I’m going to start by saying I’m on board with most of this video! Most of this video is so great. Hooray for pointing out misogyny and hooray for doing it in a 3 minute and 40 second youtube video that’s pretty watchable! Great. What I’m not down with is this: slut-shaming. Yes, this is a blog mostly about disability, and we’ll get there. Gimme a sec.
The first images/video clips that the video I posted uses to show media failings/instances of misogyny are some that show nude or semi-nude female bodies. And while I think that a naked female body should really never be exploited to sell a burger (potentially because I’m a vegetarian), I think that not all of the clips that they showed are necessarily examples of exploitation. A Rihanna music video? She’s an (extremely successful) female artist with creative control over her own worldwide brand, and if she wants that brand to include her own nudity, I don’t think that’s a) an example of the media failing women or b) something that she should be shamed for.
Yeah, I know, Sinead O’Connor doesn’t agree with me, but Sinead O’Connor has a lot of fucked up ideas about the female body. “Your body is for you and your boyfriend” is frighteningly heteronormative and also limiting. Your body, ideally, is for whatever you want it to be for. And I really do not understand how young women are supposed to process the two messages that we get the most often regarding our nude or semi-nude bodies, which are 1) “nudity or semi-nudity = objectification, which you should avoid at all costs or else… #ominous” and 2) “love your body, feel no shame, show it off! How to get a bikini body? Put a bikini…. on a body! LOL.”
We really can’t continue to live with both of those messages. Women can’t be shamed for showing their own bodies, whether it’s on the beach in the summer, on facebook (hey, you take pictures at the beach, right? Pictures. They go on facebook), or if you’re Rihanna in a music video. We cannot protest the Taliban’s mandatory veil policy and then turn around and tell our friends to wear longer skirts. Whether it’s hair or ankles or midriffs or breasts we’re telling women to cover up, we’re limiting female bodies, and that’s unacceptable. That creates shame.
And for young women with disabilities (see, I told you we were getting there) it’s especially important to know that nudity is nothing to be ashamed of, and that the body is nothing to be ashamed of. If your body isn’t functioning in the way you expect or want it to or are told it should be (by society! Shut up, society!), that’s yet another source of shame. The more we are told that nudity is something that we can see in society, the more types of bodies we will see in the media and the less women (abled or disabled, of all body types) will feel a need to hide. Or, anyway, that’s my hope. Keeping public nudity as a weird, semi-taboo thing that only “hot people” are allowed to do (and then get shamed for doing) is not how to promote healthy body image for women. So, while I love most of the video at the beginning of this post, the body-shaming I could do without. Let ladies be naked, yo.
I was just reading Liz Dwyer’s response to the whole Elan Gale Thanksgiving flight feud thing (this guy named Elan Gale had a fight with a woman named Diane on a delayed flight on Thanksgiving because he felt like she was being a dick etc etc) and feeling like when we talk about “privilege,” we’re really talking about one thing. We’re talking about race. Which is great, it’s a conversation that needs to be had, over and over until things in this country are less terrible (etc etc, this is clearly not my field), but there are other kinds of privilege.
Liz Dwyer, in her response to this flight feud thing (if you didn’t click the link, lazy people, kidding) says that people wouldn’t have found the whole thing funny if Gale was black, and that the incident gets to be funny because they’re both white. She also said, in response to Gale’s saying that Diane was wearing a medical mask: “I guess I was supposed to laugh at Gale’s description of Diane, but most folks don’t wear medical masks for the fun of it. What immediately came to mind is that maybe Diane is sick in some way. Maybe she is anxious to go home on Thanksgiving because it’s her last Thanksgiving with her family.”
There are a lot of things here! I have a lot of feelings about this. First, people wear medical masks for a lot of reasons. You don’t need to be dying to wear them. You might just not want to get whatever viruses people on your germy airplane have. Second, here’s the thing: I happen to have an incurable, semi-debilitating, supposedly progressive illness, and it really doesn’t give me (or anyone else with an illness) license to be a dick to anyone. When I used to fly with an injection kit, I would fly with a doctors note saying I could have my syringes on the plane, and do my best to make sure that I wouldn’t inconvenience anyone with all my weird medical equipment. People who are sick don’t actually get to be rude. In fact, there tends to be quite a burden on us to be sweet little angels and role models and heroes and give everyone else something to aspire to (I forgot that people like to aspire to disease… Could someone explain this to me?).
There are a lot of things I want to say. The one I’m gonna say is that if the only type of privilege we think about is racial, anyone who is not white can look at anyone who is white and say “that person has it easier than me,” and that’s a really boring way to live. That’s not how to do the human experience. Perhaps nobody has ever judged me unfairly for the (extremely pale) color of my skin, but medically I’ve probably had a more difficult time than most (young) people, and if the only privilege we talk about is the racial kind, we ignore all the other experiences that differentiate us and add difficulty. When the only privilege we talk about is racial, we don’t learn how to talk about other things. I recently had two wonderful conversations, one with a friend who works at a summer camp for children with illnesses and disabilities and one with a friend who has Crohn’s disease, and thus learned two things: 1) as a society we have made things desirable which are not attainable for everyone because of the bodies they live in, and 2) most people have no fucking clue how to talk about this issue. They don’t know how to approach it with humor or with kindness or with an open mind. And because we’ve decided to make these things (like drinking alcohol, or going to summer camp) desirable, we pity the people who can’t do them. Maybe this is the whole issue, that we look at things in terms of have and have-not, in terms of privilege instead of something else. Maybe I’m more interested in what have you experienced, what can you tell me, what are your nuances, but maybe I’m just privileged enough to get to ask those questions. Meta.
Hey, Liz Dwyer, what if one of the flight attendants that Elan Gale said he was sticking up for wasn’t white? Does that change your view? What if he’s disabled, and Diane is just some paranoid jerk wearing a medical mask? What if you have no interest in their back-stories and like to try to generate controversy?
What if I’m just resisting the license you’re trying to give sick people to be mean to people because I want to keep trying to be a nice person? What if every blog post about a live-tweeted incident falls apart at the slightest tug?
Sorry that this is long and sorry that I’ve been absent, my computer stopped functioning! Hilarious, right? No. But I’m typing this on my phone so it’s a mess. Love and happy thanksgiving! Also, a very very happy anniversary to the best boyfriend around, Nick.
A long time ago, I think I decided (without thinking about it first) that doing things that were meaningful, like being an activist, was too difficult because disagreeing with people and speaking up for myself was too hard and I didn’t want to do that stuff anymore. I had tried to be a member of the disability rights group on campus and I felt at the time that there wasn’t a place for me there because I use medication to treat my disability and some members of the group felt that the social model of disability was the way that people with disability should conceptualize things.*
So I stopped showing up. And I kept not showing up and I kept taking my medication and I didn’t have to disagree with anyone about it and I didn’t have to think about what it meant to conceptualize things in terms of the medical model of disability.
It is easy to not be an activist. It is very easy to not talk about things. It is exceptionally easy to let that become a trend and it is easy to stop talking and to stop writing and to let a blog which you (I) were (was) proud of just suddenly disappear.
Exactly a month ago, an email appeared in my inbox from my dad (with no subject line) which read “where’s da blog?” and I didn’t respond to it and I continued to not think or speak or feel. I continued to take my medication and not talk about it. My boyfriend asked me how I was feeling and I suggested that maybe we could schedule a regular time to talk about such things. Maybe once a week? We did not get around to scheduling that talk. I let MS slip out of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I continued to treat it, I turned in my accommodation request forms at my university, and I took care of myself. I just stopped thinking.
And then two nights ago, I decided to do something different. I went to a discussion entitled “Privilege, Ability, Wellness, and Policy” about disability on campus at Wesleyan. And when we were asked to write down a story of how ability or disability has affected our time at Wesleyan, I wrote this:
This is a story that I have been hesitant about “going public” about, mainly because I have absolutely no proof, but you know what? Fuck it. It happened almost three years ago, and I’m tired of hiding it. My class dean was entirely in the wrong. I can say that she was entirely in the wrong because I didn’t take medical leave and now I’m a senior and I will graduate with more than the required number of credits. With one major as well as one certificate. Having taught my own class, having participated in extracurricular activities, having had friends and having felt happy. And I’m tired of covering for her, she’s the one who made a mistake, and she’s the one who said the wrong thing. I shouldn’t have to hide what she did. She should feel ashamed, not me. So, anyway, two nights ago, I went back to basics.
I went to the discussion and I spoke up and I talked about what changes I think should be made to policies on my campus regarding disability. There happened to be a meeting of the disability rights organization immediately following the policy discussion, so I stayed for that too. Back to basics. For me, “basics” should mean “activism” and it should mean “speaking up” and it should mean “blogging” even if that feels self-centered because maybe I can, in some way, create positive change.
Hi Dad, this is a response to that email you sent a month ago. Also, happy birthday! See you this weekend.
*it should be noted that this seems to no longer be the culture of the group on campus that I’m referencing in this post.
My mom and I did a really cool thing today! We did the Eleventh Hour Lecture at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. It was fun. Our topic was “Approaches to Trauma Writing.” Some people in the audience said they wanted our lecture notes, and I said I would post them on my blog so they were easily accessible. I’m putting in a page break so they don’t clog up my main blog page, so you’ll have to click past if you’re interested.
Thank you so much to everyone who came to the lecture! It was a really great experience.
I literally haven’t blogged in two months so this must be a special occasion, right? (or I’m just done being lazy and I miss blogging?)
It is a special occasion. No, it’s not a belated Mother’s Day post. Or, partially it is, but today is also my mom’s birthday.
Happy birthday, Mom!
My mom turns very old today. Just kidding, she is quite youthful and lovely, and you probably couldn’t (or wouldn’t) guess how old she is anyway.
Some cool stuff about my mom:
- she also has a blog, and though she hasn’t updated it in approximately forever, you should go read it if you haven’t already. It’s called Favorite Household Object, and it’s a meditation on different household objects. Click here!
- she also writes real stuff. Like two books, one of which is about me (but actually! I mean, kinda. I was a baby, so I’m not a super interesting character) and the other of which is an anthology of trauma writing which I use when I teach trauma writing workshops. Because my mom is the expert.
- my mom has a ridiculous amount of medical knowledge which is apparently required to be a parent in my family. She has to deal with my MS, the seizures I had as a kid, Jacob’s asthma and allergies, and Ben’s partial finger amputation. She’s done IVs in our kitchen and dressing changes in the living room. That stuff takes guts. And brains! You guys, my mom has guts and brains.
- she’s the mom that you would all wish you had if you realized how much your moms suck compared to my mom.
- we steal each other’s clothes all the time. Also, the clothes I love the most are the ones she had to persuade me to even try on.
- she runs the world’s most unproductive farm: two insane dogs, four cats with very distinct personalities, and my guinea pig (who is currently living with her instead of me, cry cry cry)
- she’s smarter than everyone else. Because I said so.
- she and my dad traveled the world before I was born and lived in Guatemala, Mexico, and Thailand. She’s also lived in England, France, and Spain.
- it’s her birthday, and I wanted to do something special, and I’m in Connecticut instead of Pennsylvania and too tired to write anything coherent. I hope ya like it anyway, mom. You’re awesome! Also, I hope you like the weird vintage jewelry box I found you that says something in French that I don’t understand because I definitely don’t speak French anymore…
Happy birthday, I love you! You’re the best mom. And I don’t care I DON’T CARE clever person on facebook who said on Mother’s Day “not everyone on facebook’s mom can be the best mom” because my mom is the best. Back off with your cynicism.
Oldest Child aka Cade aka Missylou (thanksmom)
….and now for several pictures!
Hey there, blogworld.
A weird thing happened earlier today. You might have noticed that over on the right side of the blog home page, I have a little area I like to call “Poll-Land” (different from Poland in many ways) that has a bunch of open polls. The one that’s gotten the most responses is the first one, which asks what has brought you to the blog. That has a write-in option.
Today, I checked on the write-in responses just because I’m curious and I hadn’t in a little while, and one of the answers to the question was a very simple “I am suicidal.”
Hmm. That stood out among the usual “Reddit,” “the west wing,” “friends with your parents” responses. (which I do appreciate, of course)
There is obviously the possibility that the response was some kind of trolling or joke or something, which I don’t find to be especially funny and hi, I (a real live person) read those responses, and please don’t say shit like that. But I’m going to proceed as if that’s not what happened because I like to think that even on the internet, people are mostly genuine.
So, to the person who wrote that, if you were serious and if you have returned to my blogland, this is for you.
First off, I am in no way trained to help you out with that! The US National Suicide Prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and I encourage you to call it! They’re trained to help you out and will do a far better job of it than I could.
But beyond that, I’ve been feeling lately that a lot of the chatter on MS message boards and online communities is scarily defeatist, and if you’re suicidal because of MS (which can often cause depression) or because you think MS has ended your life, you need to stop going to those places that are populated with nonsense like that. It’s always the most pissed off people who take to the internet (like my dad on Trip Advisor), and if you need advice about how to feel better about having MS, they’re not the people to talk to.
MS has not ended your life. “Milder” MS is harder than most unaffected people think it is, mainly because a lot of the consequences are invisible. Other people can’t look at you and see that you’re dizzy or nauseous or having cognitive difficulties or exhausted all the time or that your hands and feet are numb. And they’ll dismiss you as healthy and move on. This can cause a lot of frustration and anger. I get that. But another thing that those people don’t see is how much strength it takes to let yourself look healthy and be out and about and trying to live as close to normal a life as possible. They don’t know that you have to make a million little brave sacrifices.
You’re already not letting MS ruin your life if you’re doing that. And if you’re staying at home and letting MS disable you more than it needs to, try to think about how much potential you still have. There are new drugs that are going to be available extremely soon, there are support groups, there are hotlines, there’s friends and there’s family. And if you feel like some of those resources aren’t available to you, please email me or something. Because I added in a fancy Contact Me! page. And I will get back to you ASAP.
Love and worries,
Disclaimer: This has been said before (like here!) but I think it’s important that women in all spheres (even the most liberal) think about this problem and how they can fix it. Also, hi, this is a blog post not about MS.
I’ve been thinking for a while about writing a post on why women are terrible to each other. I think what’s been holding me back is a combination of a) fear, b) not knowing the answer, and c) a lot of negative feedback. Like, don’t I know that saying this will just provoke other women? I don’t think any of those reasons are good enough anymore. So hi. I have some thoughts.
I’ve been hearing for many years that women in academia eat their own. And at first I thought this was just an academia thing that was weird and built out of intellectual competition, but I’ve been realizing that it’s not just academics. It’s comedy and body image and performance and social situations. Women are in constant competition with each other, and I’m really not chill with it.
When you go to the gym with a friend and they’re trying to beat your calorie count on the stationary bike, that’s not healthy. When the comedy groups I’m in have auditions and the women in the groups are being more critical of the women auditioners, that’s not really okay either. (Full truth: I have participated in those situations too. I’m not good at this stuff either.)
Why are women in constant competition with each other? I think my basic theory on this is that women are underrepresented everywhere. In politics, it’s extremely evident. Women make up just 18% of Congress. And in college admissions, more women than men typically apply to schools, and the same number of women and men are often let in, because many schools want to keep the ratio as close to 50/50 as possible. I have a lot of feelings on that ratio, but moving on… Anyway. I think that because women are so underrepresented, there’s a constant feeling (even in arenas where the ratio is 50/50) that there are only so many spots for women and we just have to push each other down to get those spots. That’s fucked up. This desire to be smarter, funnier, skinnier, and prettier than all other women is natural in a sense (natural selection! don’t be the weakest!), but the way that it’s manifesting isn’t healthy. Instead of women wanting to be the best that they can be, just for themselves, most women seem to mainly care about being better than the women around them. Can you go to the gym more than your friends? Can you be in more extracurriculars? Can you get better grades? Is your significant other prettier than theirs? And how much sabotage are you willing to get into to get to that “better than her” spot? Based on what I’ve witnessed (at college, in high school, middle school, at work), it’s a lot of sabotage. A lot of this also comes from women who self-identify as feminists, and who openly blame that ol’ heteropatriarchy for all of women’s problems. And yeah, the heteropatriarchy sucks, but women are also fairly awful to each other.
Since I don’t really expect to fix this problem, I have an alternative: help your fellow women out! But wait, don’t do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it because the more women in a given field means more equality between the sexes, and definitely don’t do it out of compassion. Do it for the wrong reasons. Do it because if you let more women in (though only the qualified ones!), you can actually prove that you’re the best. If you’re the only woman somewhere, it’s really easy to be the best woman. But once you have something to compare to, you can really show off. And don’t be the best by sabotaging those other women, be the best by working hard and striving. And then, if you’re still the best? It’ll mean more.
(yes this is a real poster that I own)