28 February 2010

Letter to Me at 17

Dear Krista:

Holy shit, kid. You're going to grow up. It seems impossible now, like you're always going to be stuck in that life, stuck in that town, stuck staring out at a future that you'll never touch. But you're not stuck. You're just waiting, just like everyone seems to wait at 17, but you won't hear that now.

So if you hear anything, hear this: You will get out.

It's an amazing world that you're going to see. You're going to get your heart broken, you're going to travel to places you can't even imagine, you're going to make friends you couldn't live without, you're going to learn to tell stories. You're going to become an academic and you're not going to become a lawyer and, even though you're happy, it's going to take you a long time to accept that not being a lawyer is okay.

You're going to make mistakes, you're going to struggle, and it's going to be good.

Somedays, you're going to eat a meal without mentally tabulating the caloric intake and you're going to exercise until it stops feeling good.

You're going to get less well and youre going to get more well.

Mostly, you're going to live.

I'm not going to tell you that you won't hurt - there will be people who mean the world to you that disappear and people you think matter that you end up asking to leave. You will make friends who could last a lifetime who last only a year or two and you will have friends that celebrate knowing you for 18 years.

You will still be friends with Anna Brady.

Your heart is bigger than you think, angry girl. That doesn't mean that you have to apologize for your rage right now - it's what you need to surivve - but don't think that you'll have it forever.

The first lines on your face will be from laughter and thought, not from sorrow.

If I could give you any advice in the world it would be these things:

1) Stop obsessing about size - your weight, your clothing size, the inches of your waist, nobody but you really cares. And the ones who do care ... they're stupid and you don't like them, anyway.

2) Don't apologize for being smart - someday, it's going to be the thing you're most proud of.

3) Don't hide how different you are - you're bad at it and you're awesome.

4) Don't worry, you're going to have the friends that last someday and they will surprise and amaze you and they will always make you laugh.

5) Don't worry about crying - everyone does it. You should do it more.

6) Don't think you know where you're going - 13 years later, I'm still not sure. But now, I'm okay with it.

7) You're going to get hurt by people you love. Don't stop loving.

But I can't give you advice, anyway, angry girl. Because if I stopped you on the street at 17 and brushed your bright red hair away from your face and said these things to you, you wouldn't hear me.

That's okay. It's okay to be angry, too.


You. Just older.

Stumbling to the ... end of a quarter

I had a whole thing about this quarter and how hard it's been, both working for the university and in my own academic work. But that was boring and I realized that if I didn't even really want to write it, nobody would want to read it.

So! Instead. A video exploring gendered representations in children's cartoons in the 1980s and 19980s. I think that my girlfriend would probably have something to say about her dismissal of My Little Ponies (seriously, she's VERY knowledgeable about the collecting habits of this children's toy), but I don't know that she would disagree with the premise.

So why is it that male characters are expected to speak to everyone, but women only to women? Is it Laura Mulvey's male gaze? I'm not certain - although there is some value in what she is saying, I don't know that the gaze is the entire explanation, nor particularly accurate. So what is it, then, about our culture that makes characterization so static - female characters aren't just unidimensional, they're limited to a handful of characterizations.

And, really, what do we do about it? What can we do about it?

22 February 2010

And now you think "That's the way it's gonna be."

I kind of want to move in with Gabby Sidibe (of Precious fame) because of quotes like this:
I learned to love myself, because I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don't like myself, there's no reason to even live the life.

And there's so much more awesome there! Every interview I've read with her has been amazingly charming, but this one made me smile a lot: Living the Life.

10 February 2010

Body Positive at Any Damn Size

All right. We're going there. I've been stuck on bodies lately and I keep treating this like it is a continuation of the journal that I had for 9 years running - like there's context, like there's an archive to get information to give some sort of background. There's not.

I come from a long line of disordered eaters and I followed in that fine tradition - I, like generations of big-hipped ladies before me, was an excellent anorexic.

But this isn't about that time, something I have blogged extensively about and might again, if I ever feel like it. This is about what it means to be "healthy."

I'm having a lot of struggles with reactionary body-hate I hear every day. I hear it at my work, I hear it in my graduate classes, I see it online, and I sometimes even get to revel in it while having a drink after work with friends. And I feel like I get weird side-glances during a lot of it because I'm not thin anymore. I'm not exactly fat, either - and no, that's not me bragging, just being accurate - but I exist in a body that looks a lot like many women's bodies, with a belly and an ass and larger breasts and thighs that rub together.

Now, I love all of ya'll who are exercising more and eating better and making your lives feel good. Seriously. I want to high five every one of you, because we SHOULD move our bodies, we SHOULD eat food that has recognizable food it in, we SHOULD like the way we feel.

But that doesn't have to be correlated to size. And, often, it isn't. I'm not going to name numbers, not because they're shameful, but because I honestly don't know them. When I started into recovery for my eating disorder, the first thing that had to be thrown out was my scale.

But I was sick when I was thin. I have certain heart concerns that I would never have had, I was anemic, I had no energy, I was a caffeine-pill junkie, I developed a pre-ulceric condition at 17, I had constant headaches and pain ... I was hungry. I was hungry and supplementing pills and cigarettes and cup after cup of coffee and Diet Coke and gum for food, with a steady influx of disordered exercise where I more than once FELL DOWN while running because I was so lightheaded.

When I was a size 6 or 8, nobody ever asked me how much I exercised. They didn't ask me how many vegetables I ate, they didn't condescendingly note the exercise habits that they did see. They just assumed that thin=healthy, so I must have been good.

I wasn't.

I'm sick of the pseudo-science being thrown around that obesity/my fat ass CAUSES things - thanks to a reminder of quantitative research methods from my class 11 years ago (because I turned around and got old), I now remember the way that popular media throws around the term "cause." The ONLY causal relationship that is scientifically significant between obesity and health?

The fatter you are, the less likely you are to go to a doctor. That's it. They may be able to show a correlation between weight and some diseases, but the only CAUSAL relationship? Is how often people go to doctors.

And you know when the last time I went to the doctor (the doctor, not my surgeon or PT for my broken leg)? It's been years.

This isn't saying that I don't want to hear about health. I love hearing about the new vegetable recipe you've tried or how beginning runners get over that initial feeling of disappointment. I enjoy when people talk about getting stronger and moving better.

I like to hear about the night you went dancing last weekend and didn't stop for three hours.

But lets not talk about pants size, okay? Lets not talk numbers and weight and BMI and all of that shit that doesn't really matter.

Tell me what you are and what you love, not some useless set of numbers. Please.

09 February 2010

Oh, Spokane

A lot of people who live in my city don't particularly like it here. I think it's because many people have grown up here and need to move away.

Me? I'm from Montana. Spokane was the Big City for me when I moved here in 1998.

There are a lot of things I like about this place: decent numbers of trees, easily-accessible nature, weird little indie stores that probably wouldn't manage to stay open in a larger city. Hell, we have a river that runs though the middle of town.

One thing that I do NOT love, however, is Spokane's love affair with parking lots. Have a historical building? Let's tear it down and pave us another parking lot! Have open spaces? Let's pave it!

And now, a church on the lower side of one of our wealthier neighborhoods (which isn't saying much, Spokane is pretty much working-class to the CORE) is trying to push through a variance on building code to tear down a bunch of buildings in a historical neighborhood. Why? Of course. Because we need a PARKING LOT.

The strange thing about Spokane's obsession with parking lots is this: we have plenty of parking. We are not New York City or even Seattle or Portland - there is plenty of on-street parking in residential neighborhoods and light commercial areas. In what passes for a "downtown core" (it's reviving, but it's not exactly bustling), we have three large parking garages that I can think of.

One of the most awesome things about Spokane is the weird, quirky character of the town. We're in danger of losing it for one damn parking lot after another.

04 February 2010

Cyborg Bodies

Believe it or not, I don't spend all of my time thinking about resumes, bodies, or fashion (though it probably seems like it to those who read my academic work). In the last couple of days, I've been returning to a text that I have found useful in a lot of contexts to work with ways that it can tease out different aspects of what I've been focusing on lately - fashion, bodies, queerness, the academy, and me (at heart, isn't most academic work about the academics themselves?).

The text is Donna Haraway's Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Haraway's background is interesting - she started as a feminist-socialist biologist and has since kind of slid into a poststructured, postmodern position against some pretty traditional feminist stances rooted in biology and binary politics and identities. In this book, she specifically advocates differntial politics for "inappropriate/d others," a phrase borrowed from Tinh T. Minh-ha which refers to a historical positioning of those people who refuse to adopt the personae of "self" or "other" offered by the dominating narratives of identity and politics. For Haraway, these inappropriate/d others are often those most dismissed in the world - women, people of color, members of ethnic or national groups which are considered "primitive."

Some of us, she says, become "cyborgs" - a chimera or intentionally-created hybrids of both the natural and the mechanical or constructed. This allows for room for many of us to move outside of binary concepts - Am I this way because I was born this way or because I was taught to be her? - and start to find a place in this hybridity.

The rejection of binaries has always been an attractive thing to me - to deny that people are one or the other, never both and certainly neither has an appeal that rings true in my experience of the world. It may be the baby punk that still lives somewhere inside me, but having someone tell me who and what I am, what that means ... it chafes.

What would it mean, then, for my body to be a cyborg body? How does that play into the discomforts I've been mulling over for the last couple of weeks with fashion and professional identity and queerness?

There are obvious constructs at play here -- "professional," "academic," "grown up," "woman," "queer," "feminine," so many others -- and many of them are at odds with each other. There are also things that I might want to call "natural" -- the concept of my own sexuality that I choose to call queer, the physical presence of my body. The tensions exist not just in the biological-to-construct parts of this story, but even within both groups. It is not as if my biology is rejecting the constructs or the constructed is rejecting my body; something far more insidious is happening. Each of the parts pulls at the others.

Even the tension of what clothes I put on to go to work this morning live within these points sometimes pulling and sometimes pushing at one another. A lot of people probably find this either ridiculous or depressing, but I am pretty sure that I find it comforting - I've always wanted to have explanations, theories, possible ideas that help the world make more sense.

And if the world, if it's this cyborg body, if it's the way that we construct ourselves, then it's not just me.