24 April 2010

I'm Krista fucking Benson: I'm seeing the me you see

Like many people whose identities contain some aspects of oppression or underrepresentation, I often find myself apologizing for myself. When a professor in my graduate program tells me that I did a good job or that I'm helpful in class, I often find myself minimizing my knowledge and contribution.

When a faculty member tells me that I have helped their students, I find myself staring at the ground and mumbling.

Because, in the culture I grew up in (and as the person within that culture I was socialized to be), one simply doesn't say "Yes, I'm amazing." You hem and haw and belittle your own awesomeness in the service of some larger sense of humility.

Well, I'm finally realizing (finally, just 30 years later) .... that's bullshit.

Minimizing our own awesomeness is just like apologizing for nothing - we are taking away from the enormous successes that we have. We are apologizing for that success before it ever happens, coloring our world(s) with self-effacing words that obfuscate our real amazingness.

I mean, think about it. How often have you heard someone who can really, really sing say "Oh, I USED to be able to sing" or "It's not a big deal?" How often have you seen someone whip up a website in 20 minutes that would have taken you 15 hours (and looked worse) who minimized that task?

How often have you wished that these people would just see the amazingness of themselves?

I have wished it more than once. On my arm, in fact, I have a memorial tattoo for a friend who never did see herself the way I saw her before she died, far too young.

I wish you could see the you that I see

So I'm trying. Because I think that what we do matters more than what we say, I'm trying to figure out what it takes for people who have been historically and systematically silenced to say "This is who I am and who I am is amazing"?

That's what's being explored right now at Shapley Prose and Tiger Beatdown. Now, I have admittedly had issues with both blogs in the past. I imagine I will again. I have not suddenly become a convert to some kind of worshipful religion.

But this idea? The idea of standing up, of putting your stake in the ground and saying "This is who I am and this is what is amazing about me"? This is incredibly paradigm-shifting. Because we dismiss the damaging forms of humility and stand up and recongize our own awesomeness.

So I'm Krista fucking Benson. I'm a fantastic career counselor, a good teacher, and a strong academic. I understand theory and methods easier than most people understand multiplication tables and I will eventually be an amazing faculty member. I'm a good girlfriend, a fantastic friend, and I cook a mean green curry.

I'm Krista fucking Benson. Recognize.

12 April 2010

Feminism/Womanism and The Cracks In My Movement

Ever since I was 17, I've called myself a feminist. Feminism, as a matter of fact, has been central to my concept of myself. Absolutely, the way that identity has manifested and focused itself has shifted with time - as I became more aware of my own privilege and power and unpacked my knapsack, much of the focus I had as a young feminist seems, at best, naive and often actually offensive.

But that process was still important - the transition from one concept of feminism to a more justice-oriented feminism that included awareness of and pushing against oppression of all kinds was an important part of my identity formation and, therefore, something that I hope to see feminists of all walks of life going through.

But they don't. WE don't. And I have no choice but to admit that my chosen identity, the people that I call my people, have issues.

We have long-standing issues with race, as well as with sexuality, ableism, with tokenizing transgendered and intersexed individuals, and with a host of other issues of intersections of power and privilege. Like it or not (and I don't), I have to admit that this movement is still largely for and of white, middle-class, straight (or straight-appearing), traditionally attractive, able-bodied cisgendered women.

I am not all of those things, but I am enough of them that I blend. And, absolutely, there are people within the feminist movement who have found their home there without fitting into those identity categories. But there are plenty of women who feel the way that Renee Martin does, that feminism has no room made for her or her life.

And ignoring that, engaging in some knee-jerk "nuh uh! no no no, we HAVE BLACK FRIENDS, TOO" bullshit doesn't fix the fact that we feminists, we've got issues in our own movement. And plugging our ears and saying "No no no" doesn't solve it. It makes it worse.

08 April 2010

Cease Fire

For my entire adult life, I have been trying to find a way to discover a healthy relationship with food, size, and exercise. I've known my background was disordered and that I simply didn't have motives that worked particularly well in any of those areas. When you've been an eating-disordered woman with periodic exercise disorders for an entire lifetime, it becomes hard to break those motivations.

And then I broke my leg last summer. I've never had a serious break in my body before and I've definitely never had what amounted to 6 months of casting and physical therapy to get me to a place where I was operating at 90% strength and 40% flexibility. Yes. 40%.

That doesn't seem like a big deal until you start thinking about the ramifications. Because I couldn't move my leg at full flexibility, I limped at all times (this is not entirely past-tense, I still limp). Limping causes permanent changes and damage to muscles and joints. It also means that I can't walk as far as I used to be able to, I still can't run, and at the end of a conference in Boston when I wanted to dance at the Big Gay Professionals Dance (yeah, really), I had to sit in a chair and watch. Because I couldn't.

Having a shitty relationship with your body definitely carries a whole new meaning when your body won't do what you want it to do or what you're used to it doing.

I realize this is obvious to those who have experienced a different kind of disability than I've lived with my entire life and for that, I apologize for my privilege in being surprised. But I was surprised. I still AM surprised.

Lately, I've been struggling with my own internalized ableism and the way that I react to the levels of invisible/visible disability I am living with. And I think that's good, although potentially very boring for my loved ones.

But I have found a plus to this whole ridiculous situation - I finally have a healthy motivation for exercise. Because when I use an eplitical machine at least 3 times a week? I walk better.

It's that simple. That immediate. When I go to the gym at my university and I spend at least 30 minutes on that machine and, ideally, some time lifting weights, I limp less (sometimes not at all), I stretch out my tendons so that I can walk farther without pain, and I walk more smoothly even when I am limping.

I've never had this. I've never had a tangible reason to exercise regularly that was immediate and completely disconnected from the size of my ass or the numbers on my jeans. And it's amazing. It's nice to plan activities out that are making my body better and know, really know, that it's not about all of the crap that sits in the background for me with exercise. I go. I walk better. I feel better.

It's amazing. This must be what it's like to do this without all the crap. And although it's not gone, it's not forefront anymore. I'm not saying I'm grateful for all of the accompanying pain, but there is one good side-effect to this experience of brokenness that I've been living with - I'm finally trying to come to a cease-fire with my body's war against itself.