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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When the Patron Saint of Himself Met the Matron Saint of Empathy

I was a pretty dumb teenager. I’m not really going to make guesses at what kind of teenager you were, but the chances are, you were the typical mix of profound and crushingly banal.

I was just a kid, too. With only a few years of experience under my belt, it was easy to believe that my mix of bitter optimism was somehow unique and revolutionary.

Imagine my oceanic feeling upon discovering The Diary of a Young Girl for the first time. Here was someone at long last who truly understood my profundity! Someone who lived a tragic life (much like my own life was fraught with tragedy!), but whose life was cut short by the machinations of history. Oh how Anne and I would have been friends, I thought. Only she could understand me! Only I truly understood her! Rejoice o world! Anne is not here to give you such a gift that she was destined to give, but I! I can! I will!

The collective eyeroll felt round the world wasn’t really that unique a situation, in other words. Lots of young adults are pretty sure of their self importance. The rest of us don’t really have the horrifying reality of hundreds of parasites that feast off of our self importance, either.

Poor Justin Bieber is surrounded with family, agents, friends, and a veritable army of hanger-ons who depend on him being successful. I’m sure they tell him regularly how important he is to them. Life at a constant party sounds pretty good, and if all you have to do to keep your seat is keep the host at the party? Not only do you tell the host how great the party is, you tell them how great they are.

Bieber has not had the experience of decades behind him. He has not seen the casual and never ending parade of teen heartthrobs dancing across Tiger Beat, one after the other in a succession that is dizzying from the outside. They all look pretty much alike, but each had their legions of fans who would truly admit that their particular teen idol helped them through their dark passage of adolescence.

This can be heady stuff when you’re the one sitting at the top. Stupid things have been said in the past.  I guarantee yet more stupid things are going to be said. Every year the marketing machine gets bigger, and those who sit on the teen idol thrones become ever larger commodities; they are brand names that are sold to youth population in ever larger doses.

The tragedy of Justin Bieber is that he is unlikely to be have any awareness of how large his blunder is for many years, but will have to defend it the whole time. Does he even have a single person around him who can and will tell him? Is there a single person in his close circle that he trusts to be talking to him, and not to the brand name of Bieber that he seems to have mistaken himself for?

See, here’s the truly stupid part: Anne Frank might very well have been a “belieber” had she been alive today. She was just a girl. Just a normal girl. She had crushes, and hopes. She had interests and dislikes. She was petty and she was optimistic. All of this while being locked in a tiny room with her family for years. She was just a girl. She was not extraordinary. Or, rather, she was. She was extraordinary because she was a human experiencing the human condition in her own way during a time of great atrocity and tragedy.  Her life was not “cut short,” it was extinguished. Unlike the many girls before her who wrote their daily thoughts in a diary, or the many who would come after, she did not get to put that diary on a shelf to gather dust and be returned to in 20 years to embarrass and delight herself.

What was unique about Anne Frank was that she was not unique. She is one face that we put to those many who were extinguished in the Holocaust. Her optimism stands in stark contrast to the incredible violence that was visited on her, her family, her friends, her country, her continent, and indeed upon the world.

We put her face there because it is so available. She was an apt writer, and wrote with honesty about how her life continued along in the space consigned to it while under the threat of incredibly brutal oppression and danger. Her writing reveals that which we all know: we are all human, and when humans kill, a human dies. Her message is that human violence is always atrocity, and that human kindness should always be preserved, because the counterbeat to every sentence she wrote was and then she and everyone but her father was killed. 

She is our Matron Saint of Empathy.

To take that… that totality that her memory embodies, and to sum it up with counting her, if she were alive today, among those who adore him, Justin Bieber removed that message of empathy and simply saw her as just another of his legion. The irony is that she probably would have been, because ultimately what she was was just a girl, just a human life like any other.

And the ironic topping on that pie of irony is that Bieber seems to have forgotten that applies to him as well.

ETA – Miss Parayim said this to me:
“I feel uncomfortable calling her a saint for various reasons, but I knew what the post would be about just from the title. 
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about the holocaust. Even before I could read, I looked at picture books on the subject and heard stories about it. Her story was tragic, but it was just one of millions, and I have mixed feelings about her being the posthumous spokesperson for that time period. This was an incredibly stupid blunder on Beiber’s part, but I don’t think it came from malicious intent. It’s even possible he expected the comment to make her story relevant to his fan base- so they could imagine themselves in those circumstances.” 

In response:
I feel no affiliation to any one particular religion, so calling her a saint, or a goddess, or an archetype, all feels the same. It’s not really fair though, for many unstated reasons, as you say. Not the least being that I’m sort of regularly bitter about Catholic appropriation of Judaic history. 

I also think it’s problematic to make her the posthumous spokesperson. As though there is just one. As though there aren’t and weren’t enough *living* spokespeople. 

His blunder really was … far too banal to be malicious. 

If his fan base does in fact use it as a springboard to learning about her, then that is some good accomplished.