Who are we, anyway?

You guys, I haven’t had much to say this week.

I have a paper due for the end of this Group Process class I am in, and I am trying to write on Gestalt Therapy, and I am just not motivated to do it. I don’t know what my problem is. I have been exhausted keeping up with all the recent bout of politics on the fat-o-sphere, and trying to think about things like privilege and gender and how we include more people and what I need to do to make that happen. And I am literally still recovering from the goddamned Mac and Cheese I ate over a week ago. My stupid cell phone almost died yesterday, and when my technology doesn’t work, it’s seriously like a Red Terror Alert on my own personal scale of Terror Alerts. And it snowed, and well … there’s just too many excuses I could make about why I’ve been gone all week.

I feel a rift in the FA movement, one that is forming or about to form or one that already existed and is now just making itself known. Over the last couple of weeks, people have been really expressive about what they aren’t getting, or what they need, and I think that’s great. I mean, I am in therapy school, after all. All this talk about feelings and needs; that’s what therapists love.

This week, I spoke, as a part of a panel, to human sexuality classes, about being queer. The panel was a part of the local LGBT organization; I spoke to three different classes, back to back. It’s funny; a year ago, I was still married and hadn’t yet filed for divorce, and was still figuring out what I would even call myself when I would get around to calling myself something. I never would have imagined I would be speaking to college kids about things like coming out, and trans issues, and why I identify as queer and not as lesbian, and what it was like to get divorced, and what religion says about being gay. I was a real snapshot of how far I’ve come, of the growth I’ve made in just one short year.

Each session, I spoke with different people. Each person identified as something different. Each person held different beliefs; one guy was bi and wanted to really talk about the issues surrounding being bi. He also went on about how the gays would have the right to marry if they really wanted to, an opinion that, as you can imagine, isn’t very popular in the queer community. Another woman identified as a lesbian, but said she might change to queer, but recognized that would be another coming out process. Another woman talked about what it was like to be transgendered, and what that process was for her. Another man talked about being gay; we talked about community, and how it is important. All of us had different experiences, different needs, different stories, different lives. And despite our rich, vibrant histories, we all shared this in common: We are a part of a community; The director of the LGBT organization said this: Being gay or queer or whatever isn’t just about who you sleep with — it’s also about the politics.

And that’s how it is for us here, too.

Some people are calling what they do Size Acceptance. Or Body Acceptance. Or Fat Rights. Or Fat Acceptance. Some people talk primarily about eating disorders. Some people talk about the damage perpetual dieting has done to them. Some people talk about gender and feminism and fat. Some people talk about HAES and exercise and fatness and fitness. Some people talk about the political aspects of fat.

Everybody has a home in this community, despite the differences. A movement cannot exist without diversity — it is the diversity that is going to give the collective whole strength.

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Counterintuitive Eating

Last week Thursday, I got a huge craving for P. Diddy’s Mac and Cheese. In his attempt to brand everything, yes, P. Diddy has his own Mac And Cheese.

It is delightful dairy goodness. It is rich, it involves pounds of cheese and cream and it’s cooked and baked and it’s absolutely wonderful.

I adore cheese.

And I rarely get actual cravings for food, because I’m on Topamax, which is an appetite destroyer. That’s fine with me, it’s helped curb the outright desire to binge, and it helps me feel sated after what I perceive to be, “regular” portion sizes. I had no concept of satiety prior to Topamax. So when I get a craving for something, I really try to honor it.  Because I believe in the concept of intuitive eating; it’s how I came to work out of some of the issues I had with bulimia.

Boy, did I fuck up.

That mac and cheese has had me sick for four days now. Between the IBS flare up and the perpetual migraine, I am really regretting listening to my intuition.

And that’s kind of where I am at with intuitive eating these days. I can’t make heads nor tails of it. I have destroyed my digestive system with the bulimia and the childhood binge eating disorder and the dieting. Intuitive eating is like counterintuitive eating to my body. When my body tells me: I want cookies, it may actually be cuing me to binge. When my body tells me: I want sweet dairy, I have to tell it: Sorry, you can’t have it. You’ll be sick as hell for a week. When my appetite screams for sugar, I have to remind myself I probably need protein, so I don’t end up with a chronic migraine a couple of days later.

I’m really thrown for a loop with all of this.

When I came to intuitive eating in 2002-4, I really liked the notion that I should be able to just trust my body. I was working on overcoming the notion that I would be able to force my body to take on another shape. No more shapeshifting for me, I finally realized. Fat was who I was. What that meant for me, in terms of my eating disorder and my food choices, was that if I had a craving, I should just be able to honor it. If I wanted a brownie, even if it was at midnight, I should just go get a fucking brownie, because denying my appetite was shutting down my link with my body, and I so desperately needed to reconnect with it. I had to learn to be somewhat of an infant again; following basic, infantile impulses.

Because of the years of disordered eating, this was emotionally terrifying: If I ate that fucking brownie, what would happen to my body? Would it expand exponentially? Would it rebel? Who would tame this body? Who would keep it under control? I mean, without the body as my own personal project, what else would I actually do? Where would I put my energy? If I fed my body when it wanted to be fed what it wanted to be fed, what would that really mean for me as a human being? And as a woman in a culture that really doesn’t want women to just give in to their basic bodily impulses? I had visions of falling off of a cliff into a vast unknown, of running into the night through unnamed streets blindfolded. It was an immense, labyrinthine undertaking. Trusting others is much easier than trusting one’s self.

Physically, my body rebelled a bit. My weight did interesting things. I got put on psych meds around the same time, and so I never did and never will know what my weight and shape would be if I didn’t have the extra cushioning that crazy pills add. It’s a lot; I imagine they give me a good 30-40 pounds extra. I got hungry at all sorts of weird times, and I worked hard to honor the hunger and connect with it. Was it emotional, was it physical. What was it I needed and wanted? Where in my body did I feel it?

Part of the problem with intuitive eating, if you are a recovering builimic or binge eater, or both, as I am, is that it can sometimes be an excuse to binge. At least for me it was. I never was the type of person who ate 10,000 calories in one sitting; you know the stories you always hear about the extreme cases: Bulimic spends $300 a day on food; eats 25,000 calories in one binge.

No, there are those of us who just start out the day normally, and then eat a cookie, and think: Well, I fucked up already, now the day is shot. And then we graze and graze the day away until by the end of the day we’ve probably eaten about 7,000 calories. It lulls us. Soothes us. It becomes ritualistic. There’s an alternating way of eating: Something sweet, then something salty, then something sweet again. Under intuitive eating, I could justify that these were things my body wanted, without calling myself out on the fact that I had mentally checked out. It’s a notion that can be helpful to eating disordered folks, but can also provide an excuse to do whatever you want with your food choices.

And while I like the concept of intuitive eating, I am really struggling with it now, especially since the havoc that I wreaked health-wise because of the bulimia and binging and dieting is really starting to show systemically. It used to be limited to my intestines. I could handle the IBS. I limited intake of dairy. I started figuring out what foods to avoid, learned to drink massive amounts of water with dinner. Figured out if I was going to eat out, I’d better be near a bathroom at all times. But the older I’ve gotten, the effects of my eating have spread to causing migraines, likely my mood, potentially joint issues. It’s completely affected my well-being.

And so now I’ve had to go back to limiting what I can eat. If I crave something, it likely might be bad for me. It likely might cause me to feel like shit for half of the month. I can’t eat intuitively anymore, because my intuition is failing me. I’m not exactly sure what to do about this: It’s thrown a wrench into the whole philosophy of trusting my body. How can I trust my body when my body tells me I want P. Diddy’s mac and cheese, so I listen to it, and then it becomes sick as a result? Am I to believe my body wants to become ill? Because I don’t believe that. But I also don’t know how to reframe what my body tells me it wants into something positive when I tell it no, without making it sound like a whole bunch of dieting talk revisited.

Quote of The Day

From Fillyjonk, over at Fatshionista, on the raging WOC in the FA movement debate. THIS is the definition of thin privilege.

Think about this: a thin person seeing an article about a push for better child nutrition to combat the obesity epidemic doesn’t SEE an example of fat hatred. They would say “there’s nothing here saying that fat people are disgusting or unacceptable; I don’t see bigotry here at all.” We recognize talk of the “obesity epidemic” or about fat as the result of overeating as a problem because we’re aware of the problem; those who are privileged or complicit see it as objective reality.

Fillyjonk 

Because the virtual world is stereotypical, too.

No no no no no no no no no no! 

I was over at USA Today getting my daily dose of shit-news, when I read this.

GAWD.

There is so much wrong with this, I don’t even know where to begin ranting.

Let me start here.

I hate virtual people. Like, the made up virtual people, especially when they relate to customer service. They are creepy and weird and I don’t care if they have made up pet dogs with names like Denali and Chomp and talk about how they were born because it’s better than having been “born in a computer.” No. No. No. It is strange and wrong and I don’t like it.

Furthermore, they do not meet my customer service needs.

I have dealt with these virtual customer service people, both on the phone and online, for a number of years now. The first one I ran into was Claire, the avatar-person-thing for Sprint. “Hi,” she would say, when I would call Sprint to bitch about my bill. “How can I help you? You can say: Billing and Payment. Or Wireless Service.”

Don’t tell me how to talk, you robot-thing-whatever. I’ll say whatever I want. And so I’d speak naturally, and she’d respond: “I didn’t understand you. You can say: Billing and Payment. Or Account Help.”

After a few rounds of that, finally I would say: “fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou,” and she would say, “I see. Let me transfer you to an Authorized Representative.”

Yes. Thank you.

I have also had a similar experience with the virtual woman for Charter Communications. And Ikea, whom we told to fuck off, and she responded that that wasn’t very polite, and then refused to engage anymore. They have become more advanced, these customer service automatons.

What I have noticed about these virtual people is that they are all white. They are all thin. They have all been women. They all have appropriately styled hair. The above linked-to story about an airline has a woman with long, layered brown hair and bangs. Claire had a short, brown bob with bangs that she tucked behind her ears. The Ikea woman had blonde hair, probably because Ikea is Swedish.

The author of the USA Today article states that these virtual people are so great because it is so tiresome to deal with foreign people trying to answer our customer service calls; finally, we have someone to help whose native tongue is English.

Hmm.

So, we have a virtual world of virtual women whose language, bodies, hair, nationalities, weight, complexion, clothing, and conversations we can control. Sounds fucking fabulous.

What about when the virtual people are representations of real, live people? How does that go over?

In the latest BitchMagazine, there’s an article talking about virtual worlds, kind of like The Sims. The particular community in question is Second Life. I know nothing of these things, really, because most of my time online is spent writing and Facebooking and stalking Fatshionista over at LiveJournal. So I pulled up some articles on Second Life, because I was really fucking disturbed about what Bitch had to say.

You know, I did a large part of my undergraduate studies on internet media. Whenever a “new” media hits the scene, it is purported to be THE MEDIA FORMAT TO REVOLUTIONIZE THE WORLD. It will be the media that will destroy all other media. It will break all barriers.

And in certain ways, the internet certainly has turned people on their collective ear. People still can’t figure out how to make a huge individual profit from it. It is assisting in building communities in ways people didn’t imagine, while also succeeding in creating a sense of isolation like never before. Broad-scale activism is much easier with this internet, and it also allows people to take back the reigns of power from the large corporatized media that shoves bullshit down our gullets day in and day out.

However.

Communities on the internet are not the social utopia that we’d like them to be, the way that it had been predicted they would be. After all, people are still people, with their foibles, flaws, hate and fear. And what better place to express their vitriol than on places like virtual communities, where people can be souped up versions of themselves, with bigger tits, blonder hair, smaller waists, tighter asses, bigger pecs, larger dicks, and bulgier biceps. Hiding behind the perfect version of themselves, people also seem to feel a lot safer expressing the inner hatred they feel against say, people of color. Or women. Or queers.

Take for instance, this snippet.

Linden Labs, the creators of Second Life, have rules about these things. I had heard one report of a woman complaining that her avatar had been raped in Second Life; there was an outcry, stating that she could have just signed off; or that what was rape in Second Life? — the virtual person just “bumping” in to her? It is important to note that first, Second Life does allow virtual people to actually have sex. And it is important to note that the creators of the game recognize that because of this, it can go far enough that they have to regulate their own community. Last year, the Belgian Police actually became involved when a person complained of virtual rape in Second Life.

I guess my point is this: it’s rather depressing to note that we’ve just moved our very stereotypical world online. It’s not surprising, of course. But how do we feel about the prospect of racial and homophobic epithets, fat hate speech, stereotypic body types, virtual crime against women, and virtual murder, which can and has translated to real-life murder?

Under the guise of anonymity, we have allowed ourselves to indulge in what we most want, which is to touch our darkest impulses: rape, murder, sexual harassment, hate crimes, hate speech, the control of women’s bodies. In a certain sense, if this were to stay in the virtual world, I might entertain the notion that that was OK. We need a release of those Freudian, id rages. I get that. But the truth is, we are becoming a society who is depending on these virtual people to deliver us services — Claire for Sprint, and the virtual women for Ikea and the airline company. And they fit stereotypes that we are fighting daily in real life.

It’s pretty fucked up, in my opinion, that we discriminate against people of color, people with disabilities, transfolks, queers, women, fat people and people who don’t speak English as their native language for jobs already, and now we’ve just gotten around the whole Equal-Opportunity-Employer question by saying: That’s OK, we only hire virtual people anyway. White, thin, straight, able-bodied, English-speaking virtual people that we had created for us after careful marketing and research. Thanks for the application, but we won’t be needing you anyway.

Personal experience with fat hatred

Seems like we FA bloggers think alike. Rio also posted a blog today on the abuse that fat people take in society. I was going to post a comment on her blog, but then it started getting too long.

My comment was basically a collection of all the shitty things people have said to me over the years regarding my fat. It’s a personal take on the blog I just posted prior to this one. Most of the comments I can’t even remember anymore. They get too be too much and too many and too overwhelming. It goes a little something like this.

From the Parents:
*You shouldn’t be mad at your mom for not buying you those pants because you looked like a fat cow in them.
*I don’t know why you think you can walk around here in that bathing suit. You look awful.
*Fatty, fatty two-by-four, couldn’t fit through the bedroom door.
*It looked like you’ve lost some weight! You didn’t block out the sun when you got into my car this afternoon.
*How much of that are you going to eat?
*You gained 16 pounds this year. What’s wrong with you?

From Kids at School:
*One kid made that noise that big trucks make when backing up. It’s called the “back-alarm.”
*One kid asked me out as a joke. I didn’t date anyone ever for the rest of school, convinced they were all asking me out as a joke.
*One entire year, a kid decided to rename me Big Bertha.

From People on the street:
*Two teenage boys, when I was 24, saw me in a parking lot and called out the window: Move it, you fat whale!

I was most shocked by the teenage boys. At 24, I was fully an adult, and thought I had outaged the taunting based on my weight. Apparently not. Most commentary I receive now (and at that time) comes in the form of street harrassment: men honking at me, men telling me I have a nice ass, men asking for my number, men asking if I have a man. That comment actually almost pushed me over the edge. I had a baseball bat in my car and I almost smashed out those fuckers windows, I had been so fed up with the commentary on my body after years and years. True story.

I didn’t though. I wished I would have. The headlines would have been great. Fat Woman is Mad As Hell and Isn’t Taking It Anymore.

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