Archive for the ‘articles and poetry’ Category

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Riots, Not Diets!

February 9, 2009

Written by Emily Frances and originally published in Fight Boredom #3, we only thought it apt that we re-publish it here, especially since we have, in the previous post, touched on beauty standards and the scrutiny of female celebrities in pop culture. Is punk culture a separate entity from the dominant culture? We’d like to think so, but the reality is that the former is ensconced in the latter, and if we want to change the world, we must first look within.

The below article opines on an issue which is oft-unrecognized and possibly taboo in the punk/radical/anarchist community, albeit from a Western perspective, but is still extremely pertinent and needs to be addressed.

What do you picture when you think of the ideal radical?

I’ll tell you what we come up with in my community. Skinny, white, pretty, young. Messy hair, tight clothes covered in patches. Unshaven. Piercings and tattoos. This is the unspoken “beauty” standard in radical communities.

In Raleigh, the wingnuts mental health collective, along with the Cooch Care women’s health collective, organized an event called “Riots Not Diets: A Day of Radical Body Acceptance”. That is the first thing we talked about. What are the standards of appearance in the radical community? What happens if you don’t fit the mold? And what kind of pressure does it put on people who don’t fit those standards?

In mainstream culture, it’s acceptable — and actually expected — to hate the way you look, especially if you’re a woman. If you eat more than a salad, you’re supposed to grasp at your stomach and exclaim, “oh, I shouldn’t have eaten so much!” You’re supposed to talk about how little you’re going to eat the next day, and how much you’re going to exercise. These things are normal. But in the radical community, we’re supposed to be “above” these things. We know all the right answers, we know all about oppression. We, as feminists, know that the diet industry — and all of advertising, really — is patriarchal, capitalist bullshit. We know these things.

But the fact is that, even in our communities, there is still a hierarchy based on appearance. So not only is there pressure to look a certain way, but there’s pressure to act like we don’t care about beauty standards.

So we know these things, they make sense on paper, or in our conversations around the dinner table. But when I go to conferences, people avoid me because I’m fat and kind of dress like a hippie. And suddenly, I feel like shit. Because these activists, these supposedly enlightened people, assume something about me that they don’t like. Maybe they think that I’m lazy and greedy. I couldn’t possibly bike or be vegan. Obviously. Because I’m fat. What the fuck, y’all?

It all started when I read this article online about eating disorders in radical communities. I found it about a week ago after a close friend (and housemate in our activist collective) went into an eating disorders treatment facility, and it hit so close to home that I read it five times in one day. I brought it to the mental health collective and shared it with them. It sparked a big conversation, which turned into planning the event.

So after talking about the beauty standards, we talked about eating disorders in the radical community. I know five people, off the top of my head, who are dealing with an eating disorder of some kind. They’re all anarchists who should, supposedly, be above that. Right? Obviously not. Because none of us were raised in complete isolation from society, we got all the brainwashing that everyone else did. We still have voids that we fill with food. Even more so, being hyperaware of the evils of the world, we still feel like we need to be in control of something, and for some people, that something becomes food.

The question that came up in the workshop was, what can we do? What needs to be done? Can we fight someting like this, when it’s still such a taboo topic? Two different women said, “This. Discussions, events like this. We need to get rid of the shame around all of this. We need to talk. This event is exactly what we need right now.” And my eyes teared up, because, shit, we did something right.

So that’s what you can do. Talk about it, don’t assume that your friends are “too smart” to fall into these traps, or that they know too much about the patriarchal bullshit media to succumb to those pressures. If there’s open dialogue, then people will be more aware, and more importantly, they’ll know that it’s not taboo. So when they start to feel weird about their bodies, or get weird food habits, they’ll know who they can go to and say, “hey, can you check it on me?” They’ll know that they’re not the only ones dealing with it. If we get these topics out in the open [without judgement], they won’t feel so ashamed, and people won’t be so afraid to ask for the help they need.

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Body Image and Propaganda

July 30, 2008

The media acts as a propaganda machine determined to shake our confidence, remind us we are not good enough, we have not made it, that we just simply do not measure up. In a recent poll by a well known magazine 80% of women reported that the images of women in TV and in movies, fashion magazines and advertising make them feel insecure about their looks.

Why is the media bent on making us feel so down about ourselves? Why do they go to such lengths to make us feel “less than”? The answer is quite simple – pure economics. The media machine is economically driven as billions are spent on items such as cosmetics, new diets and clothes. This “beautifying” empire is dependent on our disempowerment. They count on us buying into their myths and misrepresentations: WE WILL NEVER FIT IN, WE CAN NEVER BE HAPPY, THUS WE CAN NEVER END THE PURSUIT. Alas, the pursuit is endless, the products are endless, the damage to our self-esteem is endless, and the body hatred created is devastating. The assault is unrelenting! The images are everywhere. How could it all happen, right under our noses? It is a subtle, continuous bombardment of images of beauty, images defined by profiteers, images that are not real, not authentic, and not attainable. The impact that these images have on women and men is profound. The financial, social and psychological and physical damages of a woman’s lifetime pursuit of thinness are impossible to measure. Depression, despair, depletion of self-esteem, the withering and wasting away of physical, psychological and financial resources are unbelievable.

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Barbed Wires of Conformity

April 26, 2008

I was born in the world
of right and wrong
of pink and blue
and of barbed wire of conformity.
The axiom of gender conformity
is a raucous to my ear
and a shackle to my emancipation.
This dogma of chromosome-based life
we are in
denies me of my freedom and rights.
I bellicose this conformity
for I covet the equality

of you and me!

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I Covet the State of Liberation!

April 24, 2008

Why is it so hard to be a grrl? Would it have been different if I was born with XY chromosomes (male) instead of XX chromosomes (female)? Was Charlotte Perkins Gillman right about the state of zero crime in an all-female society in her book, Herland in which she pictured the all-female society as a highly civilized society which opposed all forms of violence? Is entirely possible for a female to live in a total state of safety regardless of her whereabouts?

Personally, I doubt that we female will ever be safe, regardless of where we are. One could easily be a target of assault even in the comforts of one’s home, let alone in the streets. What is it about female which makes it a target of violence regardless of their age? Is it the fact that a female only possess about 52% of the upper body strength of a male? Is it because of the biological difference between a male and a female? Or is it the instinct to dominate of a male?

There could be a million reasons why and the possibilities would be endless, yet the target has always been the same, us females (sigh). We have come a long way since the fundamentals of early feminism which is to abolish gender differences, so that male and female would eventually live the same kind of lives and activities, and equal opportunities in pretty much everything imaginable. Indeed, this fundamental remains the same throughout the years and events. It revolutionized our way of thinking, evolving the fundamental into something bigger, equality not just in terms of equal opportunities in occupation but also our rights to live and the rights to our own body.

Female are not merely cunts and breasts or a sexual symbol. However, being objectified commercially over the past millennia has earned females like us a status of being the object of lust and desire. Being seen as a weaker sex and sordid, females always fall prey of domestic abuse, sexual assault, harassment and other forms of violence. In Malaysia alone, we have seen our share of what reality for a female is. The case of Nureen Jasmeen is a wake up call for our society that something should be done for the sake of our safety. Even little girls are not safe to wander in playgrounds anymore!

Female are imprisoned in everyday gender constraints because of the lack of awareness in our society. This gift given by our mothers and sisters should be rejoiced and yet we are deprived of our own freedom because we are female. No longer safe to walk own our own, traveling, a jog in the park, even in the bus. How we covet the state of living without fear, for we live each single day in survival mode.

It would be an onerous task to create awareness regarding gender equality and the rights of a person to his or her own body in a patriarchal society such as ours but it is not entirely impossible as more people are starting to realize that females are capable of more instead of just cooking and cleaning. More humanist and feminist rise to the occasion of defending and protecting as well as educating the society regarding gender equality and rights.

To eliminate a sexist or superior state of mind entirely in our society would be a utopia. But a little change can mean a big difference. Respect between genders should be taught at a mere age, in kinder gardens and schools. A girl should be made aware that she owns her own body, that she is no weaker than a boy. A boy needs to be remembered to treat a girl with dignity and respect.

Images and portrayal of women as domesticated and a façade of sexual beauty by capitalist generated by mass media may never be fully curbed but it is important that a person is able to distinguish the difference between images and the reality. Female are more than just pretty women in the pages of glossy magazines or the super-moms in toilet bowl cleaner ads. Females are more than just a portrayal of beauty, sex and domesticity. Reality is, female and male are alike. We yearn the same kind of respect from other being, we yearn for the same state of peace and tranquility and we each have our own desires waiting to be fulfilled. And the paramount is that we have equal rights to live and the rights to our own body.

However, the status quo of females will forever be lower than that of a male and we still live our day in fear of our own life and dignity if we choose not act and make a change out of the current state. If a female continues to be objectified, oppressed, domesticated and disdained, then the dogma of women as the weaker sex will forever be embedded in the heart of the society, women and men alike.