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Kataphatic linked this essay by Linda Bacon (pdf) taken from her keynote speech at the 2009 NAAFA conference, and it is seriously blowing my mind this morning. I strongly encourage you to read the whole piece (it’s about 12 pages long, so perfect for printing out or loading on your mobile device and reading on your commute home (unless you drive, in which case don’t do that)). Two parts that made me, like, roll backwards from my desk and put my hands on my head and with awe whisper, “Oh my God!” are this one, in which Bacon perfectly manages to compare methods of oppression without going for the gold in the Oppression Olympics, and reminds me that as much as I like to think I have my FaD (Doctor of Fatlosophy) in Fat Acceptance, I still have a lot of inner junk to overcome:

As positive as an appeal to fairness may be in some regards, however, when it gets conducted without substantive challenge to the weight paradigm, it backfires. Because thinness is still seen as normative and ideal, even when well-intentioned potential allies get involved in these issues, the tendency is to fight fat bias in order to support fat people in getting thin. The Rudd Center is classic in this regard. Theirs is a dual mission: at the same time that they conduct anti-bias work, they undermine it through their other mission: fighting “obesity.”

Put in other terms, their platform is one of “love the fat person, hate the fat.” Historically, we know that this attitude stands in the way of civil rights. Consider the common religious belief to “love the homosexual, yet hate the homosexuality.” That attitude may have supported my in-laws in loving their daughter and her partner (me) – or at least their conception of who we are – but it sure didn’t help them to celebrate the announcement that we were having a baby, which was viewed as a product of our sin. It also required that we maintain superficiality in our relationship because there were so many aspects of who we are that they couldn’t engage with because they didn’t want to acknowledge as a part of us.

It’s just not effective to tell someone to “love the sinner but hate the sin” when the “sin” you’re referring to is integral to who they are. It’s just not possible to separate me from my queerness, just as there’s no guarantee that you can separate a fat person from their adiposity in a healthy manner. The result is that you end up instead giving power to the “thin person within fantasy,” all the while denying the reality of the real person in front of you.

And then this one that so perfectly explains why I don’t post Fat Acceptance links on my own personal Facebook page that I almost posted this essay along with a truncated version of this except, just to see what would happen:

I used to believe that education was the cornerstone of change, before I actually started doing this work. If only people knew the truth, they would act in ways that support what they know. But this just isn’t true. Certainly we need to provide education on these issues and expose the myths. Indeed, a large part of my career is dedicated to educating people about the myths and realities associated with fat. And I applaud NAAFA for the recent Size Discrimination Toolkit, another crucial component in our arsenal. I don’t want to suggest that attempts at education are unimportant –– just that, when it comes to weight, academic and other rational arguments hold limited independent value as social change strategy.

Most people have internalized fatism and believe that there is something wrong with fat, from the perspective of appearance as well as health. We’re all subject to what psychologists call “confirmation bias.” Once a belief is in place, we screen information in a way that ensures our beliefs are proven correct.

Also, because we like to believe that our values are derived from a well-reasoned thought process of our own volition, there’s a natural resistance to the notion that we’re basically pawns who have absorbed an oppressive system, actively complicit in our own oppression and that of others. It makes sense that people have a strong defense system – denial – that prevents many people from seeing this.

People also reach for denial when an intolerable situation has been pointed out to them but the means for change are hard to grasp and the penalties for contributing to that change are high, causing even those who may be more willing and capable of challenging hegemony to get suckered back into the denial. Myths about weight are so deeply entrenched that it is difficult for some people to imagine that they can live happily and successfully in a large body. Similarly, it is hard for professionals to believe that they can capture an audience if they support size acceptance.

Okay, I thought about excerpting more bits, but I realized I was pretty much just copying and pasting the entire article and interjecting such trenchant commentary as, “Holy shit, is this genius or what?” and “Dude! DUDE!” I will thus leave well enough alone and let you all run along to enjoy some pretty amazing, goose-bump raising insights into the concepts of thin privilege and the inner workings of fatphobia.

I had the honor of attending a beautiful marriage celebration this past weekend in Minneapolis. My husband and I are deeply driving-averse, and although I am not a big fan of air travel, especially in these modern days of nickel-and-diming, fat-hating, slut-shaming, desperately grasping, unregulated air lines, we decided that one hour in an uncomfortable plane seat would be preferable to eight hours in a car. Since it was only an overnight trip, we packed light, and I wore the bra that I planned to wear under my dress.

It’s this bra, in case you are curious. It’s a GREAT bra for the large-bosomed, particularly if your sweet chariots swing low. This is not the bra for someone who prefers stylish underthings over a utilitarian brassiere, but since I am the sort of person who walks into the bra department of my local department store once a year like clockwork and says, “Do you have this utilitarian brassiere in beige? Great, I will take four. And a twelve-pack of those beige, cotton, granny pants while you’re at it,” it is the perfect bra for me. Wearing it is also similar to wearing scaffolding, and there is enough metal in this thing to make a staid, tight-laced, Victorian matron pale.

So it was no surprise to anyone except me, and only then because I just wasn’t thinking about it, when my bra set off the metal detector at O’Hare. I responded to the TSA officer’s troubleshooting questions about the contents of my pockets or the possibility of implants with a good natured, “I’m pretty sure it’s the underwire in my bra,” hoping that he would wave his wand toward my boobs (oh hush) and let me go on and get some coffee. But instead he herded me into a little glass booth where I was subjected to a desultory yet unpleasantly thorough screening from a “female screener” who paid extra special attention to my underwire area, much to my mental discomfort.*

Eventually, the TSA officer, satisfied that the underwire shaped metal located under my boobs was, in fact, an integral part of the support mechanism of my underwire bra, let me go, and I scampered off, chagrined, to get some coffee.

This being a United flight, I was a little apprehensive about Flying While Fat.** I’m not death fat, and can fit within the confines of one seat belt with room to spare. Lowering the arm rest isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but it hurts my elbows more than my hips. Still, I definitely visually register as fat (and often end up sitting solo on buses and trains as a result, which as far as I am concerned is the best side affect of FA since that whole “putting half and half in my coffee” thing) and you know, just knowing that I might get the side eye from other passengers or gate agents had me a little uneasy.

I kind of hate to say it, since being furious at various airlines is one of my favorite parts of air travel, but everything went fine. Nobody pointed and called the Fat Police on me or any of the numerous other fat passengers, and nobody even really looked at me twice. Not only that, but the flight was short enough–an hour and change–that I didn’t even have time to get all squirmy and uncomfortable in the 17-inch wide seat.

The wedding celebration was delightful, with an amazing view and much exuberant dancing, for which I would like to thank the happy couple, who picked the music, The Most Enthusiastic Hotel-employed DJ Ever, and Elomi, for creating a bra that will hold my boobs in check even during “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.”***

I woke up the next morning without a hangover**** miraculously enough, but with one nagging thought: How the shit am I going to get through security in this bra without subjecting myself to another public groping? Not wearing a bra at all was out of the question; being 36 years old and having worn a bra since I was ten (aside from a Hippy Year in college when I declared bras to be untenable to my political beliefs), I would no sooner spend a significant amount of time outside without a bra than I would without pants. I hoped for a more lax attitude towards security at this smallish airport in a Midwestern city populated by eerily nice people, but as I waited in the interminable line for an excessively vigilant woman to perform the initial boarding-pass-and-ID-check, while a rogue TSA officer poked some sort of bomb or drug or liquids-in-containers-larger-than-3-ounces sniffer contraption into random bags, I knew that was folly.

Then it hit me.

I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “You might want to go through a different security line than me.”

“Why?” he asked, a little alarmed.

“Because I’m going to take my bra off before I go through the metal detector.”

And I did. And my husband, bless his heart, went right through the same security line behind me, which was probably for the best because if he hadn’t, I was going to plop my big old 40G right into a bin to send it through the metal detector. Out of deference for his more introverted and nonconfrontational nature, however, I stuck it in my purse instead, and walked through the metal detector metal- and support-free, without a hitch.

And so that I may serve, if not as a good example, as a horrible warning, let me impart the following wisdom:

  • If you are roughly 5’6″, 250-ish pounds, and an average US size 20, you’ll probably be okay on a United flight, even a short commuter flight on a smaller plane with 17″-wide seats.
  • If you are planning on flying any time soon and don’t already own one no-underwire bra, consider picking one up. I reservedly recommend this Cacique cotton no wire bra, which is not going to win any awards for lifting, separating, supporting, or shaping, and is also sold by a company that touts itself as a premier retailer of plus-sized undergarments yet refuses to carry anything above a DDD cup in its stores (while offering “bra fittings,” and if anybody here is over a proper DDD cup, and has been fitted by an LB sales associate who did not then attempt to stuff you into an ill-fitting, too-small bra, please tell me in the comments), but is pretty handy for Saturday mornings when you really want pancakes but are inexplicably out of baking soda and need to run out to the store or when you are planning on going through a hyper-sensitive metal detector. I’m a 40G and I think the one I have is a 42DDD, which works fine for its purposes.

*She did offer, a few times, to let me undergo a private screening, but I mostly just wanted to get it over with so I declined. I would have accepted if she wanted me to actually remove any additional clothing, and I want to remind my modest or religious readers, that you have the right to request a private screening by a TSA officer of the same gender if you are asked to remove a veil, head covering, or any other garment that you do not wish to remove publicly.

**Bought the ticket just before they announced their anti-fat policy.

***Peace to you and your family, MJ.

****Dear Colleen, Ha ha. XO, OTM

My clothes are wearing out. They are pilled, stretched, faded, misshapen. They have lost buttons. Hems are fallen and seams are torn. My t-shirts inexplicably developed pin-holes in weird places. My pants completely explicably developed tears in the inner-thighs. I have babied my clothes, repaired them, dyed them, and patched them but I can only delay the inevitable disintegration for so long.

In other words, it’s time to shop. And that’s where the frustration starts, because Spring 2009 Trends? I am just not that into you. I wasn’t that into your older sibling, Spring 2008 Trends, either. The year before that? That was my Magical Year of Shopping While Fat. Unfortunately, because I’m fat, and because plus-size, high-quality, timeless pieces designed to last more than one season are the Unicorns of the Fashion World, my clothes are wearing slam out, as some of my country relatives would say.

Dear dingy, pilling Target dress, hang in with me for one more year and then I will give you the royal send off you deserve for three years of loyal service, which is two and a half more years than you were created to offer.

Of course, some retailers do make clothes that I love. I have a life-long, tragically unrequited love affair with Anthropologie. Back when I could wear their clothes, I couldn’t afford them. And now that I can afford them? They have decided that I am Too Fat. And don’t even get me started on Ann Taylor, which used to be my never-fail go-to for professional clothes. They are selling clothes that I love, but they are not selling clothes that I can wear. The retailers that are selling clothes in my size are stuck in this whirlpool of Boho-animal print-polyester-bedazzled-South Beach colored horribleness that is to my personal aesthetic what right-wing evangelism is to my political leanings.

And so Twistie’s post here spoke to me, right to my fat, discontented heart. Twistie calls us all to action:

People, it’s time for a revolution. Not a dreary one nor a bloody one. We need a revolution of fabulousness. I want each and every one of you to stand up and do something about this. We are not a tiny minority. We are a mighty community and we are not being served.

I want every person reading this blog – fat or thin, tall or short, male or female, every color of the rainbow and all stops in between – to refuse to be invisible. Write to a retailer or manufacturer and say that you want clothes in your size. Wear something down the street that makes people stop and stare in wonder. Laugh in the face of someone who tries to shame you into ’slimming’ colors or ‘weight appropriate’ cuts.

We. Deserve. Nice. Clothes.

And she’s totally right. And so I wrote to two retailers – Anthropologie and Ann Taylor, natch – and not only told them that I want clothes in my size, I provided them with a sample order of what I would purchase, today, as I sit here on my lunch hour, from each of them. And friends, it’s a significant amount of money. An amount of money that I am extremely privileged to have at my disposal were those stores far-thinking enough to offer anything in a women’s size 20. An amount of money that instead will stay comfortably tucked away in my checking account, patiently awaiting the clothing trends that plus-size retailers are willing to embrace to come back around to my way of thinking.

After the cut, I’ll provide you with the text of the letter I sent to the corporate office of Anthropologie so you can use it as a template for the letter you write to the retailer of your choice.

Read the rest of this entry »

From the Election Protection website:

The nonpartisan Election Protection coalition was formed to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

Through our state of the art hotlines: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (administered by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) and 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota (administered by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund), this website, and comprehensive voter protection field programs across the country, we provide Americans from coast to coast with comprehensive voter information and advice on how they can make sure their vote is counted.

If you see or experience any shenanigans at the polls tomorrow, please call 866-OUR-VOTE/888-VE-Y-VOTA. Volunteers there can help you find your polling place, confirm your registration, educate you about the voting laws in your state, or in some cases, send mobile field units or contact election officials directly to address the problem.

We are not powerless, and we will be counted.

I came across this gallery of USA First Ladies and I’m just totally fascinated with it. First of all, Dolley Madison was the Chubby Hotness. And there is something about Louisa Adams that makes me want to sit up all night drinking and playing cards with her. Also take a peek into her hat closet. I swear Hannah Van Buren looks like somebody I know. It shouldn’t, because people are people (so why should it be???), but it always kind of throws me when people in old photos look like modern people, just dressed up in dusty clothes from the Old Time Photo booth on the boardwalk.

I also find it interesting to see how, around the time of Sarah Polk, so the mid-1800s and right before the Civil War, women’s fashion got really dowdy and intense. Mary Todd bucked that trend, but the Washington wives and the press really tore her a new one for it. Things didn’t really seem to lighten up much until Frances Folsom Cleveland, who was 21 when she married Grover in the Whitehouse and was considered to be pretty saucy for her day.

I also like to see how beauty standards have changed over the years. We went from the crazy frizziness of Helen Taft’s hair, to Lou Hoover’s considerable eyebrows to Lady Bird’s immaculately symmetrical brows and immobile hair helmet. And we never looked back.

Michelle Obama Watch

Gina at What About Our Daughters has taken Michelle Obama Watch life, and she’s looking for contributors!

If you use WordPress, you can add the RSS feed to Michelle Obama Watch on your side bar. It’s in the Dashboard under “Design” and then “Widgets.”

I’ve gone back and forth over who I support in the primaries. I voted for Obama and then spent the next month wishing I’d voted for Clinton (not that it would make a difference in Illinois, but still). Now at the end, I think I made the right choice. I would also classify myself as someone who, as Melissa described, “voted for Obama in the primary, who [has] watched with horror the seething hatred directed at Hillary Clinton just because she is a woman.”

So congratulations to Barack Obama. I’m glad the stupid primaries are over and I am facing the coming months of campaigning with fear and dread and, under it all, a glimmering kernel of hope that all this talk of change is more than rhetoric. Now I am way too cynical to think Obama is going to take office and socialize our health care system, pass the ERA, codify reproductive justice into federal law, grant equal rights under the law to non-hetero couples, and strengthen Title VII or anything. But I’m hoping things will at least be better once he’s in office.

I’m editing this to add something important, that I know but that somehow (ummm) failed to really hit me until just now. Lauren at Stereohyped says it better:

While I was well aware of the historical nature of the campaign, the full weight of it didn’t truly hit me until last night, because I didn’t really allow myself to believe that in this country that I grew up in, this country that I know and love and hate and could not live without, that something like this was possible. We have a black, major-party nominee for president. And if he plays his cards right and voters step up to the plate, he could also become president. There are few black Americans, especially older black Americans, who were idealistic enough to fully believe (and not just hope) that this could happen in their lifetimes without seeing it first with their own eyes. Barack Obama was one of them.

Holy fucking shit people. We have a black, major-party nominee for president. Knowing myself as I do, this probably still won’t totally hit me until I’m doing laundry tomorrow night at which point I will have a tearful, all-to-public realization of the momentousness of the occasion in the damn laundromat.

What I really want to say right now, though, is that I am with Cheryl Lynn when it comes to Michelle Obama: “‘Chelle could call me at two o’clock in the morning and ask me to roll on a bitch and I would calmly pull out my sneakers and Vaseline.”* I am a FAN of Michelle Obama. I am hoping that she becomes friends with Hillary Clinton, learns a few tricks, hits the senate (Come be my senator! I will campaign for you!) and runs for president in 2020.

And I’m so not looking forward to what the media and the Republican party (and some bitter racist Democrats) are going to try to do to this woman from now until November. For shit’s sake, look at just one way so-called “allies” have treated Michelle Obama before now. Two coworkers, when discussing Barack Obama’s campaign around the Illinois primaries made it a point to stress how little they trusted Michelle. When I asked them why, they answered that they thought she was scheming, and that it was her greedy desire for a larger house that forced poor Barack into a potentially shady land deal with Tony Rezko. And I don’t even want to get into what my staunchly democratic grandparents, who have a framed picture of FDR on their wall and who were two of the biggest Hillary Clinton supports on this planet have said about Michelle because it makes me sick to my stomach and more than a little bit depressed. And that’s just a tiny bit of what I, a privileged white woman who has worked hard to limit her exposure to assholes and bigots as much as possible, have experienced first hand.

There’s a storm coming. And it’s going to be ugly.

Racialicious has a preview today in a post by Tami from What Tami Said entitled Michelle Obama: Aint’ She a Woman?

Michelle Obama seems not to inspire the fealty among mainstream women that Hillary Clinton does. Over at the blog Hillary is 44, which has very vocal about suspected sexism directed at the first viable female candidate for president, a screed was recently posted entitled “God damn Michelle Obama.”

Obama wants his lantern jawed wife to be “off-limits”. Michelle apparently is the only spouse to get such special treatment. It was Michelle of course that debased herself by trying to dredge past right-wing attacks on Bill and Hillary Clinton. It was the Obama campaign that circulated anonymous memos attacking spouse Bill Clinton.

Lantern-jawed? It is sooo feminist to attack a woman based on her appearance. It’s a safe bet that the proud women at Hillary is 44 won’t be speaking out about how press, pundits and even some progressive bloggers have painted Michelle Obama as the stereotypical domineering black woman–a two-fer sexist and racist label.

Tami ends the piece with an admonition that all bloggers who self-identify as feminist MUST HEED if we are going to make any progress toward justice:

Mainstream feminists have been extremely vocal about the gender bias that has dogged Hillary Clinton since she appeared on the national stage. They rightly realized that sexism against the former First Lady and current Senator is just an example of the way society views ALL women. So, why are so many women standing silent, and worse, abetting the demonization of another woman of substance?

Shakesville kept up with the misogynistic attacks on Clinton with the Hillary Sexism Watch. Now, What About Our Daughters is taking it a necessary step further and starting a dedicated blog to monitor the situation:

Volunteer Michelle Media Monitors
This whole infamous tape stuff is just a sliver of what Michelle Obama is going to face in the media. So because I predict getting a flurry of emails from now until November, I am going to be proactive and start a separate Michelle Obama blog to track every article, blog post, youtube clip that pops up and provide you an opportunity to respond. Because if the past is any indicator, the campaign has no problem with her being turned into a verbal punching bag, I DO! IF you want to volunteer and want to post updates on the blog, send an email to the gmail account in the right sidebar. Its going to be a LONG hot SUMMER!

Whether you support her husband or not. Let’s be clear, any and every Black woman that walks in her footsteps can expect the same treatment so we might as well pull a Gandolf, draw a line in the stand and yell “THOU SHALL NOT PASS!” This ain’t about Barack, its about every professional Black woman that has had to smile on the days she didn’t want to for fear of being labeled ANGRY.

So keep your eyes open, and stay loud.

*I’m not entirely sure what the Vaseline is for, but I have some and would totally bring it along if M. Obama asked me to!

ETA: OKAY in the comments, MayDarling kindly explained:

If you’re going “roll on a bitch” ie, fight a girl, you put vaseline on your face so when said bitch tries to scratch you; instead of grabbing onto skin, she gets nails full of grease. Mainly just to keep your pretty face from being scarred from cat-fight scratches.

And, you know, I don’t want to put Vaseline on my face OR fight women so I guess Cheryl Lynn’s metaphor is not entirely apt for me, but the underly sentiment of support still stands.

You know those days when you wake up and think, “I just can’t do this today. I can’t take one more day as a walking, talking fat-bodied political statement and I can’t cope with the misogyny and racism and ablism and homophobia and transphobia and capitalism and hate and greed and pollution and noise and assholes because it’s hopeless and we can never change anything ever”? I have those days sometimes. But from now on, instead of despairing,* I will call those times Teaspoon Days:


KNEEL BEFORE THE POWER CARDIGAN

Thanks to Melissa for the concept and Faith for the execution. And how pants-wettingly great is it going to be the first time I’m out and about and run into some other awesome person wearing a teaspoon? Because I’ll know that whatever I’m feeling, be it despair or the will to keep on fighting, I am not alone.

*Okay, I will probably despair some, too, but whatever this jewelry can’t fix, I will treat with beer.

Tomorrow being Super Tuesday and all, and me living in Chicago where politics is everybody’s favorite full contact sport, particularly since all of our real sports teams suck, I thought I might share some helpful Chicago-specific election day links.

First, the awkwardly named Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners for the City of Chicago. If you enter a partial address on this page the site will return your polling place, all of your various and sundry wards and districts and precincts and sub-circuits, and most awesomely, you can generate a sample ballot for your particular polling location that will list every candidate for whom you can vote. (And while you’re at it, once you know your ward, go to the City Clerk of Chicago’s website and find out who your alderperson is so you know who to call and holler at the next time it snows and nobody bothers to shovel the sidewalks.)

Next head over to Vote for Judges.  Judicial and retention elections are kind of a joke, I know, because you’re minding your business and doing your civic duty trying to vote for this that or the other thing and your ballot is ten feet long because there are 500,000 people you’ve never heard of who are up for judicial retention election so you either skip ’em or just vote to retain them all. While that’s understandable, we’ve got to do better. Judges have a considerable amount of power over your daily life, so you want to do your best to ensure that qualified and, as far as I’m concerned, bone-deep progressives are on the bench. At Vote for Judges, you can print a handy grid of the candidates and their judicial evaluations by local, regional, and minority bar associations. Consult the Grid to find out how your favorite bar associations evaluated the judges on your ballot and vote accordingly so that when you find yourself on the wrong end of a gavel, the person presiding over your trial isn’t some loony pants right-wing hate mongering legal ignoramus.

Then, you can also go to the Chicago Tribune’s Election Guide, put in your address, and faux-vote for all the candidates on your ballot. When you’re finished, you can print the completed ballot and take it in to the booth with you.

To help you decide, here are some endorsements and resources from local papers:

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Sun Times

Chicago Free Press

The Chicago Reader’s Clout City Blog

And here is my one endorsement: I think you should vote for Tommy Brewer as the Democratic candidate for State’s Attorney. Here’s the Chicago Defender’s endorsement of Brewer, and here’s a good article about him in the Reader.

And when it’s all over, if you think there’s been some shenanigans at your polling place, call the National Campaign for Fair Election’s Election Protection Hotline at  866-OUR-VOTE.