I am fat.
Fat I am.
And I’m kinda okay with that.
I’ve been reading posts from Your Fat Friend over at Medium – they’re not saying anything that’s new to me, but her voice is clever and sensitive and strong, and she’s worth reading. She’s got me thinking about our relationship with the word “fat,” and with actually being fat, and what it all means.
I spent my childhood feeling ugly and unlikeable. For being the girl with frizzy brown hair instead of straight blonde hair. For having no sense of fashion, fundamentally not comprehending the secret language of what fabrics and colors and styles work together and look good on a person. For being the smart one, the weird one, the one who reads books written a century ago and hasn’t even heard the popular songs. For being the one who sang the songs she DID know on the bus ride home, and tried so hard not to be hurt when people told me how much they hated hearing my voice. For my round face and crooked nose and thin lips. For being too intense, my inner life full of dramatic lighting and tense extremes, unable to master or even attempt the easy camaraderie that came so naturally to other little girls my age.
And, yes, for being fat. “Fat.” I wasn’t; that’s the funny part. I’ve seen pictures. As a kid, I wasn’t fat. I felt like I was. I felt overlarge and awkward, taking up too much space. I felt like I should always apologize for being in everyone’s way, for taking up room that by rights belonged to people who were thinner, blonder, more popular, happier. I dreaded going clothes shopping, feeling like every dress or outfit that didn’t look good on me or was uncomfortable or didn’t fit right was somehow a comment on my worth as a person.
To this day, I don’t like to shop for clothes with other people.
I do, however, like shopping for clothes alone!
When I was 19, I was wolf-whistled for the first time. I was standing by the side of the road in Daytona Beach, waiting to be picked up from my summer job after my first year of college. I had on jeans that fit like a glove with a little bit of shimmer in the fabric and a red frilly shirt that bared my midriff. They were the first clothes I had bought for myself, with my own money that I’d earned, and I’d bought them because I wanted them and they looked nice, not because I needed them. If I got wolf-whistles every day I know I would see them as the frightening, unpleasant harassment that they are, but I was 19 and it was the first time it had ever happened and for the first time in my life – yes, despite having a steady boyfriend at the time and another before him, yes, despite having loving parents who praised me every day – I felt pretty. Desired. Sexy.
I still have that shirt, by the way. It’s worn so thin it’s falling apart, but I can’t bear to throw it away.
The revelation that I could buy clothes for myself, that I could buy clothes JUST because I liked them and they looked good, that I was ALLOWED to spend a couple extra bucks for the jeans that looked nice rather than the jeans that were the absolute cheapest, was a game-changer. For all that clothing stores are designed to shame and exclude fat women, the thrill of finding the outfit that WORKS, without having anyone else there to make me feel self-conscious for all the ones that don’t, is still vibrant and alive in me.
Because today, unlike in my childhood, I really am fat. And – again, unlike in my childhood – I’m okay with that.
There’s a self-esteem ritual that I perform sometimes – I call it the Belly-Butt Dance. Here’s how you do it. First, find the biggest mirror you can. Stand in front of it naked. (Or wearing cute undies, if you prefer – you do you.) Stand in profile. (For me, I always look fattest in profile. Head-on I do have a decent hourglass figure, just large; from the side, you can see my pendulous belly, my oversize butt, my small breasts – and isn’t that a pisser? Aren’t big boobs supposed to be nature’s consolation prize for being a fat woman?) Arch your back so your belly sticks out, and start wiggling it.
Then, in a goofy voice – I like to stick my lips far out, it helps – recite: “Lookit mah belly!”
Change your stance so that your butt is sticking out far behind you, and wiggle that. Recite: “Lookit mah butt!”
Repeat several times, until you’re giggling too hard to continue.
It’s a silly, goofy ritual, but it works. It works by letting me look, actually LOOK, at parts of my body that I’m told I should be trying to hide. It works by letting me look at those areas and giggle instead of feeling shame. It works because I can incorporate feelings of playfulness, happiness, goofiness into my body. I can make my body a fun thing to appreciate.
It’s fat acceptance. It’s body positivity. It’s self-love. It’s all the things I wish my nine-year-old self had known about.
Here is what fat acceptance means to me:
It means loving how long colorful skirts hug my wide hips and swish around my ankles when I walk, loving how they make me feel bold and delicate, feminine and bohemian all at once.
It means deciding that if other people at the beach don’t want to see me in a bikini they can bloody well look at something else.
It means understanding that dancing is only fun if you stop giving a shit about whether you look good doing it and just let yourself get lost in the music.
It means deciding not to feel bad for having a bacon cheeseburger and a Diet Coke in public, because goddammit I like bacon cheeseburgers and I like Diet Cokes, and I don’t have to defend that to anyone.
It means letting myself focus on free weights rather than cardio or aerobics classes at the gym. It means allowing myself to care more about getting strong than about getting skinny.
It means understanding and dealing with the fact that yes, my body is larger than most. I am light on my feet; I am good at maneuvering through crowds. When my fat body presents an obstacle, I can and will handle the situation with grace and aplomb; if other people choose not to do the same, that is not my fault and it is not within my control.
It means getting rid of my “thinspiration” and “just in case” clothes.
It means flirting with (and getting flirted with by) guys who are objectively “out of my league,” and never for a moment thinking I don’t deserve it.
It means catching sight of myself topless in a changing room mirror, and grinning because hey, I look good. I look fat, and I look good.
It’s about the deep erotic thrill when a sexual partner brushes light fingers over my belly* – the physical sensation of touching a sensitive area, yes, but even more, the exquisite trust involved in baring a part of me the world says I should keep hidden, and having it cherished rather than reviled.
It means learning how to apply and wear makeup, because it looks fun and I’m allowed to have fun and feel pretty.
It means realizing that it would in fact be OKAY if I chopped all my hair off and dyed the rest bright pink. (…I probably won’t. But I COULD.)
It means loving and appreciating my body for what it IS – soft and huggable and comfortable and comforting, a cutely overstuffed pillow curled into the corner of the couch reading a book.
It means when my four-year-old pats my flab and says “Mommy, I love your belly,” I can look at her and solemnly reply, “Thank you, I made it myself.”
It’s hearing from the doctor when my child was only a year old that she was slightly short and slightly heavy for her age, and not seeing it as a crisis – being able, instead, to go “well, given her genetics, that’s normal.” It’s seeing her athletic little body as solid and strong, and helping her to see it the same way. It’s seeing and praising all the amazing things her body can DO – forward rolls! balance beam! skin-the-cat! pulling herself up on the uneven bars! – rather than focusing attention on what it looks like.
It’s never letting her hear me say I hate my body.
Because I don’t. Not anymore. I like my fat body, and that’s important.
So here’s a thing, in case you didn’t know.
In college, SpouseMan cheated on me.
Twice, in point of fact. Now – those of you who know us now, the gloriously open married couple that we are*, may be rolling your eyes in a “so what?” gesture right now, but remember – we were 18-19-20 at the time! Yes, I’d grown up on Heinlein and had a very “oh HELL no” attitude about anyone being jealous towards ME, but. I’d never even heard of the term polyamory, and “open relationships” were a scandalous thing!
I think what bugged me most in both cases was my own reaction. The first time, I found out from the “other woman” – she was a friend, and thought I ought to know. At the time I was vaguely aware that I ought to be upset, but honestly? I was more tickled at having a “minor indiscretion” that I could tease him about.
The second time, he confessed to me. He’d gone home on winter break/spring break/some break, and had sex with his ex-girlfriend. He made this whole solemn ceremony about sitting me down and contritely confessing and apologizing; the whole time, I was afraid he was going to break up with me, and when I discovered what he was really trying to say I have to admit I literally laughed. It was just such a relief – just that? Really? You made this big deal about sleeping with someone else? Do you still love me, do you still want to be with me? Well okay then!
It was only in retrospect that it occurred to me that normal girls don’t respond to news of their boyfriends cheating in that way.
Honestly, I’m kind of grateful. I might never have realized I was poly otherwise, and I can’t imagine my relationship with SpouseMan if we’d pretended we were both naturally monogamous and that any deviation from that norm was doubleplusungood. We’d probably both be miserable. My lack of reaction, my lack of jealousy, was a pretty clear indicator that I, at least, wasn’t “normal” in that sense – and exploring that, finding a name for it and realizing I wasn’t alone, gave me a framework to help me talk to SpouseMan and work out what we actually wanted the rules of our relationship to be, rather than blithely accepting what society said the rules of a relationship should be. It’s made us both happier and made our relationship stronger.
To tie this into politics (did you really think you were gonna get through an entire blog post without any politics?), this has been in my mind since seeing some of the reactions to Bill Clinton talking about Hillary. I’ve seen a lot of people saying he was insincere in his speech, or saying she should have divorced him or that she only stayed with him for political reasons.
Hear me: I am not saying either of the Clintons are poly, nor that they should be. (Even if they were, it would be political suicide to act on it, so. Moot point.) What I AM saying is that people are complex and complicated creatures. When the man I loved cheated, I forgave him and my love for him never changed, for my own deep and complicated reasons.
I don’t pretend Hillary’s reasons were the SAME as mine. But I have no reason to think they weren’t every bit as deep and complicated and genuine as mine. I am very bristly at people who would judge her for her choices without knowing the ins and outs of her marriage and her relationship with her husband. Of all the things to criticize her on, kindly back way the fuck off of this one.
*Admittedly, at the MOMENT this is more theoretical than anything else. Our child is four; neither of us has the fucking energy**
**My mom reads this blog. Sorry, Mom. I know this is TMI.
I’m sorry, folks, but we need to get rid of the AR-15 and guns like it.
Hear me out.
Time Magazine reported that the AR-15 can fire 45 rounds per minute. A pro-gun blog, apparently offended by this slight to their trigger-pulling speed, corrected it: it’s actually closer to 120 rounds per minute. Someone else estimated 180 rounds per minute, but noted that in reality it’s dependent on how fast you can pull the trigger. Theoretically, it could be as high as 800 rounds per minute, if you could ever find someone whose finger was fast enough to fire 13 times a second.
However, that last link also points out that you’re limited by the number of rounds in a magazine, which is typically 30 or less. (However, it is possible to buy a 100-round drum magazine for the AR-15. Online.) When the magazine is empty, you have to stop shooting and replace it with a new one. How long does that take?
According to AR-15 enthusiasts, approximately three seconds.
Also, this exists. Pleasant dreams.
There are better guns for hunting. There are better guns for self-defense. Here are the three things the AR-15 excels at:
- competitive or recreational shooting
- zombie apocalypse
- murdering a whole bunch of people in a crowd at once
The first one, you know, I get it. Bad Liberal Confession time, I like guns too. They go boom; this pleases me. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s necessary to use logic beyond the three-year-old’s cry of “but I WANT it!”
The second one, yes. In the case of the zombie apocalypse, I will happily admit that I was wrong, wrong, wrong, and accept every bit of your blame. You can feed me to the zombies to buy yourselves more time, I won’t hold it against you.
But so far I’ve seen far more mass shootings than I have zombies.
The thing is, gun enthusiasts themselves say that looking at the high-end of firing rate is ridiculous, because even if your finger can technically fire that quickly, it doesn’t allow time to aim. “So the moderately higher rates would be effective only in situations in which the shooter is indiscriminately shooting into a group like a gang, mob, army or crowd of innocents.”
…Like, I don’t know, firing into a dark and crowded nightclub?
So maybe my issue isn’t with the AR-15 specifically. It’s probably a very nice gun, calls its mother on Sunday and all that. My issue is: why the fuck do civilians have access to rates of fire that are literally only effective when firing indiscriminately into a mass of people???
“Good Guy With A Gun” – okay, plenty of other people have torn this myth apart; for the purposes of what I’m saying, if you’re in a crowded and panicked room and one person is spraying bullets at 180 rounds a minute, and someone else responds by spraying bullets back at 180 rounds a minute, what you’re going to get is even more dead bodies. Even if I were to accept every other aspect of the GGWAG myth, there is no reason for guns that can manage that rate of fire.
“Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People” – Cars don’t run over people, people run over people. But I’m gonna do a lot less damage if I hit you with my bicycle than with my car. The type of weapon you use drastically affects the damage you can do – you can kill one or two people with a knife, but it’s an awful lot harder to kill 20 or 30 or 50. Guns with a lower rate of fire are simply not going to kill as many people when fired into a crowd. Guns that take more time to reload give victims a better chance to get to safety, and give first responders more time to interrupt the attack.
“But Won’t That Make Us Less Safe? What If I NEED All That For Self Defense?” – again, no. As even pro-gun folks have pointed out, these ridiculous rates of speed decrease accuracy tremendously. That makes them useful in situations where you don’t NEED accuracy, but again, the situations in which a civilian shooter realistically will not need accuracy are limited to zombie apocalypses and murder sprees. If you’re acting in self-defense, accuracy matters. In fact, having access to those high rates of fire may make everyone LESS safe; if you panic and start spraying bullets, with your accuracy going to shit, the chances of hitting someone you do not want to hit become higher. Why take that risk?
We’ve reached the point, guys. We need to put a stop to this. “Ban Assault Rifles” is a vague and unhelpful slogan, but unfortunately “stop putting guns that have the ability to fire triple-digits worth of bullets per minute and take seconds to reload into the hands of civilians” doesn’t fit on t-shirts as well. But that’s what needs to happen. It’s time.
(TW: reference to ableist slurs, by way of example.)
So. Someone on Twitter – whom I respect – blithely referred to me as “ableist” because I didn’t agree with them that the words “stupid” and “weird” are ableist slurs.
Do I understand the concept of ableism? Yes. Do I recognize ableist slurs? Absolutely. I’ve worked hard to get words like “idiot,” “moron,” r*tard,” “dumb,” “lame,” etc., out of my vocabulary. (NB: “dumb” does occasionally slip in, if it’s followed by the word “ass,” but I’m trying. Habits are hard to break, but I’m getting there.) I don’t use words like “crazy” or other mental-illness-related term, unless I’m using it in a reclaiming way for myself and my own mental illness or in reference to someone who has out-loud-and-on-purpose stated that they are reclaiming the term for themself. I am very aware of disability issues, even the ones that don’t affect me personally, and while I will not claim perfection, I do try hard to be aware of ableism in the world, and try to relieve it or at the very least not add to it whenever possible.
And yet I still don’t believe that those words are ableist.
For clarification: if you’re referring to a PERSON as stupid? No. Stop that. You are wrong; go sit in the corner and think about what you did. QUITE ASIDE FROM THE FACT that it’s a cruel and hurtful thing to say, it’s also quite ignorant of how intelligence actually works. I’ve seen students who were labeled as “stupid” – by others, but sometimes by themselves – thrive and succeed, because you know what? PEOPLE AREN’T STUPID. That is a misuse of the word.
Actions, however, can be hella stupid. It has nothing to do with ability; people with quick minds, who make logical leaps that other people pass up, with access to all the pertinent facts – with all the ABILITY, in other words, that someone could need – make some pretty stupid decisions. It doesn’t mean that the person is bad, or that they are incapable of making better decisions. (In fact, that’s practically a tautology – a decision can only be considered stupid if the decision-maker COULD, with their ability and their information, have made a better decision, and chose not to.) We need a word that sums up actions and decisions of this nature; “illogical” captures part of it, as does “counterproductive,” and I’m sure there must be others, but nothing expresses every aspect as succinctly as “stupid.”
As for weird… there’s a pitfall here, yeah. The argument could be made – and is made! – that “crazy” is often used in a positive sense these days, and has nothing to do with mental illness. And that argument might hold water in the long run! Never let it be said that I am not ALL ABOUT fluidity of language! However, here and now? Nah. The “new usage” of “crazy” is too new; the accepted usage, the one with centuries of history behind it, 100% means mental illness, and in a damning way, and is still being used to hurt and attack people. Mentally ill people can claim it to their heart’s content; college students describing last night’s party need to stop. So the claim that “weird” is not currently used in a predominantly derogatory way is not, by itself, enough to justify the term.
However, the history of the word “weird” goes back to “wyrd” – the forces of fate, and fate magic, in one’s life. As the word evolved, it retained the eerie, otherworldly qualities even as it started to pick up the meaning of someone or something outside of mundane day-to-day life. Linguistically speaking, the modern meaning of “someone who isn’t like me or what I consider normal” or “someone who doesn’t adhere to society’s standards” is relatively new, and even within that meaning, it’s been fairly equally split between someone using it as an insult vs. someone using it as a compliment or a point of pride.
Now. If you’re calling someone weird (or stupid, for that matter) due to a disability issue, THAT is ableist, yes. If you’re using those words to attack and insult someone, it may or may not be ableist, but it’s definitely rude, just because attacking and insulting people is rude. But just because a word CAN be used to hurt does not make it a slur. (Example: my southern mother, who uses the phrase “bless his/her/your heart” INTERCHANGEABLY as both a compliment and an insult.) I do not believe the words themselves are ableist; I do not believe that it makes you ableist to use them.
On a wider note… I’m a little disturbed by a trend I’m noticing. I really, really don’t like it when someone appoints themselves the Keeper Of The Words. As in, “I have declared that this term is Xist, and if you disagree, clearly you are Xist!” Like. No, dude, maybe I just disagree with you on the word. I can be 100% all-in dedicated to fighting Xism, and still not agree that Word Y is Xist. And ODDLY ENOUGH, insulting me is not really going to convince me to reexamine my stance.
Ana talks about this in this thread. Tl;dr version: “offensive” and “accepted” words are never set in stone; communities and identities are fluid and not a monolith. The fact that you find one person in community X who dislikes Word Y does not mean that Word Y is automatically bad. There may be a million other people in community X who adore Word Y and embrace it as their personal identity.
Beyond that, though… look, I was raised by a debate coach. Accepting something as true because someone else says so is, uh. Not what I do. I teach critical thinking; I am not simply going to swallow an unexamined proposition. If you are saying “Do not use this word for ME, I find it hurtful,” okay, fine. You are the one and only expert on you. But if you’re saying “this word is always harmful, never use it,” I’m sorry, but I’m going to need some explanation and some proof, and I reserve the right to decide “no, you are wrong.”
For the record, I almost always err on the side of not doing harm. I’ve cut words that I really loved out of my vocabulary because someone considered them harmful. But they actually convinced me that they WERE harmful. They didn’t simply lay down the law and accuse me of bigotry if I didn’t fall in line.
But lately I’ve been seeing a lot of internecine conflict; people who are ON THE SAME SIDE fighting with or insulting each other over points of purity. This isn’t a tone argument; I’m not threatening to walk away from the movement if people are jerks. But I absolutely will lose respect for people who can’t accept any honest deviation from what they have decided the standards will be.
I am not ableist – at least, I’m as not-ableist as someone like me can be. (Again, I do not claim perfection!) Disagreeing on whether a word is ableist does not automatically make me ableist. If I am factually wrong on the reasons I’ve presented, explain it to me. Convince me. It takes a lot of time and thought for me to admit that I’m wrong, but it DOES happen. But don’t just throw insults at me and think you’ve made some sort of point.
Two weeks ago, a couple of my freshmen asked me to sponsor a club they want to start next year, and a junior asked me if she could switch and have me as her EE advisor.
Last week, a student told me how much she was looking forward to coming back and helping out in my class last year.
On Saturday night/Sunday morning I stood in a Beltaine circle at the beach and spoke in wondering tones about finally being happy, about finally having a job that I 100% love for the first time in my adult life, and how it’s filled me with hope and excitement.
Yesterday I discovered a hidden “ILU [my name]” message hidden in a project one of my students turned in, and got all misty-eyed.
This morning the principal called me into his office and told me he wasn’t renewing my contract for next year.*
Happy fucking Teacher Appreciation Day to me, I guess.
I’m wrecked. I’m torn between wanting to curl up in a corner and sob and wanting to scream in fury and break things.
It’s not the job situation – I’m curiously non-panicky. I can get a job at another school. Hell, it’s not like working in Osceola County was CONVENIENT. SpouseMan’s school even has IB; maybe he can put in a good word for me.
But I was already torn up about losing my seniors at the end of the year, and I hadn’t really bonded with most of them the way I did my freshmen. I’d looked forward to seeing them for the rest of their time at my school, looked forward to seeing them grow and thrive and graduate. Looked forward to taking this class that I’d made MINE and refining it and making it better, more polished, for next year. I was excited. And now I’m going to lose these kids that I adore and… it’s not okay.
Anyway. That’s where I am right now.
*No, in case you’re wondering, he didn’t tell me why. I asked, and he refused, and he wasn’t half rude about it either. I have my suspicions, but speculating on them at this point will do nobody any good.
I feel like I should apologize for being so lax in posting here. But given that I have a grand total of like five loyal readers, one of whom is my mom, I’m gonna skip that part.
Anyone who’s followed this blog, or anyone who knows me for that matter, understands my feelings on the recent North Carolina bill. I won’t rehash them here (except to say: DOORS, PEOPLE!)
Instead, have a round-up of links going over other people’s thoughts and feelings on it:
Amy Butler, Talk With the Preacher
Religious freedom is just that: freedom. Note that we don’t call it “religious comfort.” In other words, yes, government should protect my right to practice my religion, but it’s not society’s obligation to make that practice easy or carefree. If your faith prevents you from sitting on an airplane next to a woman who isn’t your wife, then move to another seat. If your faith tells you you can’t go to the same bathroom with some people, then figure out how to order your life so that you use the bathroom in a place that seems appropriate for you. If your faith tells you you can’t sell wedding cakes to certain people, don’t go into the business of selling wedding cakes.
Libby Anne, Love Joy Feminism
Laws barring trans bathroom access don’t just keep trans women out of women’s bathrooms, they also keep trans men in women’s bathrooms. In other words, it is now the law for the man in the image in the above tweet to use women’s public restrooms in North Carolina. This means that cisgender men could take advantage of laws barring trans bathroom access to enter women’s bathrooms dressed as men and claiming to be trans men. Doing this wouldn’t even require dressing as a woman.
Benjamin L. Corey, The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey
For real. This is actually how dramatically they switch sides when it goes from protecting their rights compared to someone else’s rights.
Regulating bathroom rights? Great solution!
Regulating gun rights? Nah, laws never work. Besides, most gun owners are no threat to anyone.
Erin Wathen, Irreverin
As best as I can tell, the pro-segregation set believe that allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice, creates a public safety threat for women and girls. It’s very much a “they are coming for your wives and daughters” vibe out there. Which, clearly, overlooks the fact that anywhere in America provides a public safety threat for women and girls. If we’re going to talk about rape, let’s talk about college campuses. Let’s talk about the military. Let’s talk about football players and domestic violence. Let’s talk about a culture that worships masculinity, objectifies women and glorifies violence–all adding up to a pervading world of male entitlement that is, always and everywhere, a danger to your wives and daughters.
Fred Clark, Slacktivist
It’s simple cause-and-effect, you see: Corporate HR must be allowed to ask any job applicant if they’re gay “because we don’t hire that kind of people,” otherwise your daughter is going to be attacked by a man in a trenchcoat hiding in the stall next to hers. If two women dining together in a public restaurant can’t be interrogated about whether or not they’re a couple — and denied service if they say yes — then grown men will start using the girls showers at the local YWCA and there will be nothing anyone can do to stop it.
Captain Cassidy, Roll To Disbelieve
It’s that all the campaigning they’ve done, all the many millions of dollars spent, all the hours passionately preaching about the evils of LGBTQ people generally, all the persecution and harassment they dole out to a group that never meant them any harm at all, all the training they give their children in how to persecute and harass that group, all the tantrums they throw, all the threats they make to starve themselves for bigotry, to raise arms against the country they claim to love and even to ragequit that country by trying to secede from it, and all the smears and lies they tell with their biggest Jesus smiles on their faces, are being spent to wage a war that they have already lost and that is being lost harder every year.
Captain Cassidy, Roll To Disbelieve
Allowing these Others to roam unfettered and uncontrolled by their superiors will cause them to rise up in bloodlust and fury to vent their natural, animal urges on the beautiful, virtuous cisgender (or white, or Christian, or American) women that those Others desire above all their own women. And all that stands in the way of this orgy of rape are the good, godly cisgender (or white, or Christian, or American) men who refuse to let it happen.
Captain Cassidy, Roll To Disbelieve
There is, please allow me to stress, not one scintilla of evidence that trans women pose any kind of threat to ciswomen in bathrooms, nor that bathroom bills cause the slightest uptick in harassment of ciswomen by either trans women or cis men.
But there is plenty of evidence that right-wing, straight, cisgender Christians are already a big danger to both transgender people and cisgender people in bathrooms.
Captain Cassidy, Roll To Disbelieve
There’s really only one conclusion I can draw from the demands that transphobic Christians are making.
They want to be able to better and more quickly identify trans people by making their movements in vulnerable places more obvious.
And I can only assume, based upon their behavior and words, that they want to more easily make this identification for the purposes of abusing and harassing people they have decided are their enemies.
Libby Anne, Love Joy Feminism
At the risk of being repetitive, allowing trans people to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity is not a new thing. Before the backlash against the trans bathroom access bills (a) it was generally legal for trans people to use the bathrooms they felt appropriate and (b) trans women generally did use the bathrooms they felt appropriate. Yes, they risked getting harassed, yelled at, or facing violence, but trying to end that harassment is literally the only change trans bathroom bills make to the status quo.
Nico Lang, Rolling Stone
“People did come to my aid. The police came. The EMTs came. They put a tube in my throat. The police officer says, as I’m sitting in the gurney, ‘This never would have happened to you if you weren’t wearing a dress and trying to fool men.'”
Samantha Allen, The Daily Beast
“We know that stigma and lifetime discrimination influence suicide rates, whether we’re talking about transgender people or another marginalized group,” she told The Daily Beast. “Policies like HB 2 are not solving a problem—they are actually making things worse.”
(CN: violence, death, death of children, torture, rape, religious extremism, Islamophobia – all content notes are doubled and trebled if you click the links)
The morning after the attacks in Paris, one of my husband’s long-time customers took the opportunity to complain about “those people” and their terrorism. “We’ve put up with it for too long,” he grumbled. “We should just bomb their entire country and be done with it.”
SpouseMan gave him a puzzled look. “France?”
“No, not France,” the man said, as if this were obvious. “The country they came from!”
The look of puzzlement deepened. “Belgium?”
Because of course, the ringleader of the attacks was a native-born Belgian citizen, and at least four of the attackers were French. But that’s not what the man in the bagel shop meant, was it? We know what he meant. Insofar as he was capable of understanding that the Middle East is in fact made up of several different countries, each of which are, well, different, he meant Syria and Iraq.
Syria and Iraq are, after all, where Daesh* is currently operating out of. Syria and Iraq are where European-born young men like Abdelhamid Abaaoud go to be transformed from disaffected, dissatisfied youth into zealous terrorists. And Syria and Iraq are where Daesh carries out massacres against minority populations, tortures teenage boys, murders innocent civilians (including small children), uses horrific violence to impose their own interpretation of religious law on others, recruits and kidnaps children to brainwash into child soldiers, rapes captive women and girls with impunity…
…huh. Y’know, the more I read about it, the more the people of Iraq and Syria start to look like the victims of this hate group, not evil masterminds who need to be bombed to rubble.
Here’s the thing. When the terrorists attacked in Paris, the city responded in beautiful, humbling ways, ways that remind us what it is to be human and to rely on each other. Parisians came together to help each other – taxi drivers gave rides for free to those stranded, total strangers opened their doors to one another. Most of us would not normally invite strangers to stay in our homes, for fear of theft or violence; in the wake of horrific atrocities, however, human compassion and the need to help the victims (and protect others who might otherwise become victims) prevailed over fear. It was beautiful, and we knew it was beautiful. We celebrated it as beautiful. The messages were clear: love triumphs over fear. We will not give in to bullies or let their victims go undefended.
Now contrast that with how we talk about “those countries.” Contrast that with how we talk about the Syrian refugees.
Let’s talk about how French victims of violence are given open doors, while Syrian victims of even worse and longer-lasting violence are turned away. Let’s talk about how people from “those countries” are automatically viewed with more suspicion than Europeans – even though most of the attackers were from Europe! Let’s talk about how Parisians overcame fear to let total strangers into their home, but we’re too cowardly to help refugee children for fear that there might – might – be wolves in sheep’s clothing among them.
These rejections – US citizens and the governors of US states trying to keep out the victims of Daesh’s violence and tyranny – are happening in the wake of the Paris attacks. Think about that. With one hand we praise Paris’s Open Doors; with the other we slam our own shut. Our governors use excuses; they cite the one attacker in Paris who came to Europe on a passport, likely posing as a migrant. This narrative conveniently ignores, again, that the other attackers were European citizens – will we also be closing our doors to visitors from France and Belgium?
No, of course we won’t. We’re singling out Syria. We’re singling out people from “those countries,” those countries that aren’t like us, those countries where Islam is the primary religion, those countries where everything is strange and foreign. Those countries where everyone is clearly suspect and the victims’ lives and safety don’t “count,” and we should have just bombed them a long time ago. Why on earth should we stick our neck out to help people from those countries? It’s not like they’re real people.
We are playing into the terrorists’ hands. We are supporting their bullying; we are telling their victims “there is no safe space.” Daesh doesn’t want us to take in refugees; it doesn’t want the people it’s currently terrorizing to think that things will be any better for them if they leave. They want their victims to feel helpless; bullies always do. And we are helping it happen.
And here in the West, our callous lack of concern for Syrian children, our stated belief that their lives don’t matter as long as we avoid any possibility of risk, is part and parcel of the very attitudes that drove Europe-born terrorists like Abaaoud to join Daesh in the first place.
*Much like the Friendly Atheist, I’m considering using Daesh exclusively instead of ISIS or other terms, because fuck them that’s why**
**SpouseMan, upon hearing the threat to “cut out the tongues” of those who refer to it as Daesh, immediately began chanting “too many tongues! Too many tongues! There’s too many tongues on the internet!”