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Archive for the ‘body image’ Category

reframing “sexual maturity”

Posted by pocochina on March 3, 2010

I’d like to challenge prevailing ideas of “sexual maturity” from a pro-PWD (and particular, people with invisible mental illness) perspective.  This is clearly an idea found within mainstream feminism, but I don’t think it’s really all that distinguishable from mainstream thought in general, so, you know, apply as necessary.  Overall, it is problematic because it defines women’s brains on what we do with our bodies, even if it does so in the spirit of fighting shame and stigma; it leaves out adults with developmental disabilities; and it’s harmful to teens with mental illness.  I’ll be concentrating on that last one because it’s closest to my knowledge and experience, but I’d love to hear in comments from folks who have opinions on the first two as well.

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Posted by pocochina on January 27, 2008

I’m not really a celebrity-watcher (I hadn’t ever read Perez until the tragic news about Heath Ledger earlier this week), but I am oddly a watcher of celebrity coverage.  By which I mean, I don’t know or care Lindsey Lohan is up to, but when I see her on CNN, I read and wonder why we feel so free to speculate on whether she suffers from bulemia or a cocaine addiction; I search for meaning as to why a starlet’s pain is such big news.  I realize that it’s because women who are young and beautiful – and doing exactly what a patriarchal society insists they should – must still suffer, or they will get all uppity thinking they are people and stuff.  And because our faux-“free market” worshiping society relies on unnecessary competition as well as healthy competition, else we will stop all hating each other, and women are required to compete on the Hetero-Fuckability Scale, or else we will, I dunno, remember we are good at other stuff.  But I want to think it’s more complicated than that.

Which brings me, of all fucking things, to Britney’s period stain.

I am so, so disgusted.  Not by the fact that OMG, an adult woman menstruates, but by the cultural narrative which says that women who menstruate are disgusting, that periods are something of which we should be ashamed – and by the way in which this particular shame crossed ways with this particular starlet.  Americans are crassly fixated on Britney’s sexuality.  We have been since her debut.  She was the queen of the virgin/whore dichotomy, and now she’s suffering in that very same construct.  Now that she has had kids – now that that our perceptions of her sexuality have changed (not a Virginial Girl, nor a Modest Mother), we must continue to recreate the Used-Up Bad Girl.  And what could possibly be a better tool to put her in her place than her period?  We like to think of it as the ugly, dirty side of our sexual maturity; the idea that despite the way our bodies are so terribly commercialized, they are still bodies, and they do the things human bodies do.  They make babies, and they bleed, and sometimes they betray our fraying emotions and our frantic minds.

And then the fucking moralizing, when Margaret Cho dared to stand up for her!  Margaret’s point, if I may speak for the Great One herself, was that it is seriously fucked up to humiliate someone for something so normal as a period stain.  “You should use hydrogen peroxide!”  “You should get new sheets!”  “You should buy a DivaCup!”*  Way to prove her point, jackasses.  Period stains happen all the time.  We are only ashamed of them because we are taught to do so in a world which a) hates women and b) makes enormous amounts of money off of our shame.  Period stains are embarrassing because they mean we are women who have failed to hide our physical femininity, and therefore failed at our societal performance of femininity.

Britney was, in her heyday, the height of emphasized femininity – shockingly young, taut and curvy, with her blonde hair, and bright eyes meaning as much as her conservative Christianity and professed virginity. Whatever she thought, all that she suffered, she hid it from us with a megawatt smile.  She straddled the virgin/whore dichotomy, and then she dared to become human – she admitted her sexuality, she fell in love and made bad choices and had beautiful children and then crashed, forcing the toll of her life on our cannibalistic celebrity press corps.  She reminded us that the product of Britney was not a person.  It’s one more tiny crack in the wall between what a capitalist patriarchy demands women be, and what we actually are.  She’s crashing and burning, in front of all our eyes, because she has nowhere else to be.

*I want Margaret to have a Diva Cup now too, and not just because it was probably named after her badass diva self, but ’cause it could make that part of her life less annoying.  Definitely not because then Margaret, like me, could then be So! Morally! Superior! to poor period stained Britney.

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Wendy Shalit

Posted by pocochina on August 21, 2007

and the case of “why is anyone reading this idiot anyway?”

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more on ED

Posted by pocochina on August 9, 2007

Apparantly, there’s this tragic LJ community called proanorexia.  And it’s all about support for anorexics, so they can be even better anorexics.

And it breaks my heart for those girls (and they seem to uniformly be girls).

And it also makes me so, so angry about the way we frame discussions about eating disorders.

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pathologizing the body

Posted by pocochina on May 8, 2007

I’m almost through reading Wake Up, Little Suzie:  Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v Wade by Rickie Solinger.  It’s an excellent book, powerfully written and researched, with tons of stuff to unpack.

Some of those things that are forefront in my mind are good, old-fashioned Sexist Stupidity nuggets.  My personal favorite is the idea that single teens and young women got pregnant through latent lesbianism.  That’s right, they were so gay, they spontaneously knocked themselves up.  And remember, this is decades before Mary Cheney.  (Rim shot!  But that’s a whole ‘nother post.)  While that particular suggestion is worth a good laugh, it’s also emblematic of the conventional wisdom (towards white girls of the era) described by the author.  Female sexuality was just so fucked up, so beyond the pale, so totally pathological, it had to be the worst thing they could possibly come up with – of course, homosexuality.

Another is the beautiful way Solinger deconstructs intersectional identities.  That’s so incredibly difficult, because you just can’t know so many things about something so personal, and yet so public, as identity.  Personal in that it’s wholly yours, nobody lives in your skin but you, but also public – it’s literally written on our faces for everyone to see.  But this book does a fascinating job of teasing apart when society saw these women as women, how their gender mattered, how their race mattered, and to a lesser extent, how their class mattered.  (Cheap shots at retro conservative idiocy aside, there can’t be too much discussion about unintended pregnancy around sexual orientation, although statistically, of course, for some women it would’ve been an issue.)  There’s intricacies of race that I don’t think there was room to deal with, such as the first and second generations of Mediterranean-American heritage, who were “becoming white” at the time, but that’s a so delicate it’s not an argument against the book, just something I found myself getting curious about.  And of course, I’m always uncomfortable when something deals with race as a full category, and then boils down to black and white.  It’s an important discussion to have, especially considering the particuarly vicious treatment African-American single mothers continue to face, but I’d just like to have seen some recognition that Asian, Chicana, and Native women were, in fact, also alive at the time.  But again, more of a space issue, certainly not one that disqualifies Solinger’s painstaking research.

Mostly, what got to me was the description of the maternity home (almost exclusively an option/forced path of action for white girls and women).  I actually forgot I wasn’t reading a description of an ex-gay “ministry” and, to some extent, “fat camp.”  This is what I wrote in my book:

You could actually just change some words around and you’d have a picture of an ex-gay camp, or fat camp.  Having to talk about sex underground.  Confusing rape with sex, confusing date rape with consent.  The level of denial about human sexuality – did anyone actually believe that crap?  I mean, nobody actually went to visit their aunt in LA, did they?  And it can’t actually make you less sexual, just like fat camp can’t possibly fix kids.  They weighed in pregnant women, they fucking weighed them in, ’cause that’s so healthy.  And the definition of femininity in the context of this all-female world is fascinating – the “enforcers” of femininity aren’t feminine at all.  And feminity is distinctly at odds with female reproductive health – getting pregnant makes you NOT a woman.  Any reason not to blame the boyfriend, I guess.  This is a world that treats female friendships so incredibly disrespectfully – must women even liking each other always be resistance?

What I think I was getting at, is the way the maternity homes punished, and punished, and punished the women for being sexual.  They forced the women into “group therapy” a la But I’m a Cheerleader, in order to figure out the tragic, terrible, horrible circumstance that landed them down the Path of Sexy Destruction.  The idea of seculsion from the world, and endless lecturing and shaming, is such a constant in these stories.

Kind of a gentler, but still evil, way to punish people.  Oh, it’s not her fault, she’s just sick.  It’s just another way to marginalize people.

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(pre-reading) Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters

Posted by pocochina on April 25, 2007

I haven’t read Courtney Martin’s book (Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters) yet, but the excerpt I read in Bitch last month fascinated me.  It’s tough to find intelligent feminist perspectives on girls, perfectionism, and eating disorders, but I hope and believe Martin’s book will be one.

It makes me nervous, though.  Every book, every study, every mild statement about girls and eating disorders makes me nervous.

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