Thursday, June 27, 2013

commenting on the comments: self-love is still not a responsibility

"This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live." The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison. 

so I wrote something that made a lot of women really upset and I wanted to try to talk about it, rather than writing more. because what I wrote I believe and it's complete and it's done, but I still had more to say.

video: whereby I talk about beauty capital:

Self-Love React from whitney1016 on Vimeo.

here's the original blog, if you want to read it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

random dispatches from the fat front: everyone's crazy!

so, I was fat this week—well, I'm fat every week, but this week felt particularly heavy. living in my body and (trying to) love it and take care of it while not diminishing what it looks like now and how it naturally forms is, on any day, a daunting prospect. but this week I felt like I was confronted with even more thin privilege and fatphobia than other weeks.

1. this ridiculousness from some black "vegan" organization about mo'nique.
 [all that pointing and circling? so dehumanizing. yes, it's called being overweight. and it's also called being mean bitches.]

I feel like I've been pretty clear about my feelings on size not equating to health. actress portia de rossi worked for years on ally mcbeal as a person suffering from anorexia and no one questioned (then) whether she was doing all she could to be healthy. a fat person has the audacity to be fat and on television and suddenly everyone's a doctor.

what made this so annoying is that vegans are fucking annoying, period.* they push their lifestyle on everyone else and purport, despite compelling evidence of the importance/nutritional value of some animal products, that their food choices are better than other people's. and that that somehow makes them better people. interestingly that when it comes to their diet, which physicians and physician's associations don't recommend for the average adult, they can decry the medical industrial complex and how pharmaceutical companies are trying to kill us, but when it comes to being fat, data from those same groups is held up as dogma. sit the fuck down. all the way down. now, please. plus, don't tell anyone in that group, but I know fat vegans.

*I know I said period, but I know quite a few vegans who are not annoying. maybe I should say the "vegan machine" is annoying. individual vegans are not monolithic.

2. this twitter exchange with a mentor and former boss.

she's amazing and is working very hard to bring information about health to black women, work that I respect. but we (black women, the media, people, earthlings) have got to be more nuanced in how we talk about obesity. for everyone's sake. yes, eating high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar diets without exercise is very dangerous and can lead to a myriad of health problems. but. but. but. but. being fat does not mean that you are eating poorly and not moving. being thin does not mean that you are eating well and exercising enough. AND there's a wide spectrum of lifestyle habits in between very "healthy" and killing yourself with junk.

we cannot afford to frame the conversation about black women and preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease around body size. our lifestyle is killing us, not our body fat.

I can name half-a-dozen relatively young people off the top of my head with heart-related diseases like high blood pressure and high cholesterol and none of them are fat. this isn't to say that I don't know fat people with these conditions, but it is to say that you can have hereditary factors and lifestyle factors affecting your heart health that do not equate to more body fat. and vice versa.

3. that abercrombie stuff. equating "coolness" with "thinness." ugh. and tell me how there's no such thing as thin privilege, again?

4. diet culture. everywhere. every. damn. where. I work part-time for a retail store, which is a company that has no problem stocking 00s, but doesn't ever have 14s or 16s in store. women are routinely made to feel bad about their size in retail environments, which routinely size items randomly and inaccurately to suit their needs. every time I have a shift, I hear someone saying how they've gained weight or how they want to buy a smaller size and hope to fit into it.

this week, I had to listen to my idiot of a (male) manager telling a new mother how to "trick" her body into thinking she's eating more while actually drastically cutting calories. it makes my skin crawl to witness how much of our self-worth as women is wrapped up in body size. not "health," whatever that is. not fitness. not how much we exercise. just body size. it makes me even more upset that men are so complicit in this self-worth high-jacking.

i'll end with this, because it's the trillest thing ever:

Monday, April 22, 2013

when advocating for yourself makes you the bitch

or, in other words, things that men never have to think about.

my friend likes to say that she goes "whitney teal" on people when she has to check a rude service provider or get a charge knocked off of her bill. that means, to her, that she calls someone on their stuff and forces them to do their job to her expectations.

going "whitney teal" on someone doesn't feel good. it doesn't involve raising your voice or insulting anyone. it's just being very direct, stating the problem(s) and not backing down until you get a resolution that you deem is fair.

this is not how women are taught to operate. women are supposed to use their charms, a smile, a sweet voice or rely on a person's kindness to get things done. we are not taught to ask directly. we are certainly not taught to demand. we negotiate. we settle. we're worse than Congressional Democrats when it comes to getting what we deserve.

how many times have I heard (always from a woman), "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." to that I ask, "who the hell wants to catch flies?!"

also, it takes too much energy to conjure up honey when a person has been spewing vinegar at you.

so, all this to say that I go "whitney teal" on people instead.

but it never feels good. I always get what I want. plus the added, inconvenient feeling that I acted like a total bitch to get it.

objectively, I don't think that I'm ever normally bitchy to people, especially not to customer service people whom I deeply respect and value. I just advocate for myself, in a clear and direct way, without backing down until I am awarded what I am due. not anything more, but certainly not less, than what I paid for or what I deserved.

it's the cost of being a woman. we are not supposed to demand respect or equal treatment and when we do, we are labeled bossy bitches.

and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the stigma, I'm sick of the guilt. I'm sick of feeling like I've done something wrong when I advocate for myself.

I don't have a resolution. just a promise to myself that I will try really hard not to bitch-shame myself the next time I go "whitney teal" on someone.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

lions + little ole me: no natural predators

there are two tags that I track on tumblr: lions and alice in wonderland.

I am infinitely inspired by both, maybe for the same reasons. they both remind me of strength (lion's of brute; alice of character and spirit) and not giving a fuck, two things I'm not so good at employing.

my iPhone screensaver is a lion roaring.

[hello, little big lion.]

almost every dream I have involves lions. never panthers or tigers or cougars or bears. just lions.

I have so much respect for lions as animals. obviously they boss hog their way through the jungle (no natural predators!), but there's a sense of grace and restraint along with their fearlessness. if I were to be one for reincarnation (which, I kind of am), I'd do everything I could in this life to become a lioness in the next.

I don't want to ever see a lion in the wild. I have too much respect for their power, their speed and their humongous mouths that could easily swallow my peanut head—'fro and all.

there's also ample evidence that lions and me have similar interests. according to that infallible source wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, grooming, and defecating. Intermittent bursts of activity follow through the night hours until dawn, when hunting most often takes place. They spend an average of two hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating.

anyone who knows even a little about me knows that I prefer to sleep during the day and when I'm not sleeping (typically at night, like now), I'm pooping or grooming myself.

obviously, I'm not the only one inspired by lions. just about every culture has depicted lions in art, architecture, furniture and everything else, always as noble and strong. and there's also the lion king.

there's not a lot more for me to say about lions except that I'm obsessed with them. and that they're wonderful.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

what we talk about when we talk about body image + self-esteem

there's this great graphic circulating around the tumblrs and the instagrams. it's got lots of delicious-looking fruit, like bananas and watermelon and apples—only all the fruits hate their shape. the apple's too, well, apple-shaped, the banana's too thin, the pear is too curvy.

"if only they knew...they had such sweet bodies."

and therein lies the problem with mainstream conversations about body image and self-esteem. if only we could realize our own beauty, our own sweetness. it's really our own problem that we think we're too dark, too fat, too shapely, too pimply, too short, too tall, too thin, too fair, too freckly, etc.

in actuality, we are trained to hate ourselves. we are trained to strive for an ideal that is unrealistic for everyone who isn't white with naturally straight hair, brilliantly white teeth, close to 6-feet tall with the measurements of a starved teenager. not to mention women who aren't traditionally "feminine." our "self-esteem" has little to do with self, from the on-set.

we spend so much time being motivational, telling people to harness some elusive mental awareness, as if we're all spending billions of dollars trying to look differently because we're just not strong enough to love ourselves. the reality is we were never intended to. and if we'd spend more time recognizing and fighting the systemic barriers to self-love that are present for non-white people, fat people, gay people, trans people, people with disabilities and everyone outside of that 14-year-old white girl ideal, it'd be a much more efficient and meaningful discussion.

I call it victim blaming. how dare you, fat, dark-skinned woman, not love yourself?! there is absolutely no one that looks like you playing a romantic lead in any film, nor do you see anyone even close to your looks on the covers of magazines, but you should still see yourself as equal to this thin, white woman. you, butch lesbian woman with piercings and tattoos and cellulite, love yourself! it doesn't matter that every form of media erases your very existence, you're self-esteem is low because you just don't try hard enough!

so, let's stop doing that. let's acknowledge that not everyone has the same access to self-love and self-esteem as everyone else. let's not challenge a person's moral resolve, rather, let's work to lift up all people, in all their forms and watch the self-love follow.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

31 days of good: catching up

not surprisingly, I haven't been so steadfast in my "31 days of good" project. I've missed some days. lots of days. like last weekend, where I did absolutely nothing but watch '90s r&b videos.

and last monday, when my safe meeting was cancelled and I took a really long nap and watched rhoda on hulu.

 [mirror affirmation+bonus of my messy bun]

however, some days have included some good and make me feel good that I can recognize small moments of good in the everyday (i.e. the overall goal of this project.) like to hear about 'em? here they go:

day 11: thursday, fem*ex. so, I really, really, really love my femex group. it's the same women's empowerment class I mentioned on day four. we're basically a group of women that meet each week to learn from each other about different aspects of the female experience. so far, we've covered everything from periods (menarche party!) to various isms that affect our identity to the differences between sex and gender to pubic hair to polyamory.

let me say it again: I really, really, really heart femex. I'm so glad it's a part of my weekly life. and, of course, last week's class was my good thing of the day.

day 12: friday, re-arranging the apartment. I am not at all, in any way/shape/form a "decorator." although I loved shelter books like domino and blueprint. yes, I salivate over ikea catalogs. but I've just never gotten "into" decorating my own apartment.

also, I have such a love/hate relationship with my place. I love the way it looks. I love that it's just the right size for one person. I love my huge bathroom and all the mirrors and windows. I love my patio. but I hate that I'm so far from a Metro train and that it takes forever to go out with friends or go into the city to do fun stuff.

last friday, I was in a bit of a manic mood, which tend to happen more and more as the seasons change, so I did a little rearranging. super, duper nothing special, I just moved my shoes around, moved the pictures on my fireplace mantle and tacked a poster to my bathroom.

[finally figured out what to do with my book festival poster]

still, it felt really good for some reason. good thing of the day!

day 13, saturday, thrifting. I really love thrift stores. I'm a bit of a discoverer when it comes to clothes and accessories and I like the idea of finding a gem in a bunch of crap. also, my grandmother was a champion thrifter in her day. (my mom, too, for that matter.) my grandmother's home was filled with knick-knacks, books, furniture and clothes she'd found and refinished or touched up from thrift stores. a big part of me just loves being in thrift stores because they remind me of her so much.

this saturday, I went to an absolutely humongo thrift store not far from me. like, heaven. I got a really cute sweater dress, originally from banana republic, which I copped for the low, low price of like $4. I also got a really cute swingey, nude-colored blazer that I can't wait to wear. good things!

day 14, sunday, writers group. confession, friends: I am also a creative writer. my days are filled with reporting and writing for a local news website, but by night I'm making up shit with gusto. gusto being defined as pathetic pleading with my fingers and my laptop to spew some story that isn't crap, obviously.

I've been looking to join a writers community in dc forever and I finally located one on meetup. I went to a meeting for the first time sunday. these guys are in varying states of writinghood, some beginners, some seasoned, but everyone seemed nice and interested in providing critical feedback. good for me, right?

{17 days of good to go! I wanna make them good and I'm a little sad that I'm almost halfway done.}

Sunday, October 7, 2012

31 days of good: beer+menarche+halloween cookies

31 days of good continued through the rest of the week! here's a rundown:

day three, wednesday: beer

I'm trying really hard not to make each day some kind of delicious food or drink that I love, but it's difficult because I so love food and drink. wednesday is the only day of the week where I'm not scheduled to do a damn thing, so I really, really enjoy those days. last wednesday, I had some yuengling in the fridge and I popped one open and drank it. good. 

day four, thursday: menarche party

menarche is a word that describes the first time a female gets a period. in other words, it's one of the bossest times in a woman's life. I'm taking a female empowerment course this semester and we celebrated our menses with an all-red everything party.

 [all red errthang]

we wore red and made foods with red in them. i made a baked penne dish that ended up being really good. we talked about periods and "hygiene" and pubic hair and awesomeness. real good. 
day five, friday: halloween cookies

I. fucking. love. halloween. maybe because I didn't ever dress up or go trick-or-treating as a kid. maybe because all things spooky, scary, corny and covered in smelly costume makeup are awesome. for whatever reason, i gets all the way into the idea of halloween. 

[spooky scary!]

this friday, I took my two halloween cookie cutters and made some chocolate chip cookies and ate those shits so fast. really, really good.

{today is sunday and I have done nothing but eat and sleep and watch '90s R&B videos by destiny's child, aaliyah, mya and brandy. maybe those are good things, but I haven't consciously done anything to celebrate good this weekend. a return to goodness on monday!}