pollychromatic

the world through rainbow eyes


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Clarity In the Checkout Lane

I was standing in the checkout line waiting my turn. Bored. Looking at the magazine covers rather than making eye contact with the other people in line.

As you do.

I was doing this, and something really clarified for me.

See, there was this horrible rag cover. Globe or National Enquirer, or Star, or something. It had the title of “Worst Beach Bodies.” There’s Kim Kardashian’s butt, front and center, titled “Double Wide.” Ha! Ha! Because Kim Kardashian has a butt that is wide, you see. Oh, and we all agree that big butts mean fat, and fat means ugly err, I mean not healthy. So we can all make fun of her butt being big because really we’re just concerned about her health and fuck if she doesn’t deserve it because what the hell is she doing thinking her big butt is okay to show off to the world as desirable! How dare she?! The nerve!

NEEEEEXT!

People I don’t know, people I don’t know, people I don’t know and… what? Is that the little person from that tv show? Amy Roloff? What in the actual fuck? They’re making fun of her? Because her body is different? And she dared to show it on the beach?

Are you fucking kidding me?

You know that point when your ears start to make that whooshing sound and your vision narrows, and you realize that you might just actually be one ragequit away from a for real stroke because you actually got that pissed off?

I was there. Right there.

And I want to use nicer language. I want to not use curse words, because I’d like for you to pass this around, and I know that using curse words makes that harder for you to do. I know that curse words are the retreat of a small vocabulary and that it takes finer skill and creates more power to write without them, but I am so enraged by this.

But it made something clear.

See, I’ve grown desensitized to the fat shaming. Every now and then it’ll get my ire up, but I have come to expect it. It’s what our media does. It’s what people in our culture do. It’s what our coworkers and friends and family do. Not all of them, sure, but enough. We can spread the body positivity from here to eternity, but the streak of shame and blame that we place on people, and ourselves, for fat, for daring to be fat? That’s wider than all the fat combined. It’s heavier, meatier, and I am here to tell you uglier.

Gabourey Sidibe can make her speeches about living past the hate and finding her own beauty, but at the end, we know, we all know, there are a world of comments that will come after about how she should still lose a few pounds. At the least, “for her health.”

And we’ve come to expect that, if not accept that. We don’t, as a culture, accept that fat is a genetic difference, we don’t, as a culture, accept that fat is just another one of the facets of beauty that exists in our species.

But.

I did not expect that to be put on a little person. I didn’t expect the highly critical eye of the media to turn to a person who was born with the genes that express themselves through one of the many varieties of drawfism. Amy Roloff is a little person. Her body is different. Making fun of her body for being different makes as much sense as making fun of Stephen Hawking because he’s in a wheelchair.

Here’s another horrible part of this. They cropped the picture carefully. They didn’t make fun of her husband for daring to be a little person on the beach. All the hate was reserved for her. Because that’s what we do.

And I really should have known better. Because we know better, don’t we? Of course the media is going to make fun of Amy Roloff. Just like they make fun of Gabourey Sidibhe. And it really is all the same. And it isn’t about a focused set of standards of beauty. It isn’t about the overuse of photoshop. It isn’t about fashion. It isn’t even about attraction, or health.
It’s about being bullies.

We’ve accepted a culture that bullies, especially, women. We take part in it. We consume it and regurgitate it and spread it far and wide on Tumblr and Pinterest and blogs and Instagram.

And god. I sort of want to thank that horrible magazine for clarifying it for me. Because damn if another picture dissecting what parts of whichever actress they took apart this week for being too fat was going to get through to me.

If you are a woman, you are less than. You are a consumable product. Here are your array of products and services to purchase so that you can be consumed. And you will consume it. $20 billion a year on the diet industry. $34 billion a year on beauty products and services  (I’m sure there’s some overlap there on beauty services/products and the diet industry, but you get the idea). There’s a lot of money to be made by telling you that you look like crap. And when you get fed up and feel down and depressed about it, there’ll be a whole row of magazines at the grocery store, and entire blogs dedicated to ripping apart actresses and female celebrities who didn’t live up to the expectations that you haven’t been able to live up to either. And maybe you’ll rip them apart, too. So you can feel better about how shitty you feel about yourself, inevitably.

And maybe it’s time that we see that we feel like shit because we have been consumed and processed through a machine that digests us to turn us into ready consumers for their products and services. Maybe it’s time we realize that this media machine is not celebrating the beautiful life, but the impossible life, simply so we will consume it and be consumed by it. That the reason will feel like shit is because we have been shat.

And maybe we need to step away from the bullies and stop giving them our voices and ears to use. We need to stop consuming this. There’s just no world where it is acceptable to make fun of people’s bodies for being different. We need to turn it around on ourselves. There’s just no world where it is acceptable to make fun of our own body for being different.

Dammit, we are the expression of a beautiful conglomeration of millennia of evolution. We are life. We are living, breathing, thinking, dancing, rolling, wrinkling, jiggling, taut, stretched, bunched up, beautiful life. In myriad forms. We are life.

And that is beautiful.


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Your Beauty

I didn’t really want to write this. I’ve already written versions of this, over and over. I’ve even touched on it here in the past.

But then someone did write about it, and they did it well. And I shared it on my personal Facebook. Because that video had been making the rounds on my Facebook. And I didn’t want to take away from how people were feeling about it, so I hadn’t been sharing the video, but I had been noticing them feeling good about themselves, and I can’t, I don’t want to, shit on that.

People feeling good about themselves is pretty important, and I am certainly not going to pretend that we are somehow divorced from the biological imperative of being attracted to people who are biologically attractive. But those two thoughts themselves sort of aren’t even related.

Forgive me leaving the rules of grammar and editing behind as I’m writing this because damn if this isn’t an immediate and strong reaction. I don’t want to break my flow.

Because. Because here’s the thing, what our culture states as attractive has very little to do with biological attraction.

Let me put a box around that sentence and drive it into your head with a soft hammer made of love and compassion for the sack of flesh and muscle and bone and other tissues that you move around in and is so completely sacred a thing that it is fucking derived of nothing less than stardust.

You are stardust.

Okay. Yeah. Sure.

Everything is stardust. Step away from the reverence for a second and let’s attack it from another angle, though.

What we consider to be culturally beautiful and attractive has little to do with biological attraction. Biological attraction is about fitness to mate, strength for survival, acuteness of intellect.

That’s the bare bones of it. It can be summed up by a few simple things, though.

In the modern Western world, the ability to provide a steady income can indicate both strength for survival and acuteness of intellect. There’s also sickness. So we look for healthy teeth, clear eyes, clear skin.

Then there’s fitness to mate. In a man, this is generally biologically gauged by your lizard brain in glutes and abdominal muscles. The hips, ass, and stomach that indicate an ability to thrust the penis well into the vagina, and deliver it’s payload.

In a woman, it’s gauged by hip to waist ratio. Hips that can carry a wide load of baby, and deliver it without dying.

And that’s pretty much it. If you look throughout history, you’re going to see an awful lot of human portraiture that emphasizes our genitals, and the muscles and bone structure surrounding them. Because that’s it.

That isn’t to say that is all there is to attraction. Or that without the ability toward fecundity you are outside of the measure of biological attraction. Different chromosome arrangements seek out complementary arrangements. Tall. Short. Skinny. Fat. Red hair. Black hair. Dark skin. Light skin. Hard working taskers. Big picture thinkers. Smart. Average. Passionate. Driven. Etc. Etc. Etc. Ad infinitum. Ad astra. The variety is endless, and biology moves us towards that, too, because it loves to mix things up and find out what will happen.

But.

What we have arrived at, currently, as a cultural ideal archetype for, specifically, women, has little to do with biological attraction. Yes, clear skin, clear eyes, good teeth. Sure. Preternaturally (sorry, Ms. Rice, I know you feel an affinity towards that word, but sometimes it really is the appropriate word to use surprisingly enough) so to the point that we use photo editing to achieve beyond human clear skin, good teeth, and clear eyes.

If people walked around with the glow and manipulations of Photoshop, it’d actually be intimidating and sort of scary. Grotesque even, in many cases.

Aside from that is our obsession with a nearly flat and prepubescent body on women who have the height of full grown adults. This truly has more to do with the complexities of fashion design than any nefarious plot in marketing, though.

It’s far easier to commodify and complete clothes that are designed for a standard prepubescent woman who has far more than the height of a nonstandard adult woman. Her shoulders don’t have the width that makes male design more difficult, even. There are less curves and angles than a fully grown woman. Those curves and angles play havoc with the dressmaker.

Ask anyone who sews clothes for a hobby, and they will understand immediately what I am talking about, too. The difference in fit between two size 2 women is far enough as it is. Bring them to a size 12 or 14 (the standard size in the US) and you are talking many inches of difference all over the place just from woman to woman. Bring them to a size 20 or 22, and it’s enough to make a clothesmaker weep and simply offer clothes that are likely to fit at the widest point, and drape otherwise. And an awful lot of knit.

This, by the way, is why knits and stretch materials of all sorts are so incredibly common in ready to wear fashion. And why they become even more common the higher the size.

I’m starting to drift into major essay here, and haven’t even hit all the points, though.

So. Let’s set that aside. Let’s set aside attraction and standards of beauty.

That last bit of that Dove commercial is disturbing as hell.

“It impacts the choices in the friends that we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children. It impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to your happiness.”

Your beauty. Remember, that’s what this Dove ad campaign is talking about here. Your beauty.

 

ETA: I didn’t address the inherent racism because it’s been addressed by people who are infinitely better qualified than myself. But holy eff, y’all. That was some racist shit right there.


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Shame

When we are ashamed of something we don’t talk about it. It could be our own shameful feelings that we are hiding, or it could be the shameful feelings of other people. There are things we don’t talk about because talking about it hurts too much, that’s a slight variation, but shame is always painful. So if it’s a thing that is always staring us in the face and we don’t talk about it? That’s shame.

Like our bodies.

Many times I’ve heard people tell their children to not discuss people’s bodies. “We don’t talk about people’s bodies.” “It’s not nice to talk about the way people look.”

Yes we do, and why isn’t it?

Do you mean to say that you don’t judge people’s bodies? Or do you mean you don’t put value on their worth as a person based on their body? Great. That’s not the same as not talking about it.

When a 3 year old child looks at me in a swimsuit and says “wow, you’re really big!” they aren’t saying “gosh, you’re unhealthy,” or “gee, Miss, I think you must eat too much,” or “you must be really lazy,” or even “I don’t think you’re pretty.” Kids that young really aren’t generally that complex. They say what they think, and what they think can be deciphered pretty easily by what they say.

What they also are is pretty savvy. Kids know when you’re not mentioning something obvious. The reason kids mention the way bodies look is because kids mention everything. The way bodies look is one of the more obvious things to mention. They notice tall, they notice short, they notice fat, they notice skinny, they notice hair, they notice clothes, they notice skin colors, they notice bent backs and missing legs.

They notice everything, and if they don’t mention it, it’s likely because we’ve already told them that it’s not a thing we talk about. That noticing people’s bodies makes them feel bad. If you’re at all savvy for half a second you’ll notice that if we tell kids that we shouldn’t talk to people about their bodies and that it will make them feel bad, you’ll realize that on some level, we expect that the people do feel bad about their bodies, or even that they should.

And that’s not really a message I want to give my children. If we want attitudes to change about appearance based prejudice (any of it),  then actually talking about it is something we have to do.

I face this with great sensitivity and sadness. Many people have been made to feel that their bodies really are something they should be ashamed of. Their feelings are very raw there. It’s not trivial. It isn’t with flippancy that I say that we still need to talk about it even if it hurts. It’s with an eye to change that.

I really do want to change it, too. I feel quite strongly about all bodies being beautiful. I love to paint and draw, and one of the things that I first noticed as a student of art was that when a life model is facing you, you look for the things that are them. It’s near impossible to see these things and not see the beauty in them. To see the wrinkles, and the scars, stretchmarks, folds and crinkles, the curves, the bones, the withered muscles, the full muscles, the dimpling, the taut skin, the color variations, to see everything, and not wish to reproduce the exact unique expression of human beauty is a near impossibility. Perhaps not all artists feel it, but many do.

I have a hard time even grasping the concept that these are things I am supposed to turn away and avert my eyes from when all I want to do is write prose that celebrates the elevation of these disparate bits into a whole that is a human body that holds a human life and carries it through space and time with deftness. When I want to painstakingly recreate the ecstasy that glows from each person as Rembrandt did.

There aren’t some bodies that are good and some that are bad. They are all beautiful. All of them. Ask a good portrait photographer and they will agree.

Bodies are beautiful. There is no shame there that was not put by outside influence. I simply refuse to sit silently with eyes closed to the beauty of bodies. I will not be shamed into silence. I will not give that shame to my children.

There is no shame on me.

 

ETA: I hammered this out at something like 2 or 3 in the morning. You ever nag yourself to get something done, and until you do it, you can’t really rest? Yeah. That’s how I felt about this. I just needed to write it out. Perhaps later I’ll make a new draft of it. Thank you for the love, even though it’s not really my best. I like to fancy that you can see the good in it beyond the preachy bad writing. ❤


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It’s A Beautiful Day

I needed something good today. I’ve written and read a lot of sad and bad stuff lately. It weighs me down.

Today happens to be March 20th. It is the Spring Equinox. The sun is starting to wake the earth up, and seeds that were planted deep in the earth are finding their way up to the air.

85 years ago, today, a boy was born. His parents named him Fred McFeely Rogers. The boy grew, went into ministry, and then, he went into wider ministry. He taught us all, and every single person who ever met him or saw him was touched by Grace.

Thank you.  Thank you, Mr. Rogers.

P.S. please read that link. It is worth every minute of your time.
Edited to Add: here’s an online whitehouse.gov petition to make March 20th a national holiday.