Friday, October 30, 2009

A little nonsense now and then...

Ok, so it's Friday, and despite yesterday's fluff, I got nuttin'. So I thought I'd just sum up some things going on with me lately.

When you walk past the Halloween candy and see the little boxes of Nerds, does anyone get the voice of Ogre screaming "NERDS? NERDS!" in their head? Or is that just me?

Mad Sweeny, in all his stinky, neurotic, swamp-cat glory, got his Blogosphere debut via his belly the other day on The Two Zaftig Chicks. I hope the fame doesn't go to his head. He's already pretty insufferable. By the way, that's why his nickname is "Buddha Belly".

I bought a new sewing machine!!! It's a very cheap, very basic model to replace the one that broke. It may have fewer stitches, but it has all the basics I need to get back behind the needle. Now that I can sew again, I'm lusting after this particular mandarin collar vest pattern, which I hope to make out of the brocade in my attic, lengthen to the knee, and wear as a dress for New Year's eve.

The pattern will be part of my present to myself for purging my closet. Once I've got it I'll post a review on their patterns, because if it's any good then it'll be one of the few places you can get womens' clothing patterns up to 6X.

I've discovered that no one makes chunky-heeled knee high boots that will fit my 22" calves of over-muscled doom and my 11W feet. My only options are to buy super-wide calf boots (which max out about 20") and have a leather worker or bootmaker put in an elastic gore, or save up $300 for a custom job. Still, that brocade dress would look pretty killer with knee high black leather boots...

By the way, before someone mentions it,'s website only allows you to choose up to a 50cm calf. Mine are 55cm. I suppose next time I can justify $300 for footwear I can call and find out if they'll custom them up. Also, wide width does NOT equal wide calf, and only really goes up to about 20" unless you wear a size 13.

I have crazy people dressed up for Halloween running around the office. I asked one guy if he was dressed as Erkle since his pant legs were rolled up...he just looked kinda crushed and said "I'm 80's guy".


This is what happens when supervisors get creative :-)

Happy Halloween and Samhain and all.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Early Fluff: Halloween

I'm avoiding posting anything especially controversial today because I made the grave error of letting our IT department at work touch my computer yesterday. Since their only solution to any error they can't fix is to re-image the machine, I've no idea if I'll have a working computer today :-)

Anyway, I thought I'd share pics of my Halloween costume from the party this last weekend. The party theme was "Gods, Goddesses, and mythological creatures in their modern day jobs". The idea was that in this economy, even Zeus needs to bus a few tables to make ends meet. I'll tell you though, the bar for good costumes at this particular annual party is getting REALLY high. We had death as a life insurance salesman, Medusa as a hairdresser, Anubis as a funeral home director, Maman Brigette and Baron Samedi as a team of hired killers (Ghede, Inc.), Odin as a pimp, Aphrodite as a sex therapist, Dionysous as a rum runner (and anotherDionysous as an AA counselor), and so on for 50 odd (and I mean odd) guests. JD managed to get there just in time to sweep the best costume category. He went as Satan as a TV evangalist and did a fantastic "brothers and sisters! I fell into this ministry by the powers of grace..." testimonial for about 5 minutes to win. He even carried around a copy of Rushdie's Satanic Verses all night instead of a bible. It was awesome :-)

I went as Lilith, as an abortion clinic doctor. It's a bit theologically obscure, but enough people there knew the reference to make it a hit. Of course I hammed it up and carried around a coat hanger and a condom wrapper with a hole in it ("try our new line of condoms with a convenient view panel!"). I wore buttons that said "Ask about our Frequent Fucker Plan!" and "We will not submit to competition!" (another obscure reference).

The witch's Brew was something fierce. Pretty much a trash can mix with pure liquor, kool-aid mix and fruit chunks. Since I haven't been drunk since somewhere around the fourth of July, it really kicked my ass. But description doesn't cover it. Here's the "Before Brew" shot of me in my costume:

And here's "After Brew" (that's JD next to me):


I could plead that it was 80 freakin degrees in that house with so many people packed in, but really I think I was just shnockered :-) It was much more comfortable out at the bonfire.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Review: Nero Wolfe Series by Rex Stout

So I'm one of those people who has to have a slab foundation house for fear the weight of the bookcases will simply send them crashing through to the floor below. Every available wall has books on it. That said, I'm actually pretty picky about what I read.

Pulp fiction and detective novels really, really aren't on that list.

But JD has a collection of books from the 1930's onward by an author named Rex Stout, about a Sherlock-Holmes-like detective named Nero Wolfe.

Amongst other eccentricities (he's also a brilliant agoraphobic gourmet orchid enthusiast), Nero Wolfe is fat. I mean deathfat.

It's interesting to see the difference in how the character is presented and treated in the 1930's, before the moral panic against fat really sank its teeth into our culture. The author doesn't bother trying to make him into a morality statement, but instead treats both his weight and public judgement of it refreshingly matter-of-factly.

Of course, it's hard to say if his weight is being exaggerated. Wolfe doesn't weigh himself, but the narrator (his Watson-like assistant) estimates him at 300 pounds. I wonder if this is a case of not really knowing what 300 pounds looks like, or if Wolfe is short enough that 300 pounds on a certain frame would really result in the mobility issues described in the book, or if the mobility issues are assumed as part of his eccentric character, rather than an actual limitation. The last could be inferred by the fact that while he uses his weight to excuse himself from rising for most visitors, he makes exceptions. Also, as the series progresses, he can move pretty decisively when it comes to defending himself from an attacker or running from a prize bull. He even manages to hike twenty miles through the mountains of Eastern Europe in a later book.

So far I'm about halfway through the 40+ book series, and find myself reading from an FA point of view in criticism. For example:

There's some fat snark at him from the other characters, but usually in the sense that they're lashing out in resentment that he has shown them up or has some power over them. He's much more offended when they call him an idiot.

His weight is implied to be a result of his love for gourmet food, but also there seems to be (at least in the first few books) a strong implication of his having an actual binge eating disorder. When he's depressed he plans hugely elaborate meals with exotic ingredients and obsesses over them as a way of avoiding his potential failure in the case he's working on.

So far in the series he has twice lost quite a bit of weight by essentially adopting anorexic behaviour for a very specific purpose (once to join the army and "fight the Nazi's" and once to conceal his identity). Both times he returns to his normal weight (i.e. deathfat) as soon as he stops actively starving himself. I like the realism of this. His partner describes Wolfe as looking "deflated" rather than thin, which is a good imagery for the sagging, formless flaps of skin typical after losing that much weight. Also, while the character demonstrates that its possible to lose weight, he also demonstrates that it takes extremely unhealthy measures, and is both miserable and temporary.

At one point he claims to have "let" himself get this fat as a layer of protection against intimacy. He hasn't yet encountered a love interest. This is pretty problematic for me, but then again it's consistent with his general misanthropy and reclusiveness.

The author seems very aware of the "little things" fat people have to deal with on a regular basis. For instance, on the few times he leaves the house he has trouble because people don't keep armless, sturdy chairs in their homes and offices.

Wolfe is fat, but he is impeccably well dressed, clean, intelligent and has exquisite good taste. in everything from art, to literature, to food. In this way he challenges a lot of stereotypes you find of fat people in detective fiction, especially in the pulp era when someones external appearance was often taken to be a reflection of their inner self.

Wolfe's assistant makes mention of his weight, but usually in a good humoured way that shows he genuinely likes and respects the man. He's much more frustrated by Wolfe's agoraphobia than his fatness.

Overall, though, while the books don't hit a high water mark for Fat Positive, they're much MORE so than many I've read. They also have a refreshing realism that keeps the character as a normal, complex human being who happens to be fat. His fat isn't fetishized, stereotyped or moralized. I've no idea how it actually stands up to other pulps of the era, since I'm not exactly a connoisseur. The writing is pretty good and the characters are clever. The first person voice, Wolfe's assistant, is a misogynist ham pretty typical of the film noir type detective, but he has his charm. Pretty much I'd say that if you like the style of classic detective fiction but don't feel represented as a fat person, this might be a good series to look into.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Purge

Thanks to everyone who voted on the best outfit to wear to JD's Phi Kappa Phi induction! I'm going with Outfit #2, with a short sleeve shirt tucked into my purse in case I sweat to death in the cashmere.

There were many outfits I rejected outright when I reviewed the photos. Some were shapeless and baggy, some just fit me badly (too short in the waist, too short a sleeve, etc.). Really, taking photos helped me see what a real difference it makes to wear clothes that actually fit the body instead of just covering it. That, and my overflowing closet, has got me thinking.

I need to purge.

I'm a packrat when it comes to clothing because I'm working from an assumption of scarcity. There's a tiny part of me that honestly thinks that if I throw away this torn, bleach-stained faded cami that I haven't worn in three years but have washed several times because I've dug it off the floor of my closet...If I throw that thing away I will somehow NEVER EVER FIND ANOTHER ONE.

Because I'm fat, of course, and clothes that I can fit into, afford and like are so rare that I often settle for best two out of three.

Ditto for the too-baggy tops and the frumpy fraying faded skirts that are sold as ankle length but cut me mid-calf. Ditto for the shirts that are too short for my frame because some manufacturers only size clothing up sideways, but I bought them anyway (because, ya know, I might NEVER FIND ANOTHER SHIRT...EVER).

My self reward for this purge is that I will set aside a chunk of money (maybe $100?) for new clothes and/or fabric and patterns. Yeah, ok that'll buy me half an outfit at Kiyonna. But considering that's more than I usually spend in a year, it feels like indulgence and that's what's important.

Also, I need to vow that in the future, I will not buy badly fitting clothes in the first place. I don't care that the shirt at Salvation Army is relatively new and a good color. If it's also shapeless and a size too big, there's no point in buying it. I don't care that the dress is super-cute. If the waist is too high and the hemline is a frumpy length I'll never wear it and there's no point in buying it. And really, even if I do go on long camping trips, I do NOT need an entire drawerful of "camping shirts" that are too baggy, worn or ugly to normally wear in public. (Bears and other campers not counting as public). I need, at most, one for painting and other messy home improvement projects, and three for extended camping trips.

The fact that a piece of clothing covers my body is just not good enough anymore.

I don't know if my purging willpower extends to my insane shoe collection, but maybe that's something that calls for babysteps.

Le Sigh.

Maybe I can at least put the toeless and strappy sandal types in the attic for the winter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Recipe Box: Blueberry tarts with pecan struesel

I made these with a layer of cream cheese filling for the Halloween party this past weekend, but I didn't like the way they turned out. The cream cheese made it taste doughy. I'd recommend just using fruit. And, of course, you can use any kind of fruit you'd like, substitute fresh fruit, and/or make the pie crust from scratch and/or substitute phyllo.

I'd also recommend letting them cool in the pan for a while. The reason these are so misshapen is that I was using a single pan and had to get them out right away to re-use it for the next batch.

To make 18 tarts:

cupcake/muffin pan
3 refrigerated pie crusts
1 drinking glass or round cookie cutter approx. 3" diameter
4-6 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
If using frozen blueberries, toss them (frozen) with 2 tablespoons corn starch until lightly coated.
1/2 to 1 cup flour

For streusel:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Ok, but don't freak out over the mayonnaise. Remember that it's just egg, oil and vinegar, not anything weird. It will smell funny when it's raw, but once it bakes that sharp tang will disappear and it will just taste awesome. If you're really not willing to try the mayonnaise in the streusel (and I highly recommend you at least try it) then substitute 1/2 cup softened butter.

Note: DO NOT TRY THIS WITH MIRACLE WHIP. You will get a gooey, nasty mess. Use regular, full-fat mayo.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Add the streusel ingredients to a medium bowl and stir until everything is evenly mixed and moistened

Follow the directions on the pie crust to bring to room temperature.

Sprinkle the muffin tins and a clean countertop with flour

lay the pie crust out on the countertop

Use the glass or cookie cutter to cut circles from the pie crust. Group them carefully and close together and you can get 6 circles out of each 9" crust

use each circle to line a cup in the muffin tin, pushing it gently into the bottom so that it touches the bottom and sides

fill each pie crust cup with blueberries (frozen blueberries can be slightly heaped above the top, as they will settle down during baking)

Top each with 2 Tablespoons Streusel

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and pie crust is slightly browned. Frozen blueberries may need an additional 10 minutes to bake.

Allow to cool for at least 10-20 minutes in tin before removing to cookie rack or plate to finish cooling. The easiest way to remove these from the tin is with a fork.

You could try baking these in actual cupcake papers if you'd like a version that's easier to pass around for a potluck.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fluff: Outfit Pick

So I had this deep meaningful post about respecting the boundaries of friendship in FA....but then we lost power at work. Since they closed the office and sent us home, I thought I'd just follow up on a post earlier this week on what I should wear to JD's Phi Kappa Phi induction ceremony.

I've no idea the fanciness level, but it's a Sunday afternoon in November in Michigan. I'm hoping that it's somewhere between formal and casual, to where I can pick an outfit that might be just on either edge of too formal or not formal enough.

I've narrowed it down to three.

Outfit 1:

Outfit 2:Outfit 3:


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Kyriarchy 101

Ok, I'll bite.

I want to introduce the concept of Kyriarchy into the frothing screaming discourse on privilege and various "ism"s in the Fatosphere.

Kyriarchy is a new word introduced by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, although the concept had evolved before that, mostly through discourse by WOC and others with stacking or intersected levels of privilege and non-privilege.

Essentially it refers to a complex social structure in the form of a pyramid. There are many overlapping and intersecting parts, where various groups gain and lose ground in their posession of and quest for social power.

For instance: If I were to say that men have social power over women, and white people have social power over black people, that's a very simplistic way of stating something that's easy to poke holes in. Kyriarchy says that a person's privilege and social power is more complicated than that. Barack Obama is a black man who has more social power than I do as a white woman. That does not negate or dismiss the fact that I have more social power than some black men in other circumstances and social structures, or that there are certain situations and social structures where I have significantly less. Et Cetera for gender, race, ability, weight, height, age, etc. They all intersect and interact in complex ways.

It is much easier to simply say that JD has more privilege than I do because he's a man. It is more accurate to say that in certain circumstances, JD's male privilege will dominate and show a clear advantage, while in others it will not help him at all.

Here's the scenario to illustrate the Kyriarchy concept:

We go out to a restaurant. JD is male, so the waitstaff may automatically assume he's paying for the meal. The food is terrible. JD's male privilege means that if he complains to the management, he's more likely to be taken seriously and get compensation. Then we both get food poisoning. my socioeconomic privilege now trumps his male privilege. I have excellent insurance and am able to expect good care and be seen the same day. JD has terrible insurance, and his only real option is emergency room or to call all around town trying to find an urgent care facility that takes his insurance. Once we're in to see our respective doctors, his (relative) thin privilege gives him an advantage because the doctor is more likely to take him seriously and treat his illness instead of blaming it on his weight and telling him he wouldn't be nauseous if he didn't stuff his face. BUT, JD is in therapy, therefore in the mental health system. In this case, my current mental health privilege may mean I will get better care because my doctor won't ask me condescendingly if I've been feeling a lot of stress lately and conclude that my illness is psychosomatic.

See the layers of privilege intersecting like that? By the way, every single one of those examples has happened to us.

The polarity conscious reactive thinking around privilege, race, gender and fat ignores the fact that our privilege is more or less apparent depending on who we're with and the social construct we're working within at the moment. Privilege doesn't change, but it's effect DOES.

If you need another example, I suggest you read this. Here we have a successful white man, whom we would think would top the privilege hierarchy in almost any situation. BUT you put him in a situation where the perception of him is that he's homeless and the talent that made him famous is not enough to get people to even make eye contact. He is suddenly labeled as "sick" and "dangerous" because the homeless are so stigmatized that his gender and race privilege does him no good whatsoever (except maybe to make him seem even more of a threat).

The point is not whether he has lost privilege. The point is DEFINITELY not to minimize those who are the victims of the various power structures or their experiences. The point is that if we want to discuss "ism"s, we need to make sure that we're taking into account the experiences of everyone who has experienced discrimination based on something not in their control. We want to make sure that in the quest for Fat Acceptance or feminism we don't step on the heads of others on the way up, we don't try to argue whether "my lack of privilege is worse than yours", or other similar red herrings, and we work to elevate, not drag others down kicking and screaming. That's no way to make allies. And face it, no social movement succeeds without allies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Outfit Help?

Ok Fatshonistas and college folks......

JD has an induction ceremony to Phi Kappa Phi next month. It's a prestigious honors fraternity. I'm going with him to the ceremony.

soo.....What the heck do I wear!?

I tried looking for photos of past ceremonies at WMU so that I could gauge the dress code, but no luck. Honestly, you'd think an honors fraternity would have a better website considering the membership.

Most of the Phi Kappa Phi induction ceremonies at other university that I could find on Youtube and google images show a mix of semi-dress typical of college students (shirt and tie without jacket, light dresses or slacks) but some are very jeans and tee shirt events.

Compounding this is that both JD and I will be at least ten years older than most of the students there, which means the 20-something forgiveness gap for appropriately dressy clothing is no longer present.

I don't own slacks because I haven't met the slack that fit me correctly. Otherwise I'd go for pinstripes and a sweater.

Soo...pencil skirt and heels? light dress with cardigan? Little black dress with hair up?

Any ideas?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Campbells can kiss my bovine ass

I'd post something more substantial, but I'm sleep deprived and grouchy. So this post is all about how Campbells and their flavorless, nasty, chock-full-o-sodium cans can just, well, suck it. This is what you call mmmm good.

I got to use up some of the fresh sage and thyme from my garden before winter claims them. It's my mom's recipe of course. The freezer is going to be full of all kinds of yummy for a month or so.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Responsible for Me

After a very thoughtful discussion on Friday (thanks to all who participated) I wanted to take this week to get back on message with this blog; i.e. body acceptance, HAES and fat issues.

Sometimes HAES has nothing to do with food and fat...sometimes it's just a matter of giving your body what it needs.

A while ago I posted about how I've brought the sun indoors to help with my SAD. JD commented the other day on the statement that I'd somehow abandoned my environmentalism in the quest for lumens. He said, essentially, "How is this against your principles? You're not wasting electricity if you're using it to improve your health."

That made me pause. I realized that in feeling guilty for all that wattage I wasn't taking my actual physical needs into account. It's not a matter of "oh my furniture looks better in incandescent light", it's a matter of "Hey I can function like a real human being if I use incandescent light in the winter."

I was essentially feeling guilty for taking up space.

Isn't this just internalizing the message that fat people take up more than their fair share? As a fat person I've been blamed for everything from global warming (because it takes more gas to haul my fat ass around) to world hunger (because if I didn't eat that slice of pizza, it would automatically displace itself to Kenya. Besides fat people eat more, dontchaknow).

When it's an obviously exaggerated claim like that I'm well able to spot it and refute. When it was a more subtle internalization, I had to have it pointed out to me.

Part of the problem of any prejudice in society is that it does become internalized, and the targets become their own enforcers. Do we avoid seeking medical attention, sometimes, because we feel like we don't deserve the doctor's precious time? Do we not complain or stand up for our well being in general because it would be a hassle?

But if we abandon our responsibility to ourselves in order to accommodate the time and resources of others, who are we living for?

Don't get me wrong, there has to be some compromise, give and take. If I need a doctor's appointment I can't demand that everyone else move their appointments to clear the time most convenient to me. What I can demand is that the office I am paying for medical care be able to see me and treat my concerns in a reasonable amount of time. Because if my mind or body needs medical care, I have a responsibility to myself to obtain it.

If my body needs light, then my responsibility to the planet does not trump my responsibility to my body. I can compromise by finding energy savings elsewhere, recycling, planting trees, etc. But I need to own up to my right to self-care, and turn up the lights.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Guest Post: A Response to Schrödinger’s Rapist

(Blog Owner Note: This is not satire. It is a very personal and serious perspective often left out of the discussion of rape culture. The writer is a staunch and empathic feminist. We both understand that the concepts presented here are challenging to some. That is why comments on this thread will be automatically and strictly moderated. Don't be surprised if your's doesn't show up right away. That doesn't mean it's not going to; only that I'm not currently at my computer to approve it. Comments that automatically dismiss or mock JD's experience will never see the light of day. Comments that offer nothing but gender bashing regardless of the genders of the basher and bashee will find their way to the oubliette. Comments that attempt to derail the conversation will not be approved. Comments that offer rational discussion of the core concepts, questions attempting to clarify the writer's meaning, non-satirical personal experiences that support or contradict, etc. are welcome and will be posted whenever I have the chance.)

A Commentary on Schrödinger’s Rapist

Guest post by JD

Shapely Prose published a guest blog on October 8th , by a woman calling herself Starling, under the title “Schrödinger’s Rapist.” The blog itself and the comments which followed it cover a lot of ground, but they make some assumptions that need to be reconsidered.

The comments make the problem clear. If you go through them you will find that the word “privilege” and its variations show up 188 times, while “equal” and similar variations are mentioned only 39 times. The focus on privilege versus equality is summed up neatly in a comment made by one of the owners of Shapely Prose, Sweet Machine. She talks about privilege in the context of race, and follows that up with the statement: “Women do NOT have privilege vis a vis men, and attacks on women by men are NOT prosecuted with the full force of the law.”

So by following her analogy on race, should I assume that attacks on men by women ARE prosecuted with the full force of the law?

I’m not speaking as a man offended by the idea that women may consider him a potential rapist, but as a man who has been raped by members of both genders. So for any women who may be reading this, I’d like to clear up some apparent misconceptions.

Just like you, men would rather not be killed or violently assaulted. And men do think about that sort of thing. We have to. Many women consider themselves the primary targets of violent crime, but the reality is that as a man I am significantly more likely to be a victim than you are. When you focus on attacks by strangers, as the “Schrödinger’s Rapist” post does, the numbers are even more skewed: approximately 50% of attacks on men are committed by strangers, as opposed to 30% of attacks on women. So not only am I more likely to be attacked than you are, I am more likely to be attacked by someone I have never met.

And unlike you, if I report an attack, I am far less likely to be taken seriously. Especially if the attacker was a stranger. Especially if the attacker was a woman. Chances are fairly good that if a woman is abused or assaulted by a man she will at least be taken seriously, even if – as is all too common – her attacker is never prosecuted. Chances are very good that if a man is abused or assaulted by a woman the police will just wink and say, “Of course she did it to you against your will. Of course you tried to fight back. We believe you.”

That is neither privilege nor equality. But it is reality.

The best evidence at this time shows that approximately one in every five rape victims is male. Five years ago the numbers suggested it was one in ten. But even though the percentage has doubled those figures are still clearly subject to underreporting. It’s very likely that some women were lying when they denied having been raped, and there’s no way to know how many. However, it’s an absolute certainty that men were lying when they denied having been raped.

How do I know? Because of the millions of men surveyed, not one man admitted to being raped by a stranger. That’s what’s known as an “outlier,” information so unlikely that it is obviously false. So not only are men underreporting being raped, they are lying about it at a much higher rate than women. We shouldn’t be surprised at this, given our society’s attitude toward male “weakness.” Given the rapid increase in reports of male rape, the continued underreporting, and the growing evidence that serial rapists are more interested in their victims’ vulnerabilities than their genders, we can safely assume that “one in five” just scratches the surface.

You may think you don’t know any rapists, or at least not any female rapists. I used to believe I didn’t. While you may be able to assume that none of the women you know are rapists, my personal experiences don’t allow me that option.

And I don’t believe that what happened to me was an outlier. Less than three weeks ago, while playing a game, I listened as a woman I consider a friend attempted to justify forcing an imaginary character to have sex with her by saying: “You can tell she wants it. Besides, it would be good for her. She’s tense; it would relax her.” These statements came from an intelligent, educated person employed in the legal profession.

I’m not saying my friend would rape a real person. After all, she is my friend; I’d like to think better of her than that. But as this example clearly shows, the ability to casually justify rape is not limited to men.

So the reality is that men are less safe than you are, less likely to report being sexually assaulted, and less likely to have legal recourse if they do.

But speaking as a rape victim, I can tell you that there is one point of equality here. Men and women act on the impulse to rape for the exact same reasons: because they see other human beings as objects, not people.

That’s what worries me the most about the “Schrödinger’s Rapist” post. The title of Starling’s article is meant to highlight the element of uncertainty present when interacting with strangers, but the content of her article objectifies men. The content of her article says very clearly: “I do not see you as a human being. I cannot see you as a human being. I can only see you as a dangerous threat.” And it says just as clearly: “If you truly respect me, you will accept that I cannot see you as a human being and you will accept that it is your responsibility to overcome that.”

I do not deny that we live in a culture that glorifies violence. I do believe that, as a man, I receive much less understanding when I am victimized by it.

I do not deny that we live in a culture that objectifies people. I do believe that, as a man, I am just as subject to objectification as women are.

Women do not, on the whole, respect men any more than men respect women. Women are just as likely to stereotype people as men are. Consider these things the next time you are talking with a man:

  • How well do you know this man? I mean really know him. Are you presuming a degree of familiarity based solely on your gender and the social implications it carries?
  • Are you assuming that he isn’t afraid just because he doesn’t act fearful?
  • Are you more physically intimidating than he is? Not all men are big and strong, and not all women are small and weak. And relative size is no sure indication of strength. A big man who is aware of his inability to fight back is likely to feel threatened no matter what your appearance?
  • What are your surroundings? If you were dangerous – and some women are very dangerous – would he be safe with you? Would you feel safe in his position?
  • How much personal space are you allowing this man? Are you giving him at least as much personal space as you would give a woman?
  • Do you routinely assume that just because you are a woman it is acceptable to hug anyone you meet? When a man holds out his hand to shake yours do you hug him anyway?
  • If he “casually” mentions his wife or girlfriend, do you take that as an invitation to try to persuade him you are more desirable? Do you ignore his need for personal space just because he’s involved with someone else?

There’s something implied in all of that, the idea that just because you are a woman and I am a man, I must want you. Or at least that I should. It certainly implies I have no right to feel afraid or to say “no.”

Which sends a message, just like Starling’s post sends a message. When women talk about men like they are dangers to be avoided or prizes to be won, they send the message, “I think of men as objects instead of people.” Objects to be played with when they perform as expected and disparaged when they fail to live up to expectations. The irony is that this message is coming from people who are horribly offended when treated the same way by men.

This is equality only in the sense that it drags us all down to the same, pathetic level. It perpetuates the assumption that people are things, which is truly at the heart of our “rape culture.”

What disturbs me most about the concept of “privilege” is that the people who talk about it don’t seem to recognize that it is never absolute. Yes, rapists are unfairly protected by our social system. This is true of both male and female rapists. Yes, rape victims are further abused by our social system. But male rape victims are more abused by our social system than female victims. They are more abused because they are male. Very few people, male or female, have any sympathy for a man who fails to conform to our society’s expectation of invulnerability.

Starling has every right to be afraid. So do I. But I don’t have to own responsibility for her fears any more than she needs to own mine. There is a basic level of etiquette and respectful behavior that applies to both genders. We all deserve at least that much, but no one has the right to expect more from a stranger. Our fears are our own. We have to deal with them, not by telling others they have to change their behavior to make us comfortable, but by changing our own behavior and hoping in the process to create a healthy environment in which we can live.

I wish Starling and everyone else good luck on their search for companions who will understand them and love them for who they are. But unless we try, not just to be understood, but to understand, we aren’t likely to have much success.


Note: The statistics quoted above are from the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey for 2008, authored by Michael R. Rand.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday Fluff: Things that made me laugh this week

Because I've been struggling with a lot of introspection this week without being able to narrow down the huge conflicting mass of feminism and body image and female identity into a single (or even a few seperate) blog posts, here are things that made me laugh this week. Sure, sometimes the chuckle was a little darker than at others. But hey, if I'm laughing, I'm not screaming in outrage :-)

P.S. Thanks to everyone who posted on yesterday's thread on men in Fat Acceptance! Some blogs I missed and some very interesting ideas were posted in the comments.

1. A shoe designer has decided that Barbie's ankles are too fat. Seriously.

2. Our taxes paid for a federal study showing that fat people are responsible for the decline of the mitten industry. (yes, I thought it was from the Onion too, but apparently they're serious.)

3. A woman at work got all excited when she received shoes that claimed to help you lose weight by virtue of the toes being stacked higher than the heels. She said it was like walking uphill all day. I told her it sounded like a recipe for Plantar fasciitis and the lame marketing equivelent of the weather rock. She was offended, which is always fun.

4. In a related lol, Atchka posted a clip from an infomercial for the Hawaii Chair, which moved the seat around so that you were forced to do the hula while you were sitting at your desk. I had to re-play it twice, and again for JD. We speculated whether it was the perfect gift for a draftsman who wanted to destroy his competition, or simply had a lot of potential for wild sex. As of this morning, I still can't get the theme song out of my head.

5. At work, a stray conversation about whether our governor wants us to secede to Canada made me realize that the french pronnounciation for Detroit (Day-Twa) is almost indistinguishable (at least to ignorant American ears) from the very rude french slang phrase for "Shut Up". (pronnounced Tay-Twa). Coincidence? Nah.

6. JD forwarded me this link about the "shrinky-dink" epic photoshop fail by Ralph Lauren, RL's subsequent attempt to do damage control by sending DMCA legal threats to every blog that picked up on the mocking potential, and BoingBoing's awesome STFU response that shoved fair-use-doctrine down their throats.
As JD said, Ralph Lauren v. Free Speech ---> Score: Free speech 1, Ralph 0

7. From a article JD's physics professor had taped to his office door, if you want to avoid the flu this season, avoid opening doors using your mouth. Boy I'll have to watch that one....

8. The state of Michigan, in an effort to purge old felonies from the record books, no longer explicitly outlaws dueling. From the AP article: "Republican Sen. Bruce Patterson of Wayne County's Canton Township jokingly asked if it was wise to lift the specific ban on dueling, given the animosity inside the Capitol at present over resolving a $2.8 billion budget deficit. Much of state government is running on a one-month budget because of the standstill. Morse replied in jest that if lawmakers had pistol duels, the state could 'reserve Spartan Stadium and you could sell some tickets.'"

Come to think of it, it would be one of the only Michigan sporting events that COULD still sell tickets.

Anyone else have funnies?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Men in Fat Acceptance

Recently it seems like the few men who show up as FA bloggers on my particular Google feeds might be getting the idea from other blogs and certain commenters that their life experiences as men aren't really welcome in Fat Acceptance.

I don't understand how anyone can think issues of hate and discrimination only affect women, or that it can be solved by only engaging the females in the world. These male voices are equally valid and valuable, even if they don't adhere strictly to your definition of a feminist. FA as a social movement would be a very different place if it weren't for Paul Campos, or Paul McAleer, for example.

I want to let them know that their personal investment in FA, and their perspectives as fat men and/or fathers, sons, or lovers of people affected by fat hate are all welcome contributions to my own daily reading.

Shannon Russell

Is the current popular target of a lot of hostility, but I really haven't yet managed to ferret out anything he says that outright offends me (and I consider myself a feminist). I hope he rides out the wave until people get used to his communication style, because I think he offers a positive challenge to the insulated paradigms of FA. I don't agree with everything he has to say, but it's at least refreshing to see something I disagree with on the Fatosphere feeds beyond the "diet vs. no diet" debate. Especially when it's articulate, funny, and threaded with good pop culture references. Especially when I feel like I can post a differing opinion on his blog without getting my ass chewed. I highly recommend that anyone who feels hostile towards his posts first read his Who, What, Why posts that explain who he is and why he's blogging. Also, if you can't easily recognize sarcasm or irony, or can't laugh at a little deliberate sophistry, then this might not be the blog for you.

The Men in Full livejournal

Is low-drama, high-impact. Their photographs, paintings, postcards, cartoons, statuary, etc. celebrate the physical beauty of large men in art and culture. The portrayals are almost exclusively positive; portraying large men as powerful, strong, beautiful, glad, and desirable. For those who've missed the last ten years or so, men are quickly arriving at pressure to obtain impossible physicalities right there along with women. These pictures may be more subversive than you think, and therefore more valuable.

Nick, from Axis of Fat

All of the bloggers on the Australian Axis of Fat talks about fashion, body acceptance, and struggles with FA issues. Nick is one of the few men who venture into fashion in the FA feeds, which makes him very much welcome. For all the complaints about womens' clothing, I hear just as much from men in my life who feel they have to choose between pants that cut them in half or sag to their knees. I understand it only gets worse when you venture outside the U.S. (for all the bitching we do here!).

Bill, from Fatties United

Bill is one of the bloggers on a relatively new site, "Fatties United" out of the west coast/Bay area of the US. He's been there (well, here actually) and has seen a lot of the trends and transformations within the FA movement. He also puts out the NAAFA newsletter, including the news and research roundup put out quarterly with links of interest to FA.

JD, from right here.

I may have only talked him into one guest post so far, but I hope to convince him to speak out with much more. He's a man with experience as a thin person, a fat person, a person in love with a fat person, a person who has observed loved ones become victims of the pressures of social beauty standards, etc. His range of personal experience (and his brilliant mind) gives him a lot of valuable insight into FA.

Please, if you're a man and I've left you off this list, post your info in the comments. I'm not as widely read as some of the other fatosphere blogs, but I want to give you what credit I can for adding your voice to something that affects everyone in our culture regardless of sex or gender.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

SAAS (Sewing for Any Size): Necktie Skirt for Pears

On my post about the super-retro-awesome necktie skirt yesterday, Alice asked a very good question that I didn't address in the original post:

"I'm really digging that skirt - got to check out the goodwill sale days again! One note - for those of us hippier than we are ... waistey? Bad word choice. For those of use whose hips are wider than our waists, we'd measure the widest part, then make the skirt to those specifications, yes? I'm figuring that there'll be some darting going on given my super-hourglassy shape - if you've got any suggestions on how to do that w/out creating really bulky sections or causing fraying, I'd be grateful!"

Now unfortunately since my sewing machine est kaput for now, the answer is going to involve guesswork on my part and your own experimentation!

Experimentation because the solution is really going to depend on your shape. Hips that are just barely wider are going to be easier to fit than super-hourglassy. Darting is going to be extremely tricky anyway because you're working with many layers of fabric. My machine bent a rod trying to shove the needle through a double layer of ties, so unless you have an industrial upholstery machine you may want to try and stick to single layers wherever possible. If you do stitch through more than one layer of full necktie, adjust your speed, stitch slowly to give the needle a chance to shove through, and use a very sharp needle.

One option to allow for darts is to remove the lining of the neckties from the hips up. By picking apart the stitches on the backside of each tie you can cut out the many layers of fusible and padding that allows it to keep it's shape. Leaving it in from the hips down will help the skirt maintain shape, but then you only have four layers of fabric to deal with when darting instead of four layers plus whatever gunk they stuffed the tie with.

Another option is to spread the ties at the hips and use insets. The tail end of the tie might be best for this since it'll keep the skirt from flaring awkwardly. The tops of the wide ends of the ties should meet where your waist is, then seperate to allow the insert of the narrow ends, like this:Remember that since there'll be some overlap where you're going through more than one layer of tie, you'll need to stitch those areas slowly, with a very sharp needle. If you're wondering why I keep repeating that, my answer is that I don't want to get sued when someone breaks a pack of needles and snaps a bobbin case trying to rush through this project :-). If your sewing machine allows you to adjust the force of the needle, lucky you!

You could also pull the lining from one or both layers to allow your machine to push through. Pulling the lining from the narrow inset ties will let the larger ones keep their shape and probably look better.

Another option would be to let the ties overlap from the hips up and gradually angle so that the overlap reduces on the way down. Again, either remove the lining or go slow and sharp! This might give the skirt the illusion of being pleated, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Remember that if you do this or the previous option you'll want to make sure that the back closure is a straight enough seam to add a zipper or other closure.
I hope one of those works for you! Sometimes I do get caught up in creating for my own shape, so please just ask if you want help adapting something.

Monday, October 12, 2009

SAAS (Sewing at Any Size): Necktie Skirt

Otherwise known as the super-fab punky necktie skirt that snagged me a few dozen awed and/or envious comments last weekend at a party. I've already had three requests for Christmas, but unfortunately this skirt put my sewing machine in critical condition before I could finish the waistband. I decided to wear it as-is by just folding the top over a belt, and luckily it held together long enough. It does mean, however, that my photo -assisted instructions give out about the point where you need to put a waistband on it :-)

Anyway, first the standard disclaimer:

Welcome to my Series on Sewing at Any Size. You can access the rest of the SAAS series by clicking on the topic link on the side bar.The series is a form of peaceful protest against the terrible, cheap, overpriced, ugly stuff that passes for plus size fashion these days. Anyone can make basic wardrobe elements to fit their body without trying to track down commercial patterns (a nightmare for anyone over a US size 24).As this may eventually become a book, please do not reprint or republish this anywhere else. You may, of course print for your own personal use!

Then for the photos! JD took them on our way to the party, but didn't get the fabulous oxford shoes with 4 inch heels:

What you need:

Iron-On Hem Tape
Satin Blanket Binding
6"-9" Zipper, or 12 grommets, or ribbon for lacing
Sewing Machine
Black Thread
Iron/Ironing Board

For neckties I visited the Salvation Army. They discount older items by 50% depending on the color of the tag. I went on a blue tag day and got all the blue tag neckties for 50 cents. I also got a bag of ties off my local freecycle list, which I plan to use in a skirt for the best friend.

To determine the number of neckties you need for the skirt, first decide on a length. I measured the length of an existing skirt I liked, adding an inch because the flare would make it more revealing than the fitted skirt I was measuring. I came up with 22".

The best part about a shorter skirt (i.e. under 25") is that generally you can use half the number of neckties by cutting them in half and using both ends.

Measure your waist where you want the waistline of the skirt to be. Make sure the tape is snug, but not constricting. We don't have any seams here, so you don't have to add anything. Mine is 55".

Count on each tie or half-tie to be 1" wide. Some will be more or less and you can measure as you go, but it's a good average. I started with 27 ties since I could use both ends. I didn't use them all, but that's what I used for planning purposes. If I had done a full length skirt I would have needed to look for 55 ties.

Subtract 2" from the length of the skirt, multiply that number by the number of ties and buy that much iron-on hem tape. This will be in the section of the store with the bias tape, rick-rack, etc. It comes in 3 yard packages normally, for about $2.00 US. I needed 19" by 25 ties, or 475 inches of hem tape. There are 36 inches in a yard, so I needed 13.5 yards, or 5 packages.

I recommend satin blanket binding for the waistband because it’s easy and looks good. You could just as easily make your own binding out of any material simply by folding the sides of a strip of fabric in towards the middle, then folding it in half so that the raw edges are hidden. You need a length of binding equal to your waist measurement plus 1/2".

Start by cutting the neckties to the length you want the skirt, as they'll be much easier to work with if you're handling less material.

Decide what order you want the pieces in and stack them accordingly so that it's easy to remember. I alternated narrow and wide ends and tried to keep similar patterns mixed evenly.

On the back side of the tie, match up the edges and the bottom corner where it narrows to a point. Make sure there's no gap between the sides; match them up evenly.

Lay a strip of iron on hem tape along the edge, overlapping the material of both neckties. Iron slowly on the hottest setting until the tape adheres. Some fabrics will melt under a hot iron. If you want to play it safe, cut a piece from a plain paper bag and keep it between the fabric and the iron.

Continue adding strips of necktie and attaching them with the hem tape until the length of the top edge of the skirt matches your waist measurement.

Flip it over and check for gaps. Sometimes the gap can be fixed by just adjusting the fabric of the tie, or sometimes you have to rip off the hem tape and try again with a new piece.

Leave the final line open so that you have one long flat piece that somewhat resembles a picket fence.

On the right side of the skirt (the side that will be visible when wearing) Use the zig-zag stitch on your machine to sew a line of stitches up each join, capturing the fabric of both ties in the stitches.

The finished seam will look like this:

When you have them all connected, the front should look like this (photo is of skirt folded in half, remember to leave one seam open for a zipper, etc.)

The backside will have the hem tape reinforcing the stitches, so it will look like this:

(Note: This is the point at which my sewing machine broke. Since I’m still waiting to do the finishing touches, I don’t have photos!)

Take the piece of satin blanket binding and place it so that the top edge of the neckties is tucked into the center crease of the binding. Fold each end of the binding 1/4" under the edge of the skirt so that the raw edge of the satin is on the backside (fold at red dotted line below). Iron to crease, using the piece of paper to keep from scorching the satin.
Stitch down the satin from the top corner at the short end, then along the bottom edge, then up at the corner at the other end (red dotted line below).

Bring the two open ends around to meet, and decide what kind of closure you want to use. The fabric is really too heavy for a traditional elastic waistband, but you do have some options.

If you’re like me and your butt/hips are equal to or smaller than your waistline, then the easiest option is to take a length of fairly firm elastic (the kind that will stretch in two directions) and stitch it along the underside of the seam instead of the iron-on hem tape. That should be just enough give to get it on and off, with just enough grip to keep it from falling. Obviously you should stitch it to the ties along the edge of each side, instead of overlapping the zig-zag stitches as before. You want it to give, but also for the two ties to lie flush against each other when the elastic is relaxed. Another option is to simply close the final seam, add some beltloops, and use another necktie as a belt to hold the skirt on.

Option 2 is a zipper. There are tons of great websites out there with step by step instructions on installing a zipper. Here’s a photo tutorial, for exampe. Connect the ties below the zipper with a strip of hem tape and zig-zag stitch the right side as you did the rest of the ties.

Option 3 is a lace-up closure.
First you need to add an extra panel so that the opening doesn’t gap. I’d suggest you take another necktie and actually open it up. Pull out any liner, then re-fold the tie so that it’s just two layers of fabric. Cut the tip off so that it is square, and attach it so that it only extends from just below the waistband to just above the first corner of the adjacent tie tips (red square below) Hem all the raw edges and attach it to one side only of the opening.
If you have metal grommets and a setting tool then you can set a series of grommets down each full size tie (not the panel) about 1” from the edge. When you lace it up with a ribbon, the extra tie panel will go under the other side to hide any gap.

If you don’t have metal grommets, you can do a series of buttonholes down each side for the same effect. If you sew the buttonholes with a thin wire, like florist wire, under the stitches (like the red line in the buttonhole below) it will reinforce the hole and allow it to hold up longer without tearing.

If you’re hesitant to venture into any of these techniques, you can always use 3” lengths of strong ribbon. Stitch both ends together onto the edges of the ties to create loops. Lace another length of ribbon or cord through the loops to close the skirt. You can also attach loops to one side and buttons to the other to create a button closure without needing to know how to sew an actual buttonhole. I’d suggest that if you use buttons that you turn the skirt so that they’re on the side or in the front. Trust me, they’re not comfy to sit on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fun Fluff

Miss Conduct (Robin Abrahms) is the only advice columnist I really follow. It began about a year or so ago when she made an amazingly controversial suggestion that fat people are human beings. Because of the waves of hate she got in return she's something of an ally to the FA movement. Besides which, she's funny, direct, and gives good advice.

Anyway, today's fluff is from her personal blog, where she started a thread on what famous literary characters might write if they were to ask an advice columnist for help at some point in their story. They're being posted without names so that we can guess who the "writer" is. It's a lot of fun, but I want to play more so I'm calling for posts :-)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Let There Be Light!

Darkness is hitting me particularly hard this fall. It doesn't help that we've reduced the lighting in the office to save money. The low-wattage CFL bulbs at home leave everything slightly dim as well. It wasn't as bad when I spent a lot of time outside in Summer, but it's fast approaching the days when I both arrive at and leave work in darkness. You southern climate folks have no idea what it does to your brain and body to only experience a few weak hours of sun each day (if any), with nothing but dim fluorescent bulbs in between.

So I decided to compromise my frugality and environmentalism for the sake of having enough energy to function. I can't afford a $300 SAD lightbox, but I can (luckily) afford $30 in high-wattage daylight spectrum bulbs. JD helped me rig up a couple of freecycle table lamps on a timer with 300 watt incandescent daylight bulbs so that at 6:30 in the morning it looks like the sun has risen in the bedroom. The bulbs go off on the timer at 7:30 when I leave for work. I put 100 Watt incandescent daylights in the bathroom as well, and will head to the Habitat Re-Store today in search of floor lamps to brighten the living room.

I'm probably still not getting the full 10,000 lux of full daylight, even if I'm managing 10,000 lumen with the bedroom lights. I'm also, before someone brings it up, starting a vitamin D regimen and trying to be outdoors on my lunch hour.

I still feel guilty over giving up the energy savings of CFL's, but I can always swap them out during the summer when I can open windows for more ambient light. Until then, I think I just have to compromise ideals for functionality.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The New Fashion Bug

Fashion bug is the "other option" for those of us who are just over the Lane Bryant after-washing sizes but can't afford Igigi or Torrid prices. But it's always had the usual reputation for inexpensive plus size fashion in that it tended towards giant frilly peasant blouses with applique' kittens and similar horrors.

I received a flyer from them talking about a store makeover, but didn't get there until today. I'm on a desperate search for something that looks like a man's tuxedo vest for my Halloween costume, so I'm hitting every plus size shop in a ten mile radius (plus salvation army/goodwill, of course).

I have to say I'm impressed. Some of the features I liked about the local store:

Instead of having a plus side of the store and a missy's side of the store, they now carry just about everything in a size range from small to 30/32 on the same rack. I did notice the 30/32's were pretty scanty, but I'm betting that's because they sell much faster due to scarcity. That's a stocking issue they need to address. If they're paying attention they'll stock only one or two of each thing in medium and three or four each of the two largest sizes instead of the other way around. Their turnover would probably go through the roof and they'd lose less money on the clearance rack.

They split the store into Formal/Casual instead of by size. You know if you want work wear it'll all be in one place.

Their formal wear is stylish, professional and FITTED. I saw enough sharp, tailored skirts and fitted blouses to blow my next four paychecks. Much love to the argyle "scholar" sweaters, pinstripes and pencil skirts. MUCH love to the Audrey Hepburn style little sleeveless black dress, which I might just eat Ramen for a week to own. The point is that while there were a couple of baggy things, they're actually starting to stock clothes that assume fat women also have a body worth fitting.

Their prices came down. This is brilliant. They've finally determined their market and are pricing accordingly. They're not competing with high-end plus fashion, like Lane Bryant, Torrid and Catherines, because, frankly, they can't. They're competing with Wal-mart, Meijer's and other big-box stores that sell baggy, shapeless generic tee shirts to 5X. In that market they're a big fish in a little pond. They're in the same price range, but much younger and more stylish. I think this is a brilliant marketing decision, and not just because it means I can buy a tailored pinstripe jacket for $30.

Overall my impression was that the plus size fashion drought might just be drawing to a close. I'm loving the combination office professional meets classic punk styles I'm seeing this year. Think black pinstripes and steel buckles, or pencil skirts with a fedora. Now if they could just drop the waists to accomodate us amazonian tunic-lovers, I'd toss my closet and start over.

Speaking of office punk, I'm making a necktie mini skirt, hopefully in time for a party this weekend. Thanks to Salvation army (50 cents a tie) and a woman on Freecycle who's giving me a bagful, I'm managing to do it pretty cheap. I'll post instructions once I work out the details.