Explaining Away Difference

For much of my life there has always been a major thread that I have felt links the way we feel about difference. We always want to understand it, to know why it exists but also to place it in a box that we can put it as far away from ourselves as possible. When we come across someone that is different from ourselves we have this irrational need to put labels on it. Often times this leads people into a pretty harmful discussion where we don’t accept that difference but we rationalize it away as the cause of something else, even when that isn’t the case.

I don’t talk about my sexuality often on this blog, over the past 6 years I have written about my virginity and what it means to me as well as a post about being socially acceptable. What I haven’t written about is why my sexuality is the way it is. This is something I have been thinking about in different a context this past week because of some discussions that hit a little too close to home in a class I am taking. The discussion itself centered on a certain form of sexuality and developed into a discussion about the reasons why people identify that way. What came out of it was language that has been used against me in my own life.

The last date I went on ended when the guy I was out with was told about my lack of intimate partners. His response is one that I have gotten often when people are told, “But you’re so normal.” Later via text he told me that I am ‘hyper-functional’ which were probably the harshest comments that I have ever received. Over the years people have told me how sorry they are, have tried to find a root cause for why I’m ‘damaged,’ etc. Most of the comments have centered on the idea that I should be pitied, I am mentally ill or the trauma in my past has caused it. At no point has there ever been a rational thought that maybe it just happened.  That it isn’t the cause of some strange sad horrible thing but that it just is.

Some of the most harmful discussions we can have about people who are different from us are ones where we try to pathologize or imply mental illness as the root cause. We place our own beliefs and judgments on those that are different than us because they have a different set of standards for how they live their lives. We imply that they are somehow defective, unhappy or not functional without taking the time to understand that they are people.

Some simple ground rules, don’t tell me you are sorry, don’t assume I am missing out on life, don’t act like my sexuality doesn’t exist, don’t reinforce normative standards of sexuality, and don’t assume that I have something wrong with me or that there is a cause for my sexuality. Above all else, don’t try to cure me or tell me why you think I am the way I am.

In Transition

Over 6 years ago I started this blog. With that has come my own personal growth into fat rights as an activist and with me founding Love Your Body Detroit. While the posting schedule has been chaotic at best this has been the place where I was able to unleash my thoughts and ideas about the movement. This blog is going to be in transition over the next few days as I am changing the name and reorganizing my web presence. Love Your Body Detroit is going to have its own website as soon as possible, which means the current tumblr account will be connected with this blog, my twitter account will change names as well.

If you are a reader of this blog, it isn’t going anywhere and I am not either. I want a name that I feel fits my mindset as I have taken a drastically different direction in my life over the past few years. If you want to make sure you continue to get updates, subscribe on the right. Everything goes live by Monday, possibly sooner.

-Amanda-

 

Help Peanut the bunny!

My friend’s bunny Peanut needs to have surgery to remove an abscess from his jaw and she is selling stuff on her etsy store to raise money, check it out here! Peanut is the cutest bunny you could ever meet, super friendly and just awesome.

She is selling peanut bunny packs on her store here, fartsyarts.etsy.com

Coming Out as FAT

Something changes when a person acknowledges that they are in fact comfortable with a part of themselves that they are taught to feel shame of. People become quiet, or they yell at you, or they become quiet – like crickets quiet – because they cannot fathom how someone could be ok with being something that they hate about themselves.  I have never been this outspoken about my own personal body politics as I have been in the last 6 months. Sure my close friends know some details on my own beliefs but to the extent that has been laid out as of late is completely different. To be honest I’m sick of hiding, of allowing others around me to continue to pollute my own life with the bullshit shame that they feel about their own bodies. To allow them to make me feed bad because I won’t partake in their own self distruction.

A perfect example of this is with my family. My mom has spent the last 8 years of my life listening to me preach about being body positive, and while she isn’t completely with me, she still drove from DC to Detroit for the BODYSLAM! On the other hand I have family in the area who are comepletely silent when it comes to the recent work that I have been doing, even though they are just as connected with what I am working on as they are.

It is in their own silence that they speak volumes.

By being silent they are admitting to me that they don’t feel comfortable about the idea that you can actually love yourself and be fat. Or thin. Or anything.

I’m ok with the silence at the moment, the yelling and the comments that they think I won’t see. This is the side of right, living without shame and working toward ending discrimination.

If that makes you uncomfortable, you should ask yourself why.

The Religion of Food and Health

By Amanda Levitt

We have subscribed to this religion at some point. The belief that health can be interchanged with purity and make us closer to virtue solely based on the food we consume and the actions we take in our life. At the moment I’m taking a Women’s Lit class where all of the books thus far have focus on one main belief, remaining pure and virtuous is the most important thing a person can do in their life. Often this is talked about in relation to a women’s sexuality and virtue is meant with virginity in mind. Keep in mind that most of these novels were written in the late 1700s and now the idea that a women’s virtue relies on her ability to remain a virgin until marriage is not a commonly held belief within liberal circles, not that it doesn’t still exist today.

It always amazes me that people who reject the idea of religion will so fully support the idea that health is of supreme importance. We use the same idea with health that people often use with religion, that the healthier a person is the more pure they are. In some cases you don’t even have to be completely healthy, just trying to be healthy or doing something considered healthy will make you appear far superior to those that are living a deviant unhealthy lifestyle (whatever that means).

For a portion of last semester, until it got too cold, I would often ride my bike to class. I lived close enough that I could walk, but people always seemed to take notice of the fact that I rode my bike around campus. They would be shocked that I actually would ride my bike and tell me how healthy it is, even though I could have walked and would have if riding my bike wasn’t such a huge time saver. The fact that I actually have something that can be used to exercise with, gives people the illusion that I am trying to become less devious. In our culture we have so many different ways a person can see the relation to health and purity that is it often not even thought about in these terms.

The first place to start is with food; we learn from childhood that food that is often labeled as bad also comes with the belief that a person who eats that food is bad themselves. Eat a cupcake, and you are so bad! It is not surprising that the foods we consider to be morally unsound are the same foods that are often linked to fat bodies. The idea that if you eat those foods you become tainted or impure yourself and the opposite happens if you eat the good foods, you become more worthy of a person because you are trying to change.

The same thing can happen through the actions that we take, think of the newly engaged woman who decides to partake in the traditional pre-wedding weight loss ritual. The very act of losing weight for ‘health’ in reality it is to appear more virtuous on their wedding day, wearing white becomes a signifier that the bride is not only worthy but also morally sound for her new partner. Same goes for new years resolutions that make up for all of the devious things a person did the year before by becoming ‘healthy.’

When a person lives in a devious body the reactions by our culture is very similar to the reactions to a person who is sexually impure. Shame is often the first emotion, but after that the need to become morally sound is almost a compulsive act. The idea that a person should always be trying to become healthy, no matter their socioeconomic status or the way their life is, creates a dichotomy of pure or healthy individuals and impure or unhealthy individuals. When there is more than enough evidence that health cannot be easily defined by a set of characteristics or a body type the act of trying to attain health goes once again to this innate need to be morally sound.

What comes out acknowledging this kind of thinking? Knowing that no one is morally obligated to be ‘healthy’ and food or ones actions does not have moral value. Believing in the church of health does not make you a good person. Believing that everyone deserves their own personal autonomy would probably be an amazing step in the ‘good person’ direction. The very act of creating a body type or lifestyle that is considered ‘healthy’ is oppressive and misleading.

It also creates a society that is not actually worried about health but about being morally superior to those that inhabit fat bodies.

 

Becoming Your Own Activist

The idea of New Year’s resolutions to me has never seemed like something I wanted to do; it was in a way saying that I need to wait until a new year has begun to do the things I wanted to with my life. The truth is that if you want to change something about your life do it when it feels right. Don’t wait until everyone changes something that they want to resolve to do but change it because it has become important to you, or you see that it is necessary for your own happiness.

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with my roommate about the way I live my life, I am so comfortable being an activist for the politics that I believe are important, but find it difficult to be an activist for the life that I want and the relationships I want to have. I often allow others to choose how I spend time with them, being ok with the lack of caring they have for me when I would go to the limit for them. I am that type of person, you ask me for something and I will do it, no matter what.

What this comes down to is that it is draining for me to continue on like this. There are certain people who make me feel mentally drained when I am around them and that is not ok. I want to actively pursue my own happiness and with that it means that sometimes I have to choose to do things my own way.

With all this in mind, I have created a list of points that I want to work on from now until whenever I master them. They are something that can be used a a guidebook in how to have a successful relationship / friendship etc.

  1. Create standards that others in your life are aware of – Tell people your belief system, the things that hurt your feeling (proudly), and what are topics that you don’t want discussed in your presence. An explanation might be necessary to let them know why you don’t enjoy what they are talking about, and this is where preparing a speech beforehand works perfect. While you might not be able to declare that certain subjects are off topic, I find the most insulting are the use of words that I clearly am offended by used in my presence. These are no goes.
  2. Surround yourself with people who wholeheartedly support your passions and interests – I say this without stating that they have to agree with them. The truth is that if someone truthfully cares for you, the differences between you can be put aside most of the time and should be if they respect you as a person. If they truthfully care for you, they will want to know what your doing, and actually allow you to talk about it.
  3. Set standards on how you expect to be treated – This again comes down to personal respect, the only way others can understand how you feel is if you communicate it to them effectively.
  4. Make yourself number 1 – In the end if this doesn’t work, or a relationship is too stressful to make it worth it for you, leave. It doesn’t do anyone any good if you hate being around people, but refuse to tell them or yourself that you don’t want to be there.

I have come to the conclusion that I know this will mean certain people in my life will probably no longer be there, but if they valued me as I valued them I think theses simple terms shouldn’t scare them away. Sometimes it takes someone, such as my roommate or another outside source to give you a truthful perspective of the situation. What that means for me is that I don’t communicate to people about how I expect to be treated, so they have no clue that it is even an issue.

Mastering effective communication for one please…