Read more Kate

If you haven’t yet read Kate’s latest piece on the Kevin Smith/Southwest Airlines debacle, get thee to Broadsheet, stat. It is definitive, and it is moving, and it will remind you of why you started reading Kate’s work in the first place.

Whenever the issue of whether larger people should be forced to buy two airline seats comes up — as it did this weekend, when director Kevin Smith was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight, and as it did last April, after United introduced a policy practically identical to Southwest’s — the first and only thing a lot of folks think of is that time they had to sit next to a fat person on a flight, and it was so uncomfortable.

[snip]

Here’s the first thing I think of when this issue comes up […] The weekend my mom was dying.

Read the whole thing, and the next time someone concern trolls you about fat people flying, send them that link. If their heart’s not broken by it, they didn’t have one in the first place.

“but who can distinguish one human voice amid such choruses of desire”

America lost a great voice this weekend: the poet Lucille Clifton died. She was 73 years old.

Clifton wrote wonderful, poignant, witty poems whose formal simplicity belies their emotional and political depth. She wrote of the realities of living in a large, black, female body in a racist, sexist culture; she survived cancer and wrote of the joys of the body in the face of mortality. I hope all Shapelings have run across the marvelous, body-loving “homage to my hips“:

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.

Read the rest here.

From “scar” (in The Terrible Stories, which has a section on breast cancer):

we will learn
to live together.

i will call you
ribbon of hunger
and desire
empty pocket flap
edge of before and after.

You can find a longer collection of Clifton’s poems, as well as an introductory essay to her work, at the Poetry Foundation. Warning: tissues may be needed. Clifton’s poems touch on abortion, whiteness, hate crimes, war, menstruation, grief, and so many other “terrible stories;” yet they vibrate with such compassion and clarity of vision that it’s easy to forget how tough and nervy they are. Blessing the Boats, her selected poems from 2000, is an excellent entry point for new readers, and a powerful testament to the importance of Clifton’s voice to our culture.

I’ll let Lucille Clifton end this post herself, with a video of her reading in 2008.

Rest in peace, Lucille Clifton. Thank you for being one human voice.

Links: Golden Globes backlash, or This one goes out to the ladies

Those of you who hopped on our Golden Globe live-blogging adventure on Sunday (which was way, way more fun than I expected — GIVE YOURSELVES A HAND) might be interested in the following posts on Jezebel about (sadly predictable) sexist reactions to various women at the show:

James Cameron & Kathryn Bigelow Used To Be Married — Get Over It

‘You Don’t Put A Big Girl In A Big Dress': Dissing Christina Hendricks

And, my personal favorite: Paper Devotes 363 Word Article To Mo’Nique’s Leg Hair

Basically these are all iterations of a theme: woman dares to look “different” (i.e., boobs, leg hair) and/or succeed artistically, must be put in her place. Well played, media journalists. What daring provocateurs you are.

Links: Ladies We Love

Kate writes a mash note to Gabourey Sidibe of Precious, who could not be any more fabulous if she was abducted by aliens from the Fabulous Nebula.

Long-time SP hero Lesley from Fatshionista is the star of today’s Boston Globe! Congratulations, Lesley, on your continued march toward world domination and a more fatshionable world. We adore you!

Items… Of … Interest!

Please read the post title in a Futurama announcer voice.

Welcome to 2010, Shapelings! Have some links.

Kate takes on the “no fatties” dating site controversy at Broadsheet.

Jezebel’s Jenna discusses V Magazine’s latest plus size fashion shoot, which features back fat and belly rolls! For reals!

Lauredhel talks full body scanners, disability, and privacy at FWD.

Latoya inaugurates “Moff’s Law” at Racialicious, and we are totally copying her on that. It starts so deliciously and just gets better:

Of all the varieties of irritating comment out there, the absolute most annoying has to be “Why can’t you just watch the movie for what it is??? Why can’t you just enjoy it? Why do you have to analyze it???”

If you have posted such a comment, or if you are about to post such a comment, here or anywhere else, let me just advise you: Shut up. Shut the fuck up. Shut your goddamn fucking mouth. SHUT. UP.

Read the whole thing.

Open thread: Other people are not on fluffcation

While we’re on fluffcation for a bit, perhaps you’re jonesing for some non-lemur blogging. May I recommend some excellent reading material? Here are some non-fatosphere blogs that I’ve been reading lately:

FWD (feminists with disabilities) for a way forward is brand-spanking new as of last month and is already chock-full of awesome posts. It’s a group blog, and a few of its writers are familiar around these parts as well, so go check them out and wish them well.

The Sexist, written by Amanda Hess, is part of the Washington City Paper (so it may be of particular interest to those of you in the DC area). Amanda is sharp in both wit and tongue. She’s so fun to read, I want to send her cookies.

The Pursuit of Harpyness, in addition to having the most kick-ass name ever, is a feminist group blog with a lively (but not overwhelmingly huge) commentariat.

I’m going to assume that you’re all reading the mind-blowing Fugitivus, but if you’re not, dear god, what’s wrong with you? Harriet Jacobs is one of the best writers in the blogosphere, hands down. Plus she’s wicked funny.

Tami from What Tami Said describes herself as “a wife, womanist, writer, stepmother, music lover, black woman, sister, nappy advocate, American, yogi, bibliophile, daughter, student, Midwesterner, progressive, eccentric,” but what she leaves out is whip-smart thinker and achingly good writer. Her blog often ends up in my “Posts I will be linking to over and over and over and over” folder.

And, for something a bit more fluffy for a great cause, I am totally obsessed with The Uniform Project. Part experiment in sustainable fashion, part fundraiser for children’s education, and all awesome. Sheena’s Halloween costume is a vision. Once you catch up on the archives, you’ll never look at a basic black dress again.

What blogs do you want to pass along to your fellow Shapelings?

ETA: For anyone who needs another dose of prosimians, may I suggest the humble aye-aye?

Up close

Long-time Shapelings know that we are big fans of PostSecret. If you haven’t been there yet, check it out — it’s an amazing project. I loved one of the secrets posted today:

hopper
[A pointillist painting: Georges Seurat’s Esquisse d’ensemble [sketch for a larger work, presumably Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte], with these words handwritten over it: Up close, everyone looks less perfect. In that, though, they look human.]

Monstrous cookies for cookie monsters

From the NYT comes this story about the Cookie Diet, a diet plan in which you survive on “six prepackaged cookies a day, plus one ‘real’ meal — say, skinless chicken and steamed vegetables.” The idea here seems to be that you will be so entranced by the idea of eating the sinful “cookies” that you will forget that you are, you know, starving yourself, and that these aren’t exactly your grandma’s snickerdoodles. (Ahem: “The main ingredient in the Soypal cookie is okara, or soy pulp, which absorbs any liquids you drink with the cookies.” Delicious!)

Surprisingly, the NYT actually acknowledges the cultural clusterfuck that the Cookie Diet symbolizes:

The popularity of cookie diets is hardly surprising in this culture of quick fixes. Who wouldn’t want to exert the minimal effort to get long-lasting results? Who wouldn’t want to lose weight by consuming something verboten on most diets?

“The Cookie Diet is very appealing, because it legalizes a food — the cookie — that is banned from most weight-loss programs,” said Jenni Schaefer, author of “Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover From Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life” (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

“The diet gives people a false sense of control, simplifying balanced nutrition into one food: the cookie,” she added.

The same cultural forces that tell you you must always be on a diet, Fatty McFatterpants, tells you that some foods are “good” and some are “bad.” Cookies, along with cake, pie, baby donuts, and other sweet things usually made with oil and butter, are the sine qua non of bad food. They are the snack of the robot devil himself. The Cookie Diet brilliantly exploits the false morality of fat: you diet by doing what would count as “cheating” on any other diet. You can’t just eat cookies without a plan, after all. And heaven forbid that you make your own cookies rather than spend $56 a week for someone’s soy pulp with secret spices.

Look, here’s the thing: you’re allowed to eat cookies. This is true if you’re fat or not fat. You’re allowed to eat six cookies a day if you feel like it. You’re also allowed to eat a cookie today and a salad tomorrow, or a cookie for dessert and a smoothie for breakfast. You’re allowed to eat whatever you want.

Cookies are not evil. Some things are evil. Cookies are just cookies.

Would it kill you to be civil?

We’ve been talking about rape culture and myths about artistry (or, perhaps, artiste-ry) for the last few days, and god help us but it’s been depressing. I want to continue the conversation a bit but shift it to the somewhat less eye-gougingly bleak realm of the Nice Guy TM, specifically how it relates to geeky guys and girls.

I’m prompted by this post (on SP fave Sociological Images) about a recent xkcd strip. Now, xkcd has done some instant classic antisexist strips in the past, like this one and this one. In fact, xkcd even has a strip that handily illustrates Nice Guys TM. In other words, xkcd often serves as a kind of Feminism 101 for nerds, which is why it’s extra disappointing when the strip has its rare excursions into “woe is the geeky boy, who shall never get pussy” territory. The strip in question starts with a spot-on confrontation between a woman on a train and a strange man hitting on her, in which she firmly tells him that if she wanted his attention, she’d have shown it. It’s the conversation you always wish you would have with skeezy dudes on the train, if you weren’t worried that they’d retaliate in some way. The punchline of the strip is — haha! — the chick wanted it all along! She’s aching for some sweet sweet cock! If only men hadn’t been so paralyzed by feminist talk about rape culture and personal respect, she’d get hit on by more men, which is exactly what she wants on the train! (ETA: The mouseover is: “And I even got out my adorable new netbook!”) It’s funny because it’s true, and it’s EXTRA funny because she brought her cute netbook specifically so men would hit on her, just like when you wear a low-cut shirt it’s because you really want men to comment on your hot tits. Geeky girls are so hot! They’re so hot for you, geeky boy!

Look, I really love xkcd 95% of the time. But just as surviving violence doesn’t make it somehow totally cool to rape people, not meeting cultural standards of he-man masculinity doesn’t make it just fine to perpetuate rape culture. That’s what the Sociological Images post* gets at very clearly:

So this is the crux of the issue for me: nerds really are members of a subordinated masculinity, and from within that viewpoint it’s easy to dismiss anything which says that you are privileged and not downtrodden. Once you’re in that space, it’s really easy to start thinking in a certain way that says you’re not privileged just because you’re a man — and I think things like this XKCD strip can contribute to that way of thinking.

Of course, any man who falls farther from the pinnacle of hegemonic masculinity is less privileged than his more “masculine” counterparts, but he’s still a man. Nerd discourses sometimes let us forget that, and let us think we operate outside the system, because we’re not like those other, sexist guys — but it’s a fantasy. We can be better than that, but it means telling ourselves the truth, and not pretending that our interactions with women — even a simple conversation on a train — aren’t influenced and structured by the patriarchy.

This is how privilege works: you have less of it in some areas, and more of it in others. That’s how it works for everyone. This is why it’s important to think beyond yourself: not in some self-abnegating “I can never talk about my own problems” way, but in a way that understand that some forms of your own behavior contribute to a culture that hurts you too. (This is, for instance, why we don’t bash thin bodies to promote fat acceptance — because “fat acceptance” and “body acceptance” are really the same project.) So talking about geekery is actually one of those scenarios in which saying that patriarchy hurts men, too, is not a strategy to distract from women’s issues. But the xkcd strip is the fantasy of a Nice Guy TM: if only he weren’t so gosh-darn nice to women, he’d get some tail. The Nice Guy TM blames on feminism what is really the fault of sexism, thus imagining himself the True Victim of both.

I do think this particular comic may have worked fine if the same scenario were played out by known characters, instead of xkcd’s generic boy-and-girl stick figures. What’s so powerful about the “How It Works” strip is that very generic-ness: the joke is just that, that men are assumed to be individual human beings and women are not. But that’s also what’s happening in the male fantasy in the “Creepy” strip: the man is an (oppressed) agent of his own desires, while the woman is a mess of contradictions and unreadability.

All of which brings me to what is perhaps my favorite Nice Guy TM lament of all time, as well as the perfect cap to a post about geeks and rape and entitlement: Jonathan Coulton’s great song, “Skullcrusher Mountain,” about a mad scientist “in love.”

What I love so much about this song is that the creepiness builds from verse to verse (never disturbing the sweetness of the melody), so that what starts with “Welcome” ends with the most passive-aggressive murder threat ever:

You know it isn’t easy living here on Skullcrusher Mountain
Maybe you could cut me just a little slack
Would it kill you to be civil?
I’ve been patient, I’ve been gracious
And this mountain is covered with wolves
Hear them howling, my hungry children
Maybe you should stay and have another drink and think about me and you

Nice Guys TM, you see, pretend that we don’t live in a culture that systematically deprives women of power; they think (or rather, they pretend to think) that interacting with women is just a matter of being civil. I’m so nice, but women don’t like me! They say “think about me and you” as if we didn’t know that they could unleash the wolves at any second. They think women on the train are secretly doing everything — using a cute netbook, sitting there looking pretty — in order to snag their attention. They’re nice, not like those other guys — how dare you lump them in with the worst of their gender! You’re just like all the other girls.
*Note ableist metaphor in title. Hello there, privilege!

Fat people in love: Not as rare as unicorns

Hey, remember all the troglodytes over the course of your life who implied, concern trolled, or flat-out decreed that you would never find love if you’re fat? Fatshionista’s Lesley has put together the ultimate comeback: The Museum of Fat Love, “an incomplete collection of evidence proving the existence of those not-so-rare creatures: fat people in love.”

Fat people in love

Fat people in love

Like fat athletes and fat models, fat people in love are not the rare thing we’ve all been led to believe (more evidence: fat brides). I really like that the MoFL includes the stories of the people in the photos: it’s amazing what happens when you give people space to use their voices. And, you know, their heads.

Lesley is still accepting submissions from “anyone, in any variety of romantic relationship, who’d like to be included,” as well as individuals who’d like to “share themselves and their stories of self-love.”