wind, stumbling down the streets screaming “I LOVE YOU ATLANTA!” (1 large Pixie Stick + 1 pint of vodka X 2 = Starbuck!Kat).

I didn’t get harassed. The closest anyone came, if I recall correctly, was when I got a picture with some dude dressed like Snape and he was a bit of a creeper. PSA, folks: if you get a pic with someone you don’t know and you have your arm around their shoulder, don’t rub their shoulder with your thumb. Not alluring, not seductive. Just gross.

But otherwise, no. I had a safe, fun time at my only con, free of harassment. People were nothing but kind to me.

And I realize, fully, that had I not been surrounded by friends I may have had a bad time. It was my first con and it’s probably the biggest con out there. It’s likely I may have been harassed.

This is not a “oh, it only happens at those cons” thing either. It happened at WisCon. The feminist SFF convention.

Harassment happens everywhere and anywhere, and for a long time our entire culture has been helping perpetrators find more victims while throwing the victims under the bus. It is one thread in the tapestry of rape culture – the culture we’ve built that tells folks consent and boundaries don’t have to be respected, tells us that certain folks are entitled to certain things from other folks, tells us that if we follow the rules it won’t happen to us, tells us that if it does happen to us it must have been our fault, somehow.

Read any comment thread on these issues and you’ll see people spouting the same bullshit arguments, ranging anywhere from standard victim-blaming to “OH NOES ,THE FEMINISTS R PUSHING THEIR AGENDAZ ON US”. Yes, the agenda of getting people to stop harassing other people. What a fucking concept.

(Now, granted, the original posts linked in the link round-up will be, probably, much better with the comment threads than, say, the internet in general. But I’ve not even finished reading Scalzi’s comment thread and already people have come in with victim-blaming and OH NOES TEH FEMINISSSTSSSS. So even at a place with excellent comment modding, it will happen.)

So I’ve signed. I don’t have the clout Scalzi does (yet), and so far as I know there aren’t any readers out there who really want me to come to a con (yet). But I am a participant in con life, or I was for one brief shining moment when I could afford the trip out there. And I plan on going to cons in the future – as participant, as guest, as fan and human being.

And, like Scalzi, I don’t want to support any con that does not have a clear harassment policy in place. What you allow, continues, and not having a policy (with teeth!) is essentially the same as allowing these behaviors to continue.

Not only for my safety, but my current and potential fans’ safety, for the safety of any people I bring with me, and – most importantly – for the betterment of our small piece of the world.

SFF, geek, fandom, con culture – all part of a subculture that has been my home for my whole life, it seems. But it continues to perpetrate the oppressive power structures found in the overculture it comes from, and that’s a problem.

I want to see a subculture of the future that is better than that, and I think that we can do it. Especially as SFF fans and creators. We can imagine and do better, guys.

In the next week or so I’ll be compiling a list of cons that have adopted harassment policies I’m satisfied with. There’s a list here already, but I think there may be more out there, so I’ll be doing my own research. I will then list the cons you may see me at in the future.

I’m willing to put in my bit of work to make a future that I can feel better about bringing my future Loon-spawn into.

Are you?

-Kat