Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Having a flame

As progressive as we were attempting to be, I was the mother and it suddenly meant something. There had been this bond, you see, and it persisted in ways I underestimated. Because in spite of all our contemporary approaches to parenting, somehow, I was still the one to make all the hospital arrangements, and the one to sleep curled around our son the night before surgery. Now he was going to become unconscious on an operating table and as though bewitched, he would temporarily leave himself. But I couldn’t forget that it had been inside my body that the enchantment had begun. His first flicker of life had happened there and I’d monitored it when no-one else could. I have been the keeper of his flame his whole life, and the yearning to be with him as this flame was subdued and then breathed back was about the strongest obligation I had experienced.




Blubbing as I pad.

Although I can foresee my fear when my 10mo inevitably comes under the care of doctors, one day, even now simply letting her be away and out of sight for an extended period, especially with non-family, is hard.  And bluemilk's "keeper of the flame" idea is what it is.  I keep thinking "But I'm the last one, the one she needs most, because I'm the mother."  It feels so selfish and grandiose (sorry Dad) but such a desperate responsibility, a weight I knew I choosing with parenthood.  How can I do less than what she might need?

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Bloody marvellous

Dear Allie,

I tried to comment on your post but it has maxed out at 5000! I am very pleased for you about hat, though I don't envy the task of appreciating them all (I naturally assume they're all lovely).  ACtually, no, 5000 "You are awesome"s would probably be nice.  I hope it warms you.

After reading your previous post I wanted to let you know that this one really did make me laugh.  Lots.  I turned the screen around and forced* my husband to sit by me and read the comics (especially the 'Stay Strong' one) and I watched his face to see if he appreciated it as much as I did.  And he did - he guffawed, and he's an introvert!

I hope I get to see more of your thoughts soon.  I wish I'd had your blog to read when I was a teenager.

Lots of love,

A.

*By 'forced' I mean I say "Do that household chore later silly!  This is important!"  
"What is?" 
"Hyperbole and a half is posting again."  
"Hy-PER-bo-ly."  
"See, I'm sure you just say it the opposite way to whichever way I say it." 
"You're doing that conversation-in-your-head thing again."

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Where is everyone?

Very soon another season of the Biggest Loser will begin on Australian telly. I know this because the advertising campaign is relentless. These days they creatively choose a theme for the seasons and this year it's 'Singles'.

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.

My good fortune.

I read this last night off my phone, frowning furiously at the little screen not because of its size but because of the vehemence I felt for the post.

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.

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.
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.