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Dance Your Ass Off August 4, 2009

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I know, I know. I should hate Dance Your Ass Off because it’s a weight loss show, and it’s about making people think they can change their lives by losing weight.

But I just can’t make myself hate it. In fact, every time I watch, I feel inspired. Not inspired to lose weight (although I do watch it while working out every Monday! 🙂 ) but inspired to go out there and live a little.

I am very critical of my own appearance. It’s something I’m working on…but at this stage I can’t look in the mirror and make myself like what I see. Sometimes I do like what I see, a lot, but most of the time I look in the mirror and feel fat, and although objectively I know that fat=/=ugly, and I don’t really think that fat equals ugly on other people… on me, I hate it, and it’s something I’ve always hated ever since I started getting chubby around 3rd grade, so breaking that habit is really, really hard. [Side note: It’s also hard because I suspect that I have a distorted image of myself- when I see photos of girls who are size 16 or 18, I immediately relate myself to them and think that I look similar, but I am a size 10 (12 occasionally). Since said girls are almost always my height or shorter, it is highly probable that I do not have the same body shape as them. This is all related to my self esteem issues, methinks, and I’m not sure how to overcome it…]

Anyway, to get to the point: Looking as I do – and probably even if I magically became a size 6 – I would never have the courage to go on national television and dance publicly in small outfits. Most of the other girls and women I know who are hefty lasses have similar qualms about public dancing with nothing but bits of cloth attached to their wobbles. So I have GREAT ADMIRATION for all the people who go out on Dance Your Ass Off and seriously dance their asses off (not in the weight loss sense, although they do that too) and look fine and fabulous. I cannot and could not move like they do, skinnier or not, and I don’t think I could rock those outfits because I’d feel too self conscious to wear the outfits with pride…and that alone is halfway towards looking good in it, right? But when I watch DYAO, and I see these fat people dancing amazingly in amazing costumes, I feel like, if they can get out there and dance and look awesome and do it not JUST because they want to lose weight but also because it’s something they love, maybe I can wear cute clothing items and get out there and do something exciting too. Maybe I can look beautiful too. I won’t extend it so far as to say “Maybe I’ll be able to dance like that” (when pigs fly! lol) but.. Maybe I don’t have to feel ashamed to dance in public, either.

Anyway, I am looking forward to watching tonight…although I haven’t seen The Fellow all day and he’s meant to get back in a bit and might feel sad if I immediately run off to watch DYAO and work out… Maybe I should go work out now and watch America’s Got Talent instead, that’s on just before. Haha..CHOICES! HELP! 😛


Seeing in Color August 2, 2009

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Not long ago, I realized that since beginning to unpack the presence and meaning of race in my day to day life, I have become, if anything, more aware of the physical appearance of people around me. I don’t think that anyone can be “colorblind,” and I don’t recall (even in my embarrassing, ignorant “my ancestors weren’t slave owners so why should I care” days of yore) ever claiming to be. After all, we all see the race of the people around us.

But what I mean is that I’ve become very aware of the race of everyone I encounter. The Fellow is no exception, although adding non-American-ness into the mix definitely changes the racial dynamic between us. But really- as I’m getting onto the subway, I notice the race of the people pushing on board alongside me. When I come in to work, I notice the skin tone of the people clipping into the elevators, and that of the people mopping the ground floor. I notice the color of people I pass on the street, people I sit next to in class, my SAT-prep students, people who serve me in restaurants or bars, the cashiers at the grocery store, people I bump in to by accident, men who make comments or approach me as I pass. Everyone. It’s been a while since skin color wasn’t something I homed in on directly.

There are some [white? probably mostly white] people that would suggest this tendency is “more racist” than pretending not to see skin color. But I think it has just made me more careful. If I am aware that the person I am talking to is a person of color, I can be aware of the racial power imbalance inherent to our conversation or interaction, and I can try to check my privilege more easily.

It has also made me more aware of where I need to do work on myself. For example, on the subway the other night some black girls were sitting across the aisle from me, talking and laughing very loudly and causing a ruckus. There was a palpable sense of discomfort present among the rest of the [mostly white] passengers. The Fellow became so irritated at the noise that he put on his headphones and wouldn’t talk to me. So I played Tetris on my phone and looked out the window at the nothingness of the subway tunnel and wondered why I, too, felt so uncomfortable. Would I have noticed the girls if they had been white? If their fashion choices had been coded rich instead of coded working class? Maybe, but probably just to the extent that I would have been irritated that they were being loud. Not to the extent that I felt awkward and slightly nervous just because I was sitting two seats away. There was really no reason for me or any other person to have felt uncomfortable because some girls were being silly and having fun. So that is something to work on.

I don’t say this to brag and be like “ZOMG LOOK HOW FAR IVE COME IM NOT RACIST HUR HUR” but it’s just interesting. It does make me more nervous sometimes when I notice a person of color is not white because I desperately don’t want to fuck up and unconsciously lord my whiteness over them. But still, I think it’s better for me on this journey to have to overcome nervousness than to just drift through life, imagining that I live in a fantasy world where we can be colorblind and in which race is not an omnipresent factor.

climate change vs. health care July 31, 2009

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Someone at work said something really frustrating today. I suspect we come from similar backgrounds (white, private schools), except he oozes money so I also suspect that he is wealthier than I. At office lunch, we were discussing the big bills they are working on in Congress.

“Bob”: Well, to me, personally, health care isn’t a big priority.
Boss: Well, that’s because you’re young and healthy.
Bob: Okay, true, but I still think that if I had to pick between passing health care reform and passing the climate change bill, the climate change bill is far more important.
Me: …. Fine, but it’s really easy to say that when you already have health insurance and you’re healthy. But what if you don’t have insurance or if you’re sick–
Bob: (interrupting) And I certainly empathize with that, but I still think it’s the right decision to make.
Me: I don’t think it’s fair to expect people who aren’t insured, or who are ill, or who have loved ones who are ill to place something a lot more vague and abstract like climate change above health care in their list of priorities.
Bob: Well it’ll just be a travesty if cap-and-trade doesn’t pass, and sometimes you can’t have both.

(Obviously name was changed, some of the dialogue was paraphrased, but you get the gist)
UGGGHHHH!!!! please step down for one hot minute from your ivory tower of unacknowledged privilege, “Bob”!!!!! No wonder people think some branches of the progressive movement are TOTALLY disconnected from everyday people. THEY ARE! “Empathizing with” people who have LEGITIMATE, IMMEDIATE things to be worried about cannot be expected to place climate change on their list of priorities above everything else! It’s just the sad truth!

Don’t get me wrong, climate change is a very serious threat to our security and our way of life. But so is denying millions of people access to adequate health care. Personally, I think we can have both. But if we can’t, in my opinion, prioritizing climate change above the quality of life – or just /life/, period – of millions of people is wrong.

This is a new blog July 29, 2009

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But I am going to start writing in it immediately, because I have been reading so many blogs lately and I want one too. My first post actually started as a comment over at Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose.

Someone wrote that:

I was in a Panera Bread the other day, and this amazing-looking woman with long, blond, straight hair came in the door. Her fashion was impeccable, and her body was gorgeous. Hence I began to rip her apart in my mind, thinking that she was stupid, vain, uneducated, etc. So. Ashamed.

I realize that I do this because I struggle so much with the way I look–because I do not fit the societal norm of gorgeous. So I hide in my intellect and in my education. Sigh.

My thoughts on this:

Ever since I was a little girl, society, my parents, my teachers, my mentors, my friends, the media and I have all pit “beautiful girls” against “smart girls.” I was taught that I shouldn’t care about my looks because I am smart, and the pretty girls are vapid. Female heroines in the movies and books I read either seemed unattainably perfect – gorgeous AND smart – or just smart, in which case they would almost always have to outsmart/defeat the pretty, mean, stupid rival. Plain/average/ugly and smart is rarely pitted against ugly and smart, or even ugly and stupid, although occasionally it is up against pretty and equally smart. Ugly/smart and Pretty/stupid are portrayed as opposites, and plain women are never allowed to celebrate our imperfect bodies and looks. Instead, we are told that while some women get their worth from their looks, we get ours from our brains. As if we wouldn’t be worthwhile anyway. As if we can’t appreciate the bodies and faces we got. As if pretty women should be allowed to celebrate themselves for both reasons, but we aren’t allowed to because we violate some (false) law of nature by existing.

I don’t think that what we are doing is “hiding” inside our intellect. I think we are responding to what we’ve been taught – that if we don’t meet societal norms of beauty, we are to respond that “We are smarter, nicer, more interesting, etc” than the beautiful women who seem to be elevated above us. We are taught that we should have to “justify” our plainness/averageness/ugliness/whatever because we are smarter, and that we would somehow be totally worthless individuals if we were plain and not smart. But this is just another way that the patriarchy divides us…it’s not because we are cowardly hiders, it’s because we’ve been divided by a system that survives by keeping women divided and conquered.

Hello world! July 29, 2009

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