It’s hard to imagine I used to be intimidated by the guys in the free weight area
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HILARIOUS. I love how the cross on the T-shirt in frame 2 gets revealed as something meant to be impressive but not quite so in frame 3. And the slouch of the guy on the bench, whose body language and ending every sentence with “Man” would never indicate he’s talking about shopping for shower curtains. This is GREAT cultural commentary, Alison. Good stuff.
Congrats on the People Magazine list! You must just be reeling. Sleep on it, let your unconscious sort it out.
Speaking of cultural commentary — I’ve spent the last few days periodically watching (and laughing wildly) over:
To all the fellows out there with ladies to impress
It’s easy to do, just follow these steps
One: Cut a hole in a box…
For the rest, check out the SNL short film now up (uncensored) at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dmVU08zVpA
(Disclaimer: Not for viewing by children.)
And Shadocat — you are so effing eloquent. I mean it.
LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just watched the SNL clip. Congrats again on the People Magazine List. You deserve all of this you know Alison……you really do!
It’s hard to grin and bear those male types whose stops include Starbucks, Carl’s Jr. and AM/PM, where working out is an afterthought for the shape they look to be in.
I always thought I’d be snickering with schadenfreude when men started getting into the dumb stuff marketed to women. It hasn’t happened yet.
I can’t bear to glance at the cover of Men’s Health for fear they may broach the subject of cellulite. I shall weep for us as a species should that happen. But hey, People magazine? Holy cannoli, I might even have to buy one instead of reading it in my therapist’s office.
Yep, boys are dumb, but that clip was funny. Thanks for sharing Maggie.
The mets are still hat guys and just because they are capable of lifting heavier weights than women does not make them any more knowledgeable about fitness. Men think they can tell women how to do it right and perceive dieting as a threat to their masculinity, as pathetic a state it may be.
This has a really nice Harvey Pekar feel to it.
Wow, you have Macy’s in Vermont? I go to a gym well-known for its cruising (in the classic sense, Duncan and Silvio!) but I hear most of the action takes place in the men’s locker rooms. My fave interactions are when the men are grunting up a storm while lifting and other women and I snicker at their expense….sometimes I just want to yell out, “Give birth already! It’s killing me to hear you go on like this!” But, I also love watching/looking at the guys. Some of them are just downright beautiful, and I’m in awe of how strong they are. It makes my own sets go by quickly!
Also, wanted to respond to Maggie’s post in the last thread about her friend Pam. The story has certainly stuck with me; it’s so very sad. Thanks for sharing it, and for all the work you’ve done on behalf of women and girls.
judybusy, I read an interesting article by the gay anthropologist William Leap. He said that in the Washington DC health club where he got a membership, gay men did cruise each other, but would usually exchange phone numbers and meet elsewhere. It was “straight” identified men who’d do it in the sauna and stray corners.
I know what you mean about watching people work out. One of my favorite movies remains Robert Towne’s “Personal Best”, which I see as an interesting (if flawed) film about bisexuality instead of a failed film about lesbianism as many see it. The sport photography is just stunning: women lift weights, run, jump, and so on, and are photographed with care and love. If Tee Corinne could have done film, she would have photographed women athletes like that, I think. And the women are all, except for Mariel Hemingway, real athletes.
Maggie, thanks for boosting my ego! And I also LOVED that SNL clip (especially the expressions on Maya Rudolphs’s face-priceless!)On xmas eve, they showed a rerun with another excellent “video”: I’m sure many of y’all remember it; “The Chronicles of Narnia”? Don’t have a link, but I’m sure it can be easily googled. It’s f’ing hilarious, even the second time.
Alison, a couple of days ago, at my employer’s holiday party, I actually overheard this bit of conversation between two of my straight male co-workers; “Gary, do you think this sweater vest makes me look fat? Maybe I should take it off, just go with the shirt?” (True, my hand to God.)
This stuff cracks me up.
Here’s the link to “The Chronicles of Narnia” clip.
I just got the Best American Comics 2006 volume for Xmas. I didn’t realize yours was in there. Not that it’s all the surprising…it just made me happy 😀
a hAH hah hah hah hAA HAA HAA HAAA HAHAHAHHAAAAAAAA!~
a heh heh heh hee. . ..
the anthropologist’s comment about it being the “straight” identified men who use the gym for their trysts reminded me of the music of Romanovsky and Philips. (Anybody remember them?) They (along with Michael Callen and The Flirtations )
did for gay male (and sometimes lesbian) culture in music what DTWOF did visually. Their songs were a scrapbook of the political and social gay 90s.
The last time I googled “Romanovsky” I learned that Philips was managing a health food store in the Boston area and Romanovsky was entertaining wedding parties with his accordion. But i just searched again and discovered–oh joy!– that Ron Romanovsky has a brand new solo album!
This music and the DTWOF are linked in mind as documentation of a unique 10 years or so.
That SNL clip is going to be viewed tomorrow at work, for sure…where do I work? Why, MACY’S! And lemme tell ya, you haven’t seen metrosexuals in action until you’ve seen a burly Chicago firefighter arguing vehemently with his (female)fiance between Wedgwood’s “Madeleine” china pattern vs. Bernardaud’s “Constance” for their registry. When they settle that, another battle ensues regarding the stemware. When some guys create a beautiful table setting, I say, “Wow, aren’t YOU the clever urban metrosexual?” and watch them turn pale and their balls climb up into their abdominal cavities. It’s fun.
Maggie Jochild, I also wanted to express how I was affected by your story about your friend Pam. You have done the best thing possible – turned pain into positive action. It’s something I’m certainly not always capable of, and I have a lot of respect for you for that.
Now I have to go get “dick in a box” out of my head….
Oh, and in the last thread – Duncan’s “people of pallor.” Christ on a raft, that’s fucking genius! I’m so white one can view my entire neural network running just underneath my skin. I wonder if I could get some weird job at a medical school as a study aid. No dissection necessary! Thanks, Duncan, for a great label for those of us who are pigmentally challenged.
My son and his partners made both of those popular SNL sketches. Don’t I just love reading about them here.:-)
Which thread to choose? I’ll just connt on others being like me, reading it ALL. I loved “people of pallor” too. In 1979, my roommate Kathie Bailey started, as a joke, using the phrase “people of lesser melanin”, only to have it picked up by dykes striving for political correctness but not using their own thinking about it. Very funny. Not that I’m making fun of political correctness, because it was (and is) an earnest attempt to use language to help redress imbalance. When my godson was four or five, we were discussing ethnicity and he declared (not joking) that his ethnicity was pale. He had overhead his parents talking about SPF issues with him (he is so very, very pale) and reached his own conclusion about that that meant.
TSB, kudos to your son. (Ginjoint, I too cannot get “dick in a box” out of my head. And now it’s blending with Alison’s guy rubbing his buzz cut and Gary asking his friend if his sweater vest made him look fat.) One review I read said of those two sketches that it reminded them of the glory days of SNL, when the humor was unrestrained. For those of us addicted to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, this question, what is funny and what are the uses of humor, is being talked about every week. I wonder how many of us watch on this blog Studio 60, and Grey’s Anatomy? I saw Tavis Smiley interview Shonda Rime before Grey’s ever aired and knew on the spot it was the show for me, because of how she’s addressing race on TV.
Silvio and Duncan, I LOVE how you make me think. And even more, I love that we’re discussing class on this blog. One stat I want to throw out there is that 80% of the working class people in this country identify themselves (mistakenly) as middle class. Which helps explain why politicians always claim to be playing to the middle class, when it sure doesn’t look that way from the issues being discussed. Poor people and the owning class, on the other hand, seldom have delusions about where they are on the scale — we/they are viewed as the expendables, and are often understand each other better than those of other classes. Somebody (sorry I can’t remember your name at the moment, honey) mentioned the Bertold Brecht quote, which I’d never heard but loved it — it is very similar to Gandhi’s comment “There are people so hungry that the only meaningful definition of God is as bread.” Anne Wilson Schaef, at least a decade ago, said American culture as a whole was owning class, not just compared to the rest of the world but also in its ideals and media culture. If that’s the case, everybody except that 2% at the top is walking around feeling deprived and frightened about survival. Which would explain a lot.
Another important thing to remember about class is that economic punishment (i.e., classism) is the glue used to keep most other oppressions (especially race and gender) in place. There is, of course, the omnipresent threat of violence keeping us in line, but day to day, it’s the fear of losing our jobs, our homes, our spot on the ladder that keeps those hellacious lies about non-people-of-pallor and non-dick-wearers being handed as if they were true.
Thanks for bringing up the economic reality of motherhood, Silvio. And my heart broke when you said you lost custody of your children. My god, I’m so sorry. How did you go on? And bless you for telling us.
TSB: Your son and his partners made BOTh those sketches? That is so great! You must be so proud…
These guys are everywhere: Overheard in free weight section of California Fitness…
Guy A(clicking off gizmo but not touching wireless ear piece thing):We can’t get into Hugo Boss. They got fire regulations. Unless you want to queue half an hour.
Guy B: See if you can book us foot rubs instead…
But I’m still intimidated by their mass & muscles…
I just love, love, love these sketch diaries.
Can i be a “person of pallor” too? I’ a redhead, and my skin glows like a halogen light bulb, it’s so white. But I’m extremely freckled (I must’ve been a liver-spotted dalmation in a previous life), so much so that one summer day, I fully expect all the freckles will finally join together, and I will have the tan of my dreams…
I was back reading the previous posts, and I suddenly remembered a bit of “Little Women” trivia: I once read an article that strongly argued that “Mr. Baer” actually represented a female partner for “Jo” –or her creator–(remember-he has a “beard”) and that “Little Men” represented her desire to live in a “man’s world” vs her desire to retain her “feminine” nature. Does anyone else remember reading this, and if so, what’s your take? I must confess, although I read “Little Men”, I was not as taken with it as it’s predecessor, so I don’t remember much of it. Did Jo actually birth some babies, or were her children adopted?( I thought they were adopted–but I’m old, and my memeory’s foggy.) I know the school was for boys-some without parents? All that aside, I’ve always had this feeling Louisa was on our team, even though I know of no proof to back this up. (Brain fog-rising again…)
Why all this disdain for straight men that don’t conform to the butch stereotype? What would you like these men to be discussing? Car repair? The size of a woman’s breasts? The pleasures of war?
I think it’s nice that men now feel comfortable enough to talk about things that were formerly thought feminine. I took that to be the point of Allison’s comment at the beginning of the sketch–she used to be intimidated by these big, burly men, but now she sees that they’re just like everyone else.
The great benefit of being a metrosexual, Virginia, is that it means a man can both “talk about things that were formerly thought feminine” AND “the size of a woman’s breasts” and the “pleasures of war.” I think you’re right about Alison’s point in the sketch; but you know, guys who talk about breasts and war are still people, just like everyone else. People who intimidate us are still people. And all in all I agree with you here: I don’t get why metrosexuals are supposedly so funny, except in a fag-joke sort of way, which I don’t think is funny either.
The whole metrosexual thing is one more marketing fad, as far as I can tell. (I read a book earlier this year by the advertising people who claim to have sold the fad.) Though yes, many men are interested in “unmanly” things, but I don’t see that worrying about whether a vest makes you look fat is an improvement. Other things are more important, and women should not have to worry about these things (are my thighs disgusting?) either.
Thanks, Silvio and Maggie, for all your kind remarks. As I said, I’m not sure where “people of pallor” comes from. Maggie, I remember encountering the term “melanin challenged” or “melanin deficient” sometimes.
Silvio, I knew Paul Philips slightly here in Bloomington in the 70s. Alas, R & P’s music never did much for me. I’m still looking for gay men’s music that I could be really be a fan of, and I don’t think I’m ever going to find it. I need to get my guitar fixed so I can go back to making it. Matter of taste, I guess.
You’re right, Virginia, we should not be poking fun at men because they are doing “feminine” things, and if I’ve done that, I regret it. For me, the humor/irony comes from the fact that the non-target group (in the case of gender, those raised with male conditioning) invariably gets to define the divisions between the two groups in a binary, and when (in this case) men decide it’s suddenly okay to be talking about shopping and worried about how they look, that behavior gets redefined as male. There is no logic to any of it, no rational basis for any gender roles. Masculine/feminine are equally toxic, myths used solely for oppression to which we are raised to be emotionally attached, and I personally believe there is no good to had in trying to reclaim or rehabilitate them.
The humor in the SNL sketch is akin to the humor of Stephen Colbert — someone putting on the role somewhat sympathetically in order to comment on how ludicrous it is. It’s an extraordinarily effective way to point out the idiocy of masculinity — similar to drag, but far better done than any drag I’ve seen except for “Paris is Burning”, where those dragsters understood how to simultaneously address class and race, not just gender (I mean, they are all intertwined constantly anyhow). Most drag is a one-trick pony. Another great example of drag that contradicts more than it reinforces was in the documentary “Third Eye Blind”, a group of four Chinese-American dykes who did drag performances about the racism of the U.S. military man, instead of glorifying/sexualizing men in uniform. And, back in the 1980s, the women who were in Izquierda, led by Naomi Littlebear Moreno, would periodically perform as the Dyketones (not to be confused with a later all-white lesbian Dyketones band that has cassettes at Ladyslipper) — a parody of 1950s doo-wop that, again, punched gaping holes in the misogyny and racism of that era’s pop music affectations and divisions.
What I expect of art, of meaningful pop culture, is that do several things at once — raise the level of discourse, question the dominant paradigm, reflect a shared reality which is not being depicted enough in other media, stay kind except when dealing with a group holding onto oppressive behavior, offer hope and at least one idea of how things could be different, etc.
I have made the leap into this thread. I am happy to see that the discussion of class has made the leap here too!
shadocat, delighted to learn that you are a redhead! (One should give all colors a fair chance, but I confess I am partial to redheadedness.)
Unfortunately, my home computer is too slow to play those SNL videos, so I will have to let my frustration at not understanding the joke blow right away, and just be happy I am home for two weeks, even if it means not having the use of my fast office computer. Two weeks home is a wonderful thing!
Duncan, do you know the music of Fred Small? He was a Boston lawyer who took up music full time. A very good songwriter. Perhaps you have heard his songs: “Scott and Jamie” (about a court custody case that removed two little foster children from the home of two gay male partners.) And then his allegory of tolerance: “If I were a Moose” […and you were a cow/would you love me anyhow?]
In the 90s after seeing him perform at some political function for gay rights, I idiotically wrote him a fan letter and asked him why he didn’t “come out”…He actually wrote me a handwritten reply and told me he was not gay; just an ally. Was my face red! As if it would be my business anyway if he were…
Romanovsky and Phillips wrote some good ones too. Some of my favorites include “No Such Thing as False Hope,” “One of the Enemy,” and “I’m in Love with my Therapist,” to name just a few.
When it comes to songwriting, being written by a gay person is not automatically enough for a song to touch my heart or make me laugh. A good songwriter is a good songwriter, period.
Back around 1988, I went to a women’s festival, and being new to feminist/women’s culture I was trying so hard to appreciate feminist songwriters. In the midst of this total overhaul of my entire aesthetic history, I thoughtlessly bumped Joni Mitchell off my “okay” list. Another lesbian heard me analyzing/criticizing her work, the way we do when we are trying to justify our taste. She looked at me and said “Joni Mitchell is the Goddess of Music!” She could have been reading my mind, if it had not been filmed over with my insecurity as I tried to slap my instincts into line with what I THOUGHT I should like.
Years later I thought about this moment, and realized that Joni always voiced her own original take on everything, (and so musically) and that was what made her a strong intelligent woman and an original writer.
So Duncan, I sympathize with your quest for gay men’s music you can “be a fan of.” PLEASE get your guitar fixed. If you make music that is as intelligent and eclectic as your conversation here, I would love to hear it.
I am not familiar with that theory about Professor Baer, but I do remember that Jo gave birth to two little boys who are part of “Little Men.” I would agree that her life in Little Men is more male identified than her life in Little Women, where she was surrounded by girl issues. And in Little Men, Jo gets to live a role that is more free than hers would have been in “polite society.” She is the boss, after all, of her little world, whereas, if she’d grown up to live in polite society, she would have to observe more female conventions.
So in a way, Alcott was able to circumvent the public’s expectations of her character, because she is surrounded by boys and is kind of a jack of all trades. (Baer is kind of helpless without Jo; she is almost the husband, in a way.)
By “he has a beard” did you mean that Baer was serving as Jo’s “beard” [disguise]?
Jo of Little Women always reminded me a little of Jo of the Chalet School (who ended up marrying the school doctor & having triplets called Len, Con & something…) they were both exciting but safely feminine role models who had exciting adventures, grew up in very female environments then married good husbands and had many happy children…
Don’t suppose anyone else here remembers the Chalet School books?
It’s nice to know you’re a fan of the redheads; so many people aren’t you know(“redheaded stepchild”,etc).
Thanks for clearing that up about Jo-like I said, I didn’t read “Little Men”, or “Jo’s Boys” with the same ardor that I did with LW, partly because(remember, I was about 11), I thought Jo had sort’ve “sold out”, marrying
While surfing the web looking for the afomentioned “mystery article”, I have not found said article yet, but I was able to find some interesing quotes, which maybe would help to bolster my theory as LMA as “family”. (BTW, you are correct about the whole “beard” thing—Mr.Baer, at least according to this writer, was really serving as the other sort of “beard”–an effort to disguise Alcott’s ideal partner, or even perhaps, a real relationship.) Anyhoo– here are the quotes (the first from Wikipedia, my old stand-by):
Although the Jo character in Little Women was based on Louisa May Alcott, Alcott, unlike Jo, never married. She explained her “spinsterhood” in an interview with the writer Louise Chandler Moulton, “… because I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man.”
Or this one from the “Books and Writers” website:
Louisa May Alcott died from intestinal cancer in Boston on March 6, 1888. She never married. In an interview Alcott once said of herself: “I am more than half-persuaded that I am a man’s soul, put by some freak of nature into a woman’s body”.
Makes ya think a bit, doesn’t it?
Why is there a note disdain for men who don’t conform to the butch type? Good question that only the author cam truly answer. The dyke character im the sketch appears to be a quiet adversary who doesn’t want to even acknowledge the presence of males. At my office I overhear male colleagues talk about the gym, their weight and trying to stay in good shape. It’s a challenge when the avaibility of processed foods from vending machines, quick mart stops and fast food/restaurant eateries beckon with the convenience of in and out and threaten our butts and waistlines. I know that when I work out at a small gym that serves our office of 200 people and these men work out. Instead of wishing those men would go away, it’s better to welcome them and support whatever goals they may have. I never see any dykes or butches working out or when I run everyday. In fact, most gay women I have seen out and about are at least 40 pounds overweight with a bad haircut themselves that they paid about $20 for. As a gay woman who is tired, tired, tired of the deep voiced butch persona that makes me cringe worse than Alison’s female character, I’ll take the metrosexual at the gym who is making an effort to defy what they were taught.
My last haircut was $12 and has gotten rave reviews from everyone. Took courage to cut off 10 inches of hair, but now six months after that haircut people everywhere I go still kind of stop, stare at me, and then breathlessly exclaim how they really love my hair.
I can only imagine that they would pass out had I gotten that evil $20 haircut.
I agree with your rejection of disdain as a response to Others. And your point about overweight dykes (and other human beings) is true. As much as the feminist movement has worked to rehabilitate the concept that fat is okay, I can’t let go of my true feeling, which is that health is more beautiful.
Is health like money? Do we put health and wealth on a pedestle and then disadvantage those who don’t have it? (the poor and the fat are in a lower class?)
I can’t deny that I admire sleek, muscular bodies more than I admire bulky, curvy womanly shapes. Is my personal aesthetic male-identified? I am able to appreciate womanly curves–Queen Latifah comes to mind.
But most fat women don’t look sculpted like her. Have I been trained to only find thinness beautiful? I don’t know.
But I don’t like it when my jeans don’t fit me “right.” I am at least 40 pounds overweight. My doctor writes “obese” on my medical charts even though I don’t LOOK that bad; it’s all in the numbers I suppose. It really burns me up to be called obese because it does set a standard I have not chosen to live “up” to.
It reminds me of when my son was about 7; he wanted to go on the roller coasters and the parks would have a height chart the kid had to measure up to.
So I say if those men want to be health conscious, great. I think that whole term “metrosexual” is right up there with gay people calling children “ankle biters” or “rug rats.” Back in the 90s I found it kind of demeaning, just like I hated being called a “breeder” as a derrogatory term.
let’s face it, nobody likes being labelled with an insulting term. It’s much easier to be like that guy in Kung Fu in the 60s (David Carradine?) who treated everyone with respect, but he could kick ass when it was necessary.
Fat does not equal unhealthy, or unattractive. It’s a normally occurring body type — always has been. The problems with health associated with being fat in America have to do with what we’re eating (not how much), lack of exercise, and chronic dieting, all of which are implicated in things like elevated cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes in a way that just being fat does not necessarily indicate. Association does not mean cause and effect. Black skin is associated with hypertension but the solution is not to try to change your race.
Over what weight? Over the statistical average? Over what Western medicine has labeled “healthy” (the same medical establishment that labels disability as a medical problem, has a diagnosis code for small breasts, and experiments with hormone treatments to get rid of women’s facial hair?) Oh my god, you mean not looking like the “norm” is considered unhealthy/ugly? Alert the press.
It’s one thing if you want to admit your prejudice and bias, even if it is self-hatred at bottom. (Although I’m a little shocked to see it here, in these pages where most of us try not to say negative things about others based on their appearance or birthright.) It’s another thing if you try to prove it is based on science. Or that there is some agreed-upon definition of a “bad haircut” (how can you assign a moral value to a hair style?) Content of character is what counts, not skin, weight, hair, class, gender, physical ability — I keep wishing we could learn that permanently.
More on the class issue: Silvio, in the “Bloody Hell. Again.” thread, we had a discussion going on class mobility and you had made reference to it’s supposedly OK to move classes in this country. This only made ask more questions and ponder, ponder, ponder.
Mostly about really basic questions about what *are* the elements of class? Money is part of it. But is what we like culturally too? Is a person more upper class if they go to modern dance rather than a country and western concert? Can a person with a high school diploma be upper class? As far as upward mobility, I think people can go up to a point; when you start entering Society, I think that stratus is likely difficult to really penetrate. What do others think?
I am reading Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton now, and wow, did Society have many rules! In some ways, the women’s lives were much more restrictive at that class than lower ones.
Most gay women are about 40-50 pounds overweight. Am I wrong? I’m hard pressed to see a lean lesbian but most are extremely short-haired chubby to fat dykes. It’s sad that they don’t consider the health risks of being overweight. Some of you will justify it, call me hateful and say “fat is beautiful” but I disagree when it includes being immobilized to a wheelchair or crutches, having tubed hooked up or become a corpse from a stroke or heart attack. Imagine never being able to take a walk, enjoy the fresh air and scenery because you are too fat to walk. Not pretty!
But most people 40-50 pounds overweight are not confined to wheelchairs. Fat might not be your opinion of beautiful but your opinion of beauty does NOT mean you are justified in make disparaging and threatening remarks about others and their health, especially others you have not met.
And yes, you are probably wrong when you say most lesbians are about 40-50 pounds overweight. Hell, we can’t even tell who the lesbians are most of the time… how on earth could you collect reasonable data regarding overweightedness???
Well, Alison’s slender. And I’ve got a lot of lesbian customers, all in good shape and some with long hair.
Silvio, you should find another doctor~I can’t imagine 40 pounds overweight making someone obese. (Unless you’re only 4 feet tall.) Some of us love a soft, curvy body. A litle extra padding makes menopause easier. And sometimes, a few extra pounds show that the person is happy. I was my skinniest when I was miserable.
What a strange turn this thread has taken… may I recommend ‘Shadow on a Tightrope’? An excellent book for dispelling some of these myths.
My last physical stated I was “underweight, at risk of malnourishment”. My sister, a titch shorter than I am, weighs about a hundred pounds more than I do, and we’re probably about equally healthy (with any extra points going to her – less coffee and no smoking, probably less risk of osteoporosis).
We’re different body types – I’m close to pure ectomorph, she’s an endomorph. You could look at photos of us throughout the years and see the difference clearly, from infancy on up. She was a chubby, attractive child; I a waif with stick thin legs and arms. The trend continued into adulthood and to the present. Nowt to do with our sexuality – though we could both use more physical activity, that’s got nothing to do with our sexuality either.
Health isn’t dependent on body size, or sexual preferences.
Sksindurham, I have a right to my opinion and what I am saying does NOT threaten anyone. Threat is a strong word to use, especially when no actions or consequences have been being proposed. Perhaps you feel threatened because I am not afraid to call dykes on being fat. It’s not my fault if you don’t like what the mirror may be telling you! Alison looks thin but probably is as health conscious as her comic strip alter ago Mo. As I can recall, the Mo character avoids eating bad food and is health conscious. I don’t like fat lesbians, period. I have every right to feel that way and have preferences, and that’s not a threat to anyone.
I guess everyone is going to hate me after what I`m about to write now, my problem has always been, being underweight (hope that is a word). This causes backache, bruising easily and being really really cold all trough the winter. And other people have not made this easy. When I was teen ager I was thougt to be anorectic and the school nurse made teachers check if I went to the bathroom sight after lunch, I was called flat, skeletor etc. all the time.
I have no preconsieved ideas about people with extra weight, since gaining weight is so difficult for me I might be able to guess how hard it is to loose some.
Sometimes being overweight is caused by medical conditon or medicine used to treat illneses like rheumatism or even cancer.
People do say mean thing to skinny people also, and to black people, to everyone.
If one wants to hurt person`s feelings, one can always come up with something, let`s jus not. OK?
I seem to have started a troublesome topic. First grammar, now fat. I admire the way people speak up about their opinions on this blog, but let’s not descend into unkindness.
It is interesting how things as different in mode as appearance (fat) and grammar (correctness) can incite irritation and escalation.
Am I being like parents who tell their children home visiting from college “let’s not talk about anything unpleasant” if I ask that we refrain from making hurtful remarks?
I agree with Maggie wholeheartedly when she says “Content of character is what counts… and I wish we could learn that permanently.” AMEN to that!
Judybusy, what is the name of that other Edith Wharton book that was made into a movie with Scully from the X-Files as the lead actress? The title is taken from a bible quotation and of course I can’t think of it, but the story is a chilling tale of how vulnerable a woman of that period could be without the financial support of a husband, or rich relatives. At the end of the story, after unsuccessfully trying to support herself “trimming bonnets,” she kills herself (if I am not mistaken.) Yes, the expectations of upper class women were pretty exacting.
Liz writes: “I don’t like fat lesbians, period.”
Liz, I’d really like to believe that you’re unworthy of that comment, that it was written in haste and simply poorly worded. Do you really mean your dislike specific to fat lesbians? Or do you mean you don’t like fat people of any ilk, no matter *who* they are, that you consider them beyond the pale, people who really aren’t worthy of your time or attention?
If the former, what is it about fat lesbians that’s so unlikable? Just the way they look? How they act? How they think?
If the latter, the same questions apply.
Think about it.
Or as Tom Leher said: “I’m sure we all agree that we ought to love one another and I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I *hate* people like that.”
HOUSE OF MIRTH, by EDITH WHARTON. I thought it was about the unyielding social rules. but what I projected onto it was how inflexible individuals are in the face of rules.
My, my; quite a nerve we’ve touched on with the body weight thread.
Katie, the time stamp on postings seems to be off by an hour. I wonder if it has something to do with the end of daylight savings. It doesn’t really matter, of course, I’m just trying to divert the conversation to something a little less touchy!
Okay, the English teacher part of me is going to step in.
Liz says she has the right to her opinion. Simplified, an opinion is a personal belief or view. A fact is a truth known by actual experience, observation or data. When Liz says “Most gay women are about 40-50 pounds overweight” she is stating it as one would state a fact. So, while Liz is entitled to her opinion, she needs to state it as opinion, not as if it were a fact.
More to the point, the statement “most gay women are about 40-50 pounds overweight” is rather whacked. What test subjects did you use to come up with this figure? How did you know who was gay? What weight is the “correct” one to determine if someone is over that weight? How did you collect your data? Did you bring bathroom scales to clubs, co-ops, bus stops, your local MCC?
I see dykes of all sizes and shapes (and hair-lengths) here in Boulder –although as a group, Boulderites tend to be people of pallor.
Liz, you need to get out more! Or at least, consider your comments more thoughtfully before posting them.
DW and to Silvio–Yes, it was House of Mirth. That’s the only other Wharton I’ve read. God, it was so sad! I didn’t know it got made into a movie. Must get it on my list, as I liked Gillian Anderson–at least that’s who I recall played Scully.
In case this hasn’t been posted yet, I want to mention another kudo for Alison. “Time Out New York” (the weekly what to do in NYC mag) has Fun Home listed first in their “Best books of 2006” column!!
Woo hoo !! 🙂
Congrats from Cathy in Queens
Hi Virginia Burton,
You’re right! It does seem to be on Atlantic time rather than EST. I hope it’s not throwing folks off too much!
I’ve been over 100 lbs overweight and at no point have I ever been confined to a wheelchair or on crutches. But the kind of comments I’ve read by Liz sound very familiar – the kind of thing that starts with people saying “she’s too fat and ugly to get a man, she must be a lesbian”, which can be internalised and repeated by far too many lesbians themselves.
Still, 35 lbs down now and counting (mainly through walking, funnily enough). I’m taking up jogging in the New Year. Fingers crossed there won’t be too many judgemental characters in the park laughing at me.
Okay, okay, about the whole fat issue, straight males acting “feminine”, metrosexuals, etc. This was my take when I first read this strip, this is how I took it: when my expectations are turned upside-down, it makes me LAUGH. Suprising things, new things, often make me SMILE. That’s about it. As far as the way the guys in the gym look, we don’t know where they are on their “journey”. Maybe they’re just starting out. Or perhaps 6 months ago they were so big they could barely get theough the gym door. BTW, I thought it was cute when those young guys in my office were worried about the way they looked. Most of the time, they try so hard to project an image of confidence, so it was nice to see that they’re human like the rest of us.
Liz, I’m thinking (and hoping) you meant, “I’m not sexually atracted to larger women. I find I’m only sexually attracted to thinner women.” I’m sure if you think about it, there are some fat women in your life you really do like. It’s just that thin is what does it for you. At least that’s what I’m hoping.
Maggie, I agree, some people are just naturally bigger than others. The problem is that we see this image in the media of what the “ideal” person is supposed to look like, and those of us who don’t automatically fit into that catagory
go through a lot of angst and grief while we try to be something we’re not. (At least some of us do.)And many of the “people of thinness” discriminate against us, which I have never understood.
One of the reasons I’ve always been a Harriet fan is because I sorta looks like her (actually my friends tell me if Mo and Harriet could’ve made a baby, THAT’S what I look like-kinda scary, huh?) I’ve never had trouble finding a gf, although sometimes I suspect my “Rubenesqueness” (is that a word?)has cost me a job or two. But generally, I have a pretty good life. Now if you can’t walk, breathe, etc, because of your weight-get thee to a doctor, find a way to lose a few! Otherwise, can’t we just all get along????
The House of Mirth is a great book. Natch; it’s Edith Wharton. And the movie is as faithful to it as possible. Therein lies the reason the movie didn’t do well. The underlying predicament, rigid social norms, just doesn’t resonate today, partly because of The House of Mirth.
Shadowcat, “rubenesqueness” is indeed a word. In fact, I saw it used in a blog today.
At this point, I suspect Lois would reply, “Get along with a Red-haired Rubenesque Babe? No Problem!
But seriously, YES, YES, YES.
Having attended the Michigan Festival about 7 times (but not in the last 10 years), the beauty of every kind of body was revealed to me (I mean, literaly “revealed.”) And I marvelled at how comfortable so many women can be with their own shapes. Actually, about a year ago, I went to some local womyn’s land for a music festival and saw an old acquaintance from the 80s whom I had not seen in a long time. There was a lake, and she calmly took off all her clothes and went swimming, and she was quite “Rubenesque.”
There is an adjustment getting used to nudity, but it is a very healing thing. It is more about one’s own feelings of fear and self-distrust than about the way other people look. I remember at the Michigan Festival there were some women who would wear a decorative sash around their waists and nothing else. It was kind of shocking at first (Formerly Catholic girl here)but then one morning I realized i did not feel shocked anymore. That is acceptance, I believe.
So I just am trying to get to a place of “We all have a right to be here,” and if I can stay in that place, I stop hearing all the judgmental noises in my psyche.
Does anyone remember the photographer Diane Arbus’ photographs of the nudist colony? It was suburban mom-and-pop culture, complete with dad mowing the lawn; the only difference was that nobody was wearing clothes. Those pictures really achieved the same goal Lenny Bruce was trying to do: de-sensitize us from our shock when society’s rules (clothes, obscene language) are transgressed.
I confess, I still don’t agree that the inclusion of obscene language (where words that denote sex take on the verbal role of violent behavior and agression: at least that is how I perceive the list of “dirty words”) was a worthy goal. In spite of the bravery of Lenny Bruce, and I know he was trying to liberate himself and the world around him, I have an inner Edith Bunker that just doesn’t want to approach the need for freedom that way.
I know I am rambling, and we just reached a plateau about fat and now I am introducing nudity and obscenity; I just don’t learn, do I?
I don’t think we reached a plateau about fat. I think we reached a plateau about objecting to fat. Quite a different little animal.
Hi all, fat lesbian here to add my $0.02.
So Liz doesn’t like me. I’m having a hard time understanding how that could even be possible, since she’s never met me, and I’ve only commented a couple times on this blog, so she can’t have much of a sense of my on-line personality either.
Or maybe Liz just means she isn’t sexually attracted to me. Again, that seems weird, since she has no idea what I look like, but it’s not a problem since I already have a girlfriend.
Liz, the fact that someone is fat (or thin for that matter) tells you absolutely nothing about her health, what kind of person she is, or whether she is likely to have short or long hair (I cut off about a foot of hair recently, and it feels great. It’s still not super-short, though). You seem to have inhaled quite a few of society’s prejudices about fat women, which are not unlike society’s prejudices about lesbians. It’s sad, really.
I am not attracted to overweight lesbian women at all. I am very health conscious and prefer to treat my body as a temple and not as a trash can for fast food empties. If a lesbian wants to be fat, that’s her right and her business as long as I don’t have to help pay her medical bills and I don’t have to go home with her.
Fat is not naturally occurring but a slow metabolic rate is, which is something that most of us can control through exercising and eating healthy so we don’t get fat. Being in good physical shape is a preference and fat is not as much a preference but a choice if we choose to not care what we consume. Sexual orientation is subject to preferences and overweight lesbians are not one of them.
Read the statistics for type 2 diabetes. My ex didn’t listen but wanted her french fries and all those good tasting fatty foods that feel so good for a moment but the disease she’s got is forever. I hope she enjoys her crutches!
I’m sure a lot of people in the world would agree with you, Liz. To most folks, being overweight is a sign of moral weakness. Of course, most people probably think sexual choice is something you can choose on a whim, so they think one gets overweight on a whim as well. Which is pretty divorced from reality, but what people believe rarely coincides with reality.
Your last bit about your ex makes me glad she’s not with you any longer. The breakup must have been a bitter one.
Hate arises from fear and pain. Not logic. Let’s don’t argue with someone who is trying, however ineffectively, to share how she’s been hurt. Even if she’s being disrespectful. I say that as a fat woman, a disabled woman (not on crutches, but yes a walker, a raised poor woman with congenital bony abnormalities that really, truly were not a preference on my part to be not in good physical shape).
It is interesting, the connection the prejudice seems to make between fat and lesbianism.
But, I’m going to change the topic, as others have tried. I haven’t read Edith Wharton, so I can’t join that effort. Instead, I’ll ask how many readers of this blog are practicing artists (music, graphic arts, writers, dance, fabric, cooking, parenting, you define it for yourself) and what is it, in particular, about Alison’s work that speaks to you as an artist?
Also, to Alison directly — I think maybe it’s time for your website to have a sidebar listing ALL your honors, as they do keep pouring it. It would not be immodest of you, not in the least. Promote yourself, honey.
I’m a handweaver. When I get stressed the people around me say “don’t you need to go do something on your loom?” At Christmas when I was a loose ends for a whole bunch of reasons one of the big things that got me through was weaving. I haven’t been weaving long but it’s been like coming home and my enthusiasm seems to be growing so I now do a good bit of daydreaming wondering exactly how much poverty I would encounter if I tried to make a living at weaving.
The thing that keeps resonating with me in all those amazing reviews is that Alison was telling a story in Fun Home that was uniquely hers and desperately needed to be expressed (I think that’s what one of the reviews said… don’t remember which one.) That’s what my weaving feels like. Its uniquely mine, one thread at a time, and I desperately need to express it. I now have a house littered with looms of all shapes and sizes so even if I travel, or have guests, or whatever, I can still weave something.
I also think it’s really cool that from the most ancient of times weaving has been an important and even sacred thing. I also have an academic background in physics so doing something fundamental like understanding how strings or yarn becomes cloth really appeals to me. I’ve always thought of cartooning as this magical amazing thing in which somebody takes a pen and paper and creates… people. Or ideas. Or things. Or somehow manages to tell me something that I needed to know, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. It’s a lovely form of storytelling, which is another ancient, sacred art.
Hi Maggie, I know you’re changing the topic but
i’ll just squeeze in one last crutch-fat post… I’m occasionally on crutches/walker too–and no, Liz, neither being lesbian nor on crutches was a lifestyle choice.
I think the met sketch & a lot of the postings here are really about preconceptions–& trying to push through them. Point is not making fun of guys talking about sales & haircuts but that we–looking at their exteriors–could have spent so long thinking them an alien species… and maybe the same thing applies to ‘fat lesbians’ seen from the outside?
Liz, I know you ‘knew’ your ex and her affair with french fries, but that could be like working out alongside muscle men every week right?
Maggie, does copywriting count as an art form? I’ve also written had some plays performed. What I really like about Alison B is how real & honest her stuff is–what she presents is accurate, I trust what I see–but at the same time it’s re-framed or re-focused so that I notice things I don’t notice in ‘real’ life. Makes me see real life with more depth & more lightness.
Thanks for your thoughtful, compassionate post AND your change of subject.
I am a writer. Dykes to Watch Out For (#1) was the first book I read after coming out back in the mid 80’s. Like Dykes, my first five books focused—with an eye toward humor and social justice—on day-to-day queer and lesbian life.
What has stayed with me over the last 20 years is Alison’s devotion to her art. I’m also impressed how her work keeps evolving. It’s brave to try new forms, especially when the old forms are still working.
Finally, I relate to how tough she is on herself. Not necessarily healthy, but something I also experience.
Thanks for raising the question. Back to the novel…
This is a public service announcement for Xanthe and any others who might be interested in fitness.
Jogging, especially if you haven’t done it in a long time, is hard on the body. I love to run, I even paid for a while to train with a coach, but it can leave you hurting all over which can be very discouraging. If you’re not already in good shape, and sometimes if you are, it can damage your knees and your feet leaving you in chronic pain.
There is an alternative, the adult sized scooter. I’ve owned one for a couple of years now and I love it. The particular kind I own is called a Kickbike (http://www.kickbikeamerica.com). There are some other kinds available in the U.S., Sidewalkers(http://www.sidewalkerusa.com/), Diggler Dirt Dawgs(http://www.digglerstore.com/) and Toucan scooters(http://www.belizebike.com/english/scooter.html).
The benefits are:
1) Easy on the body. The joints don’t take the same pounding as with running and you’re not as cramped as on a bicycle (I love bicycling as well; I quit when my back injuries made it impossible).
2) Low maintenance. No chain or gears to maintain.
3) Easy on the pants. You don’t wear out the seat as with a bicycle.
4) Looks cool. I get tons of compliments and when I park it people can’t resist checking it out.
5) Safe. I don’t remember ever falling off the thing.
6) Practical. I actually commute to work on it, it takes me about half an hour. On a bicycle it would take me 10 or 15 minutes.
8) Great exercise. Works the muscles, works the joints, works the cardiovascular system, might even improve your flexibility.
I bought the scooter at a time when I was so injured that I could neither run nor bicycle—but now I prefer the scooter to a bicycle. It’s great.
(Caveat: The one improvement I made to the Kickbike, the installation of a wider footplate, was a big improvement and I could only get the footplate from a manufacturer in Holland (http://www.steptrading.nl/eng/index.html). If it weren’t for that little issue I would unreservedly recommend the Kickbike. Some of the other makers manufacture their models with wider footplates as the standard, and I think that’s a good idea.)
I hope this has been useful.
Mid level government functionary by day, fantasist by vocation. No money in it but thoroughly done. I don’t like Wes Anderson and Tim Burton because their stuff is so unrealistic. I can handle the fantasy all by myself, thanks. I like AB’s stuff because it is so real. Fun Home was not where I grew up but where I grew up had that same sense of dread and something’s wrong; seeing it in another family helps me understand mine. Am I looking in a mirror or looking out a window? I thought that’s what art is for.
When I was young, I was always fairly skinny, though I rarely dieted and never exercised beyond walking and square dancing. This was no great virtue on my part; I just got my metabolism from my father instead of my mother. During my first siege of depression and migraines in my late twenties, I got down to 87 pounds, which is way too thin even when you’re 4’11”. I was sick. Later, when I was in my early 40s, I went to a headache clinic in Michigan, where I was put on medication that successfully prevented migraines. It also made me gain sixty pounds in six months. I quit the meds, but my metabolism has never been the same. At one point I was a little over 180 pounds; now I’ve stabilized at a little under 140.
My eating and excercising habits have never changed much through all this, though I have had to give up walking and square dancing due to mysterious hip pain. I would like to get back down to 120, but I don’t see it ever happening. None of this has anything to do with my “not taking care of myself.” It’s all about metabolism. So skinny folks shouldn’t get too smug about themselves. You never know when something unexpected is going to happen to your body that will suddenly turn you into a butterball.
By the way, it was during my skinny period that I was most active as a lesbian. And I’ve always liked women nicely padded. Not obese, but squeezable. Now I’m squeezable, too.
Saith JcH: I always intended to be matronly; now I’m enjoying it.
AnnaP! Let me kiss you!!! Smack-smack-smack!
You know the correct adjectival form of anorexia!!!
I used “anorectic” once in an article for GREEN EGG magazine and the editor corrected it to “anorexic.” Arrrrgggg!
P.S. I may like plump women, but I have no objection whatsoever to skinnies.
Maggie-you and I have more in common than I realized! I’ll leave it at that, and go onto this new topic. I write, draw and paint-oh and (don’t laugh) sew-sometimes. I’m not that great at any of these activities (except sewing-which is ironic, cuz that’s the one I enjoy the least), but they make me feel happy and alive.
I’ve also been a comic fan since I was just a wee baby. When I was 11, my sister and I wrote our own comic strip, which we would distribute in the mailboxes of our neighbors. It was called, “The Dope Family”–not because of drugs btw, but they just did “stupid” things that we found hilarious at that age;for example, shampooing hair in the toilet, eating dog food while the dog ate people food, etc. Years later, when the children’s book series “The Stupids” was published,all we could do was moan,”We should’ve copywrited our strip!”
I love the way Alison draws, but I enjoy the way she writes even more. She makes me laugh, she makes me think–sometimes she makes me cry.But most of all, she brings out the 11 year old in me again-hiding in the closet(not sexually this time-we have a large family, and it was the only place with any privacy!)drawing pictures with my sister…
For me nudity is not an issue at all, since in Finland people go to sauna together naked almost every week.
Usually just the members of the same family go to sauna together, but I have been in weekend trips to someone`s summer house couple of times and usually everyone went to sauna there as well.
And there are naked people in the changing room in the swimming hall, at the beach in the summer.
I guess that is why people in here seem to be less self-conscious than in the other parts of Europe.
I have never bee to USA. My knowledge about life there is based on books, cartoons and movies and the relatives of my kids that I have never met in person.
Photographer – is it Art? Maybe sometimes on a good day. Now getting a resurgence of interest as I have a 30-year history of photographing gay pride etc. We’re approaching the third go at the LGBT History Month – in February – and I’m becoming A Resource which is very welcome after working self-financed for years. The HM is being very well supported, perhaps by schools using it as an anti-bullying resource so they can tick that box, but hopefully as a radical challenge too. I’m just waiting for that phone call to hang the exhibition in the conservative party central office (they have gone all fluffy this year).
See http://www.pamisherwood.co.uk for some of my greatest hits, feedback very welcome.
We can’t help being born gay but we can make choices when it comes to relationships where we can be true to ourselves and others, or live a straight lie. The same goes for having a sluggish metabolosm or one that could change where we can curb our consumption and exercise to stay thin or keep eating without thought and be fat. I am not attracted to fat gay women at all and have every right to act upon that preference. I don’t find “love handles” and how much there is to squeeze appealing at all along with shortness of breath, fatigue and all the other symptoms that go with obesity.
Someone speculated about my ex. When I was with her, she was never thin and needed to lose about 40 pounds but that did not matter at the time we get. Over time I came to know her and unfortunately came to know her materialistic and piggish ways. She could never be happy with all the good things she had, a nice home and someone who loved her but she wanted more to the point of excess.
While I was with her she was diagnosed with diabetes. I was devastated and concerned for her health. She had to lose weight, eat healthier and exercise and I was 100% supportive. I was mindful of foods I brought into our home and was there every morning when she would monitor her glucose level. On the day she was initially diganosed with diabetes I found her at home gorging herself on sticky buns and feeling sorry for herself. I still found it in me to have some empathy where not many would.
She did not want to follow her diet and grew tired of me. I did not make enough money to give her a lavish lifestyle and she was envious of the lesbian women at the monthly potluck dinners who were successful professionals. I did not have a degree at the time and was not good enough for her anymore. Without my knowledge she started telling people we knew that we were broken up and was actively looking for someone to replace me, before we even broke up. The day after she dumped me, she was chasing women while I was still living there and looking for another place to live.
A week before I moved out, I came home and found my ex passed out on the steps. She was in diabetic shock and unconscious. I carried her into the house and gave her sugar water and called for help. She could have gone into a coma or died. She was not appreciative and didn’t even thank me. The day after I moved out she had recently met someone and that person had moved into our home. I asked my ex how she could do this and she laughed in my face and said I should be running along and made a brushing hand gesture to indicate that I was no longer welcome. She dumped me for a fat lesbian who was a medical doctor whose income could provide to her all those goodies I could not afford to give her.
Obesity is not only based on metabolism but on selfishness and wanting more than what one needs to be happy and healthy. Love was not enough and when I see fat lesbians, I see nastiness, dishonesty, piggishness and women who throw each other away like yesterday’s paper. My ex got exactly what she asked for and is on crutches and disabled for the rest of her natural life. She was cruel and my compassion for her ran out when she threw me away and I could care less of she is in a coma.
dear Liz, not all the fat lesbians are like your ex, it is really bad generalisation. Get over with it.
Thank you for inviting everyone to reveal their talents.
I am a musician and a songwriter. I sing, and play piano, accordion, and mandolin. I have been a private musician and a public performer most of my life, but for the last few years I have stopped promoting myself, and am taking a breather. Creativy, for me, has prolific, passionate years, and then sparse, static ones. I have learned that this is okay. But my inner “should” still expects continuous output. so sometimes I just need to withdraw.
I think one of the things i have always admired about Alison (apart from her artistic qualities) has been the way she has kept the business going continuously for more than 20 years. (She is the Cal Ripken of comics!) (That’s a Baltimore baseball reference…)
SKinDurham, how wonderful that you are a weaver. I took one course on really basic handloom weaving, and I have two little samplers hanging on my wall to remind me how wonderful an experience it was. I ever ordered a 4-harness loom off of e-bay once, but I never got around to stringing it (threading it? whatever you call it) and I finally let it go, because I just was not in a place to devote the concentration it required.
But it is a wonderful art.
The other thing I love, the thing that makes me happy, is sewing. Since I was a kid, I have always loved fabric, and designing clothes. Mine are kind of slap-dash, eccentric, but it is a great feeling to see a piece of material and envision what you could make it into. I suppose I should add that my father managed a factory all his life that made ladies’ travel luggage and handbags and stuff like that. I used to visit the factory when I was a kid and I loved seeing all the rolls of fabric and all the spools of thread.
What I love about Alison’s art (Maggie, it was about time somebody asked us to discuss this!!) is her characters–they truly are people I would like to have as friends–but also I love her cleverness with words, and Fun Home really showcased this talent of hers. Her ability to include works of literature as characters in her own plot. It was an integration of intellectual concepts with gut level events.
I also want to add one thing to the discussion about whether American society perceives upward mobility to be acceptable. I was watching the original version of SABRINA last night (the one with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn.) Sabrina’s father (the chauffeur)and Sabrina are discussing whether it would be okay for Sabrina to marry Linus (the rich guy). Sabrina says, “it would be very democratic.” Her father says, “Democracy is a funny thing. No one ever accused a poor person marrying a rich one of being democratic.”
I am over with it and that includes fat lesbians. They are my past and yesterday’s paper. I hope some of them will enjoy taking insulin or hobbling with a cane or on crutches for the consequences of their personal choices but I know I will not a part of it. My personal choices are maintaining good health and being around healthy people who appreciate life, that are not avaricious and always wanting more, like that second or third helping.
That’s one fat tarbrush you have there, Liz. I hope you can move on and start looking at people as individuals one day. And being a “healthy” weight is no guarantee that you’ll avoid diabetes throughout your life.
This thread has taken a decidedly ugly turn.
Just for the record, I prefer to surround myself with non-avaricious individuals who appreciate life as well.. and I’ve a wonderful group of friends who’ve been endowed with all manner of bodies and fit that bill nonetheless.
How anyone could honestly wish immobility or ill health on somebody simply because that person happens to be overweight is utterly incomprehensible to me.
People are individuals, regardless of size. Knowing someone’s weight tells you one thing and one thing alone: how much they weigh. It doesn’t tell you how they got that way.. whether it was genetics, a medical condition, or those “second and third helpings”. In most cases (unless we’re talking about individuals who are dangerously under or overweight), it doesn’t even tell you all that much about the state of their health. And it certainly doesn’t tell you whether or not they happen to be a decent person.
Your ex certainly sounds unpleasant. Please look on the bright side: you are no longer with her. Holding on to your bitterness about the break up is hurting you, not her. You say you’re over it, but your pain and anger are evident in everything you’ve written. You say, “My personal choices are maintaining good health and being around healthy people who appreciate life, that are not avaricious and always wanting more, like that second or third helping.” Mental and emotional health are as important and physical health and, indeed, affect it. I’m worried that you’re letting your bitterness eat up your pleasure in life.
And it sounds as if your life has definitely improved. You said you did not have a college degree “at that time” which implies that you’ve gone back to school and now have a degree. Good for you!
So here’s a question that’s a bit of a change in topic: What is it about DTWOF that attracted you? Do you love Alison’s characters? Plot? Both? You wouldn’t be on this website if you weren’t a fan in some way. What is it that pleases you about Alison’s work?
My artistic outlets are in the garden and in the kitchen. Last year, I had a hard loss of some old, large lilacs that turned my mostly shade garden to all sun. (I appreciate the website from the last thread to help re-populate my garden!) Like all art, there is always technique to hone. This year, I want to try starting different flowers from seed that are a bit more challenging to germinate. This, I think, is akin to learning to use a new brush or loom or working with a new fabric.
Unlike Alison’s art, which I regard as thought-provoking, and meant to stimulate, I see my creations as soothing, comforting and nurturing (and obviously, AB’s art has those qualities too, as attested by so many who have written “you were a godsend when I first came out!”) There is nothing I love more than having people over for dinner with vegetables and herbs from the garden. My partner is a tremendous cook, too, and we have learned, uh, well *I* have learned to cooperate in the kitchen. (My former husband affectionately nicknamed me “kitchen fascista”)
Thanks, Maggie, for this refreshing turn of conversation!
Back to Wharton: Can someone suggest a book of criticism about her work?
Back to the mobility of class question: Silvio, good observation on marrying into class, which of course a woman (who is more typically the one doing the moving) is seen as a gold-digger. I thinks that also speaks to how people are usually most comfortable with people close to them in class–or at least that is how it seems to me. I think there has been some research to back that up, but heaven knows when or where I read it.
In college, which was the mid-80s, I took a marvelous sociology course in which we just read sociology books and learned how sociologists think from that. I remember more from that course than from most of my other courses, and I was in college a loooooong time.
Anyway, one of the books talked about demographics and how people usually predict that in the future they will be doing pretty much what they are doing now, or at least what people in their general cultural sub-group were doing now. The other thing we talked about, however, is that people rarely truly move out of their socioeconomic group. Part of the thinking that we can or do is because we have a much more specific and detailed understanding of our own group so small differences take on big importance. Big differences with people in other groups aren’t understood as well. So (for example) people can give you a very detailed ranking of income or status of those who have incomes/status near their own, but people with much larger or smaller incomes all kind of get lumped into aggregate categories. I found it fascinating then and still find it fascinating!
That said… the talk was all about GROUPS of people and the specifics cannot be applied to individuals. So I’m not saying anything about any specific person. I have noticed as we have aged, however, that my partner and I are tending to make choices that put us in situations that are sort of modern equivalents of where our parents were. So despite all our education and larger incomes, we are returning to the familiar.
It’s all just so interesting to me!
I’m late in getting to this thread since I’ve spent the last few days recovering from the direct jump from end-of-semester chaos to the Family Zone. Since xmas I’ve mostly just read novels and puttered in the kitchen (soup stock, homemade bread, curry…).
The thing that prompts me to comment now is not all the fat discussion (yowzah!) but to express delight that Silvio plays the accordion. I’m aspiring to mediocrity on my newly-acquired accordion. It’s so beautiful – pearlized red and white. As a pianist, the right hand is no trouble, but my left hand is just clunky as all get-out. It always seems to overwhelm the melody line. Any advice on getting it to sound lighter? On the whole ‘breathing’ thing? (Since I live in Wisconsin, I s’pose I should be working up to a good polka.)
Oh, to add to the class discussion, I think it’s so, so important to move beyond just considering income. I’m nearing the end of my career as a grad student and have been living on not much money for a while now. In the last few years I’ve been keenly aware of how I (and many of my colleagues) have become very good at expressing a certain strain of middle-class values even though we don’t have the money to support the full lifestyle; it’s accomplished through the careful acquisition of technology (the laptops required for our work, the iPods beloved by all but especially by those studying music), having a veggie garden that’s both a labor of love (yep, I grew 18 varieties of tomatoes last summer) and a functional source of food, etc. We’ve become remarkably good at focussed skimping and focussed spending such that the latter expresses certain expectations / aspirations that are related to those held by many folks with more money than us (perhaps especially our professors, who become more and more like colleagues the closer we get to finishing the damn dissertataions).
That’s a long way of saying that class is as much about social expectations as about money flowing into a household.
Sivio-Sew you are a seamstress as well!!(haha) Seriously, I hate the actual sewing, but love “having sewn”. Don’t do clothes as much anymore, but make curtains, decor-stuff, totebags, stuff like that I’m usually motivated by seeing something in an expensive in an upscalle store, and thinking, “Well hell, I can make that or 10 bucks.” Then I do!
yes, those social expectations will get you every time.
Although I grew up in a middle class New Jersey suburb in the 50s and 60s (decade, not income), which included two cars but no dishwasher or dryer, when I went to college and afterward, I acquired those thrift store/voluntary simplicity values that 20-somethings had in the 60s and 70s. So I never learned to spend money on furniture, preferring to use my money for more important things like travel, or musical instruments. Fast forward thirty years to the late 90s, and I had still never paid money for new furniture.
While working at an administrative job while getting my master’s degree, I invited a professor whom I thought was a kindred spirit over for dinner. (She taught feminist studies…caution, never assume anything!) She walked into my apartment and sniffed, “Oh! This is how I used to live when I was a college student!” I was about 40 yrs old at the time! I was half shocked at her apparent higher economic status and the other half totally insulted to be so patronized. Oh well. Live and learn.
Oh, and welcome to the joys of accordion playing! I like it because it is more portable than a piano (although heavier in the long run…), and you feel the vibrations right on your chest as you play! One thing you might enjoy is exploring the melodic qualities of the left hand buttons. you can play scales and melodies with those buttons too.
Oh and I know I should let this go–BUT…
For all of us who were hurt by Liz’s comments or worried about their size, just remember–right now, you are at someone else’s goal weight.
My junior-high comeback still works well for me too:”Oh Yeah? Well the only thing that wants a bone is a dog, and he just buries it in the backyard!”(Just make that an inner chant-I don’t advise saying it out loud…)
Hear, hear to all the AMAZING class comments. I think about this topic all the time and yet every single one of you said stuff that I’d not directly considered before. Likewise, I had begun to suspect this blog was attracting similarly creative folks, and wow, is that true.
I had a fantasy last night, as I was going to sleep, about winning the lottery — well, I have that fantasy every night, but this version was that I was able to sponsor a “reunion” for all of us on this blog, kind of like YearlyKos, if you know what that is. It was in Burlington, of course, and people came from all over the world to meet Alison, discuss her work (academics were salivating over it), meet each other, have workshops (about brushwork, grammar, and Doris Day, for sure), talk about art — can’t you just imagine it? It first in my head I was calling it The Alison Review, but right before I dropped off it became the Bechdelnalia.
Now — to respond specifically to JMC’s last post — yeah! Several years ago I was asked to lead a workshop on class and classism at the local Festival of the Goddess, and for it I devised a class-specific version of the Power Shuffle invented by Ricky Sherover-Marcuse and used in New Bridges training, for instance. I was hoping to address how, in a group that is choosing a sort of uniform downward mobility, such as the lesbian community I spent my 20s in, class divisions were still deep and perceived much more acutely by the target group than by the non-target group. I wanted to give the women on the non-working-class and “below” side of the divide some concrete indicators of class they had been not seeing and/or ignoring. This exercise, which I called the Class Layer Cake, succeeded far beyond my hopes for it. I’m going to list the questions I used below — I am indebted to numerous sources for the thinking that helped me create this list, so I do ask you credit me if you use this but I’m determined to share it freely. Each of these questions is designed to (very roughly) divide people into lower, middle and upper class, without using income:
1. Did your parents/the people who raised you finish high school, finish college, or get a graduate degree?
2. Did your family ever receive any kind of public assistance OR has your family gone abroad for reasons other than visiting family still there or being sent on a job?
3. Were you raised by a single parent/are you a single parent OR have you or your parents hired someone to work in your home?
4. Have you lived in a trailer, family-owned or subsistence farm, or government-subsidized housing OR in a gated community, apartment building with doorman/front security, or owned a second home?
5. Do you or the people who raised you work for an hourly wage doing manual labor, skilled or unskilled work, pink collar or clerical, OR is at least 30% of your annual income from something other than your direct labor? (If you don’t know how much of your income comes from non-labor sources, assume it is over 30%.)
6. During high school and college vacations, did you work at a wage-earning job, OR during those vacations you went to a non-church camp or traveled with the expense paid for by your family?
7. Did you or your family ever go without car insurance because of lack of money, OR did you or your family ever own more than one new car at a time?
8. Are you or any member of your immediate family disabled, chronically ill or dead due to lack of medical care because they could not afford it, OR do you or any member of your family have attendant, nursing care or assisted living which is paid for privately?
9. Do you or any member of your immediate family have visibly missing or decayed teeth, OR have any of you had cosmetic caps or teeth polishing?
10. Have you or any member of your famly ever been Holocaust survivors, non-English-speaking immigrants, homeless or incarcerated?
If you want instructions on how to do this exercise with a group, or the Power Shuffle, contact me directly.
To be honest I don’t really how many women were hurt by my comments because I meant every word of it. There are a lot of lesbians who are fat and there weren’t Alison would not have a reason to create the comic “Metrosexuals are Taking Over My Y” and those lesbians would be working out alongside her at the gym and the metrosexuals would not be as apparent.
I don’t care if any obese lesbians were hurt and it’s not like I sad that anyone was ugly and their mother smells but was telling the truth and make NO apologies for the fact that the truth HURTS! Reality sucks and that’s not my fault.
What I can’t get over are when fat lesbians slick back their hair, sport a blazer who think they are so smooth or charming casanovas. It’s even more laughable when that cute female coworker, who is straight, befriends a fat dyke and this dyke develops an infatuation and moons after her like a puppy dog, much to the amusement of coworkers who take notice. I have seen it and it makes me cringe with embarassment.
When it comes to lesbians who are charming and appealing, Portia DeRossi comes to mind. Hillary Swank did a wonderful job in portraying gay women and celebrating masculinity in women in the films Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby. Personal Best positively portrayed good aesthetics in gay women. I wish gay women would strive for those things and maybe Alison would not feel so isolated at the Y.
I think of this website or blog or whatever it is – someone called it a slow chat room – as a wonderful dinner party. Smart, funny people with something worth saying and who usually observe the “two minute rule” (honored in the breach at the dinner parties I have to dress up for). I was reading Calvin Trillin’s appreciation of his wife who had a thing about smoking and, he said, “could be frank enough on that subject to provoke a shouting match at a dinner party.” We have just gone through a shouting match. Neither side seems swayed. Can we now retrieve our party manners and get on with what makes me come here every day? OK, several times a day.
Silvio Soprani, I wonder if your nickname among those who know you well is Hurdy-Gurdy? ;^)
Judybusy, I’m glad you liked the gardenweb.com link and I look forward to trading plants with you in the future. (I’m johnsaunt on that site.) But you still haven’t answered the questions about your moving up a zone because of the cows and cars. Someone thought your cows were expelling so much methane gas that they’d changed the temperature of your zone! My question is this: If you moved up a zone to 5, were you in zone 6 (which is lower geographically) or zone 4 (which is lower numerically) or did you mean something altogether different? Inquiring minds want to know!
Maggie Jochild –
Nice questions! And how an individual pays for college (assuming they go), and who pays for their first car…
There are still all those weird places where social values and economic realities interact. I was raised lower middle/upper lower class economically (single parent, government aid, heat and telephone cut off at times, etc, etc) but decidedly upper middle class socially (all four grandparents had attended college and it was a clear expectation for children in my family, though we were also clearly expected to figure out how to pay for it on our own). Altogether, it makes for an odd world perspective…
One last comment today. Pointing back to Duncan’s search for music by gay men, of course the task of recommending music by identity category is kind of odd, but I’ll throw a name in the hat. The Prince Myshkins are a pair of song writers that moved to Madison recently from San Diego; I assume, but don’t know absolutely, that they’re a couple. Anyway, they write songs with lots of political content and *brilliant* wordplay that will be appreciated by DTWOF fans. (And one of ’em plays accordion!)
Check out some of their MP3s online. “The Dr. Laura Polka” is an especially rich example of their unexpected rhymes and references (Benjamin’s aura makes an appearance); at the right time, certain lines in “Ministry of Oil” have been known to bring tears to my eyes.
It looks like they’re due for some east coast dates in January. For other Madisonians on this blog, they play at Mother Fool’s (Willy St.) a couple of times a year. Strongly recommended.
I’ve skipped over some of the postings to get in something quick here. hope it’s useful to someone . . .
reading the comments about weight, health, etc. reminds me of a comment that someone once made to me. this is a guy who spent much of his life what I believe is called “height/weight proportionate” — in the personals at least — and then gained a LOT of weight as a result of a medical condition. he’s managed to shed some of that weight and is healthier as a result . . .
anyway, I’ve tended to take pride in my good health and height/weight proportionality, until he commented that both are due to good heredity rather than any special effort on my part. true, I don’t live on highly processed or fast foods . . . at the same time, my main souce of exercise is walking to and from my car, taking stairs, etc. and I’m not good about eating veggies. basically, I favor carbs and am constantly resolving to be more thoughtful about what I eat.
I’m grateful for my good health and that (for now at least) I’m pain free. but I really can’t take credit for these “attributes.” and I watch myself about being judgemental of those who have other attributes. sometimes you hafta look below the surface to find what’s most attractive in a person.
Interesting comments about socio-economic-class status. One side of my family of origin all have graduate or post graduate degress, while two of the three siblings on the other side didn’t finish high school. My parents met at teachers’ college. My brothers and I were expected to get (and did get) undergrad degrees as a matter of course. I made a poor marital choice in my early twenties, and have spent the last fifteen years climbing out of the economic and psychological pit that created.
It’s amazing what poverty and emtional abuse can do to your sense of self empowerment and choice. At the grocery store, carbs are cheaper per oz than lean meat or veggies. When you’re working twelve hours a day to put someone through a second undergraduate program, it can be hard to find the time and energy for a daily workout. Fitness isn’t always, but can be an economic and class issue.
Just some random thoughts…
Wow, this is quite a series of comments! Where to begin … Not on class or metrosexuals I think, otherwise I’m not sure when I’d stop! Being a British gay man I think I have differing views on both!
Ovidia – can I ask where you’re from? I never thought I’d hear someone on this blog mention the Chalet School! My mother had every single book. The main character of the series is partly based on Jo from ‘Little Women’ and the book is even mentioned in a couple of the series. There’s also a strong subtext or undercurrent of lesbian relationships within the 62 books, which comes and goes depending on the fashion of the times and is most evident in the books of the 1920s and 40s. There’s an interesting article online somewhere discussing this aspect and speculating on the sexuality of the author. Just Google Chalet School and you’ll find it.
On the subject of artistry I attempted a career as a contemporary dance choreographer but it didn’t work out sadly. So now I pour my creativity into cooking and I also knit and crochet – it’s very therapeutic, although there’s a hint of occupational therapy behind it all.
I’d love to have a garden, Judybusy, but I just have a concrete yard. So I make do with container gardening and growing my own cooking herbs on my kitchen window sill. It’s so healing, it’s unbelievable. It’s also good mild exercise for those who are conscious about their extra poundage! *cheeky grin* But let’s not start that again. If I wanted to make your respective bloods boil, I’d point you to this article:
Words failed me on that one!
On a more positive note, could I instead point you to this blog?
which is a movement to enhance our respective concrete jungles? I’m being cheeky as the site is a British one, but the idea is imported from movements in New York and Montreal. I thought it was such a fantastic idea! Subversive gardening!
Just skim read some of the comments on ‘weight’. I have to agree with Liz on the weight ‘fact’ studies (will post sources later’ in the UK have noted that lesbians are more likely to be overweight that hetrosexual females, why?. Well it could be the fact that ‘lesbians’ are subjected to the male gaze and do not feel the same body image pressures. Whilst the opposite is true within the gay male community ‘body beautiful/ muscle mary’s are heids up as ideals….its such a shallow culture. However with the progs like the L word promoting the slim lesbian..the days of a body image free lesbian are numbered. Yes obviously cultural/material influences play their part too (Meg).
If you want to change topic…why don’t lesbians going cruising or participate in the tearoom trade/cottaging?, answers on a postacrd!!!
not subjected to the male gaze
“However with the progs like the L word promoting the slim lesbian”
Well, considering that it’s tv, it probably wasn’t ‘promotion’ so much as it’s… tv. Where _everyone_ is insanely attractive, unless it’s a sitcom where the men can be fat schlubs (but the wives still have to be gorgeous of course)
As far as the weight issue in real life, my backround is a straight, slightly overweight (I got them childbirthin’ hips) straight gal at a university with a great number of sorority girls. I can tell myself over and over and over that it’s what’s inside that counts, there’s a wide range of beautiful, but honestly… none of that means a damn thing when I keep getting rejected in favor of gorgeous skinny girls. All the affirmations that I know in my rational brain to be true don’t help when I get in a certain state. Of course the irony is that I have it bad for skinny guys. I don’t mean merely trim, but that emo/indie rocker type skinny. On the other hand, that body type has always been considered undersirable for guys, while the ‘muscle man’ physique just never held any appeal for me at all. My point is… I have no point. Just rambling.
The class questionare is really interesting. My family is pretty solidly middle class, but having my mom constantly instisting that she pays for everything actually made me more insistant on getting a job and paying my way for more things. Being in college I’m still not completely financially independent, but I do feel a sense of pride that I saved enough to pay for my own rent.
A couple weeks ago I overheard some girl on campus tell someone “It’s funny, like, I don’t have any money that’s, like, my own. Well except for, like christmas gift money and stuff, but you know what I mean. I’ve never, like actually earned money!” and it was said in such a self-satisfied la-di-da tone that it’s a miracly I didn’t punch her right then and there. Yes, I have anger issues:P
>A couple weeks ago I overheard some girl on campus tell someone “It’s funny, like, I don’t have any money that’s, like, my own. Well except for, like christmas gift money and stuff, but you know what I mean. I’ve never, like actually earned money!
*laffin* One of my former tenants (yes, I am now a slum landlord – well, sorta…) went out of her way to ensure that the cupboards were bare when her mother came to visit, to the point of actually hiding food. Her plan being that when her mother looked in and saw the empty shelves, she’d get taken shopping. (Note: this tenant was already being heavily subsidized by her mom – I think she got a thousand a month – and had plenty of money for booze and pot. Not that I’m judgemental *cough*).
It amazed and appalled me. I left empty boxes in my cupboards in college when my mom visited, so that she’d think I was self sufficient and doing well. I can’t fathom that lack of self pride.
Em, just think how much better *we’ll* be prepared for the upcoming hard times!
Hi, I know this is getting a bit tiresome even though my post isn’t about a lesbian but my cousin who’s a man and in his mid-thirties was diagnosed with diabetes. He was probably ten – twenty pounds overweight and was not unhealthy. He worked out more than a lot of people (he’s gay) and didn’t eat fast food. I don’t know all the factors that cause diabetes but it happens to people who are not obese, not very unhealthy, and don’t have bad karma.
Erm…back to the metrosexual issue for just a moment – I’ve been working heavily the last few days and have not been able to check in. Virginia, I apologize if I came across as disdainful of metrosexual men. That’s certainly not the case – I’m loving how men are breaking down gender role stereotypes in regard to personal interests, and I _really_ enjoy working with and knowing men like that. I just like to gently tease those whom I know will worry about being perceived as gay, kind of poking fun at their homophobia, but you’ve made me think twice about doing that. Thanks.
Arte es Vida,
Funny you should mention the instrument called “hurdy gurdy.” No, none of my friends has ever called me that, but I am very fond of it. I have only seen one in person once. It’s origins, I believe, are in 16th century (or thereabouts) France. It has a fingerboard which one frets and an sort of bow which is fixed internallly. When one turns the crank, the bow touches the strings. It has a magical sort of sound. I wish I had one!
Now on to the next thread, where apparently Alison has been watching our pain through all the fat debates.
I’d like to weigh in one more time on the “metrosexual” question. (topic? issue?)
I stopped seeing American men’s interest in grooming, cosmetics, and emotional expression as very significant back in the late 1970s. That was when I began meeting larger numbers of men from other cultures here at the university. I noticed that in many cultures, men are allowed to be vain about their appearance, to hug each other, hold hands, kiss each other, to cry — and yet they were unshakably male supremacist and homophobic. I had also just read Dorothy Dinnerstein’s great _The Mermaid and the Minotaur_, where she touched on this issue too:
“A roomful of male students of mine during that period [the 60s], decorative and gentle-looking, charmingly tentaive in their style of speech, full of aphorisms of the ‘Kids are beautiful’ and ‘Where you are is where it’s at’ and ‘Like, you know, like, I had this *feeling*’ genre, laughed explosively at the following riddle: ‘Why won’t [name some plain-spoken, forthright female head of state, or congressperson, or controversial author] wear a miniskirt? Because she’s afraid her ballw will show!'”
(That’s page 270. If you’ve never read this book, try reading Chapter 10, which I still think is brilliant.) This story should remind us that even American men have had their moments of anti-machismo before, without necessarily surrending male privilege. After all, Second Wave feminism included a lot of women who were justifiably enraged at the treatment they received from “counterculture” men, who in general didn’t welcome the Women’s movement.
There’s also a stereotype of gay men as somehow more “sensitive” than straight men. I’m here to tell you that that stereotype is bogus. It’s the casual misogyny of so many gay men, including the sissies, that has progressively alienated me from the gay male community.
Oh, and Silvio: thanks for the encouragement about music. 😎
1. i have so much respect for maggie jochild who said: “Hate arises from fear and pain. Not logic. Let’s don’t argue with someone who is trying, however ineffectively, to share how she’s been hurt. Even if she’s being disrespectful. I say that as a fat woman, a disabled woman.” i agree wholeheartedly, and wish i could be a person with enough self-esteem to let it rest at that. but, i’m not. while i can be sympathetic to liz’s obvious struggle that we all share, she is parroting the hate i’ve fought against my whole life, and i feel a need, especially in this forum, to respond.
2.liz’s comments are hateful and hurtful and wouldn’t be worth commenting on if not for the fact that they reflect perfectly the self-hatred that all women are supposed to internalize and suffer with all our lives, and that each one of us on this list has had to deal in some way and at some point with the way the world hates women’s bodies.
3. if you dont’ think fat women can be healthy and strong, try checking out your local women’s karate dojo. you’d be surprised at who could kick your ass if she weren’t actually more interested in her own training.
4. dieting is unhealthy. and, dieting makes you fatter. want some citations? they’re not actually that hard to find. but, it doesn’t seem like facts are really a part of this discussion. for instance, it’s a fact that thin women eat fast food. it’s a fact that thin women often don’t exercise. and it’s a fact that many fat women are health conscious, and it’s been demonstrated that fat women EAT LESS than thin women. but who is hated in this world?
5. i don’t give a rat’s ass who liz does or doesn’t want to date, and i wonder if she cares that i would NEVER date someone like her, and i don’t understand why she has subjected us to her hateful ranting and raving.
6. for the record, my cousin has spent her entire life dieting to make people like liz happy. she has been miserable and UNHEALTHY all her life. she finally succumbed to the ultimate, to bariatric surgery (you know, the thing people DIE from?), so that no one could say she hadn’t done EVERYTHING and that it was her fault. She’s still miserable, she’s even more unhealthy, and she’s STILL FAT.
at what point, do you think, liz, should someone like my cousin stop trying to get thin, stop caring what people like you think about her, and start trying to learn how to like herself???
7. sincere apoligies to alison bechdel.
Apparently, the word “metrosexual” has been replaced, by smarty people – with “menaissance.” No joke.
From what I can gather, everyone who has posted agrees that:
1) Liz is irrational.
2) Liz’s experience is meaningless.
3) Liz is hateful.
4) Liz is toxic.
5) Fat and health have no relationship whatever to one another.
6) Nobody has any power over their own weight.
7) Exercise does not contribute to health.
8) If someone makes a moral judgement the world is entitled to make moral judgements of them and to dismiss their concerns.
But actually, I can’t agree with any of these formulations. None of them.
OK, so Liz is perhaps not expressing herself in a palatable way, and is certainly overgeneralising, but I don’t think she’s entirely wrong in her interpretation of the meaning of her own life experience. You want my formulation?
1) Liz fell in love with an overweight woman who happened not to take responsibility for her own health.
2) The overweight woman developed diabetes.
3) The overweight woman continued to refuse responsibility for her own health.
4) Liz was put in the position of choosing to try to maintain the relationship with the woman she loved, in whom she had already invested much – a completely hopeless proposition given the circumstances – and leaving her. She left.
5) Liz knows first hand what it means to try to love someone who refuses responsibility for herself. She knows it’s bad. She flees women who she perceives are not assuming a sufficient level of responsibility for themselves.
6) Actually, she experiences a level of revulsion.
7) Liz both over-generalises and over-particularises. She believes that all overweight women refuse responsibility for themselves, and that they are all doomed to diabetes and wheelchairs. She also seems to single out overweight as the marker for women refusing responsibility for themselves.
Liz is totally bang-on that a healthy relationship with a woman who refuses to assume responsibility for herself is not possible. I don’t think that there’s anything toxic or hateful or to be dismissed in this formulation.
Yes, weight has a social dimension. It has to do with class, urban design and the availability of food, among other things. Americans were smaller 30 years ago, even the ones who were middle-aged then. Americans were a lot smaller 60 years ago. Ever try to fit into vintage clothes? Our metabolisms are exactly the same as they were; human nature has not changed; distribution of consumer goods, however, like food and cars, has changed in that time.
Portion size has changed greatly in that time.
So no, weight is not a magic thing determined by the wave of the wand of an unseen fairy. It has determinants. Some we cannot change, like our basic metabolisms. Some we have little ability to change, like our class or our local transportation infrastructure. But that doesn’t mean an individual cannot make any efforts at all within those strictures.
One effort to make is using smaller dishes. My parents still have many of the same dishes they were given as wedding presents. Their “large” soup bowl is smaller than any soup bowl I can find at Ikea today. It’s a small effort, but reasonable, especially if one has been diagnosed with a disease that will respond to weight loss.
I was particularly impressed with Liz’s comments that she was not so much concerned about her lover’s weight, or even failure to lose weight, as her lack of interest in making any *effort* at all on her own behalf.
So no, I’m not going to judge Liz. I don’t agree with all her conclusions, but I do believe her basic interpretation of her experience is sound, though limited. And by refusing to acknowledge her, this community is simply further isolating her. I don’t think that’s fair or kind and I think we lose the opportunity to learn from her by doing this.
But guess what – I’m not going to judge Liz’s ex either. I believe I have known people like her, and I know them to be damaged people. I’m not in the business of running around judging people for being damaged. We’re all a little bit dinged and dented, some of us more than others. The more dinged and dented we are, the harder it is for us to function. And the harder it is for the people who share our lives. If someone chooses to avoid investing their lives propping up someone who is unable to reciprocate or even cooperate, I actually think that’s smart.
I’m sorry Liz had to learn that lesson so painfully; I’m truly sorry that she had her original acceptance of her lover thrown back in her teeth like that. Betrayal by a lover can damage us and take away our sense of how to live; that is horribly disorienting and makes us less able to participate in our communities. This is a loss for all of us, Liz and the people who share her life included.
I also think that one of the major failings of our society is its relative inability to incorporate the dinged and dented. Individuals rely heavily on their lovers for the supports of daily life, and if someone is unable to fully participate in a coupled relationship they are really hung out to dry. Life is made even harder for them than it should have to be.
So Liz, Bravo to you for sticking up for yourself when ganged-up on. Life will improve.
I think Alison Bechdel has made it clear that she doesn’t want us continuing this discussion in her space. So if anyone wants to respond to this comment, please write to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes. We all know that short people are morally defective.
Yes. We all know that tall people are morally defective.
Yes. Yes. Yes, people whose noses whistle and they don’t hear it are morally defective.
Get the idea? Fat people can be fat because that’s what they are, not because they’re weak or stupid or uneducated. Fat people can also be fat because they’re dirt poor and can only afford corn-based, sugar-coatedthe vat-fried crap that our “victory-at-all-costs” get-rich-quick society allows them. Fat people can be fat because they don’t mind it and actually enjoy living. Just because you don’t like them doesn’t make them defective.
Mind your own damned business, how about? You know what turns me off? Small minds. But I don’t think you’re morally defective for it. Just unfortunate. I pity you.
There. ’nuff said. Alison, you’re a hero. Keep drawing, please. You appeal to every part of my brain.
Just looking back to Virgina’s point about ‘metrosexual’ men, I personally find feminine traits in my male friends amusing, not through distain, but since they have ribbed me for so long for being ‘butch’ it makes a change for me to be able to pull their legs a bit!
Besides, I believe we can all benefit from a bit of laughter, as long as no one takes long term offence.
p.s. I am always very impressed at the quality of the posts on here. You all come across as very intelligent and talented people, I hope you all enjoy a happy new year!
I wasn’t going to continue this thread, but this has been really bothering me. Back in the late eighties when breast cancer was starting to get attention as a feminist issue, the statistic that one in nine women would get it in a lifetime was widely circulated. Some lesbian health researchers speculated that it could be as high as one in three for lesbians, because we are less likely to have breastfed, are more likely to smoke and are more likely to have a high BMI. Breastfeeding is protective against breast cancer; smoking and high BMI (being fat) are risk factors.
I don’t recall anyone complaining that their feelings were hurt because someone was accusing them of being fat. I recall a lot of getting busy and health education targeting lesbians because breast cancer was likely to be an issue in our lives.
The data at the time were not great, so I did a short google search to see what folks are quoting these days. I found the following:
“Weight and BMI
By Joanna Sickler
Studies have repeatedly shown that lesbians tend to have higher body mass (BMI) index than heterosexual women. More research is needed to delve into the cultural and lifestyle issues that may be contributing to this difference including the rejection of heterosexual norms.
– Lesbians eat fewer fruits and vegetables than heterosexual women.1
– Studies have indicated that lesbians tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI) than heterosexual women. A greater proportion of lifetime lesbians have a BMI of more than 27 (52.3% of lifetime lesbians compared to 45.8% of heterosexual women).2
– Higher BMI increases a women’s risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease.3 Hence, lesbians may be at higher risk for these health problems.
– Further research is needed to give health providers better information on nutrition, diet, and physical activity among lesbians in order to design methods of counteracting the problem.2,4
1 Brand, P.A., Rothblum, E.D., & Solomon, L.J. (1992). A comparison of lesbians, gay men, and heterosexuals on weight and restrained eating. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11, 253-259.
2 Solarz, A. (ed). (1999). Lesbian health: current assessment and directions for the future. Committee on lesbian health research priorities, the Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, p57.
3 Moran, N. (1996). Lesbian Health care needs. Canadian Family Physician, 42, 879-884.
4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (November 2000). Healthy People 2010: Understanding and Improving Health. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, p.242.”
*** *** ***
It seems that lesbians are more likely than straight women to be fat. This isn’t about hurt feelings, or insults, or judgements. It’s about data. We might not like the facts, but we aren’t going to make them go away by complaining that they make us feel bad.
I read this blog all the time and never before have I been so pressed to leave a message as right now…
As a lesbian who plays rugby, mountain bikes, loves outdoor sports and works at a hospital and sees, everyday, the effects of poor health – a nasty mouth and soul are just as damaging to your long term health as obesity.
I love the English language which is
constantly changing & growing, could someone
please define the term: “Metrosexual”?
My timing is off. I was premature with my comments. I should always wait until the comments number 60 or more to jump in.
What have we (okay, I) learned.
1. Patience is a virture, mostly because it’s difficult to have.
2. Fat is far more than a feminist issue.
3. Metrosexuals/manaissance people are funny because they’re unexpected.
4. Metrosexuals/manaissance people are NOT funny because they’re gay in both the 7th grade and literal meaning of the word.
5. All y’all (forgive the perjorative grammar) are smart, talented and funny. I love you in a totally supportive and non-threatening way. Kudos to you for keeping the party polite.
6. Ms. Bechdel is awfully tolerant, far more that I would be. We should all worship the ground she spits on (in a totally supportive and non-threatening way).
7. Go here (http://redwing.hutman.net/%7Emreed/) for more ways to label yourselves and others should the spirt move you to do so.
Hi Ian, I’m in Singapore–a former British colony, which is probably how those books got here…& I suspect I’m probably around your Mum’s age, which is probably how I got to those books! Thanks for your web references, will look them up… the gardening as well as the chalet school ones… what grows here is probably very different though. Observation: on visits to Britain I’ve seen stuff that gets pulled up as weeds here getting carefully nurtured in indoor containers & vice versa… it’s like we don’t appreciate what comes too easily!
Am I the only one who can never seem to keep up with this blog?? Every time I come back, there’s another post that’s so full of comments it takes me two hours to read it all.
That said, I love that there is this online community of such different people discussing important issues and sharing ideas and knowledge. I wish I could be more a part of it.
On the Liz/weight issue, I think that Liz has been through an experience that fed her stereotype of “fat” people. I believe people’s stereotypes are mostly, if not only, changed through experiences that make or break them. Sooner or later, the fact that all “fat” people are that way for different reasons will become more apparent to Liz. Hopefully soon.
I am a web designer and artist (I draw), and I love Alison’s comics because I relate to them. But also because this world that abounds with dykes is just a dream that exists in books, online and in my head. I live in Bermuda, a conservative little straightlaced island. But I’m either going to get out and find that community I see in the strip, or I’m going to have to try and create it! We shall see…
wow…I’ve really missed out the last couple of days……this place has been so busy!!!
To answer the question of our various artistic endeavors, I’m a classical singer. My happy land is baroque opera and other 17th and 18th C music.
Am I allowed to plug my own concerts here? There’s one coming up….
I’m not going to get involved in the weight discussion. I think that its been well covered, and its time to move on.
Wow, kat! I’ve got a baroque concert coming up, too… oh, wait. yes. I guess that you know about that one. 🙂
Speaking of artistry and honesty… this is a a very rich topic for vocalists (as I imagine it would be for actors, dancers, etc.) When singing (acting/dancing), you often go into character. Initially, the best way to do this is through mimickry. In the special circumstance where you are performing through a classical medium (say, baroque opera, classical ballet, or Shakespeare), the connection to modern life is, at first, not obvious. It is very easy to lose ones sense of self in the pursuit of “becoming” this character which we can’t relate directly to. My personal challenge in classical singing is to find a path through which I can honestly express my modern self. It is taking time, but I no longer feel like I am trying to be an english choir boy or a flaxen Brunhilde when I take the stage.
This makes me think a bit about the previous discourse on class. Many of these classical art forms are considered elitist and exclusionary- not only because they are “outdated” and are found less accessible to those lacking the privilege of extensive education, but because they reflect values and attitudes that often clash with our modern, inclusive sentiments (sexism, racism, homophobia, classicsm). We dont want to experience “Madame Butterfly” because of the unflattering portrayal of Asian women as exoticized stupid naifs, or dont want to buy into the anti-Semitism of “the Merchant of Venice”. In my estimation, there is something deeper and richer in these works despite
there obvious flaws. Very few people walk out of these performances with reinforced perceptions of cultural stereotypes- in fact, a sensitive modern production will find a way of turning these very flaws inside out, giving the audience a chance to explore three things; the present state social injustice, the history of social injustice, and one’s own cultural perceptions. Opera and Ballet may not be everyone’s favorite form cultural advocacy for social justice (rallies, populist concerts and performance art-oriented actions may serve means more directly), but I challenge anyone out there who has been avoiding opera / ballet / classical theater because it is percevied to be created by the elite for the elite in order to perpetuate social division. It isn’t… but if you think that opera or ballet is boring, I wont challenge that opinion!
This has been especially challenging (and in turn, rewarding) through my exploration of sacred (christian) music. The overwhelming canon of classical western vocal music has its roots in the Church; from Gregorian chant, to the cantatas of J.S. Bach to the passionate, operatic requiems and oratorios of Romantics like Verdi and Bernstein (the latter’s sacred compositions were Jewish). As a born & bred atheist, I first resisted giving my heart to this music. It reflected an entire canon of thought that seemed almost revulsive to me. But, I went though a transformation. Even when singing about things seem utterly preposterous to my scientific upbringing like transubstantiation, I can feel the passion, emotion and faith that moved my ancestors to compose and sing these pieces. I can relate to the anticipation of birth, the lamenting of destruction, and the mystery of faith, even if I dont believe in the Christian supernatural. This music has brought me closer to my own spiritual core.
Is this enough of a tangent to the previous thread?
Speedy, Here’s how Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary defines “metrosexual”: “a heterosexual male who has a strong aesthetic sense and inordinate interest in appearance and style, similar to that of homosexual males.”
Here’s my edited version of this definition: “a heterosexual male who has a strong aesthetic sense and interest in appearance and style, similar to that stereotypically attributed to homosexual males.”
Alarmingly, a chum I was talking to last night tells me the thugs in her office are using “metrosexual” as the new derogatory code word for “gay man.” Imagine it being said by a straight guy in a tie with a smirk on his face and a little flip of his wrist.
Hi, I am just now reading this thread, and even though I can identify myself as fat, I cannot recognize myself in Liz’s description of fat dykes. “Fast food Trash can empties” for bodies,etc. Liz,I am one fat dyke who can’t remember the last time I had fast food. I am a vegetarian,and my favorite sweet foods are fruit and more fruit. My favorite mode of transport in decent weather is my bicycle. I am almost 50, and I do not have any heart problems nor diabetes. I never smoked, and maybe twice a year I’ll have a martini. I do not get around on crutches.
What is amazing to me, however, is how many aquaintences I have of “normal weight” who have health problems. Nobody seems to scorn them, although just maybe THEY had prior bad habits that effected their heath, but who can tell? Or just maybe it is the normal part of growing older, it happens. I know somebody quite ‘fit’ my age getting a hip replacement because she played too much tennis!
Your opinion sounds like it comes from being angry that you were dumped, and you are justifying your point of view with generalizations. If that makes you feel better, than what can I say? You must not get out a lot if you judge people on appearances rather than character or personality.
The problem is when people like you bring your prjudices to your workplace or in the public at large. I’d try to rise above it if I were you, because you come off immature and uninformed.
there is a woman who plays the hurdy gurdy sometimes at the union square greenmarket in new york. she’s quite a sensation!
I have been agog, reading this blog/series of postings over the last hour as I happily drink my French white and eat my super triple creme cheese on a baguette. Yes indeedy, I am fat – because I LOVE to eat and am greedy- and because I had a baby recently. I am also in good health, enjoy exercise, love my same-sex spouse and our sweet family. Liz, I beg of you to remember pleasure – not to mention a sense of humor. And deep gratitude to the rest of you for letting me regularly eavesdrop on your fascinating and spirit-raising posts – I love your subversive rigor, honesty and sense of community.
p.s. I forgot to mention, speaking of class Liz, that I spend upwards of $150 on my haircuts. I’d like to think that you’d approve.
wow, i’m a different katt(with two “t”s, i play music, too, i play the violin- i was doing some baroque and pre-baroque music last year. . . tho’ ,ostly i do free improvisation.
(and i’m not even gonna touch that other arguement, yeow)-
I would love to delve deeper into the classism in classical media versus populist…..I fear that it would be waaaayyyy off topic….hm….what to do……
I disagree it would be off topic — and would live to hear what you have to say.
One thing I learned a long time ago is that most of what we consider “elite” music now was, in its day, pop music. Access to art is, too often, a function of class, but that doesn’t mean the art itself has to be.
nudnik, hope you won’t be offended but you remind me of the laughing buddha (ok, wrong gender, wrong culture, & wrong time– but aside from such trivia…) who was a quirky monk known as the ‘loving one’ or the ‘friendly one’, unlike bodhisattvas based on most ascetic, self-denying monks, the laughing monk is the symbol of contentment & abundance, known for giving growing rice to people and sweets to children in exchange for their problems… if he points his fan at you, your wishes get granted…
Is also fat, by the way. But hairless.
Congratulations on your new baby!
i could almost deal with this conversation when it was only one raving angry hurt individual spewing hatred at me and mine. but now that there’s another trying to use “science” to justify bigotry and hatred in much the same way the old phrenologists and newer advocates of the “Bell Curve” tried to justify the treatment of african americans over the last 500 years, well, let’s just say this fat librarian is more than just a little cranky.
funny how all those cancer studies look at individual lifestyle choices rather than environmental/political causes, isn’t it? you know what causes cancer???
smoking doesn’t help either, and if you smoke, yeah, i think you are ugly, gluttonous, out of control, selfish, addicted, you smell bad and are not someone i want to have sex with.
try that on for size. not as acceptable as fat-hating and fat-bashing, is it?
I don’t know that Alison C. is using science to bash a group of people so much as pointing out that Liz’s wild swings at fat lesbians are hurtful but, like many hurtful sentiments, contain some bit of truth. Alison C. was simply pointing out that Liz’s assertion that lesbians, as a group, tend to be more overweight than straight women has some truth to it. it’s not just a bigoted, hateful statement.
I fully agree that industrialization is responsible for the increase in cancers. Is it possible that fat stores carcinogens more than lean body tissue? I don’t know that this is a fact, but it may explain why cancer rates and obesity are correlated (as I believe they are. my apologies if I’m wrong about this).
in my book, hateful statements aren’t ever acceptable, even when they’re true.
Yay! okay, screw it being off topic. Let’s get into classism and the arts.
You’re totally right. I focus on baroque opera, which is incredibly esoteric and elitist to many modern audiences (and detractors). Its long, in archaic versions of languages that a lot of people don’t speak, uses myths/scenarios/rhetoric that are not well known to us, and frequently uses instruments that we’re not used to either.
At the time, however, much of it was what we would consider “pop.” Certainly there are works that were written for a particular court or duchal palace, but there were also public opera houses. Just like many songs and movies refer to each other, and themselves, and comment on current political ideas and scandals, many operas do too.
Monteverdi’s great work “The Coronation of Poppea” uses imperial Rome, during the rule of Nero, to look at the effects of power and ambition.
It also has 3 (at least!!) bedroom scenes, a cast that is almost entirely cross-dressed or gender bent (the original cast featured castrati, “intact” men singing in a high range, men dressed as old women, women playing men) and some really crazy commedy.
If we want to look at ways in which gender expectations get played with, check out the same composer’s 1610 Vespers. His setting of the Song of Songs is written for 2 women.
It makes me really sad to hear people say that they don’t like “classical” music, especially when its people who have never given it a try. Classical is not one genre, but rather an umbrella term for lots of genres…..that’s a slightly different complaint, though.
I’d love to learn more about class issues and such in other artistic media.
Alison, check out Hawaiian local rep theater, Kumu Kahua (First Stage) http://www.kumukahua.org. Your gym strip reminded me of a play,”The Folks You Meet at Longs”. All dialog overheard at the Longs (our version of Walgreens) Drugs Store. My favorite line was “I give my left nut for one beer!” All done in pidgin. This dialog line was delivered by one tita (a rough tough-talking woman usually a dyke). Ab Fab.
Ok, I’ve been out a looooong time, had an extended stint in the Family Zone, and need to get to bed.
But first — on the fat topic. For the record, I’m pretty normal, in conventional standards, in terms of weight; I’ve ranged from skinny-normal to thick-normal, and am now pretty much in the middle. For the record, I exercise more now than when I was younger and skinnier.
I’ve heard the ‘health’ argument before, and the ‘I don’t respect (or want to be with) people who don’t respect their own bodies.’ These arguments did make me pause, and question my previously enthusiastic endorsement of Queen Latifah’s sentiment: in answer to how would we (meaning women, presumably straight) live in a world without men, she once proclaimed we’d all be fat and happy (which might explain the sociological phenomena re: lesbians and bmi). Anyway, I agree: there is *some* science here, and something to be said for exercise and fitness.
BUT — the generalizations and the revulsion for fatness that usually accompanies these types of statements, in my experience, goes far beyond the degree of validity that science warrants certain situations. We all, I think, agree for example that it is possible to be fat AND fit, depending on body type. Yet this possibility is usually overlooked, in my experience, by the folks who are most fond of the ‘my body is a temple’ argument. In fact, the subtext I usually hear is more along the lines of ‘my body is a temple and if you’re fat it means that your body isn’t your temple and that’s disgusting bordering on immoral.’ There are so many leaps in logic and emotion usually going on when I hear this, it’s really extrapolating from a kernal of scientific validity to judgements and assumptions of all kinds, it isn’t even funny.
It really isn’t funny. I no longer buy it: that those most fond of these arguments are, by and large, motivated by a concern for health. The idealizations reached for too coincidentally overlap mainstream beauty and body-type standards most of the time, rather than being inclusive of, for example, big, beautiful, buff women (and trannies, queers of all stripes, and men), and I can usually whiff the fear of becoming fat in the air when I am hearing these sentiments. And the stigma is palpable. The science may be there, but the intention behind the words is usually anything but scientific. An acknowledgement of the stigma that large people, especially women, face would, I would hope, point to the need to intentionally *include* images and realities of heavy, healthy people (like Dr. Weil) in these formal and informal ‘public health’ campaigns, for example. I don’t often see this happening.
And, *even* in the case of someone not being focussed on staying fit: there are so many areas of life to pay attention to and treat with reverence that no one (ok, with the exception of the super-functioning) can cover all of them — who the f*cK is anyone to condemn another based on what areas of their life they choose and to treat or not treat with reverence? Each of us has our poison, our coping mechanisms: the workaholic, the vitriolic, the blog-addict. It’s one thing to look for a match of values (or dysfunctions), it’s another to spew disdain or to judge a whole group of seemingly similar people based on a particular horrible experience.
Liz, you have a right to your preference, and a reaction to your particular experience, which was admittedly undeserving and awful. But your words and sentiments convey hatred, bitterness, prejudice, and self-elevation, not a matter-of-fact preference or even anger at a particular person. Hateful, bitter judgement is indeed hurtful. It was painful to read your comments, and they are in my opinion grossly disrespectful of many people.
Allison Cummins — 1. Americans are just plain bigger — including taller — than they were, due to many factors, both good (like better nutrition) and bad (growth hormones in milk etc). Have you ever seen immigrant families with kids raised in the U.S. and cousins raised in another country? Despite similar class standings, the kids raised here are often taller, stronger, heftier. And bigger bodies require more food. Though I’d agree that American culture encourages over-consumption and avarice, and smaller plates can be a good thing. Especially with second helpings. (just kidding! sheesh! 😉
2. The correlation between sexuality and bmi in women is interesting. My guess is that it reflects a complex mix of causes and effects, and reducing it to ‘lesbians have poor health habits’ would be grossly reductive.
– Calling It As I See It.
p.s. the whole metrosexual thing makes me happy. i see it as queer / gay male culture finally influencing mainstream masculinity norms, making it ok for even straight men to admit and accept their femininity a bit: the beginning crumblings of brutally rigid gender-rules for men, that patriarchal femininity-phobia at the root of homophobia. things are loosening up!
D.F. — now YOU I’d date.
Aaaaww damn! *Now* I’m flattered. ‘Cuz you’re a pretty smart one y’self, so that’s a double-special compliment! (ok, it’s the Little One inside talking now.)
*And* I feel a little less silly for having invested so much time and energy in such a long argument / rant. Thank you for having made it worthwhile! (I think I missed some kinda which-character-would you-date thread, huh? Toni was pretty hot till the recent stress, and Samia, and of course Lois. Oh and that Babette chick was gorgeous! But i don’t know about actually *dating* any of of them…. Maybe what-was-her-name, Ginger’s ex with the video camera, Malika I think. Hot *and* present, and comes to the table with some substance.)
D.F., cf that Queen Latifah quote — she borrowed that sentiment from Nicole Hollander, who did a very famous “Sylvia” strip in which the answer to “What would the world be like without men?” was “A world of fat, happy women”.
It only occured to me last night as I was rereading “Invasion of DTWO4” that at one point Alison was juggling her weekly strip, the long story at the end of the book, and “Fun Home”. Damn! Take a breather, Alison, you deserve it.
I agree with every point that you made. But I want to mention that I sympathize with both Allison Cummins and Liz. And I sympathize because I can empathize.
I think that all AC wanted to point out is that there are some facts in the matter, or at least some statistical studies. I’ve been in that situation, and I know that if you point out some facts that contradict what a group is saying, then they immediately turn on you because in their eyes you’re now the enemy. This can happen even when you explicitly state that you’re only pointing out the flaw because you know the opposition will and you’ld like everybody to be prepared to answer. Whether or not what you’ve said is true or not is utterly moot. Very often people refuse to pay attention to the facts when they can just take sides instead. I read an interesting book by Steven Pinker, I believe it was “The Blank Slate”. In this book he quotes a study that seemed to demonstrate that people will selectively remember only the unconvincing arguments against their side and only the compelling arguments for their side. I would add that, as far as I have seen, people do not apply the same exacting standards for arguments that support their side as for arguments against their side.
I think that it’s really pointless to take Liz’s statements at face value. I think that she, like I, entered into a relationship convinced that she was simultaneously entering some utopia. When I first started thinking of myself as a lesbian and deliberately interacting with other lesbians, I had read enough about lesbians to have absorbed a sort of lesbian mythology. Some of the observations made by feminists and lesbians were really compelling and a big relief. It was nice to think that there was no natural law that said I had to marry, conform to some male notion of female beauty, etc. But at the same time, I had done too much reading and not enough observing. I sincerely believed that the people I had decided to count myself one of were better. It’s not that I was flattering myself—it’s just that I had a deep subconscious belief that every lesbian I met would be sincere, coordinated, deeply considerate, comfortable with their body, vastly socially aware, a natural auto mechanic, etc. I also believed that gay men were universally witty, charming, handsome, excellent swordsmen, etc. When you’re done falling all over yourself laughing remember that I was very shy and a voracious reader. Anyhow, I fell for an extremely charming lesbian. She suddenly and without warning grew tired of me and dropped me. Convinced of her sincerity, deep consideration, and vast social awareness I could only assume that I was at fault. And I agonized over this while a disc in my lower back split open and the contents spread all over the area occupied by my spinal cord, shutting off nerve impulses from and to my legs, and sending painful and frequent nerve impulses to my brain. After I had been several weeks in this condition, starving and dehydrating myself to avoid the agony of having to stand up and stagger down the hall to use the toilet, this woman finally called. She excused herself thus, “I lost your phone number.” and I thought, even through the haze of pain and muscle relaxants, “But it’s in the phone book.” The paradigm began to shift then and I started to understand that lesbians were not all these things I had so foolishly believed. But it is really painful to have your illusions stripped from you by other people’s treatment of you. It’s ten years later, and I no longer feel wretched just thinking about how stupid I was to believe the things I did, and how easily this woman unloaded me as if I wasn’t even human. I no longer think much about the woman, and I am even willing to believe that she may have changed into the kind of woman who would behave in a better way if faced with similar circumstances. But even two years later I was still feeling pretty miserable. The whole experience left me bitter, distrustful and derisive in a way that is probably just a waste of time and energy but is not entirely gone. I see Liz’s statements as arising from much the same feelings. She believed all sorts of things. She accepted that women don’t need to conform to some arbitrary standard of slenderness imposed on them by our whacky society. She got involved with someone who didn’t conform to these standards and kept persuading herself into proper feelings and behaviors based on a lesbian mythology that she had absorbed just as I had. Then she felt that she had been used and treated like she barely existed. Her pride is hurt, and she wants to repudiate this whole lesbian mythology which made her so easy to exploit. The fact that her tirades are about fat lesbians are almost, in my mind, a coincidence of her particular situation. Therefore, arguing with her about the topic is pretty pointless and so is getting mad at her and so is condemning her. Give her time, like a year or two. That is the only sensible course of action.
My apologies to both Liz and AC if I’ve completely misrepresented you. But it seems like you’re both in situations that feel very familiar to me.
P.S. An interesting example of a women with extraordinary physical accomplishments who certainly does not conform to the prevalent societal slenderness standards is Lynne Cox, probably the world’s most outstanding endurance swimmer. She specializes in swimming in very cold conditions, having swam in the Antarctic and across the Bering Strait. One can’t argue that a women like that is lacking in self discipline; it takes guts to train for something that arduous. What is particularly interesting to me is that her fat is an essential component of her fitness for her particular sport. Without it, as well as some other remarkable physical characteristics, she would become hypothermic in just a few minutes and be completely unable to swim.
I know I’m piping up a little late here, but I wanted to add that what I find most problematic about Liz’s posts is not just her unappolagetic emnity towards fat people, but her unthinking acceptance of the typically American sentiment that disease is a personal failing. It seems to be a symptom of the good ol’ Protestant work ethic that in America, if you contract a disease, even a heriditary one, it is assumed to be your fault- someone earlier brought up the example of how cancer studies tend to focus on personal health rather than environmental factors.
At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I feel that I have some idea of what Liz went through with her ex- my Grandfather (who was not overweight) contracted diabetes in his thirties. He didn’t take good care of himself and basically used the disease as an excuse to become a very bitter person, which eventually led to general poor health and dementia. It was very hard for his children to deal with their father’s decision to turn inward rather than fight the disease by maintaining a good diet and a good attitude, and especially hard on my Grandmother. He died a very sick, lonely person, but even though he made life very hard for four people that I love- my father, my aunt, my uncle, and my grandmother- I would never wish a wheelchair or a coma on him (both of which he was in and out of throughout his life.) He didn’t deal with his illness well, and both his life and the lives of his family would have been much better had he decided to make that effort. But by the same token, I know that I can’t understand what his illness put him through, and this forces the question of how much a person can be condemned just for his/her inability to deal with a life-threatening disease. I know this contradicts every bit of the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” attitude that Americans typically apply to all situations, but diseases can become too much for one person to manage alone.
My sister and I- who are not at all overweight- both stand a chance of developing adult diabetes, as it runs in our family and tends to skip generations. I find it troubling to considder that we may face a health care system and a general national attitude that views disease as the result of personal weakness and over-indulgeance.
I’m all in favor of people taking responsibility for themselves. We just need to be careful not to assume that individuals alone bear all the blame for social ills. Some of us may *want* to believe that people are poor, fat, ill, gay, or whatever solely because they *choose* to be, because this belief offers the comforting illusion that we have complete power over what happens to us. We’d rather believe that we’re totally to blame than have to admit something far scarier: that much of our health and happiness can be out of our control. “It’s my fault” can be easier to bear than “I did my very moral and responsible best, and shit still happened.”
In reality, social and personal ills are often the result of a complex mix of individual choices, genetics, life experience, *and* large-scale social and economic structures. Is it any accident, for example, that the start of the “obesity epidemic” in the US roughly coincides with increases in the processed-food market, the development of new synthetic trans-fats, and the food industry’s widespread switch from cane sugar to high-fructose corn syrup? Probably not.
My dystopian predictions: I fear a day in which genuine concern for obesity-related illnesses may lead to greater social injustices in which poor people’s access to government benefits may be denied on the basis of their weight, and overweight people may be denied employment and health benefits, etc. Such things could easily happen if we insist on defining body weight as solely a matter of people’s poor choices and lack of personal responsibilty.
You get a standing ovation!!! Every single point you made needed to be said out loud, and you did it so very eloquently. Thank you!
D.F. thanks for cutting through chaos & confusion to present a clear picture! (If only MaggieJo could spare you, you might be just what Toni needs to get her looking good again… just watch out for kids with cameras!)
I’m glad we haven’t let this one go, if only to read the thinking and articulation of D.F., DeLandDeLakes, and The Thin AND Lesbian Qkelly — wow. I keep telling friends to come here and READ these postings because there’s no paraphrasing them.
In particular, I want to chime in on the “illness as a moral failing” idea, which is very familiar to us in the disabled community. Being disabled or physically different is simultaneously medicalized and seen as a character flaw – the only role model we’re expected to follow is what my friends derisively call “the Christopher Reeve” ideal — you know, about how “brave” and “inspirational” we are (said with a choked voice). As long as we’re good crips, that is, doing whatever the docs tell us and not exposing ourselves to public eye/the dating scene/etc. if we are too freakish.
But the thing is, almost every group that is target for oppression has a physical description that is linked to their identity; thinking about it at the moment, the only exceptions I can come up with to the notion that you can “see” someone’s identity would be some queers, some Jews, some disabilities, and some classes. So, the American passion for judging someone by their appearance is at the core of oppression, and I personally don’t believe institutionalized, culturally-sanctioned oppression will end until we give up the idea that looks have ANYTHING at all meaningful to do with who someone is. In fact, I think we are currently undergoing a backlash against the movement to give up looks-based identity. I hope the pendulum swings back before I die.
P.S. I encourage D.F. to go after Toni because that’ll free Clarice up for me!
Sadly, though, looks are the first thing that one notices. I’d love to figure out how to get rid of the oppression, but sadly, some people might write others off solely (sp?) based on looks, and not even attempt to go farther. If such a person is adamant about that stand, how do you convince him or her to look at the person aside from the body?
I guess that you’re refering to dismantling that whole system, then, right Maggie? Am I understanding you?
Dismantling, yes, to use Audre Lorde’s words.
I think we can see and appreciate appearance (or difference) without assigning a value or judgment to it. I think we’re born with that ability. I’m not, by the way, advocating what Stephen Colbert professes to espouse, that he “just can’t see color” — as if that is the answer to racism.
One of the reasons I appreciate Alison, and all visual artists like her, is that she offers the chance to literally SEE things differently. In Alison’s case, she is also paying keen attention to language — because it’s not just the images going into our brain, it’s how we talk about things that trip us up. English has a long history of loading nouns with perjorative value, and as a writer, I don’t think you can nit-pick enough when it comes to avoiding oppressive language.
It is starting to be a dogma that all the problem one might face in her/his life are the results of bad planning. Like being devorced, overweight, lonely, depressed, diabetic, the list goes on.
Alison C. was simply pointing out that Liz’s assertion that lesbians, as a group, tend to be more overweight than straight women has some truth to it.
yeah, well it’s also true that gay people are child abusers, and people of color commit crime, and women are bad at math, and poor people don’t want to work because they are lazy and stupid…you get me?
anyway, what’s your point? how many more of us fat dykes have to tell you all about our healthy habits before you start to believe us?? and why should our lives be judged more harshly than anyone elses? have you never seen a thin person who eats fast food? smokes? abuses drugs? has cancer or diabetes?
i don’t know who started this idea that if only fat women would behave ourselves, we’d be thin. it’s a lie. i wish they’d stop.
i think the real issue here is that some of us healthy fat lesbians (and maybe some of the “unhealthy” ones too) DON’T HATE OURSELVES. we have the nerve to go around with some self-esteem in a world that wants us to hate ourselves and starve and punish ourselves.
well, punishment isn’t healty, diets make you fatter, and fat people eat less than thin people. so what do you want from us??? do you want us all to live on slimfast and self-loathing?? because i’m telling you now, it won’t make us any thinner.
you know, i’ve heard of diabetes, i know as much about health as anyone else, and i also know how to be skeptical of the “facts” coming from the medical establishment. (actually, seems i know more about that than a lot of folks around here…) but, i really don’t think that whether or not there is a correlation between overweight and health or diet and health is the issue here. i don’t agree that that’s what we’ve been talking about at all. i don’t think that’s what liz was talking about, and i don’t think that’s what alison is trying to justify.
i think some of us are stuck in a woman-hating fat-hating box, and some of us are trying to get out of that box. we do it by loving ourselves, and we do it by taking care of ourselves in the ways that we know how, and we are sick of being judged by people who sound exactly like the woman haters and the fat haters.
so, you can spend your life obsessing over calories, reading “nutrition” magazines, looking in the mirror, hating yourself, and judging fat women. i’d rather think about revolution and organic farming.
Ah, I see. Thanks Maggie.
This reminds me of an art history teacher who described impressionism as “The image as the eye sees it before the mind passes judgment.”
I’ve always liked that thought.
I like that thought too.
And your comment makes me think of the song, “Trouble With Classicists” by Lou Reed & John Cale (on the SONGS FOR DRELLA album). The first verse says:
“The trouble with a classicist he looks at a tree
That’s all he sees, he paints a tree
The trouble with a classicist he looks at the sky
He doesn’t ask why, he just paints a sky”
It goes on to talk about “the trouble with impressionists,” but that verse does not hit the nail on the head for me as well as the first.
That’s a really cool line
Actually, you need to actually hear the song to get the full impact. The album was Ccale and Reed’s gesture of asking forgiveness and saying goodbye to their friend Andy Warhol who died at a time when they were alienated from him.
Whatever you think of that era and Warhol’s scene, the album itself is a sort of psychodrama of the composers putting themselve in Warhol’s head and expressing things the way he might have seen them. (while it may sound presumptuous to take on another person’s voice, it actually a very powerful technique artistically to express things you might not be able to say as yourself.) I highly recommend this album, in the spirit of FUN HOME; the whole exercise of looking back and making sense of pain is instructive and inspriring..
Personally, I think it’s time for some creative solutions to trolls. Here, watch this next post:
I want to apologize for my nasty comments last week. I’m back on my meds now and I feel really guilty. Obviously I have some serious issues with weight, but I had no right to dump them on all of you. Many many apologies.
There – how’s that?
Thank you Sylvio, I’ll definitely check that out.
Have you heard “the Mark Rothko” song by Dar Williams? She uses a similar technique.
Zil – I really don’t think that’s a good precedent to set. To be honest, I think that sort of behaviour would get this place shut down even faster than the “trolls” it’s trying to counter.
And I don’t think Liz is a troll. She’s hurt many people with her comments but I suspect she’s hurting even more.
cranky librarian —
my point was this: “in my book, hateful statements aren’t ever acceptable, even when they’re true.” this was in response to your question about whether it’s acceptable to make bigoted statements about smokers.
one of the points that’s been made repeatedly in this post is that fat =/= unhealthy (that was an attempt to create an online symbol for “not equal”). perhaps I sometimes forget this, but in my better moments I *do* know that people who are overweight aren’t necessarily unhealthy.
this will be easier to remember if people who are heavy/overweight/fat and yet healthy were more visible in the media. I’m all for that! and I’m all for people of all shapes and sizes and degrees of health to love themselves. it’s much easier to love people who love themselves. and they have more love to give.
I’m puzzled that you seem to be making assumptions — about me and about what I think of you. I don’t believe I’ve made any judgements about people who are heavy or fat or overweight.
on another (but related) topic, I’ve found it easier to see the beauty in people that are different from what we expect (overweight, missing teeth, balding, whatever) when I’m not looking at them as potential partners. I spend more time around people with whom I’m not likely to be intimate, and my expectations of them are different. perhaps this enables me to see them more clearly?
it’s also true that people who respect themselves generally find a way to present themselves in a way that’s appealing. we’ve heard from people who are different (mostly overweight or disabled) who, I suspect, are attractive because they respect and take care of themselves. how much of our impressions of a group are based on individuals who don’t love and respect themselves?
but this argument is simplistic. many people don’t have the means to even keep themselves clean and well clothed. I guess it isn’t fair that groups are characterized by members who are disadvantaged . . . another reason to remember that we’re all in this world together and what one has or does affects how others are perceived.
don’t know if that thought is profound or cheesy. I’ll put it out there anyway.
Chinese Medicine believes that the symptomology of person relates to an underlying emotional, pyschological or environmental imbalance. Through acupuncture and chinese medicine (herbs) we can re-balance the body as a whole and not just address the symptom WBR LeoP
With proper diet control one should start seeing a drop in their weight. WBR LeoP
you are right to say that conventional medicine does, unfortunately, sometimes make a person’s symptoms worse. Homeopathy, by virtue of having virtually no active ingredients, is likely to cause fewer complications. WBR LeoP
Gym classes would do a lot better then legislation to solve this problem and introduce active games to the children that they can continue outside of the school. An active kid can eat all kinds of junk food and not gain an ounce. WBR LeoP
Hi Sam! Photos i send on e-mail.
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that was funny ha ha ha 😛
Thanks for sharing your work with us! Your theme is just awesome!
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