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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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. ❤