Politics

[TW: suicide]




I don’t unfriend over politics, I hear people say

As though politics is a game

Or something unimportant 

Something other than people’s lives.

I don’t judge people over politics, I hear

And I think of the four trans teens 

Who took their lives last night 

Of women afraid to wear hijab

Of children fearing deportation 

Of boys laughing about grabbing pussies

So much division over politics, I hear

And I see windows painted with swastikas 

Hear them shattering 78 years ago

Think of family that escaped

And family that didn’t.

And I wonder 

If these lives are not where you draw the line 

What is?

Why I hate dad bod (and I’m not even going to mention the stupid name)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve read about dad bod. Supposedly it’s the trendy body shape for men. According to Mackenzie Pearson, the Clemson University student who popularized the term, the dad bod is “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out.” What is it exactly? It’s a man’s body with a little bit of comfortable padding while still having some muscle definition. Dad bod is not stocky, it’s not fat, it’s just maybe a little bit soft in the tummy. This is why I hate the dad bod. No, wait, I don’t mean that exactly. I don’t hate the dad bod as a body type. I hate the dad bod as a phenomenon.

Really, I hate ANY body type as a phenomenon. I hate the idea of a body type being trendy. People come in all shapes and sizes. While everyone has their individual preferences and turn-ons, a body type should never be trendy. Body types being trendy is similar to races, ethnicities, or sexual preferences being trendy, in that it reduces human beings to fetishized objects. A human being should not be a trend. People are not tee shirts or hairstyles.

Now let’s talk about dad bod specifically as a trend. One of the most salient points Pearson makes, and that popular media repeats, is that the dad bod is not fat. No, the dad bod is what is often considered an “ideal” male body– washboard abs, defined pecs– but with maybe 10 pounds added. This is important. The dad bod is often presented as a body-positive trend. “…[A]s the term has spread so has the male body-acceptance movement. Men who may have once felt insecure about having a beer gut are now embracing their bodies like never before,” states the Orlando Sentinel. “‘Dad bod’ embraces — and indeed, celebrates — not perfection, but rather the lack of it.” states Lucia Peters in Bustle. Here’s the thing, though: Dad bod as a trend promotes acceptance and positivity only for the dad bod. Fat men? Men who have more than a little bit of a paunch over those former-athlete muscles? Men who have fat in other places on their bodies? Dad bod doesn’t celebrate them. Dad bod is emphatically NOT them. In an interview in Slate, Pearson elaborated on what exactly the dad bod is and isn’t: “…not unhealthy… not overweight… a little bit of squish on top of his muscle.”

Dad bod hasn’t enlarged the range of body types and sizes that are acceptable to the mainstream. It’s just moved it a little. It’s repositioned that window to a space about ten pounds heavier, but that window is just as narrow. Thin guys are less desirable than before, because they’re not as cuddly and comfortable as guys with dad bod. And, of course, fat guys are as hated as ever.

In fact, the reasons Pearson cites for the popularity of the dad bod are rooted in fat hate: guys with dad bod make their female companions appear slimmer in comparison, she notes, and girls have less pressure to be perfect when they date a guy with dad bod. Also (and I think her assumption here is simply incorrect), she states that young women know what they’re getting when they date men with dad bod, because the men will probably have the same body decades later. I’m guessing she means that women won’t be unpleasantly surprised when their fit, chiseled young groom ends up 30-40lbs heavier (or more) by middle age. None of this is body-positive.

Gentlemen, rock your dad bods if you have them. Strut your stuff. Also rock your skinny bods, your chiseled bods, your fat bods, your super-size bods. Rock whatever you have. Love yourselves, love your bodies, whatever size and shape you are. Don’t pay attention to body-type trends. Your body is perfect, the way it is.

The touch, the feel, of cheaply made polyester plus-size clothes

Growing up with a father in the textile business, I was quite young when I learned that the First Commandment of my household was Thou Shalt Not Wear Polyester. As soon as I started buying my own clothes, I checked garment labels and opted for natural materials- cotton, silk, wool, linen. Natural fabrics breathe, they last longer, they don’t pill as easily. The thing is, though, it’s hard to stick to natural fabrics when you’re shopping on a budget. I guess the price of cotton has gone up, because nowadays it’s a challenge to find even a 100% cotton tee-shirt in a lot of discount stores. Cotton-modal (rayon) and cotton-poly blends are becoming the norm.

Finding plus-size clothes in natural materials is even harder, especially on a budget. Plus-size clothes are generally overpriced, anyway. Fab fatties like myself are used to the unfairness of paying more for clothes than average-size people. It would perhaps sting a little less if the clothes were stylish and of decent quality, but that’s not the case with most plus-size clothes. Usually the clothes we buy are not clothes we love, but clothes we settle for. If our clothing budget is limited, this is almost always the case. Our options are already limited; there are few brick-and-mortar plus-size stores, so we’re often forced to shop online. If you’re someone like me, who has to try on at least a dozen items before I find one piece that works, buying clothes online becomes an exercise in frustration. Still, I do it, because what choice do I have? I spend hours online, searching for items that are cute, don’t cost too much, and have at least a slight chance of fitting me and looking okay. There are actually some online stores (www.dominodollhouse.com, http://www.modcloth.com, http://www.eshakti.com, http://www.forever21.com, http://www.asos.com, http://www.rue21.com, http://www.rue107.com) that sell fashion-forward clothes for plus sizes, instead of the usual garish muumuus or spangled sweatshirts that I’m trying to avoid at least until I collect social security. Some brick-and-mortar stores that don’t carry plus sizes in the store, such as Old Navy, do have them online. I have to point out here that I’m what’s known as a “small fat.” I’m a size 1x, about a 16 or 18. This means that just about all plus-size stores and departments carry my size. Many stores do not carry clothing past a 3x or 4x. If you are above that range, your choices are ridiculously limited.

So, if I shop online, I can find affordable clothes that actually look flattering and cute. It might take weeks of trying and returning, or a scary-large initial outlay on a credit card, but if I try enough items I’m bound to find something that fits, right? But here’s what’s well-nigh impossible to find: cute, affordable, plus-size clothes made of cotton. I might as well be searching for unicorns. I’m tempted to just say the hell with it and give in to polyester. It’ll pill, it’ll crackle with static electricity, I’ll be covered with dog hair, but at least I’ll be stylish. The only problem is, we’re about to hit summer in Florida. Temperatures in the high nineties or even over 100. Enough humidity to fog my eyeglasses. I sweat just walking to my car. Doesn’t wrapping my body in a layer of polyester sound lovely and refreshing? Making it even more pleasant is the current trend of sheer garments that require a tank or camisole underneath to avoid breaking indecent exposure laws. Hey, let’s place another layer under that outer shell of non-breathable polyester. A rayon knit, perhaps? While we’re at it, I might as well wear a sweater made from Saran wrap over the whole shebang, because it couldn’t possibly be any less comfortable than two layers of synthetic fabric under the Florida sun.

Please, plus-size designers, rediscover cotton. It’s the fabric of our lives. It’s also the fabric that won’t leave me red-faced, dripping with sweat, and passing out from heat prostration.

On Baltimore, protest, and looting.

Everyone keeps saying that violence is not the answer, that looting doesn’t help the cause…. Well, what does? I’m not a proponent of violence, but sitting nicely & saying “pretty please” hasn’t helped anything. Protest peacefully and you get teargassed, beaten, shot at with rubber bullets, and painted as looting thugs anyway. Protest peacefully and your leaders get murdered. Protest peacefully and the news doesn’t even cover it. People have been protesting peacefully for days in Baltimore, but the news shows up today now that it’s a “riot.” People have been protesting peacefully in Ferguson since August, but the few days there was looting got all the attention. People have been protesting peacefully for OVER 300 YEARS- the history of this country since colonial times- and what has it accomplished? Black and brown lives are still considered expendable. Black and brown people are still second-class citizens. Still being prevented from voting, getting shit schools, getting shut into ghettos and shut out of the democratic process. Maybe destruction of property (which is what we’re talking about when we say “violence”) is not the answer, maybe it hurts more than it helps, but it sure as hell seems like the only answer when you can’t even keep track of all the black people killed by police in the past couple of months.

And until I am in the position of counting the number of my people killed bc of who they are, until I have to worry every single day whether my family members will make it home, until I live every second with the knowledge that my human life is valued by society less than animals and material objects, I’m not going to judge what disenfranchised people do when their pain and rage becomes too much to bear.

My walk home

I’m with my husband and/or kids 95% of the time. Today I had the rare pleasure of meeting a friend for coffee- just me, her, and her toddler. Then I started walking home alone, relishing the time to myself. Walking at my own pace, getting lost in my own thoughts… until a man young enough to be my son sexually harassed me as I passed him at the edge of a parking lot.

You know, I’d actually forgotten what it’s like. I almost always drive in Charlotte, and here in Coral Springs I’ve always been with Adrian when I walked anywhere. So it’s been literally years since I’ve experienced street harassment.

But of course, the first time I walk alone, I am quickly put in my place, reminded of my vulnerability. Reminded that public space is not for me, but for men. Reminded that a woman alone is fair game.

I scowled, rolled my eyes, and walked past the man, my peace shattered. I crossed the parking lot and continued through the quiet residential area near my apartment complex. With few people on the streets, and no businesses around me, I tensed up every time a car passed close by. Carefully sized up each man I passed. I knew (as women always know, but try not to think about) that if someone wanted to assault me as I completed my walk home, there wasn’t much I could do about it. The cars reminded me of the numerous times I was followed by men in cars when I was a college student. Of how my roommate and I would run across a small park, knowing it would take longer for a car to drive around, and hoping the driver didn’t just stop and run after us.

I acknowledged, for probably the first time, that I will face this until the day I die. That men rape even octogenarians. That, as a woman, I will never, ever, be free from the threat and the fear of physical or sexual violence.

What shotgun jokes are really about

“If the baby is a girl,” an expectant father I know told his young sons, “It will be your job to protect her. That’s what big brothers do. When she starts dating, any boy who wants to date her will have to go through you guys first.”

This is only the latest example of a theme I’ve heard verbalized time and time again, horrifying not just because of its substance (it’s so commonplace an idea that it’s on t-shirts and bumperstickers) but because of how young such roles are being enforced. The boys in question are elementary-aged, and the little sister to be “protected” is only a possibility, still an embryo at this time.

What are we saying when we tell boys that sisters are to be protected and guarded from boys who want to date them, but don’t say anything about brothers? When fathers (it’s almost always fathers, rarely mothers) make lists of “rules for dating my teenage daughter,” or joke about owning shotguns and showing potential suitors their knife collections? Firstly, we’re assuming heterosexuality and cisgenderness. That the baby born with a vulva will identify as a girl in her teen years, and that she will be attracted solely to boys. Just this assumption is dangerous. As parents, we shouldn’t act as if there is only one way for our children to be, one gender and sexual orientation for them to identify as. We need to wait and let them tell us who they are.

Beyond that, there is the idea of owning our girl-children’s sexuality, or more specifically, their virginity. When we talk about “protecting” our daughters and sisters, we’re not talking about protecting them from physical or emotional harm. If that were the case, it would be just as commonplace to make jokes about showing girls our shotguns when they come to date our sons or our brothers. In fact, we’d threaten our children’s friends and acquaintances of all genders and sexual orientations, not just aspiring romantic partners. Moreover, we would spend much more time talking to our daughters about how to recognize intimate partner abuse (which, by the way, is shockingly common among teenagers), and we’d have arsenals of ice cream, chocolate, and Liam Hemsworth movies for the inevitable broken hearts, not knives and guns.

No, what we are “protecting” is that prize jewel that has been treasured by various societies for millennia: women’s virginity. We are positing familial, usually male, ownership of teenage girls’ virginity. We are saying that virginity is a valuable prize, too precious and important for the girl in question to be in control of it. Rather, it is the job of the males in the family to guard this precious jewel. To keep people away, to vet all seekers until the “right” recipient- one approved by the male sentries- comes along. The fact that the keepers of the gate are the girl’s male relatives is not just unjust, it’s creepy and borderline incestuous.

Think about this. Think about what we are telling our teenage daughters when we do this. It’s the age-old idea, of course, that “it’s the boy’s job to ask and the girl’s job to say no.” That “guys only want one thing.” It’s a shitty and simplistic characterization of men and boys to say that they are not capable of emotional depth or loving relationships. And what about what girls want? Because newsflash, women and teen girls do want and enjoy sex. And it’s not the job of men and boys to dictate whether or when women and girls have sex, or how much, or with whom. It is a teenage girl’s decision, and hers alone, whether and when to engage in sexual activity. It is her body. To deny a person ownership and control of their own body is one of the worst injustices there is. If we are to treat teenage girls as complete human beings, with all the rights and respect thereof, we must do away with this idea that fathers and brothers have the job of guarding girls’ sexuality. We must recognize girls’ ownership over their bodies and their sexuality, and honor their decisions.

Happy Holidays, Whatever You Celebrate

It’s starting again… the annual arguments about “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.” Having grown up in multicultural New York City, I can’t believe this is even an issue, a topic that causes arguments and warrants discussions, but apparently it is. I’ve seen Facebook discussions and memes posted, I’ve heard people talking about it, so I might as well put in my two cents here. The funny thing is that I actually do celebrate Christmas (albeit secularly), because my husband was raised Catholic and we wanted to keep some of his traditions in our family. But everything I’m saying here still stands for me, because I’m Jewish, and Christmas is not really my holiday. It applies even more to people who don’t celebrate Christmas at all.

For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to assume that you, the reader, are not a Fox news- watching bigot who thinks that Christianity is the only true path and that there is actually a war on Christmas. I’m going to assume that anyone reading this is fine with people believing in religions other than Christianity, and that you never use the phrase “creeping Sharia” un-ironically.

You just don’t see what the big deal is with saying “Merry Christmas.” It’s what you’re used to, what you’ve always said. And hey, you’re nice enough to offer a holiday greeting at all- shouldn’t we non-Christians just be gracious and accept it? Shouldn’t we just stop being so picky, so over-sensitive, and assume that you have good intentions?

Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but in general, I do try to be polite when people wish me a Merry Christmas. It bothers me, but I’m not going to create a scene at the Walmart checkout or start lecturing the Salvation Army bell-ringer. And good intentions are lovely, but they’re not all that matters, and let’s face it- if you really have good intentions, you will take into account the feelings of the person you’re talking to. You will remember that your holiday wishes are not about you; they are about others. If you’re going to bother saying something nice for the holidays, make sure it’s something that truly is nice- something that’s kind and respectful towards the recipient, something that’s about the joy you want them to experience and not just about what’s easiest for you. When you wish me a Merry Christmas, you are assuming that I am Christian (and we all know what happens when you assume). You are centering your own perspective and experience, and ignoring mine. You are making Christianity the default. That’s not about me, and it doesn’t make my Chanukah, or any other day during the holiday season, happier.

Perhaps you don’t see what the big deal is. After all, you wouldn’t be offended if someone wished you a Happy Chanukah or a blessed Yule. I probably wouldn’t be offended, either, if once in a blue moon someone said something to me that centered Christianity as the default. The problem is that non-Christians in most Western countries experience some form of this every day of our lives. Christmas and Easter are national holidays. No mail, no school, government offices closed. That’s not the case with other religions. Our holidays aren’t national holidays. We’re lucky if we get those days off from work or school, and when we do it’s usually because we specifically asked for them. Often, school or work events are scheduled during our holidays, because it doesn’t even occur to organizers to check the calender for non-Christian holidays. Outside of large metropolitan areas, it’s often difficult to find the foods and objects we need for our religious rituals. Most pop culture that involves holidays focuses on Christian holidays. Christmas music, Christmas and Easter specials on TV… it’s only in the past 5-10 years that children’s books about Chanukah, Passover, and Kwanzaa have been widely available, and I’ve never seen any for Muslim, Hindu, pagan, or other holidays in mainstream bookstores.

I could go on and on, listing the myriad ways non-Christian religions are erased from the public awareness, but I’ll stop with this very incomplete list. My point is that when our identity is erased and ignored as a matter of course, having it be ignored again in someone’s holiday wishes is just one more micro-aggression we have to endure. It’s truly exhausting sometimes.

And here’s the thing: “Happy Holidays” is all-inclusive. You don’t have to worry about saying the specific holiday greeting correctly or what to do for someone who doesn’t celebrate any holidays at this time of year. And you’re not erasing Christmas. Christmas is included in “Happy Holidays.” You know what else is included? New Year’s! Poor New Year’s, the holiday almost everyone celebrates but everyone forgets about when saying “Merry Christmas.” “Happy Holidays” covers all bases. It respects everyone’s religious customs. Even if someone doesn’t celebrate any religious holiday at this time of year, “Happy Holidays” wishes them joy for the entire season and for the New Year.

This holiday season, I hope that you are surrounded by the love of family and friends. I hope that you find joy in traditions old and new. I hope you get great presents, and I hope you experience the pleasure of giving presents. Also, unless you are sure that someone celebrates only Christmas, I hope you wish people a “Happy Holidays!”