Feminist Video of the Day – the ‘swimsuit’ edition

As women, we are taught to hate our bodies from almost the time we are born. If a baby or young child is a little chubby, people[1] fret that she may grow up to be fat. We police each other’s bodies and being fat is the ultimate body sin. If you are fat, I can pretty much guarantee that you are going to be bullied all the way through school. I know I was. It was relentless. It reached a fevered pitch in about grade 6. We were at a new school and I just didn’t get the kids there. There was a boy who would wait after school to beat me up, just for the sin of being fat. Luckily, I befriended a young mother close to the school who would watch out for me and let me come to her house. I can remember the terror I used to feel as I tried to get out of the school quickly before he realized I was gone. It might not have been as bad as it was if I had not had a mouth on me.

In grade 4, groups of kids would get together with the goal of surrounding me and assaulting me. I could not take the short route home as they would get me in the alley and I did not have the protection the street afforded. I can remember one day when I did not feel well and I thought I would just duck down the alley to go home. They got me. I didn’t tell anyone. I just tried to outsmart them.

When I was 14, I ended up at the Children’s shelter in Calgary.[2] There was a group of girls who hated me because I was fat. One day, the biggest bully of them all got me in the front hall of the school. This time, I chose to fight back. I knocked her flat. I don’t remember what I did as I was in such a rage that I just lost it. None of them ever physically assaulted me again.

It wasn’t just the children that could be cruel. I don’t know how many times I heard: “You have such a pretty face,” or “You could lose some weight if you tried.” I would be have food rationed to me when I lived in care, lest I get even fatter. When I lived at home as a teenager[3], my step-father would weight me every morning and if I had not lost weight, I was beaten before I went to school. They also sent me to the doctor once a week to be weighed. All that taught me was how to forge notes. Even on their starvation diet, I didn’t lose weight.[4] Then, one summer, they hired a woman who took me and me sister on forced marches. This was in addition to weekend and weeklong backpacking trips where we would hike anywhere from 4 to 12 miles per day. I would do that with a 35-pound pack on my back. This is why, to this day, I hate hiking; I hate going for a ‘walk.’

As a society we need to come to a place where it is ok to be in the body you have. For the sake of our women, young and old, we need to feed our bodies healthy food and love ourselves just the way we are. I often wonder what would happen if we stopped dieting and obsessing about our bodies. We would have so much more energy for more productive pursuits, like say, bringing down the patriarchy.[5] This woman is so brave and really has it all figured out. Enjoy.

a-tedtalk-from-a-swimsuit-model-its-one-of-the-bravest-things-ive-ever-seen?c=ufb1

For some reason the video won’t embed unless I get an upgrade?


[1] Usually women.

[2] Long, long story.

[3] I was in and out of care from about 12.

[4] They were convinced I was getting a lot of food somewhere else. While I did eat a friend’s house occasionally, it was not a lot of food.

[5] A woman can dream.

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Moving Past Fat Abuse

The question comes up about how to we can recover from the abuse hurled at fat people. I don’t have the answers but I do know some things that have helped me at times. Although I try to stop my mother’s voice in my head, whenever I have a failure or things don’t go as I think they should the messages come back loud and clear. She also knows when I am vulnerable and seems to pick those times to say something cruel.

Before I go on about some things that have helped me, I want to address another issue that I want to address. Many fat abusers seem to think that fat people are stupid or liars. They seem to feel it is ok to give us advice on how to lose weight like we wouldn’t know. I would say that most fat people I know are more knowledgeable about diet and exercise than most other people. Yet whenever the topic comes up, my mother for example, tells me that I need to exercise. Duh. Who doesn’t know that!

The other theme that emerges with fat abusers is they think that fat people lie. All of my life I have said to doctors, parents, anyone who dared say anything to my weight that I do not eat enough to be the size I am. When my mother informed that at age 12 I became a glutton and they had to lock up the chocolate chips, that it was actually my sister who ate the chocolate chips not me. I actually don’t eat much chocolate. She basically told me that she didn’t believe me which really pissed me off.

One thing that have helped me is medical professionals who actually know the score. When I saw the gynecologist who diagnosed me with PCOS he said to me: “I bet you don’t very much?” When he said that to me, it completely validated what I knew to be true. My GP has been great as well. She has never nagged me about my weight or tried to make me lose weight. When I went to her and told her my concerns about my metabolism she totally took it seriously.

Speaking of doctors, most fat people dread going to the doctor. If you are fat, it is automatically assumed that you have diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol etc. Every time my doctor orders though tests I get anxious and nervous. Yet every time those tests are done they are all fine.

Counselling has been quite effective in helping me to overcome some of the damage. One thing that was very helpful was recognizing the tapes and trying to stop them from playing in my head. I have also tried to look at things rationally. Clearly my mother was wrong. I am not a failure.

Probably the best thing for me has been Deb. Deb loves me unconditionally. She is very good at giving me lots of positive feedback. She makes me question the things my mother says and the reactions those things cause in me. Her love over the past almost 13 years has made a huge difference in my self-esteem. It is sad though that however many times she tells me I am beautiful, I cannot reconcile it with what I see in the mirror. I honestly don’t know where I would be if I had not had her love.

Published in: on April 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm  Comments (2)  
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#thingsfatpeoplearetold[1]

Fat people are told many things. In fact, a lot of people seem to think that it is open season to say whatever they want to fat people, no matter how insensitive or cruel. I used to think I could do anything in spite of my weight however, recent events have shown me that it does not matter how well I do a job and the skills I bring, I can still be discriminated against because of my weight.

My childhood, as an overweight child, was hell. I was teased at school. It didn’t help that the beginning of my former last name rhymed with ‘piggy.’ I might have been able to cope ok with the school bullying if I had support at home. Not only did I not have support, I was punished for my weight. At age 8, my mother put me on Weight Watchers. I gained weight. I was accused of cheating on the diet but I didn’t. This kind of thing would become a pattern in my life.

As soon as I hit puberty, I began to gain weight. It didn’t seem to matter what hell my parents put me though. They made me backpack for weeks at a time and cut back the amount of food they would let me have. When I was 13 years old my step-father weighed me every morning and if I had not lost weight, I would be beaten before I went to school.

I think what was worse though was the things my mother would say to me:

  • By the time you are 22 you will be married to a man who beats you and you will have 2 snotty-nosed children.
  • Or she would tell me that no one would ever marry me.
  • You are only a lesbian because you are fat.
  • When you hit puberty, you became a glutton and we had to lock up the chocolate chips.
  • You were a really cute kid until you hit about 12.
  • When I applied for a job and came very close to getting it but didn’t she asked if I would have contact with the public and implied that I did not get the job for that reason.

I could go on but I think you get the idea. She would say all of these things in spite of the fact that she was also overweight. I remember one day when she made me take off all my clothes and stand in front of a mirror for an hour and look at how disgusting I looked. She instilled a real hatred of my body.

I have fought my entire life to not be what my mother says I am. I even went so far as to have my stomach stapled. I really thought this would be the magic cure. However, it didn’t work. I could never understand how I could eat so little and not lose weight.

Around 2000 I was having problems with my periods. Well, problems would be an understatement. I had been bleeding for over 90 days when I finally went to the doctor. After a case of phlebitis and a D & C, I was diagnosed with PCOS.[2] The underlying cause of PCOS is insulin resistance. I was put on medication to help my body use insulin better. Initially, I lost some weight over the course of a year or so. After that, it was back to my regular pattern of gaining weight for no apparent reason.

Fast-forward to 2005 when I developed ulcerative colitis. Part of the problem with diagnosis was the fact that I was obese. You don’t see many fat people walking around with ulcerative colitis. So now I was in a position of having a disease where absorption of food and nutrients is a problem.

Finally, in frustration, I went to my doctor and asked that she try to figure out what is wrong. She did a whole bunch of tests. What we found was that my cholesterol and lipids were great. Clearly, she told me, was that I ate healthily. What was completely out of whack was my fasting insulin rate. The normal level is about 60 and mine was 116.  My fasting insulin level was the amount ill that high in spite of the medication I have been on for 10 years. A high insulin rate causes the body to turn sugar into fat.

Thankfully she started me on a new drug that is supposed to reduce the amount of insulin in my body. On Victoza I have lost 17 pounds in a month. My only hope is that it continues. Usually what happens with my body is something will work for a while and then it stops.

To say that I am angry and bitter is an understatement. I basically am the size I am due to nothing I could control. I have listened to all this crap and put through hell for a lot of my life because my body’s cells are not sensitive to insulin. Plus the more weight you gain, the worse the problem becomes.

Here is the problem in society. People think that if you are fat you are somehow at fault. They think that it is totally acceptable to pass judgment on you and what you eat. No one ever stops to think that it could be a medical issue. The abuse that has been hurled at me by my family and others in a recent situation has really dragged me down lately. When I saw the #thingsfatpeoplearetold on twitter I could immediately relate to the pain people were expressing.


[1] This twitter hashtag started by the author of Red No. 3.

Published in: on April 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm  Comments (1)  
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Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘get your food issues off of me’ edition

  • I read an amazing blog entry by Margaret Cho. She completely summed up many of the feelings I have been having lately. When people feel they have a right to make an assumption about you and then pass it, it is so very hurtful. It is not something that you can shake off and, in fact, may scar someone for life. This was her reaction after her friend’s mother said Margaret had an eating disorder:

“I felt sick immediately, the fat in the food coagulating in my blood and stopping it. It felt like a heart attack, or a tranquilizer dart right in the chest, felling me in my tracks. Like when you take your battery out of your phone – just blank screen. Blank. Mother and daughter were full on fighting now but I had checked out and gone somewhere else. We were all still sitting there but I don’t really know what happened after that. Perhaps we went to my friend’s room and drowned out her neurotic mother’s musings with Duran Duran, but whatever happened I know that I was permanently changed. I had been marked with a big scarlet letter “E” on my chest for “eating disorder.” That was when I was tagged in the wild and categorized forever, and even though I was put back into the general population, I carry the mark to this day.”

  • Why do people buy bottled water? I had a conversation with a woman the other day about bringing in our reusable bags. I had remembered because Safeway had a reminder on the door. Anyway, she was going on about remembering her bags and she had a case of bottled water in her cart. Talk about a disconnect! Today I was at Save-on and I saw a line up for people to fill their big water bottles. Now, where do they think the water comes from? Do they think Save-on has some big tank of bottled water somewhere in the store? No, I am sure it is tap water that may be run through the industrial equivalent of a Britta filter. Not only do they have to bring these huge bottles to the store then they get to fill them, drive them home and get them into the house. Instead they could just turn on the tap. No bottles involved.
  • It might be too soon to speak but it looks like the drainage has solved the problems with the septic system. Moving the water out seems to have fixed the problem with water filling the tank when it rains heavily. We have not had it pumped since the end of September. Since we moved in we have had to pump it out in either December or January and sometimes both.

I am angry, so very, very angry

I am about to rant. If you object to calling it like it is or profanity then stop reading now. You have been warned.

I need to talk about fat oppression. Yes, you read it correctly, fat oppression. Let’s define fat oppression:

From Dictionary.com, here is the definition of fat: having too much flabby tissue; corpulent; obese: a fatperson.

From Dictionary.com, here is the and the definition of oppression:
1.
the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel,or unjust manner.

Putting it together? Fat oppression is cruel and unjust treatment of people who have too much flabby tissue. Like racism, there is generally a flavor of power being present in the oppression but it is not always necessary. It can be used to discredit people in positions of power when others are trying to undermine them. Wow! What a thing to judge someone on! This can work in many ways. But I digress.

This society thinks it is perfectly OK to systematically denigrate, discriminate and decimate fat people. We are the butt of jokes. If people can’t find a way to tear us down and we are fat then they use that. We get accused of all sorts of things, usually based on assumptions (incorrect at that). Some even have the nerve to diagnose people.

I have had huge issues with my weight and being fat my entire life. What the oppressors don’t know is that I have a metabolic disorder. Yes, there is a medical reason I am fat. I don’t even lose any significant weight when I am deathly ill with colitis. Yet they feel they can use this because this is all they have. So, I am here to tell you the following:

  • Fat people are not stupid.
  • Fat people are not dirty.
  • Fat people do not lack self-control. Point in fact I quit smoking cold turkey 20 years ago.
  • Fat people are not weak; nor are we here to be the butt of your jokes.

I am fucking sick of it. I usually have this shit under control. I am a highly intelligent, well-educated fat woman and I scare the shit out of some people. I scare the shit out of people who see how smart, funny, competent and kind I am.

I am so fucking angry that some people are trying to oppress me simply because I am fat. How fucking stupid can they be? What the hell gives them the right to think that just because they are of a smaller size they are superior? If you think the fat person in front of you is weak, think again. If you think weight is a simple matter of calories in and calories out you are wrong. Let’s judge people on real things – their accomplishments, their ethics, and their values as human beings. Weight, like race, ethnicity, sexual orientation has nothing to do with who we are as people.

If we are not fat ourselves (and half of us are), we definitely know someone who has struggled with weight issues. Maybe it is a friend or a family member. Maybe you are nice and kind to their face but mock them to others because you can. After all, fat discrimination along with sexual orientation and gender non-conformity, are about the only areas of oppression that are still sanctioned in our society. If you don’t believe me, listen to the jokes the oppressors tell sometime.

To the haters and the oppressors out there – I am on to you. So stay the fuck out of my way. I am sick and tired of being denigrated by you because I am fat and a lesbian. I have figured you all out now and I am angry, very, very angry.

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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Rant – the Heatwave Edition

I hate the heat. It was 34 freaking degrees in Vancouver. To make it worse our office is not symmetrical when it comes to heat and cooling. Some of the rooms get way too much and others don’t get enough. What this means is that in the winter I freeze because everyone is hot and in the summer I roast because everyone else is freezing. I have a fan and a space heater but today was really bad. It was 26 degrees in my office and just about as warm in the common area so I kept going and turning it back on. I fear it is going to be a very long summer.

My mother is coming to visit. I told her in an email that I picked up a really nice prime rib to put on the bbq. I was told today that she does not like prime rib that it was my father who liked it and in fact, just seeing it on a plate ‘nauseated’ her because of all the fat. She does concede that it is the fat that makes the roast so good but she can’t stand it Unreal. I cannot win. Thank goodness I told her beforehand. It would have been really gross if she had puked on her plate.

Still on the mother unit. When we were kids my mother used to say; “If I had it to do over again I would raise dogs.” Over the years, like any kids, my sister (the raving lunatic) and me have reminded her of this statement. The other day she was telling me that she is not really a dog person. I challenged her on this pointing out that she has always had a dog and reminding her of her oft said words. The next day when I called her she laid into me about ‘constantly’ throwing this up in her face and why couldn’t we (me and the sister unit) remember the good things she said. Then she said, which is really indicative of her, “I haven’t felt like that in a long time.” Then, to add insult to injury she tells me that she never brings up things from the past. I calmly informed her that no one was innocent when it comes to bringing up crap from the past. She told me the next day that she had said the same thing to my sister about ‘that’ statement and that she yelled and screamed at her and hung up on her. I resisted the urge to point out the contrast in reactions between me (who apologized) and my sister who freaked. She went on to comment about how the sister unit is ‘just like that.’ Again I resisted.

Of course what is a rant without one about driving. I need an answer to one thing. Why is it that people pull in front of you and then don’t do the speed limit? This usually happens in the left-hand line and on the Mary Hill bypass. Today there was a semi beside me when another car pulled in front of me. They both basically boxed me in all the way to the highway. I got caught at a light but then caught up to them again. What a freaking pain in the ass.

If anyone has any interesting or sarcastic insights about the pressing issues in my rant have at it in the comments!

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 8:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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What to blog about…

Trying to blog every day is quite difficult. So today I am just going to blog about life at chez Shihtzustaff today.

Deb, Angelina and Lynn have been very busy peeling vegetables for tomorrow’s dinner at my office for our clients. I am so blessed that they are willing to do this for us. They will continue tomorrow, when Deb and Angelina will come to the office and serve Christmas dinner for about 125 refugees. Thank you!

My sister screamed obscenities at me when I called to see if the Christmas parcel had arrived. Apparently, I should have known that she had been shorted supplies for her husband’s dialysis. According to my mother that is just how she copes. Well, it doesn’t work in my world. I told her that I would not allow her to speak to me that way. She hung up on me. Later, in talking to my mother we were discussing why my sister behaves this way and we focused in on her lack of self-esteem. I then relayed something really positive that happened to me at work and she went into attack mode. Basically she said that I almost killed myself with my job (untrue) and that I would be sick until I realized what the problem was. In her mind, the problem is that I am fat and that is why I am sick. The interactions really pissed me off. Somehow I need to get better at seeing it coming and dodging the bullet.

I am watching some re-runs of Six Feet Under. Michael C. Hall is ridiculously talented. Both shows were cutting edge (well, one more so than the other) and had awesome ensemble casts.

I have had a painful day today. I am not sure why. Perhaps because I over did it yesterday. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. All I can say is that I am thankful for pain killers.

As per Angelina’s suggestion I am now picking up the cat and moving her instead of waiting for her to do it herself. Way easier!

Here’s hoping tomorrow will be a better day!

Published in: on December 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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How do you solve a problem like Maria?

The latest in reality fare in Canada is the ill-conceived show called “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” Apparently it is based on similar shows, done by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, to cast major roles in new live shows. On the surface this seems like a good idea – get the people who are ultimately going to pay to see the show help to select the leading woman for the role.

The format works like most of these kind of shows. Singers compete for votes and the bottom two (or three depending on the week) have to engage in a ‘sing-off’ and then Simon Lee, the Lord’s music supervisor, can ‘save’ one of the Marias.  He appears to find this task very difficult and last week he even said he was ‘gobsmacked’ by the results of the vote.

As time goes on it appears that they have already decided who they want to be Maria. For all intents and purposes they seem to have chosen Janna. Now, this poses a problem – how do they make sure that they are able to get rid of all the competition. Donna is a good example of how we are being manipulated. She is a bit heavier than the other Marias but she has an amazing voice, she connects with the audience and she can act. Clearly, she gets enough votes, week after week, to stay in the competition. So last night they dressed her in a god awful peasant dress and gave her a slow song to sing. It seemed that all of the women who sang slow songs got panned. But Donna nailed it. She has a beautiful soprano voice and she had all the emotion and vulnerability they are looking for. So, how do you solve a problem like Donna? Well, if you are Elaine Overholt you decide to dress her down, on national tv, telling her that her ‘diva’ like behaviour and blaming others will not be tolerated. Usually on these shows when something like this happens there has been footage of the offending behaviour – not in this case. It came out of nowhere. I am left to conclude that they do not want Donna as their Maria (likely because she is not a wisp of a thing) and they are trying to affect her votes.

Even the sing-offs don’t make sense. Last week Allie and Jayme participated in a sing-off of “Another Suitcase” from Evita. Hands down Allie was better than Jayme but Allie went home. If this continues the show will lose even more credibility.

Perhaps the worst thing for me as a feminist is that they constantly refer to the Marias as girls. Given that the youngest is 19, most of them left their girlhood a long time ago. I am not sure why almost all of these shows have this in common. They do it on Canadian Idol and on So you think you can dance. They don’t do it to the men who are often referred to as guys. It is monotonous to say the least.

Then there is the host – Gavin Crawford. He makes me mental. He is not in the least bit funny and he dresses funny. You think given that the Lord is involved that they of gotten somebody good like Rick Mercer. At this point I am not even sure that someone like him could save this mess show.

So the real question is why do I continue to watch? It is kind of like a train wreck – I seem to be unable to avert my eyes.

Published in: on July 7, 2008 at 10:22 pm  Comments (4)  

Dispatches from the Land of Fat Phobia

Deb and I just came back from visiting my mother, sister and brother-in-law in Calgary (and Radium, BC). It always surprises me how food is such a mine field with my family. Growing up I was placed on diets beginning at the age of 8 years old. I remember going to Weight Watchers meeting with my mother who lost the same 57 pounds over and over again. Food was cast into the realm of good and bad. You either deserved food or you did not. If you didn’t work hard and ‘earn’ it then you couldn’t eat it. But if you had done something particularly strenuous that day then you ‘deserved’ a little something extra. This attitude became completely entrenched in my family when my mother married her second husband. He managed his weight meticulously. He backpacked and cross-country skied several hundred kilometres per year. In fact, we spent many summers backpacking for weeks at a time walking well over 200 km with very heavy packs. He was very concerned about food and how much we ate (or didn’t as the case was). Despite his influence my mother remained overweight the entire time they were married.

Once he passed away from leukemia (which was a shock to all of us given his very healthy lifestyle) my mother ceased to have interest in food. Currently she is about 5 feet 9 inches and weighs about 130 pounds. For the first time in her life she is thin and she loves it. The other morning after I got up I was sitting with my mother and sister (who were smoking their faces off) and my mother starts talking about how she can eat anything she wants now. She said: “If I want ice cream, I have ice cream, if I want potato chips, I have potato chips and I don’t have to feel guilty about it.” My internal dialog was screaming about how silly this was and how food should not have this amount of power in our lives. But I know better than to get into this kind of a discussion with them. So I sat there biting my tongue and wishing it would just stop.

Later that day my mother insisted on watching The Biggest Loser – Australia because she enjoyed the ‘personalities’. I couldn’t stand it. It was so contrived. My mother likes this kind of thing because it makes her feel superior just like being around me makes her feel like she has won because I am fat and she is not. She was so excited that I had lost weight (about 50 pounds). The only reason I lost it was because I was so sick for so long but that does not matter to her. She keeps thinking that I am going to suddenly lose all the weight and morph into an entirely different person. I have news for her – it is not going to happen.

Usually these visits take a huge toll on my self-esteem. Not this time though. I look at my mother and sister (who are like one person as Deb says) and I know I am so different from them (I am adopted). I also know that I will never have her approval unless I weigh 125 pounds. I have long given up on this ever happening. Instead I do other things for her. I am her personal computer support department. On this last trip I picked out a new computer for her and set it up in Radium including installing all of her programs and configuring it just the way she likes it. Deb spent her time cooking and filling her freezer with easy to heat up meals so that she might eat. We are also a little concerned as she is having a lot of trouble breathing. Just plugging something in caused her to breathe audibly for 10 minutes. She complains of having no energy, being tired and generally feeling unwell. I am concerned that she is in the beginning stages of COPD. She has smoked for probably for 50 years and now she is likely smoking more than a pack a day. I hope that she sees a doctor soon about getting a physical and a chest x-ray. I doubt she will ever quit smoking.

Other lowlights from the trip: our flight into Calgary was horrible. There was much turbulence and the landing was very hard. Then we went to get our car from Budget and the call centre had messed up our reservation and we could not the same rate I had been quoted ($43 per day). Apparently, they were sold out but they would give us a car for $170 per day if we wanted. So the question was are they sold out or are they not?? I could not get anywhere with them. So we rented from Enterprise who had excellent customer service and gave us a car for $109 per day. We were very impressed with them. Our flight back to Abbotsford (I cannot say enough good stuff about the Abbotsford International Airport – we will never fly out of Vancouver again!!!) was ok with just a bit of turbulence. We were both completely exhausted by the time we got home and slept until noon the next day. Thankfully, the yearly trip is now over barring any family emergencies.

Published in: on June 15, 2008 at 8:47 pm  Comments (12)