Delegates hold up signs and cheer during first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Monday, July 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Delegates hold up signs and cheer during first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Monday, July 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Trump successfully leveraged white fragility to become the Pied Piper of bigots, leading the members of the Republican Party, who are so inclined, away from the clutches of the establishment and into a brighter future, where white supremacy is secure and the dream of American exceptionalism hasn’t been tarnished by the reality of American imperialism. Since scrutiny of the policies put in place by Republican politicians reveals their ineffectiveness at relieving the burden on white working-class and poor Americans, as well as their ineffectiveness at eliminating the “minority threat,” rank-and-file Republicans were easily convinced that their party has failed them. Indeed, it has. The GOP has been playing a shell game with its base, attempting to distract their base with the shiny toy that is white supremacy. Now, it is no longer effective—and not for reasons that are likely to be beneficial to the rest of us.

[Read more at Bitch Magazine.]

sister soldiers

Y’all, my article on Black women activists and police brutality from the Law and Order issue of Bitch Magazine has been posted online. You can read the full essay @ BitchMedia.com, and hear me reading an abridged version of the essay on Bitch’s “A Protest is Not a Riot” podcast here.

Here’s a snippet of the full essay:

This past year, we’ve learned the names of men we should have never had to know. Eric Garner, a 43-year-old man who died in an NYPD chokehold while repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.” Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old shot six times by police officer Darren Wilson. Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot and killed two seconds after police officer Timothy Loehmann arrived at a Cleveland, Ohio, park in response to a 911 call about a child waving a toy gun. Their names have become synonymous with police brutality against Black Americans, and their recent deaths have highlighted the pervasive racism within American law enforcement. A new Black liberation movement is in the process of formation, spurred by collective outrage over anti-Black police brutality.

choice

Last month, I had an abortion.

I’ve been a strident advocate for a woman’s right to choose since I was a pre-teen, and it’s still difficult for me to say those words. So many assumptions about my life can be made on the basis of that admission, and the shame is real. For White women in American society, the shame of having an abortion is mainly centered on their individual behavior. For Black women, our behavior reflects on Black folks as a whole, specifically other Black women—so the scope of the shame is much wider. An unintended pregnancy can call your responsibility into question, and regardless of your age, the specter of the stereotypical Black teenage mother casts a long shadow.

Read more at EBONY.com.

Plus Size Revolution?

After a lot of soul-searching and introspection, I’ve come to the conclusion that being welcomed into the fashion industrial complex is not entirely the kind of progress I want to see in the fat acceptance movement.

Now, I love clothes. I mean, I LOVE clothes. But I’m also personally invested in intersectionality and the idea that all liberation movements are entwined. So when I see us desiring to buy into the mindless capitalism and consumption of clothing that’s marketed to thin folks, I get frustrated. Insisting that fat folks’ money is just as good as thin folks’ money, so therefore we should have equal access to the same sweatshop-produced clothing lines offered by multinational corporations who use their profits to subjugate marginalized folks around the world? I don’t want that kind of revolution. We’re fighting to starve the multi-billion dollar diet industry of its ill-gotten profits, but falling all over ourselves to hand cash over to these companies? Naw. I don’t feel like we’ve made any type of substantive advance in the treatment of fat folks when H&M comes out with plus-size dresses for us to conspicuously consume. I haven’t yet heard of Southwest Airlines making a fat person buy two seats but later refunding one because they found out the fat person was wearing a shirt from ASOS on the flight. And surprisingly, when a dude yelled “fatass” out his car window at me the other day, my cute Forever 21+ skirt didn’t cause him to follow that statement up with “nice skirt, though–really validates your existence!”. Or maybe I just didn’t hear that last part, what with the Doppler effect and all.

With most fashion being made by underpaid, abused workers in “developing” countries, it’s not actually that great overall when companies decide to make more of it, just in bigger sizes. Like most people, I don’t always buy sustainable, ethically-produced clothing, so I can’t get too high on my horse about it. And it’s not like I’m going to be able to only buy clothes from Etsy sellers who make custom sizes or start making my own clothes. I just feel like when you’re in a movement fighting for revolution you have to be more discriminating about what you consider progress, what you consider revolutionary. I don’t consider more of the same oppressive business practices revolutionary. I want part of this movement to be us fighting to dismantle the fashion industrial complex. I want “fatshion” to mean fashion we create as a fat community, or fashion based on inclusive, ethical business practices brought about by activists effecting change. Of course I’m excited when there are new clothing options for fat folks, and I’m not faulting anyone else who is too. Everyone likes looking “good”. But we know “good” is entirely subjective. Our society is centered on aesthetics, which is another thing we need to be working to change–because marginalization by lack of “attractiveness” or even “stylishness” is one aspect of many, many types of discrimination against underprivileged groups. If we didn’t have the cultural push to appear normative, we wouldn’t be willing to accept this kind of “progress” with a smile.

I have complained about the lack of fashionable options for plus-sized folks. But at this point, I’m done buying into corporate pacification of the fat acceptance movement via throwing us a size 20 Rachel Pally bone. And I’m not going to spend any more time and energy on “activism” to demand inclusion within an industry that continues to thrive on exclusion. Exclusion based on class, based on location, based on able-bodied-ness–and still based on size, because most “fashionable” plus size lines stop at size 24. There’s a whole lot of people above size 24. High-end designers trade on unobtainability, so I’m not really holding my breath for say, size 22 Chanel, either. It’s kind of another way to divide us, really, especially across class lines. When you can’t afford jack, it can make you feel crappy when you see your fellow activists wearing the cute new dress from ASOS that cost what your weekly food budget is. It’s hard to focus on the prize (like being treated with respect and dignity, or not being discriminated against in hiring) when you see the immediate spoils going to those with class privilege. So you take your eyes off that prize and start spending time fighting to get cheaper fashionable clothes. Meanwhile, society is fighting a war against your existence.

This is a really complicated issue; I’m not going to pretend it’s not. I’m just at a point in my activism where I have to start reconciling all the things I know to be wrong with how the world operates, all the ways I contribute to others’ oppression, and how my actions square with my internal radical politics. I want us to think about these kinds of things as a movement, just as we need to think about intersectionality, and as we need to think about rejecting the politic of desirability. When it comes to consumption, we may not need to eat less, but we definitely need to focus on buying less. At the least, we need to think about why we feel assimilation into the fashion industrial complex is a goal we’re fighting to achieve, and how that goal can end up hurting us in the long run–because by making assimilation our goal, we are implicitly accepting society’s power to enforce normative beauty standards, which is one of the main things we’ve been attempting to subvert.

[This was written in 2012 for my blog Sex and the Fat Girl, but never published for reasons.]

The idea of Black women being called on to impart their essence into a white woman in order for her to become empowered is laughable, when you consider the fact that actual Black women are systematically disempowered in American society. Yet when viewed in the context of the social construction of an essential Black culture, and white folks’ subsequent appropriation of said culture, it makes total sense. Why not pick and choose the most desirable aspects of what you’ve created and incorporate them into your own identity? Why not then shame the people whose culture you stole, reconstructed, and marketed back to them for engaging in those same activities? Why worry about the historical significance of your actions when nothing other than the protests of those occupying a lesser social status compel you to do so?

[read more at Bitch Magazine.]
Photography by Olivier Fermariello.
Photography by Olivier Fermariello.

Representations of nudity in Western popular culture are rarely inclusive of “physically disabled” or “non-normative” bodies. If nude disabled bodies are represented at all, it’s usually in a medicalized, Othered context–case studies of the “disfigured” or collections of outrageous pictures of “freakish” bodies. Our cultural relationship with physical disability is contradictory; we’re trained to look the other way when clothed non-normative bodies enter our field of view, but we’re encouraged to gawk at nude disabled bodies on display for our entertainment and wonder. Exposure to positive portrayals of disabled bodies in the nude isn’t something that most people in Western culture experience without seeking it out. So it’s no surprise that our attitude towards nude disabled bodies as a society is generally a negative one, since of course, our culture’s attitude towards disability itself is rarely positive. Institutionalized ableism serves to marginalize non-normative bodies and keep empowering representations of them, nude or not, from becoming part of mainstream visual consciousness.

Because our Western society values the concepts of “strength” and “self-sufficiency” so highly, a disabled body is judged by its perceived lack of either. Disability is seen as weakness, and is not only socially undesirable but undesirable sexually, and in a sex-saturated culture desirability is a large part of a body’s worth. For men, from whom society demands unwavering strength, this is a harsh blow to their ability to express themselves sexually or to be seen as a sexual being. Inferred weakness or helplessness in a man shifts the gaze of desire onwards for a great many. Women are given more license to be viewed as helpless or weak, however, if any disabled body is shaped in a way that is radically different than what we’re taught to see as normal, it’s deemed “disfigured” and any value it has is primarily based in its usefulness as a specimen or as an object for fetishization. Rarely are we treated to the bodies society calls “disfigured” being presented as desirable in a non-exploitative manner. Thus for many people, seeing a nude disabled body can bring up negative emotions, feelings of disgust, fear, pity, etc. Disgust because we’re so trained to view bodies through a narrow lens of normalcy, we can’t imagine a body that looks radically different than the bodies we’re told are “normal” could be anything but “disgusting”. Fear because our response to anything unfamiliar or that we don’t understand tends to be a level of fear, and pity because our culture drums it into us that living in a body that isn’t “normal” and is harder to operate couldn’t possibly be worth it. The concept of “normal” is, of course, incredibly flawed. Western values dictating that worth lies in productivity lead us to devalue bodies that don’t live up to our idea of how a body must function in order to be productive. All of this cultural training skews the lens through which we view a nude disabled body.

This worldview on disability leaves little room for productive discussions of disability and nudity with everyday people. When portrayals of nude disabled bodies are relegated to the Discovery Channel’s “Extreme Bodies” or TLC’s “The Woman With Giant Legs”, there’s no opportunity to discuss how disability justice must include sex and body-positivity. There’s no back-and-forth about why society presents disabled bodies this way. But disability activists and artists are and have been working to create positive representations of nude disabled bodies in both a sexual and a non-sexual context that actively challenge the societal construction of disability and open a dialogue on how we determine a body’s “worth”. Tanya Raabe, a disabled British artist, has painted a series of portraits, many nude, of disabled people’s bodies in a collection entitled “Revealing Culture: Head On”. Holly Norris’ “American Able” series of photographs spoofs American Apparel’s use of nudity in their ads and challenges their lack of inclusiveness of non-normative or disabled bodies. And Jim Ferris’ “Uncovery to Recovery: Reclaiming One Man’s Body on a Nude Photo Shoot” requests a discourse on disability and the performative nature of gender via the presentation of a queer disabled man’s nude body.

Although our sex/body-positive work surrounding disability should not necessarily be aimed at having nude disabled bodies be validated by mainstream society as desirable, the body-positive principles of affirmation and celebration of all bodies dictates that we must work towards having disabled bodies represented equally in mainstream media and accepted as natural variations of body type. A “disabled” body, as any other body, can be used to express sexuality and personality, can give affection, can lay damp and naked on the bed letting the cool fan breeze dry it off. Disabled bodies can dance, can skinny dip, can feel stress deliciously melt away when a lover lays their hand upon it. All that, just maybe differently than yours can. And differently than another disabled person’s might. Our work, as always, should be focused on highlighting the commonalities between bodies and lovingly appreciating the differences–functionally and aesthetically.

[This piece originally appeared in Corset Magazine.]

Being raw and emotionally vulnerable in public is not something I’m very comfortable with. Talking loudly about sex acts, bodily fluids and consuming large quantities of cake products in public doesn’t bother me. Having my tits hanging half out or my skirt hiked up past my ass in public barely registers on my “for shame” meter. Even describing elaborate sexual fantasies in detail on public transportation next to elderly women who are clearly scandalized doesn’t make me bat an eye. But when it comes to what’s going on in my head, the non-superficial stuff, laying bare my dysfunctional thought processes, I just can’t. Not to anyone but those closest to me. At a young age I learned that most people don’t want to deal with the unpretty stuff. The things that aren’t resolved by reassurances and pep talks. The ugly crying. Dark moods that last months, suicidal panic attacks that occur every day like clockwork, and self-loathing so intense it has a distinct and palpable feeling. Days spent just surviving, not living, not growing, just continuing on the same broken path because that’s all you can do. I have been there and I have been silent because that is not the voice I want people to hear. It’s not the voice I think other people want to hear. But a lot of the time, it’s the voice I have.

Illustration by Pheobe Wahl
Illustration by Pheobe Wahl

There is so much pressure to be “okay”. During the short time I’ve had this particular blog, I’ve received a lot of messages from folks, fat, queer, and otherwise, who feel really crappy about themselves for feeling crappy about themselves. They feel like all their “role models” are able to reach that high level of self-esteem, and they can’t because they’re fundamentally flawed. It’s basically meta low self-esteem, and I think the internet and social media in general really contribute to the illusion that there’s some kind of pinnacle that you reach when you’ve achieved something like OT 7 of self love (excuse the Scientology reference). Because we do want to put our best face out there, and we do create an image, whether consciously or unconsciously, that doesn’t necessarily reflect our inner world. Society at large isn’t exactly accepting of what is popularly considered “weakness”, so it’s not really shocking that when given the opportunity to filter what other people know about our lives, we leave out the negative. I’ve always thought I tried to be true to life on the internet, but I’ve been surprised when I meet people who only know my life from what they read online and have this illusion that it’s one big fat awesome party with lots of sex and food. I ended up buying into that trap of thinking that I HAVE to be this certain way to be accepted, that I can’t be real and have varying feelings that aren’t all I AM HOT, BEING FAT IS AWESOME, I LOVE SEX. When my voice changed from a confident, clarion call for body acceptance and open fat & queer sexuality to a plaintive cry for help out of the dark place I found myself in, I retreated. Like I said, vulnerability is extremely hard for me (and many people) to share and work with in a public way. It opens you up to attack by so many people who want nothing to do but hurt you. People who have been chomping at the bit to see you fall down.

I now know that in vulnerability is strength, but we’re not made to feel like it. To so many, talking about actual feelings is “overshare”. Sharing negative feelings is just annoying and inconvenient to listen to. If you’re feeling less than joyous about life, you must be putting some kind of intention out there that is inviting bad shit onto your doorstep. This is victim-blaming. It impedes openness and real talk. Yet being able to talk things out and share each others’ struggles is so vital for building community. I don’t endorse letting your personal crazy run roughshod over everyone around you, but we need to make it easier to fall apart for a minute, or an hour, or a month, and still be supported & validated. Those feelings are REAL and whether other people want to admit it or not, they feel them too sometimes.

I’ve been doing a lot of internal work during these past few months, and also thinking A LOT about the way we represent ourselves in community spaces and how that can contribute to our feelings of isolation. Because it’s been really difficult for me to handle socializing lately, even online socializing, I’ve taken breaks and thus reflected on how I’m affected by the push to be perfect. I, too, have suffered and still do suffer at times from meta low self-esteem. The confidence I once had in abundance is often hard to find these days, so I’ve kept online communications to a minimum. But I’m finally coming here to share my imperfections and how I’m growing, and hope that maybe knowing that someone who is supposed to be beyond this shit actually ISN’T all of the time will help a few people feel less isolated.

I believe now, wholeheartedly, that to truly be confident you have to accept vulnerability, and embrace it. I’d often been asked how to start loving yourself wholly, and I never really had a good answer other than “just start”. I have another answer now–I think that expressing vulnerability, getting past that shame that we have internalized, letting it be known that hey, I’m not there yet, or I was there and right now I’m not, is the first step, and the fifth step, and can really be any step you need to take along the never ending journey that is loving yourself. I want to see a community that encourages vulnerability. Whether you feel shame surrounding your body, or your queerness, or your gender identity, there should be no shame necessary in acknowledging that.

And I’ve felt a lot of shame in my life about being fat, queer, femme, mixed race, slutty and all that. I wasn’t born “fierce”. It took me a long, long time to get to where I am now, and fuck it, sometimes I backslide. And I have to admit that, and own it, and hold in my heart a place for that girl who was abused, who was shamed, who is a survivor that still needs nurturing and reassurance sometimes.

We all need to hold a place for that person–for ourselves and everyone else we love, and everyone we should love.

There is a widespread belief in Western culture that it is necessary to police the health of every fat person. Judgments are made about the state of the inside of fat bodies based on the appearance of the outside of their bodies. Most people don’t see that as a negative thing, or an inappropriate thing. We’re used to diagnosing illnesses from afar. We call drug-fueled, out-of-control celebs “crazy” without having a clue as to their actual mental health status. We cattily tell people whose bodies we feel are too thin to “eat a hamburger,” assuming they have an eating disorder. But with fat people, there is a hate and a system of oppression behind our culture’s so-called “concern” for their health. It’s beyond simple comments and offhand remarks. There is a concerted effort by the diet industry, government, media, and our culture to use the guise of concern for health to shame fat people into dieting or continuing to diet, regardless of the health problems the dieting may bring. Urged on by the media and the current “obesity epidemic” hype, ostensibly well-meaning people nag family members and friends to lose the “unhealthy” weight. Yet more and more studies are showing that it’s completely possible to be fat and healthy. What can be deadly is the stigma associated with being fat. The question is, why are we so stuck on fat equaling poor health, and why do we feel that based on their assumed poor health, it’s okay to treat fat people as second class citizens?

[read the rest of the article on Clutch Magazine…]

I did a post on Bitch called “Unicorns, Better Head and Other Myths” in which I briefly brought up the commonly-held belief that fat girls are better at blowjobs. Namely because they have such low self-esteem that they’re grateful for the opportunity to get anywhere near a dick, so they get really good at it. This myth is recognizably heterosexist and cissexist in that it refers solely to fat girls’ relationships with cis men’s penises. But since that’s the common usage, I’m going to talk specifically about the act of giving a cis guy a blowjob.

Blowjobs and I have a complicated relationship, and that has a lot to do with me being fat. See, I’m good at giving blowjobs. Really good. I make men stutter, I produce euphoria that lasts hours after I finish swallowing, I learn quickly and I love doing it. I’ll go down in an instant if I like someone, not because I’m trying to get guys to like me or really do much more for them–it’s because I like doing it, it gives me pleasure. For me it’s not really something I’m doing for their benefit until I have more of an emotional relationship with them. In fact, I tend to hold back on going down on guys for a few dates when I’m interested in a relationship. I haven’t been as vocal as I’d like to be about my love of giving blowjobs because I’m fat, and when fat chicks go down on a cis guy, they’re doing it because they’re desperate. Or emotionally damaged. Or seeking male attention. Whatever the reason, it’s never a positive one and it’s always related to fat being something you have to overcome when dating. So I’m reluctant to go ahead and fulfill that stereotype. It’s like how I want to make sure my hair doesn’t smell so people don’t think all black women’s hair is dirty. You know?

The “fat girls give better head” stereotype is of course fatphobic but is also inherently slut-shaming because it’s representing being proficient at a sex act as something negative. And in a lot of people’s minds, being good at sex means you’ve had more, which equals slut/whore for women. It’s tied in to the stereotype of fat girls as “easy” (aka slutty) because they have low self-esteem, and not because they simply love sex. When you’re a fat girl you’re not allowed to have a lot of sex unless you’re desperately searching for attention. The sex-loving, confident fat girl is in this case invisible. Our sexuality is always complicated by the difference between our view of our own sexuality and society’s view of what fat sexuality should look like. Meaning, it should be either kept completely behind closed doors or fit within the framework of self-loathing and body hate that all fat women are expected to experience on a daily basis. This is why cultivating a sex-positive culture is necessarily important to fat/body acceptance, and why we have to make fat visible in sex-positive movements and spaces.

That is the reason I decided to stop worrying about fulfilling stereotypes and start making myself visible as a sex-loving, confident fat chick on my own terms. I’m not just talking about loving giving head, but also about owning my sexuality. That’s also pretty much the reason I started this blog, because I wanted to represent a different way of viewing fat women’s sexuality. This space is important to me, and I hope by being open about myself, I can encourage other fat girls who maybe haven’t yet to start down the path of owning their sexuality. Also, I like talking about sex.

And that’s about it.

This column has come to an end! I hope what we discussed helped you learn to love yourself a bit more. And, of course, I hope it made you think a bit and challenge assumptions about fat sexuality and societal beauty standards. My goal is to enlighten and deconstruct, to help fat women empower themselves and take their body image and sexuality into their own hands. So if anyone started on the road to self-acceptance because of this column, I’m happy.

I feel like talking loudly about fat sexuality is important, and I hope you’re interested in keeping this dialogue going, whether with other fat women or just with yourself. I want to work towards changing societal beauty standards and then eliminate them. I want society, or at the very least the FA community, to recognize that choosing to be fat is as valid as the claims of innocence. I want fat women everywhere to enjoy their bodies and learn what pleasure they can bring. I want to untangle fat from health. And I want you to do it with me.

It’s doubtful that this column alone will be revolutionary, of course. It’s just one voice. But if all fat people, not just women, start singing the same song, I think we can move mountains. And not just mountains of flesh. With time and persistence, eventually the revolution will come, whether or not it’s in my lifetime. But I hope I get to see the day when being fat is just as valid as being thin, when fat sex is not met with “eww, keep it indoors,” and when our paragons of beauty come in all shapes and sizes.

If you’re interested in reading more, you can check out my blog, also called Sex and the Fat Girl. You can find me on Twitter as @misstashafierce and on Facebook.

Keep in touch, and thank you for supporting this column. Much love.