Tuesday, 17 January 2012
I won't post the ad here but these are the key elements I get before I flip the channel:
Audio: Regina Spektor's cover of 'Real Love'
Visual: Usually one person, in white, on a beige background a-la-photoshoot, speaks about how they're ready to love themselves again, or find love, or be proud of themselves.
Where is everyone on this? How has the blogosphere that I read not said one peep about this crappy, detrimental, patronising and socially damaging campaign? Why am I surprised? Here is what I hear in these ads....
"I can't love myself when I'm this big. I don't think anyone else can either. I find it acceptable that people can't see me past the fat, so I'm going to lose it, because all I see is fat too. Yeah, no one likes fat people."
I don't know how to explain it (so rambling is afoot), but what I really hear is the product of a culture that has taught someone that they are somehow not good enough because they're big.
A bit of disclosure: I speak from a privileged point of view. I am a classic cis woman - female looking, mainstream height, weight, colour, shoe size, everything. My biggest challenge in clothes shopping is I'm about a 10-12, and those sizes goes first. Tough times indeed. When I see magazines, advertising, etc about make-up, clothes, products, routines that I'm supposed to buy into "because I respect myself", its easy for me to ignore them. I don't think that's just because I have a healthy self-image, or that I don't like to shop, or that I was unpopular in school so I've mostly fobbed off that 'pretty' crap. I think it's partly easy because, physically, I have no public display of being unfit. When I buy fish & chips, no one looks me up & down and judges me for being irresponsible - my figure shows I'm apparently sensible enough with the rest of my diet. When I exercise, no one links that to my size or my opinion of it. I fit into seats, I get through doorways, I can pass poeple in corridors, I can climb stairs, I can pick things up - all without anyone ever noticing what I'm doing or the effort it may take me. But I get the impression it's not the same for large people. If I feel bombarded by images of more-ideal-than-me that I'm supposed to choose, I can only imagine what a large person is experiencing.
I think size-ism has been in fashion for a long time, but especially so right now. I also think we treat weight like we treat the economy - we wish is were a meritocracy. And I think that's a load of crap.
In a meritocracy, people would generally deserve their situation. Certainly for the most part, people who are happy with their lot in life like to believe they've earned it in some way - very few says its all in the stars. By extension, there is no such thing as misfortune, only bad choices and deserved outcomes. I think people treat weight the same way - "you've earned the size you are and all the responses things that some with it." ( I think calling someone a 'skinny bitch' is a warped version of 'tall poppy syndrome', and I won't even go into the seething I have for labelling someone a bitch just because of their size.)
I think these ads normalise the idea that self-esteem and love are (justifiably) elusive for large people and that everyone else is justified in being disinterested in large people. I know that obesity is becoming a more prevalent issue for Australia, but I don't think pointing at large people - in this punishing, separatist, distancing way - is anything like a step toward a healthier country. Portion sizes, access to healthy food, access to physical activities in lower-socio-economic communities, attitudes to activity during secondary school - all these things relate to the health of someone as they create the habits of their adulthood. It is generally accepted that to be large is unhealthy, but there's something in me that believes some people are just big - they've always been big, they're going to be big, and maybe it will affect their health in the future, but you know what? Shit loads of things affect health - drinking, wrong foods, stress, poor work places, unhappy families - and most of them are invisible to the average bystander. There will always be people who have unhealthy habits - why should large people get everyone's open contempt? Why do people feel entitled to presume someone's discontent and then comment & advise them on living habits, as thought their singular experience will apply to all?
Before all that though:
Making change when you feel shit about yourself is like pushing water uphill. We've known this since we stopped saying "that child has bad blood".
It really shouldn't matter what I think of your weight or size. I don't think I have a right to make you feel any particular way about the way you look, and I don't see why anyone feels entitled to use their judgements about weight to inflict an emotion upon others.
Through feeds and media I get a bit of the US primaries and what not, and I watch with interest knowing that the attitudes voiced in American culture are echoed here through their media products and our reporting media's recounts. When Obama says something significant, it will be shown on our news. When a republican front-runner makes a gaffe, I can see it somewhere on our free-to-air network.
So when I read this, a lament sparked from the impotence of the US government (and alternatives) for their own 'feminist voice', I am riled for the women of the US. I am so thankful that abortion is legal in Australia (governed state-by-state) and that, even though there are people who opposed it completely, terrorism here towards those who provide abortions is minimal. However, McEwan's excellently expressed fury had me thinking of women's rights in general and not reproductive rights alone.
They count on feminist men never showing up en masse for the main event.I shudder to think how my world would be different if abortion were illegal here, how I would feel about my autonomy, my choices. I feel 'othered' enough as a woman without having to defer to the state about my body's future.
They count on the Democratic Party being too squeamish, too spineless, too unprincipled, too apathetic to stand up for reproductive rights, unyieldingly.
They count on reproductive rights being the first bargaining chip on the table.
They count on the still almost entirely male leadership of the Democratic Party and the vast number of male Democratic partisans giving themselves permission to not get publicly involved, or to get publicly involved only when it's convenient and not all that risky and not all that hard.
They count on men trading on that privilege of not having to get involved.
They count on Democratic partisans being more interested in hectoring dispossessed progressive women than in being their allies and fighting this fight alongside them, every day.
They count on reproductive rights being treated as Woman's Work, and thus being devalued as woman's work inevitably is.
Saturday, 5 November 2011
from Jeff Atwood. Read all the words!
Well, having children changes you. Jonathan Coulton likens it to becoming a vampire.
I was having a conversation with a friend who had recently become a parent, and she reminded me of something I had forgotten about since my daughter was born. She was describing this what-have-I-done feeling – I just got everything perfect in my life, and then I went and messed it all up by having a baby. I don’t feel that way anymore, but the thought certainly crossed my mind a few times at the beginning. Eventually you just fall in love and forget about everything else, but it’s not a very comfortable transition. I compare the process to becoming a vampire, your old self dies in a sad and painful way, but then you come out the other side with immortality, super strength and a taste for human blood. At least that’s how it was for me. At any rate, it’s complicated.
Maybe tongue in cheek, but not that far from the truth, honestly. Your children, they ruin everything in the nicest way.
Before Henry was born, I remembered Scott Hanselman writing this odd blurb about being a parent:
You think you love you wife when you marry her. Then you have a baby and you realize you'd throw your
wifeyourself under a bus to save your baby. You can't love something more.
Nuts to that, I thought. Hanselman's crazy. Well, obviously he doesn't love his wife as much as I love mine. Sniff. Babies, whatever, sure, they're super cute on calendars, just like puppies and kittens. Then I had a baby. And by God, he was right. I wouldn't just throw myself under a bus for my baby, I'd happily throw my wife under that bus too – without the slightest hesitation. What the hell just happened to me?
That post: Sniff. [wipe tear]
Sunday, 11 September 2011
...the evidence has been emerging around the world since the late 90’s showing that boys are struggling in school far more than their fathers’ ever did. The evidence shows that "girls on average outperform boys in school, when measured by report card grades, in most subjects and in all age groups."
- Girls are born with than boys and this difference increases with age.
- Girls develop a link between the much earlier than boys.
- There is apparently a difference in the in which the male retina is thicker than a female’s due to cell composition. This leads to preferences regarding colours and motion.
- ... males and females and will give directions using different words.
- And one I'm tentative about: ...boys tend to be ready later for being introduced to the skills of than girls. This is most probably due to the fact that boys and girls brains develop in a different sequence
- Boys and girls like to read different because of the way their brain develops. Girls enjoy fiction, short stories and novels....Boys on the other hand prefer nonfiction, action books with strong male characters who often act as brave heroes.
- Boys and girls have different perspectives about . Girls enjoy spending time together, face to face, talking and sharing secrets and self disclosure. Whereas boys friendships tend to develop out of shared interest in a game or activity.
- Males are innately than females due to the hormone testosterone. Boys enjoy ‘rough and tumble’ play fighting as it releases aggression, whereas girls do not have this need.
- Boys find risks irresistible, they admire others who take risks and get a thrill from physically risky activities.
- Types of books: In my class, on average, there are a few more boys than girls who enjoy war stories, and the Horrible Histories. The war stories ones are clearly pitched at boys, though, so it's hard to gauge what's causing that preference.
However, series that are about child spies, or apocalyptic situations where violence or death are involved, are enjoyed equally by boys and girls. The girls love strong characters like Ellie Linton, or James Adams, just like the boys do.
I had a new student start with us, from South Korea, and he was a fantastic person and quickly settled into the class, making lots of friends. His first books were The Baby Sitters Club, partly for the reading level and partly for the topic. It was two weeks before one of the boys pointed out it was generally 'a girls' book' but I did like the way he said "Just so you know" to insist that he wasn't teasing.
The boys don't read the 'girls'' stories as much as the girls read the 'boys''. But I don't think this is an 'topic per gender' issue. Most of the stories promoted to us are male stories, and just as it's now OK for girls to wear pants, its more acceptable for a girl to read 'boys'' stories than vice versa. This issue is more complicated that individual preference.
- Perspectives about friendship: The boys worry and care about friendships as much as the girls. Not every girl wants a 'friendship' with their teacher, and many of the boys do. Physical contact (or lack of) from a teacher has its place for all students, and whether and when it's used depends on the student and their needs at the time much more than their gender.
- Boys being 'more aggressive': This is a gross simplification of the way boys play. Their play can be better characterised by contact and this is sometimes aggressive.
When Year 5 and 6 classes move around the school there are often pairs of girls, individual girls and boys and one or two amoeba-like masses of boys. They're not fighting or rough-housing as such, but they like the contact. The way they seek contact with their female friends is different. (It's worth noting too, that there are fewer acceptable ways for them to do this, without people linking it to romance, even if it isn't there.)
I suspect it would be hard to tell the difference between a desire for aggressive play and a desire for contact that can be justified with socially-acceptable aggressive play. This aspect relates back to the previous point of contact in friendships and contact when working with boys.
- Boys find risks irresistible: If I say "Well, boys will be boys" is it clear that I'm using that phrase ironically? Boys are taught that risky behaviour is boyish. I just don't see it at school. Girls do risky behaviour as well, often during class, and both groups do it physical and socially.
- If men are so different to me, how would an "exclusive girls' education" prepare me to understand, work and live with them?
- How many wonderful, enriching friendships would I miss if I couldn't meet all those male people?
- How would a boys' school counterbalance the 'boys will be boys' excuses in the more damaging behaviours in our society. There are men who have an overblown sense of entitlement and are dysfunctional towards women**; how will a boys' education adequately and respectfully support equity and equality across the genders when one is absent and (possibly) silenced? How would an exclusive girls' education address this issue?
- How would gendered education, which is basing itself on generally shared tendencies, cater for and support intersex or transgender students?