An exercise in saying the wrong thing

I know the man responsible will probably never see this, but I need to write it out anyway for my own processing.

For context: A few weeks ago, someone I hadn’t spoken with for over a year got in touch, and we started chatting. The usual rubbish, how are you, how’s work, what have you been up to (how I detest small talk).  Then, in response to him asking if I need to workout considering all the dancing I do, I said I probably don’t need to, but I love having muscles.

And then he sent this:

Muscle shaming

Translated for the sake of clarity, “not too big muscles, I hope; A pretty woman with a toned body is sexy. A pretty woman with big muscles is not.”

First and foremost, this is creepy. as. hell.  He hopes. He hopes, about my body. He wants my body to remain sexy at all time for his benefit. Scuze me while I try to stop my skin crawling right off me.

But it’s also infuriating, I read it and I was instantly shaking with anger. The suggestion that only ‘pretty’ women can be sexy. Because of course there’s only one definition of pretty and/or sexy.

The suggestion that well-muscled women are not sexy in any way, to anyone.

But most of all, the assumption that any of that would be a motivating factor for me. As if I would immediately sell off all my kettlebells and weights because heaven forbid I not be considered sexy. As if the entire point and purpose of my life is to be attractive.

 

So I called him out. Something along the lines of “nuts to sexy. I love my big muscles and that’s the only opinion in the world that counts”. (Actual quote lost when I deleted everything, just barely resisting the urge to set the phone on fire.)

And he sent me this:

“I wasn’t talking about you, I like the way you look. I meant like this. This isn’t sexy body-builder

Face, meet palm.

Of course he wasn’t talking about me, what with me not being a woman and all.

Of course the fact he wasn’t talking about me makes it perfectly fine for him to say that this woman is womaning wrong because she doesn’t turn him on. Dear lord, I can’t believe I just had to type that sentence.

 

By that point I was rage-shaking so badly I could barely type, and dithering between trying to get him to understand and just blocking him. In my hopeless optimism I went with giving him a chance to stop digging, with roughly the following points:

  1. Comparing me to another woman is not a compliment. Ever.
  2. ‘You meet my definition of the correct way to be a woman’ is not a compliment, or an okay thing to say in general because…
  3. If there were a correct way for me to be a woman, it would be defined by me, always me, and only me. But…
  4. There is no ‘correct’, nor indeed ‘incorrect’, way to be a woman.
  5. I’m not here for your sex drive. Ew.

 

He said I was being over-sensitive.

Then I blocked him.

 

A few people have said he had a point – they don’t find super-muscly women attractive either. But that was not what he said.

“I don’t find muscly women attractive” is a point. One I really couldn’t care any less about when it comes to other people’s thoughts on my body, but a point nonetheless.

“Muscly women are not sexy”  is not a point, it’s a sweeping generalisation that says his worldview is the only true worldview and there is no possible dimension in which anyone could find muscly women attractive.

And “you shouldn’t get too muscly because I don’t find that sexy” is so far from a valid point, that I can’t quite believe I had to type that sentence either.

I’m not angry that he doesn’t think muscles are sexy. Everyone has opinions and they’re entitled to them.  I’m angry that he tried to impose his opinion on me and assumed I seriously care whether he finds me sexy, and then dismissed me as over-sensitive for being creeped out and offended by that assumption.

I wish I had blocked him sooner and saved myself the adrenaline stress.

 

A microscopic part of me is hoping he will have thought about my points and realised his mistake. But the realist in me knows fullwell he probably rolled his eyes, muttered something about my time of the month, and carried on his creepy way.

 

In case anyone is wondering, the right response sounds a bit like this:

“I’m sorry I offended you. Thank you for taking the time to point it out and explain it to me, which you are absolutely not required to do. I’m taking your points on board and I’ll try to do better next time.”

But to be honest just “I’m sorry” would have done, rather than doubling down and mansplaining his sexism to me.

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Processing the feels

I am still reacting to this man who invaded my personal space and tried to touch me without my permission. Mainly with rage, because how dare he? How DARE he!

No unauthorised persons allowed beyond this point

And yet, the more I think about it, how sad.

How sad that this toxic society has created some men who will only ever touch a woman by forcing, grabbing, coercing, snatching.

Who will never know the feeling of being invited freely to share our personal space.

Who so thoroughly view us as objects they can never see the messy wonder of our humanity.

Who will only ever experience the sharpness of women who won’t take that treatment, or the brittle edges of the ones who break beneath their rough hands.

How sad, the connections they will never make, the friends they will never have, the possibilities they will never even know are possibilities.

I’m angry that I live in a society where women wonder when we will be violated again; there is no if. In fact, I’m raging.

And yet, I pity that man. I pity all men like him, for everything they will miss out on, precisely because they believe they are entitled to us.

How terribly sad.

One

It’s kind of hard to believe a whole year has passed since I started this blog. So much has changed since then, most noticeably my self-confidence:

I’ve gone from being afraid of crop tops, to wearing them as just another part of my wardrobe.

I’m on the list of life models for a regular life drawing event.

I have far more good body days than bad, and have developed tactics to deal with the bad ones.

I’ve cut from my life any people who (deliberately or not) push the wrong buttons, and I’ve made my introvert time non-negotiable.

I’ve learned to answer back and argue my point instead of being a good, quiet little lady and letting people walk all over me.

And so much more.

Honestly, I kind of expected all that to happen. Maybe not quite so well or so quickly, but I was ready for ‘fake it til you make it’ to work out as it has in the past.

I was not expecting my eyes and ideology to be thrown wide open.

This blog started off for me. I was going to do things I was afraid of so I could change. But over the last year I’ve realised that there’s a good deal more in the world needs changing, and if I can help, in even the tiniest way, I just have to.

My first year has been a learning year. My next year will be one of action. Watch this space.

Stand up speak up fight back

 

Teeny tiny study

So today I found this article on Gadgette about perceived gender roles.

TL;DR – sexism is still a thing, possibly getting worse.

On first sight it could be a somewhat disheartening read. But I’m not throwing in the feminist towel yet, for several reasons.

First of all, the sample size for the study is pathetic. Even if I had not studied sociology and worked in market research, I could have told you that 191 responses is tiny. That number cannot possibly give an accurate representation of the beliefs of the (roughly) 7 billion people currently on the planet. Or the few billion people in the Western World. Or even the 361 million North Americans.

Which brings me to my second problem with this study; It was done in North America. North America, where this amendment has still not been added to the constitution, over 90 years after it was first presented:

Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.

Where women who may become pregnant (i.e. the vast majority of us) are told we ‘should not drink alcoholic beverages at all’. Because everything possible must be done to keep baby-making factories women healthy, whether they like it or not.

Where a disturbing number of people seem to think they have the right to tell a woman whether she can or cannot use her own body to produce a child she doesn’t want.

Of course sexist beliefs are getting worse in a place where women are reduced to their ability to create offspring, treated like children, and seen as constitutionally less than men.

I want to see this study done with a much larger sample size, for a start, and in some other countries. I want to know how different the results would be in places that are known for better equality. Maybe they would be the same, but somehow I doubt it.

On closer inspection, this is not disheartening at all; it’s fuel to my fire. I’m going to keep up my fighting to make sure that, even if it never ever gets any better than it is now, it doesn’t gets as bad as these results.

I have faith in you, Britain! Don’t let me down.

Sometimes it’s hard

I leave my flat to walk to work. On the way some builders wolf-whistle me, then call me a bitch and a whore when I don’t respond.

I stop to buy coffee and a man steps in front of me in the queue, talking loudly into his phone. He doesn’t even acknowledge me.

I get to work and head to my desk past the guy who thinks he’s being nice, but only ever compliments me on my outfit, and only ever when I’m wearing a dress.

A man tries to explain a report to me that I have been running longer than he has been with the company. After telling him three times that I know what I’m doing I end up snapping at him, and he jokes to a colleague that it must be that time of the month.

There is training out on site; I step from the car and the first man I see asks if I’m a secretary. The training takes twice as long as planned, because they interrupt constantly to ask questions that would be answered if they would just listen until I finish speaking.

Back to the office and I take out my afternoon snack. A manager leans over and loudly asks, “are you still eating??” When I refuse to dignify that with an answer, he also mutters about my time of the month.

Finally time to go home. On the way, a randomer stops me and tells me to smile, I would look so pretty if I smiled. When I answer “you bloody smile” and walk off, he calls me names, screaming them down the street until I turn the corner out of his line of sight. If I’m lucky. If he doesn’t grab me, hit me, stab me, shoot me, rape me for not doing as I’m told.

A group of teenage boys are hanging round at the end of my street. They spread out across the pavement when they see me, thinking they can stop me. I have had more than enough so I just keep walking, banging against their shoulders, pushing through. They call me a whore, slut, cunt. They follow me home.  Tomorrow I’ll have to come home a different way.

I barely even noticed the billboards and adverts I saw all day long, using skinny, half-naked women to sell anything and everything from beer to clothes to holidays to burgers.

 

No, I am not imagining it. No, I am not making it up. No, I am not being over-sensitive.

If I had actually been on my period every time my feelings have been dismissed as PMS, I would have bled to death years ago.

If I had a pound for every time a man has assumed the right to command my facial expression, I would no longer have to work.

If I added up all the extra distance I have walked in my life to avoid males who make me feel unsafe, it would reach to Crewe and back. Several times.

Yes, you’re damn right I’m a feminist. Yes, we still need feminism. Because yes, we still have such a long, long way to go.

31 things I love

We’re halfway through January already, how mad is that?!

The Body Love Conference is running a challenge this year called the Body Love Challenge 2016 (‪#‎BodyLoveChallenge2016‬) and, as I’m still fairly new to all this, I jumped right in!

They’re kicking off with “31 Things I Love About My Body”- one thing for every day in January. As we’re now past the halfway point, I figured I’d do a round up.

Day 1: My body ran today, up a hill in Kelvingrove Park that I have never managed to run up before

Day 2: Even when I hated every other part of me, I loved my eyes.
They’re pretty, they only need glasses on rare occasions, and they let me see everything around me. You go, eyes.

 SAM_3377

Day 3: My fingernails!  I didn’t realise ‘good’ fingernails were a thing, but since I stopped biting them years ago I’ve had loads of compliments. I love that I can decorate them, they help me pick stickers off stuff and get into little cracks to open things, plus my hands would look pretty darn weird without them.

Day 4: My shape. I love curves, and I have plenty to go around! I wouldn’t change my pear-shape for anything.

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Day 5: Today I love my skin.
I love the colour of it (no, we don’t have any Spanish/Italian/Greek/Indian ancestors that we know of), I love that it keeps the outside out and my insides in, that it’s not sensitive or allergic to anything I have come across so far, and that I can doodle and paint on it whenever I want.

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Henna patterns with face paint

Day 6: I love my hands, for the millionty different things they can do.
Like typing this, holding weights so I can lift them, baking, writing my blog, crocheting, card-making, washing, trying to control my hair, painting my face, wrapping gifts, handing those gifts to people I love, turning book pages. The list is endless!
I’m also a super tactile person, and I love being able to use my hands to ‘see’ how things feel.

Day 7: After years of hating, fighting, crying, and wishing it away, now I can honestly say I love my bum.
Sure it knocks things off low tables sometimes, but that’s a small price to pay for so much fabulousness! It’s mine, it’s curvy, and I love it.
Everybody now – my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…

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Day 8: My hair is really rather shiny, I love the colour (although I wouldn’t say no if someone found a way to dye it blue without making it look like straw), and it will sometimes do as it’s told when I style it!
Short or long, it looks pretty good.

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Day 9: I can’t even express how much I love singing. If I were only allowed to keep one hobby, I wouldn’t even have to think about it – singing always wins.
I love that my body can produce these sounds (usually in tune!) and that no matter how I feel, singing can enhance it.

Day 10: I love my muscles. It makes me feel super strong to see them popping up when I move, and working on them is so much fun.
Plus I get to be contrary when someone says women shouldn’t be muscly!

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Day 11: I love the random freckles I have all over my body, even on my little finger. I specially love the one on my nose. It’s like a marker, ‘boop here’.

Day 12: Today I love my heart. My physical heart (obviously), which has so far managed to keep me alive for nearly 28 years.

But also the part of me that cries when someone is upset, that finds joy in helping and sharing, that can still be disappointed by the world when bad things happen, because I still believe in its goodness.

I have a big heart, it’s right out there on my sleeve, and I’m not ashamed of it.

Day 13: Since being given the label ‘chronic kidney disease’, I’ve had a messy, angry relationship with my kidneys. It felt like my own body was betraying me, and letting me down in the worst way.

But it’s not their fault nobody had apparently heard of reflux when I was little. If that had been treated they could have bounced right back, and even now they’re damaged, they still try their best.

I wouldn’t last very long without them, and so I choose to be grateful that they haven’t failed completely.

I love my kidneys – scars, stone, and all.

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Day 14: I love my imagination. It comes up with pictures, patterns and ideas pretty much constantly. It makes for a noisy head and some weird dreams, but it’s also the root of all my creativity.

Day 15: I love my legs. Awesome shape, they can walk for miiiiiles, and squat like a boss.

And Day 16: My memory is pretty amazing.

Sure, I once made it all the way to work before remembering I needed my pass to get in, and I’m frequently greeted by people who know me when I have absolutely no idea who they are.
But I can tell you what songs we learned the first time I ever went to Voicebeat two years ago, I can even tell you what order we did them in, and I sang all 18 songs in our summer concert without any lyrics in front of me.
There’s a poem I learned in high school that I can still recite, and another from my Masters.
I remember the first time I spoke to my first boyfriend, which was at least 10 years ago, perfectly.
I may forget little things, but my memory keeps the important things, the beautiful things, the life-changing things, and holds onto them for good.

They Want Fat People To Eat Poop Now

I said I would stop re-blogging things so much and write more in my own words, but in this case words fail me.
What the actual hell?

Dances With Fat

You Cannot Be SeriousElaine Yu, an assistant professor and clinical researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, will be conducting a clinical trial to see if taking pills containing the freeze dried fecal matter of thin people will make fat people thin.  If you’re thinking “How the everlovingcrap did this happen?”  let me assure you, you are not alone.

Here is how the everlovingcrap this happened:

A series of studies (of mice and humans) found that thin and fat subjects had differences in their gut microbes. Then in a 2013 study, microbes were taken from four sets of human twins. In each set of twins, one was thin and one was fat.  Those microbes were then transplanted into mice.  Those mice who received microbes from the fat twin gained weight regardless of which of three diets they were fed (my favorite part of this study may be the use of the phrase “mouse chow” but that’s obviously…

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8, 10, 12

I was in New Look today, and across the store I spotted the most beautiful dress I have seen all year: skater style, black mesh with deep blue velvet roses, that shimmered in the light like an oil slick.

I had to have it.

I went through the rack and picked out the biggest size they had in stock, a 12, knowing it wouldn’t fit well but would give me an idea of whether I liked it.

Into the changing rooms, and I didn’t just like it. I completely loved it. But I was right; I needed a size 14. So I gave the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world  back and decided to order the right size online when I got chance.

Skip forward a few hours and I’m shouting at my laptop in disbelief.

They don’t make the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world in my size. In fact, they only make it in size 8, 10, and 12.

Three different sizes. When people exist from size 6 to 26 and beyond, New Look have decided to stock an item of clothing in only three different sizes. All of which are below the average female dress size in the UK (16, if you’re wondering).

So there’s £30 they’ve missed out on because I can’t buy that dress. Multiply that by the thousands and thousands of women who are also not size 8, 10, or 12 and there’s a bucketload of money they’ve lost.

It’s kind of frightening that fat-shaming is so pervasive that companies are willing to lose business by contributing to it.

But here’s the thing. Even after a mini-meltdown in the changing rooms (post about that coming up later), I’m not bursting into tears and hating my body for not fitting this dress.

I am raging that New Look dare to think my size-14 body isn’t worthy of it.

Their message is loud and clear: only small bodies deserve the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world.

So I’m going to send them a message back, telling them that I deserve every beautiful thing they sell, and so does every body. That fat-shaming is not even a little bit okay. That their dress, although it may be the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world, is contributing to fat-shaming. And that this kind of message needs to stop. Right now.

Ridiculous Holiday Diet Tips

You all know it’s coming; the Christmas meal SHAME!
I’ve decided not to take part this year. I eat what I want, and so should you.

“Here’s the super secret trick to guilt-free eating: Eat. Don’t feel guilty about it. Done.”

Dances With Fat

You Forgot Your BullshitThe “holiday season” means being bombarded with ridiculous diet advice (“The Holidays are Coming” being one third of the Dieting Axis of Evil along with “New Years Resolutions” and “Bikini Season is Coming”.)  Since you’re likely to have to deal with this whether you celebrate the holidays or not, in another DancesWithFat annual tradition I’ve compiled a list of so-called holiday diet tips from actual serious online articles, with thoughts on why we might be better off skipping these tips:

10 Diet Tips You’ve Never Heard Before!

You’ve totally heard these tips before. They still don’t work.

Start Our Program Now and Get a Head Start on Your New Years Resolution

If you start earlier, you can fail at weight loss sooner while giving the diet industry (who are fully aware of the massive failure rate of their product) a boost on their fourth quarter earnings.  Or, you…

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Excuses, excuses

So this little nugget has started making the rounds again

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and somebody asked me to give my response to it. Check me out, I do requests now!

Here follows my response:

 

I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. What’s my excuse for what?

For not having three children under 5?  Well I’m a bit too busy with Voicebeat and Salsa4Water and Madrigirls and Shapenote and spontaneously staying out til 3 o’clock on a Saturday morning and all the creative hobbies I’ve picked up and running and kettlebells and…you get the point.

Plus I’ve not found anyone worth reproducing yet.

For not being a fitness professional? My brain runs naturally toward admin. I don’t take admin jobs just because they’re all I can get; I enjoy this stuff. Shuffling a bunch of random information into a coherent report, or slotting the final piece of paperwork into a personnel file so it’s ready for audit is really satisfying to me.

There’s also the fact that I’m an introvert. Just the thought of my entire job consisting of one-on-one sessions with people I don’t know very well or standing in front of a whole class of people, is exhausting.

Or are you actually, seriously asking what’s my excuse for not looking like you?

Really?

Let’s start with the fact that we don’t have the same parents. Or grandparents. Or any familial link whatsoever. My genes are not your genes, your body is not my body, we process and distribute fat in different ways, we have different metabolisms and gut bacteria, and muscles. Basically, we’re different people.

You do understand that different people are…different? Right? You don’t actually think the shelf of identically-shaped Barbie dolls is a realistic goal for society, do you?

Has it even occurred to you that maybe some people don’t need an excuse because they wouldn’t want to look like you?

Yeah you fit the shape that the media tells us everyone must fit into (even though only about 5% of people can achieve it) but, honestly, I like my shape better. You’re kinda straight up and down, and I like curves.

But even if none of this were true; if there actually were a ‘healthy size’ or a ‘correct shape’ for people to be; if it were physically possible for everyone to become exactly the same size and shape as you if they just tried hard enough, do you really think shame is the way to get people to do that?

People have been fat-shaming at least as long as I have been alive. That’s 27 years – more than enough time for everyone to ‘move more and eat less’ their way into your body shape. But there are still fat people in the world (hi there!) and not everybody looks like you. It’s time to consider the possibility that fat-shaming is no use as a weight loss tool.

And why would it be? Why on earth would we spend time and money looking after something we hate? There’s a botanical analogy I quite like:

If a flower is a weed, you kill it.

If you like a flower, you pick it.

If you love a flower, you nurture it.

When you fat shame me (and yes, that photo is fat-shaming), you’re trying to tell me that my body is a weed. It doesn’t matter that you believe this weed can be transformed into a lovely flower; you’re telling me that my body, as it is right now, is bad.

That’s reeeeeally not going to make me take care of it. At all. I’m actually more likely to go eat a double cheeseburger with fries because my weed-body doesn’t deserve good food, while telling myself repeatedly what a sack of wasted oxygen I am. Yah, that’ll get me losing weight in no time.

Thankfully, I no longer derive my self-confidence from my outward appearance. You can try to fat shame me but I am just not listening.

But, for the sake of people still stuck in the trap of the diet industry, please stop. They are amazing, beautiful people just as they are but because they believe people like you, they can’t see that. You’re destroying them.

What’s my excuse?

My excuse is I don’t care how you think I should look. My excuse is I don’t need to alter my body to fit your ideal, because it’s perfect just the way it is. My excuse is I don’t need an excuse.

If you want to do whatever it takes to look the way you do then fine, do you.

But don’t you dare try to manipulate me and steal my happiness by making me feel like my body is made of excuses. Like the one and only reason I look the way I do is because I’m too busy ‘making excuses’ to take care of my body.

There’s enough rubbish in the world without people sticking narrow-minded bullying like that up on the internet. It’s time to stop it.