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Posts tagged ‘feel good stories’

Piece of Me

A few weeks back Britney Spears, whom I think most people around here are probably aware by now, is someone whom I admire the fuck out of did something else I kind of admired. We’ll get to that.

We kind of grew up together, Britney and I. She’s a year younger than I am, give or take a few months (we are still on the “give” end, right now), and there were stages in her music and over-exposed by the media life that hit the stride w/ my life that really helped me cope. She was the first pop star who was around my age who normalized the idea that it was OK to struggle between the idea of the Madonna-Whore dichotomy, and prove that you could come through the other end of it defining your sexuality on your own terms and really decide for yourself what it all meant to you.

While I lamented that Britney had to go through in public many things that I was desperately trying to keep private, I secretly was relieved to have someone to look up to and see that there was this celebrity, this literal nigh rock star who bounced back from it, to tell me that I was going to be just fine. Here is this mother, this woman, this divorcee, this person who lived while wearing all of these hats, and didn’t have to do it perfectly, and yeah, people were really fucking harsh on her. But here she was, and if she could do it all with all of these people watching her, then surely I could come back and heal and do it OK for myself and maybe find the fight inside of me. I did and she did, and I think we are both still healing a wee bit. I haven’t asked her directly, but I would over coffee if given the chance.

But now back to that other thing that I just love that she did. Britney released the original, untouched pictures from a recent photo shoot with Candee’s shoes, showing all of the things that were ‘Shopped out for the advertisement.

Britney Spears, a white woman with blonde hair in a pink bathing suit and black high heeled shoes in a before and after photo shop shot, showing her waist slimmed, her thighs slimmed, and her bruises removed from her shins.

Not ignoring the fact that Britney Spears is not the majority of women who will consume this advert, I have to have a lot of respect for this. As a woman who opened magazines as a teen and wondered what the poop was wrong with her own knees, I appreciate this gesture. I have no illusions that Britney Spears has a great deal of privilege that allows her to be able to find more comfort that might make it easier to do something like this, but I also can’t ignore the fact that even thin women are allowed to feel insecure with their own bodies. We fat women don’t own the copyright on that. I mean, what kind of world do we live in when a woman who has been a professional dancer for most of her adult life isn’t deemed perfect enough? That she has to have the bruises one would find business as usual to that kind of activity to be unsightly erased to be considered conventionally beautiful; that her ankles have to be smoothed, that some of her muscle tone has to be smoothed away as if it were ZOMCC TEH UNSIGHTLY FAT!!!1!ELEVENTYONE! is telling of where women are in society.

This is a far cry from “she is a manufactured pop star, what do you want?” also. As previously noted by Melissa McEwan, even Britney Spears isn’t Britney Spears ™ anymore. In fact, I kind of like this Britney Spears better, because she seems to have settled into a more creative and comfortable her — a Britney who is fine having un-‘Shopped pics of herself released because she knows that she is comfortable enough in what she has that she is proud of what each mark and bruise means to her. A stronger and more confident woman. A woman who is strong enough to say “This is the person I am outside of the image someone else carved out for me”.

She knows that she has come by all of this in her life and she knows the stories behind all of it. Every bruise, bump, fold, wrinkle and dimple.

Britney Spears, again a before and after, showing her tatoo removed, her cellulite removed, and her buttocks made smaller by Photoshopping.

I am glad to have someone who can do this to look up to. And while yes, beauty is a construct of society that at the end of the day is another hierarchy that is set up to privilege some women above others, I can not fault some women for abiding by it or even succeeding by it, not when there are so many things that are set in place to hold us pack within the Kyriarchal structure. Like Natalia Antonova noted once, beauty “goes hand-in-hand with terror”. Because, for women who depend beauty to get by in our society, “losing your looks is extremely hard in a culture that somehow manages to both reward and punish you for having them”.

We can argue all day the privilege of being a conventionally thin and attractive woman. We can argue all day that a celebrity sets hirself up for that by trading in fame for privacy (note: HA! no, you can’t do that here, on this thread, b/c comments to that effect will not be allowed, b/c I don’t believe that a celebrity has an obligation to trade those things for a job, nor are people the sum of their jobs, nor is a thin person or a conventionally pretty person not allowed to feel insecure, etc. Go get your own blog and argue that crap. I can search Google and find about a dozen celebrity gossip sites where that shit is just fine. This is not one of those).

What I will argue, is that I am shockingly low on all the news and magazines who are clawing all over themselves to run the photos of men in the buff — au naturale if you will, because it isn’t such a big deal. I don’t see men who are dragging themselves around to the same degree to be impossibly beautiful. I see pores and stubble and grey hairs and the signs of aging all over magazine covers. It is not the same standard, no matter how hard you argue it or how loud you yell at me. It’s not the same thing. I am not seeing young men killing themselves trying to meet impossible standards b/c the world’s most perfect men aren’t perfect enough, and haven’t read stories by any young men about how they didn’t know until college that their knees were really supposed to look like that.

It’s not the same standard.

But, thank-you, Ms. Spears, because, as has been said before, by women who have written it better, I admire the fuck out of you. It’s been a long journey, and you have walked it admirably.

Here’s to the next decade, and I hope it brings us great things, sister!

XOXO

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God Doesn’t Hate Me!

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Contrary to popular belief…and maybe to some recent evidence that might persuade me if I were an individual who would ponder such thoughts…

But yesterday’s New York Times ran an Op-Ed by Nicholas D. Kristof about Religion and Women.

Kristof gives a great run down about the various ways that the major world religions have spent their time over the centuries putting women in the place of second class citizens, from excusing rape to demanding their silence to teaching that it was perfectly OK to throw acid in their faces for the audacious act of going to school. He points out that it isn’t a doctrinal message, this violence and abuse that causes oppression to be carried out in the name of religion. Biblical scholars, Kristof says, even argue that Paul never really said that women should always be silent.

So who is it, then, that decided that women should be shunned, used, or abused and have it justified by holy sacrament?

The men in charge of interpreting the holy law, or waging the holy war.

That makes my Pagan/agnostic bones tingle (or maybe it’s the Topiramate, who knows), to read about a speech delivered by former President Jimmy Carter, (whom, apparently I fall close to on morality tests, who knew?), where he stated,“Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified,” and I think that hits the nail on the head of what has alienated me from religion for a long time, at least until I found Paganism. Women have long been cast aside as less than.

It reminds me of being young and being involved in church for the first time, and like all things I take on, I threw myself in head first. I wanted to do it well. But I wasn’t allowed to serve communion, even though my friend was (because he was a guy, of course), or take offering. I couldn’t lead prayer. If I was older, I was allowed to teach Sunday School, but for now I could work in the Nursery, rocking babies, like a good mommy in training.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it at the time. I have always — and this is in no way a statement of femininity or innate nurturing instinct — enjoyed other people’s babies (and then, eventually my own, even though it wasn’t ever my plan until it happened). But I didn’t understand the divide, and because you are a girl never made enough sense to me. Why couldn’t I pass a tray of grape juice around during evening service? Why couldn’t I read a passage from the Bible or give a prayer? Didn’t God think that I was just as important? Wasn’t I told that I was made in his image too?

No, actually.

Of course, a lot of things didn’t make sense to me, and my Aries personality and a youth pastor telling me, a 17 year old girl who had been tossed from home to home, working and buying her own way at a minimum wage job, that she had a problem with money and was greedy and a bad person because she didn’t tithe, began my Great Schism. And no I didn’t want to talk about it, and no, I didn’t feel like having it Mansplained to me anymore, by anyone. Not even other Youth Ministers that I had good relationships with.

I bounced. I might have flounced, but I was 17*, and while I was mature due the nature of my situation, I had a stubborn streak to beat…well…Hell.

I had to reconcile it for myself, and figure out why I wasn’t good enough. No matter how hard I worked or how good I was, I was never good enough for God.

To me, some 12 years later, that speech from Carter is like a breath of air. That little quote, that one moment in time (even, again, coming as permission from a white man), gave me pass to feel that my feelings of frustration during my time in the church were validated (but never relieved, because my whole extended family is Catholic, and I was the wayward Other…so…hence, the Guilt).

This brings me to The Elders, which sounds like something out of some of my favorite fantasy works. It is a real thing, made of Awesome, in that it is a Who’s Who of former world leaders, and comprised of many religious and spiritual powerhouses, lead my Nelson Mandela. Among the ranks are Carter, Aung San Suu Kyi, Desmond Tutu, Mary Robinson, and several others. They meet with a silent moment of prayer, and have many goals, including not attacking religion, but recognizing, according to Robinson, “if there’s one overarching issue for women it’s the way that religion can be manipulated to subjugate women.”

While I find myself mostly outside of religion, I love the way it works, and to learn about the different kinds. I’ve also live three major world religions from birth to now, and know much about them not just from a college intro class, but from life experience. I love how people who get to the fundamentals of what their religion is love their religion without hurting others. And The Elders do that, and more.

With the formation of The Elders, and my big crush The Dalai Lama naming himself a feminist, perhaps organized world religions haven’t failed me after all. Perhaps there is hope that they can foster a place where women will be treated with love and dignity and respect. As equal citizens, because that is all I have ever wanted.

*Teenagers are not a monolith. I was, sometimes, your stereotype, the moody girl prone to over reaction. But, I was also the girl who had to adapt to many adult situations. Many teenagers are like that. Do not assume that teenagers are not thinking, mostly adult-like people, worthy of respect, despite what you might read eslewhere.

Congratulations!

Katherine Heigl, Josh Kelly, and their new daughter, Naleigh.

Katherine Heigl, Josh Kelly, and their new daughter, Naleigh.

To the newly expanded family:

Katherine Heigl and Josh Kelley have adopted a 10 month old baby girl from Korea. Katherine and Josh have named their daughter Nancy Leigh and she will go by the nickname Naleigh.

May they be blessed with many wonders and joys.

That little girl is so cute I could just bite her.  NOM!

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Dartmouth Inaugurates Dr. Jim Yong Kim

Via Angry Asian Man.

Dr. Kim becomes the 17th President of Dartmouth, and the first Asian American President of an Ivy League school.  He was born in Seoul, South Korea, and raised in Muscatine, Iowa.

“The historical moment in which we live demands that your generation unite — as never before — learning with action, passion with practicality” to address the world’s most pressing challenges, President Kim said. He argued that the liberal arts education they would receive at Dartmouth could uniquely prepare them to do so.

A physician, educator and infectious disease expert, Dr. Kim said it was “deeply humbling for me – the child of Korean immigrants from a small town in Iowa” to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and lead Dartmouth College.

Awesome.

Knit-A-Thon and Charity Screening in A2

If you are in the Ann Arbor are on 05 September why not check out the Jayne’s Knit-A-Thon screening of Serenity and Dr. Horrible?  The proceeds benefit Equality Now.

h/t to Whedonesque

Seven years ago today…

my buddy, Jason, and VBFitU held my hands and wheeled my IV stand as they walked the enormity of me up and down the hospital corridors.  When the nurses yelled at me to get back in bed they yelled back and kept me walking b/c it was more comfortable.  When I was thirsty they snuck me water, and when I was freaking out they reassured me.

Together w/ my mom they stayed w/ me through the night and long into the next day, keeping me calm, keeping me company, and keeping the doctors and nurses and medical students in line.  It was scary, but it was the ending of uncertainty and a beginning I never knew I wanted.  When it was over I had in my arms the greatest thing ever.

Thank you, so much, the three of you.  Thank you for making those moments special and perfect and for caring enough about me and The Kid to Be to drop everything to be at our side.  Never, if I lived a million years, would I ever be able to explain how much that meant to me.

Thank you.

And to The Kid, thank you for the best seven years of my life so far…

Important Announcement!

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Despite her repeated statements to the contrary, Renee has, in fact (cue Dramatic Kitteh):

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