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On Being a Badass

A young woman biker zipping up her leather jacket.   (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)
Photo: Keystone Features/Getty Images

“Mac McClelland is used to being called a badass. “I’m always very flattered, always very honored that they say that,” she told Mother Jonesrecently. It makes sense: She’s a journalist who made her namehanging out with refugees of Burmese genocide, chasing a warlord in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and interviewing sexual-assault survivors in post-earthquake Haiti — in other words, doing a really tough job. “At the same time,” she continued, “it sort of depends on your definition of badass. I think that the normal definition is that you don’t have any feelings, right? So it’s like you don’t care, you’re not really comfortable, and you’re not touched by things, and you can do whatever you want.”

This isn’t always the connotation of badass. Sometimes the term is applied to people with palpable confidence and an uncompromising attitude whodo feel comfortable shedding a few tears and displaying nurturing characteristics. But McClelland is right that, as it’s most commonly used, badass implies both toughness and disaffectedness. It’s rare to look at someone whose chief qualities are measured thoughtfulness and open emotionality and declare her a total badass. As women carve out careers and comfortably adopt traits that were once considered “masculine,” there’s strong social pressure on them to mimic the stoicism that men have traditionally been expected to maintain in the face of hardship. By now, we know the drill: Lean In if we want to succeed, and Go Outside if we have to cry.

As one of the people who has referred to McClelland publicly as a badass — as well as her friend and former editor — I’ve been thinking about this ever since I read her new book, Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story. It’s an incredibly personal memoir about her experience with trauma and falling in love while trying to heal. Much of McClelland’s PTSD struggle is acknowledging that she had the right to be traumatized even though she was merely threatened and witnessed horrible things, not physically harmed, in the line of duty. During her panicked breakdowns, she tells herself things like, “These are the sorts of bullshit excuses you make for yourself when in fact You. Are. THE WORST.

It’s almost scary to realize how deeply many women — especially those who are pushing the boundaries of what’s traditionally been considered feminine — have internalized the message that toughness and feelings don’t go together. There is something very appealing about adopting this no-feelings badass approach when you’re a woman who’s outnumbered professionally or who’s chosen a line of work that, historically, women have been shut out of. There’s pressure to prove that you’re just as capable as men are, which can turn into pressure to ignore your emotional responses and downplay the tendencies you have that are traditionally considered “feminine.” I’ve internalized this myself: When I was a boss, Istruggled to downplay my emotions, even in extremely difficult moments. More recently, when an editor I respect tweeted about crying during her workday, I felt a pang of disgust. Keep it together, I thought.

Nothing throws a wrench in this desire to downplay the feminine quite like a pregnancy. Photojournalist Lynsey Addario also recently published a memoir that is, in part, about her decision to keep up her grueling and dangerous work while she was pregnant. “With the exception of military embeds, I took on all my regular assignments, hiding my growing belly beneath loosefitting shirts, cargo pants and sometimes, fortunately, a hijab,” she wrote in an excerpt for the New York Times. She pushes aside her growing fears about jeopardizing the safety of her child and her guilt about making her husband worry. She certainly doesn’t talk about it at work. “I adamantly didn’t want any of my editors or colleagues to know that I was pregnant until I could no longer hide it. I worried about being denied work or treated differently.” The fear is understandable. Most of her colleagues covering foreign conflicts were men. And once she told her story, exposing her competing concerns for her job and for her child, the backlash was swift. “I found Lynsey Addario’s behavior absolutely reprehensible!” wrote one commenter. “How a mother could put her own ambitions and ego above that of her child is beyond belief.” Wrote another, “I feel so sorry for the baby.”

The particular pressure to be a certain type of badass woman is not unrelated to the “cool girl” phenomenon — you know, how sexist stereotypes about “most women” pressure certain girls to be the womanwho puts away burgers and beers, laughs at sexist jokes, and sets herself up as an exception to the rule that women are soft and gentle and high-maintenance. The cool girl is just as hot but with far fewer feelings. While I’m sure McClelland and Addario would be the last to refer to feelings as a sign of weakness, both of their memoirs reveal how tempting it is to fall into gendered, old-school definitions of toughness. Badasses don’t worry about being assaulted! Badasses don’t get PTSD! Badasses don’t let pregnancy stop them from venturing into a war zone! If they have to cry, badasses go outside!

Although McClelland and Addario are journalists, this phenomenon is much broader than women war reporters. It’s tempting to think that a certain level of thick-skinned posturing will solve women’s problems. We advise women who are harassed online to simply toughen up, shake off their haters, and get on with their lives. In a more extreme example, conservative politicians are recommending women arm themselves in order to prevent sexual assault. “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head,” said Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore. Anyone who knows anything about sexual assault knows that guns won’t solve it because most assaults happen between acquaintances, not as a result of brute-force attacks. Anyone who’s been the victim of hate-filled online attacks knows that the “block” button is not enough. The answer doesn’t lie in removing or ignoring all perceived vulnerabilities. It lies in recognizing those vulnerabilities exist — mostly owing to deep-seated cultural factors. And women are no less badass for feeling traumatized by them.

It strikes me that as women continue to break into traditionally masculine professions and defend their right to exist in unsafe spaces, the rest of us have a responsibility to do more than cheer them from the sidelines. We should also make clear that we understand this work is hard, that it often takes an emotional toll, that there are no easy answers, and that, when they acknowledge their feelings and admit their struggles, they’re all the more badass for it. This wouldn’t just help women with challenging jobs or in dangerous situations. It would also benefit men who have long been expected to bury their emotional responses and carry on as if they are unaffected by trauma. It’s not “badass” to survive a horrible situation without shedding a single tear. The real badass move, as women like McClelland and Addario show, is to fearlessly acknowledge how something has affected you and make space for others to do the same.”

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People Think Women Lie Because That’s What We Teach Our Children

Posted: 09/11/2014 2:21 pm EDT Updated: 09/11/2014 2:59 pm EDT
WENDY DAVIS

“Portions of the post first appeared in Role Reboot.

In her recently-released memoir, Democratic nominee for Texas governor Wendy Davis writes about two abortions she had many years ago. A National Review Online contributor would like her to prove it. Like Erin Gloria Ryan, who wrote about this yesterday in Jezebel, I won’t link to this article, which included the following sentence, “The Davis campaign did not respond to questions about whether Davis’s highly unusual abortions were matched by any medical evidence, doctor statements, or public verification from her ex-husband or two daughters.”

This “wink, wink — we all know women lie” masked as journalistic concern isn’t just about Davis, but all of us. Words like “highly suspect” “evidence” and “verification,”used in circumstances like this, leverage a diffuse and atavistic suspicion of women.

Women’s credibility is questioned in the workplace, in courts, in legislatures, by law enforcement, in doctors’ offices and in our political system. People don’t trust women… not to be bossespilots, employees. Last year, a survey of managers in the United States revealed that they overwhelmingly don’t believe women who request flextime. Until relatively recently, in order to hedge against the idea that women lie, many U.S. police departments had “corroboration requirements” for rape reports, unlike any other crime. Pakistan’s controversial Hudood Ordinance still requires a female rape victim to procure four male witnesses to her rape or risk prosecution for adultery. Bias is particularly pronounced when it comes to women’s bodies and who does what with them.

Several months ago, a man in France was arrested for raping his 14-year old daughter. She’d gone to her school counselor and then the police, but they needed “hard evidence.” The recently-revealed Rotherham abuse crimes, in which more than 1,400 girls were subjected to rape and other violence, were largely enabled by authorities who thought girls didn’t deserve to be believed. They aren’t alone. Studies show thatcollege students and, even more disturbingly, police officers, believe that up to 50% of women lie when they accuse someone of rape, despite wide-scale evidence and multi-country studies that show the incidence of false rape reports to be in the 2%-8% range. As I will forever point out, as late as 2003, people jokingly referred to Philadelphia’s sex crimes unit as “the lying bitch unit.”

Everyone lies. However, people expect different kinds of lies from men and women. Women are frequently considered trustworthier except when lies include another person, in which case confidence in the veracity of what women say plummets. In other words, women can be trusted to talk about themselves, but not anything else. Even when people surveyed say they think women are more honest as individuals,despite themselves, they cannot trust them as leaders. In Davis’ case, she’s not even extended this courtesy, being believed when she is recounting the facts of her own life.

You know what a memoir is? Testimony.

The words testimony, testify, testis, testicle, attest, intestate, testament and contest are related etymologically. Yup. That, historically, you could not give testimony if you did not posses the balls to do so is not a metaphor. Apparently, men in ancient Rome cupped each others’ testicles, as a sign of trust and truthfulness, when taking oaths. Today, men no longer do this, at least not that I’m aware of, nor do they place their right hands on their testicles in order to swear to tell the truth in court any longer. (Someone will tell me that I’m lying, in which case they should contact theUniversity of Chicago.)

While this delicious historical tidbit may seem like a quaint oddity, and it’s fair to assume that most people are not overtly linking men’s crown jewels with the truth, the fact remains that we live with this legacy. This semantic cluster provides interesting insights into who we, culturally, choose to believe and how we, systemically, regulate narratives and prioritize experiences. There is a certain self-fulfilling ideological logic to the notion that the vast majority of women are, quite literally, not fit to have their words taken at face value or their concerns taken seriously.

Take courtrooms, and their proxies — media, school rape adjudication boards and public judgment. Myths about gender and truth don’t stay at home when jurors, judges and journalists go to work. In courtrooms, not only are men considered more credible, but they are particularly thought more credible if they are talking aboutcomplex subjects. Are Wendy Davis’ abortions, and the ethical and moral considerations that led to them, complex? Conservatives in particular have a hard time recognizing women’s moral competence.

As Dahlia Lithwick so richly documented a few years ago, the GOP’s destructive, ruinous anti-woman “social policy” agenda is being pursued under a rubric that insists women need “permission slips” and “waiting periods.” The government shutdown last year? Conservatives holding the country hostage because they wanted to add anti-abortion “conscience clause” language to legislation. Whose consciences? All the lying, morally incompetent and untrustworthy men who need abortions and health care?

It’s not just what women say that people find in-credible, but studies also show that women are allowed an exceedingly narrow band of how they are allowed to say it. If a woman expresses righteous anger, she is less likely to be believed. If she expresses herself in a combative way in response to a hectoring lawyer or reporter, she is going to be disliked. If she is silent, she will be distrusted. If she talks too much, she is thought to be making stories up. If she is a woman of color, well, all of that on steroids plus some. What are Jezebels and welfare queens if not, first and foremost, myths about liars?

People don’t just turn 18 and start doubting what women say, their competence or authority. This struck me clearly three years ago, when, in fly-on-the-wall fashion of parent drivers everywhere, I listened while a girl in the back seat of my car described how angry she was that her parents had stopped allowing her to walk home alone just because a girl in her neighborhood “claimed she was raped.” When I asked her if there was any reason to think the girl’s story was not true, she said, “Girls lie about rape all the time.”  She was 14 and very sure about this.

So, how exactly are we teaching children that women lie? I mean, clearly, most people aren’t saying “girls and women lie, kids, that’s just the way God built them.”

We don’t need to though. It’s in the air. Lessons about women’s untrustworthiness are in our words, pictures, art and memory. Women are overwhelmingly portrayed in media as flawedsupplementalornamental objects, or unattainably perfect. It’s easy to find examples of girls and women entertainingly cast as liars and schemers. For example, on TV we have Pretty Little LiarsGossip GirlDon’t Trust The Bitch in Apartment 23Devious Maids, and, because its serpent imagery is so symbolically basic to feminized evil, American Horror Story: Coven. Backstabbing women are astaple of reality TV.

Movies, too. PG and G-rated movies are filled with “women lie” precursors to their R-rated versions. Tangle‘s “Mother Knows Best” is a delightful ditty that takes particular aim at… mothers. Or, how bout Shark Tale, which features the song “Gold Digger,” a catchy tune that kids sing along to that describes women as scheming, thieving, greedy and materialistic? The vast majority of mad people in films are untrustworthy women and the entire Film Noir genre is filled with manipulative gals. What does the failure of most films to even allow two women to be named or speak to one another about anything other than the male protagonists say to kids?

In the music industry, hip-hop most frequently comes in for well-deserved criticism, but there is no shortage of music lyrics in all genres that convey distrust of and disdain for women. Pop culture has nothing on religion, though.

Here’s a two-for-one example! Delilah, a renowned biblical avatar of female untrustworthiness, made it into the lyrics of JT Money’s “Somethin’ ‘Bout Pimpin'”:

I got a problem with this punk a** b*tch I know
Ol’no good skanlezz switch out ho
An untrustworthy b*tch like Deliliah
Only thing she good for is puttin’ d*ck inside her

Ew. However, line for line, this is an updated version, albeit more catchy, of:

Amongst all the savage beasts none is found so harmful as woman.”

Women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.”

What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. One must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil.”

I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

Honestly, what’s the difference? While most religious leaders aren’t going around spouting overtly denigrating opinions (does calling us “penis homes” count?) about women, many, through default and tradition, casually and uncritically expose children to religious texts, systems and cultures rooted in misogyny.

The United States is among the most religious of developed countries. There’s a straight line between catchy, contemporary expressions of the distrust of women andthese guys, who shaped the Judeo-Christian canon, and who continue to shape children’s imaginations. As a matter of fact, the quotes above represented a tradition that some consider an improvement for women. There is a strong family friendly heritage of sexism here. And, unlike pop culture, religious misogyny that inculcates children with a disrespect for women’s words is tied to institutional power in ways that mean women continue to be impoverished and die, including because women are denied access to safe, legal abortions when they need them.

Most importantly though, when it comes to religion, the dangerous and destructive effect that the everyday ritual silencing of women has on children, and what they think about women, cannot be overstated. Personally, I won’t allow my children to participate in religious conventions were women are barred from speaking as leaders. If women aren’t allowed to speak with ministerial authority, it’s because they cannot be trusted to. Children aren’t stupid, they’re just young.

A seemingly simple statement, with its barely contained innuendo, such as “only Ms. Davis knows the truth about her alleged abortions,” ripples widely and resonates deeply in the cultural imagination. When you see this language, these ideas, don’t tolerate the insult. Name it.

As Ryan said, “Are you sure you want to do this? Is this the message you want to send? …This seems wrong.””

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Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege

Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege

Source: About-Face

“I am five-foot-four, 125 pounds.

My measurements are 36-28-38.

I wear size medium shirts, size seven jeans, and (in case you were wondering) size eight shoes.

I have never walked into a clothing store unable to find items in my size.

I have never been asked to pay more for a seat on an airplane.

I have never had someone dismiss me as a dating prospect based on my body type, nor had someone scoff, openly, while watching me eat French fries in public.

I have never experienced a doctor dismissing my concerns with a “lose weight, feel great!”remedy.

And I can open an article with my measurements without fear of judgment.

I walk through this world as a thin person.

And as such, I have never experienced fat discrimination.

That said, I want you to know two things:

1. I am writing this article from a privileged perspective; and

2. I am not here to damn, guilt, or embarrass thin people.

But I think we need to have a talk.

Because it’s so easy to fall back on tired old excuses for why we’re not privileged – and I see this a lot when the topic of thin privilege is broached.

 “How can I have thin privilege? I feel like shit about my body all the time! That’s not privilege! Besides, someone called me out on my ‘chicken legs’ the other day, and how is that different from calling someone fat? And I’m only thin anyway because I have an eating disorder, and trust me, that is not a privilege.”

And I hear what you’re saying.

But I think it’s time for us to look at these excuses (and how they don’t hold up in the grand scheme of things) a little more closely.

Grievances vs. Oppression

Let me start off by saying this: Having your feelings hurt sucks.

And I would never tell you to just “suck it up” or “get over it.”

Because yes, sticks and stones may break your bones, but damn it, words really can hurt you. And so can the general attitudes and behaviors of others.

I’m not here to tell you that your personal grievances don’t matter.

Rather, I’m here to put those feelings into perspective.

Because personal emotional impacts simply are not the same as oppression.

Oppression involves “the systematic subjugation of a group of people by another group of people who have access to social power, the result of which benefits one group over the other, and is maintained by social beliefs and practices.”

In other words, oppression is a special kind of problem.

Here are four reasons why:

1. It is pervasive.

It is woven throughout social institutions, as well as embedded within individual consciousness.

For example, if you make a “fat joke,” everyone around you is going to understand it – because the cultural belief that fat is something to laugh at is widespread.

2. It is restricting.

Structural limits significantly shape a person’s life chances and sense of possibility in ways beyond the individual’s control.

Take a look at these examples of thin privilege. By virtue of not having access to these privileges, the lives of larger people are limited.

3. It is hierarchical.

Dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.

Think of the example that I gave earlier about not being passed over as a dating prospect. I benefit from fat discrimination because I’m more likely to have my OKCupid message opened since I have ‘Thin’ or ‘Average’ checked off in the ‘Body Type’ box. I’m more likely to get a date.

4. The dominant group has the power to define and name reality.

That is, they determine the status quo: what is “normal,” “real,” or “correct.”

Take a look at (almost) any store window mannequins or fashion magazine. If thinness is heralded as the status quo, then that continues to put thin people in positions of power when it comes to determining what “average” (or “preferable”) is.

When you have hurt feelings – legitimate as they are – it isn’t the result of subjugation.

The negative attitudes toward you as a privileged person aren’t pervasive, restricting, or hierarchal.

You aren’t losing out on anything just because someone’s words, actions, or beliefs had an emotional impact on you.

And when you move past it – even if it takes years of work, which it very well may – that’s it. It’s over.

Oppression doesn’t work the same way.

Oppression never goes away because everywhere you go, everything you see, and everyone you know reiterates and reinforces it.

And that’s a significant difference.

But Thin People Can Hate Their Bodies

I made a video this summer called ‘How to Get a Bikini Body.’ It repeated the oft-seen-on-social-media body-positive mantra “Put a bikini on your body!” theme.

And people were quick to comment that my message lost its meaning because my body adheres to societal beauty standards. “Easy for you to say,” they said.

And this pissed me off.

Because I wanted to be like, “Well, thin people can hate their bodies, too, ya know! Just because you think it’s ‘perfect’ doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with it!”

But then I realized that they were right.

Because here’s the thing: Can a thin person have body image struggles? Can a thin person be at war with their self-image? Can a thin person hate to look in the mirror?

Absolutely.

And does that suck?

Absolutely.

But the difference between these negative feelings and fatphobia is this: The only person worrying about whether or not I’m meeting beauty standards is me.

And that’s not the same for fat folk.

When you’re not thin, other people on the beach actually do take offense. When you’re not thin, people really do think that you shouldn’t be in a bathing suit. When you’re not thin, people reallydo make your body their moral obligation.

And while your internal struggle is real and significant, the point is: You might hate your body, but society doesn’t.

That’s thin privilege.

But—But—But—Skinny-Shaming!

Before you worry that I’m going to disregard or otherwise undermine the bullying involved in skinny-shaming, let me reassure you: I’m not going to do that.

Let me address here and now (and loudly) that no one should ever be shamed for their body. I believe whole-heartedly that the body-positive community needs to be open to all body types. And absolutely, it is problematic that people engage in making fun of thin bodies.

I would never tell you that jabs at your “chicken legs” or insinuations (or outright proclamations)that you must have an eating disorder aren’t hurtful or that their effects aren’t far-reaching.

Because they are.

But what I am going to argue is this: As horrible as skinny-shaming is (and it is!), what makes it different is that it does not involve a pervasive fear or hatred of thin bodies.

And while its personal effects are certainly influential, it is not restrictive on a social level.

Let me be clear on two theories that explain how skinny-shaming is fundamentally different from fat-shaming:

1. Skinny-Shaming as a Response to Fat-Shaming

Have you ever heard the supposed-to-be-empowering phrase “Real Women Have Curves?”What about the cringe-worthy assertion that “Only Dogs Want Bones?”

Thin people aren’t really crazy about these. Obviously.

Real women are such because they identify as women, curves or not. And referring to someone’s partner as a dog just because they like someone’s body is degrading. Right?

Right.

But these types of reclamations of fat pride wouldn’t need to exist if fat-shaming wasn’t a thing.

These types of phrases and attitudes were born of a need to say “I’m beautiful, too!” They’re responses to social norms.

And while you can argue that they’re misguided, they’re actually challenging fatphobia.

And while you certainly shouldn’t encourage them if they feel like put-downs, what you need to remember about these phrases, in the words of Lindy West is, “’I’m proud to be fat’ is still a radical statement. ‘I’m proud to be thin’ is the status quo.’”

2. Skinny-Shaming as Rooted in Sexism

It’s absolutely true that regardless of what our bodies look like, society polices them.

And that’s because patriarchal structures benefit from this policing.

And arguably, skinny-shaming is rooted in this type of sexism.

Society wants you to recognize that being thin is “in” – but not too thin, not that thin – because the goal is to keep you insecure.

Take a look at any tabloid cover.

The “So-and-So Has Cellulite!” headline is right next to the “Does So-and-So Have an Eating Disorder?” story. And they both convey the same message: “Ew! Gross!”

For fuck’s sake, we just can’t win.

And not to go all conspiracy theory on you, but that’s exactly what they want.

They (and you can insert anyone you want here for “they” – society, the media, the dieting industry, the executive board for Patriarchy, Inc.) want women to continue to chase after unattainable goals.

But the difference is that the discrimination that fat people experience is at the intersectionof sexism and fatphobia.

That is, there’s another layer to it.

So while, yes, shaming anyone is wrong and bad and sexist, fat-shaming is rooted in extra factors that skinny-shaming is not.

So they’re not the same.

Well, I Have an Eating Disorder, So ‘Privilege’ Doesn’t Apply to Me

The blog This Is Thin Privilege details, “When we explain that thin privilege exists despite eating-disordered status, we’ve had thin people with [eating disorders] take offense.”

And I get why that is.

Because having an eating disorder is serious.

And when you feel trapped in and controlled by your body, when you’ve reached that level of self-consciousness, when you’re suffering every single day just to make it through, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel like you’re experiencing privilege.

Because an eating disorder feels like a curse.

But, as This Is Thin Privilege explains, “I think it’s important to note that disability is its own underprivileged status, and in this case, thin people with [eating disorders] are conflating the oppression they feel for lacking able-bodied privilege with a negation of their thin privilege.”

That is: The marginalization that you experience as a person living with an eating disorder is a result of the disorder, not a result of your body.

You experience illness. You experience stigma. You experience symptoms and effects of your disorder.

But that doesn’t negate your thin privilege.

A Man of Color can experience racism and still benefit from his male privilege. An able-bodied woman can experience sexism and still benefit from her able-bodied privilege. A poor white farmer can experience classism and still benefit from his white privilege.

A person with an eating disorder can experience ableism and still benefit from their thin privilege.

Being marginalized in one area doesn’t negate your privilege in another.

Privilege can be a difficult thing to talk about. It’s easy to feel defensive when you mistake someone’s asking you to check your privilege for their making assumptions about your life.

But the bottom line that we have to remember is this: Are my negative experiences related to my body grievances, or are they pervasive issues on a societal level?

And if you have your thin privilege in check, you’ll be better able to recognize that most of the time, these issues fall into the former category.”

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Colleen Clark’s Body Image Comic Reminds Us That Our Bodies Don’t Define Us

Colleen Clark’s Body Image Comic Reminds Us That Our Bodies Don’t Define Us

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 04/24/2013 5:07 pm EDT  |  Updated: 10/01/2013 11:15 am EDT

“We struggle with it every day: the conflict between our belief that women should celebrate their bodies and the constant public criticism of women’s appearances that communicates the exact opposite message.

So when we came across this incredible comic drawn by Colleen Clark that deals with that ongoing battle, we had to share it.

Clark, a 20-year-old Illustration student at Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio, completed the comic over a 16-week semester. “I love the phrase ‘write what you know,’ so I chose to write about what I know best: feeling ashamed, embarrassed, and hateful of my body,” Clark told the Huffington Post in an email.

Clark found the second page of the comic particularly hard to draw. “That giant naked woman is a representation of my own body and how I see it,” she said. “I knew people would be disgusted by that drawing, but I look a lot more like that woman than the women in the thousands of ads I see every day. I needed to draw it for me and for the majority of women in the world who look more like her than supermodels.”

Weight stigma is currently very common in the U.S. Fat-shaming is practiced publicly, and overweight and obese Americans are often treated like second-class citizens, subjected to prejudice from employers and healthcare professionals. A 2011 study found that women feel vulnerable to weight stigma in their everyday interactions and relationships, and in 2012, 46 percent of participants in a fat-bias study said they would rather give up one year of life than be obese. Thirty percent said they would rather be divorced than obese.

“[I]t has been difficult to draw and to talk about, because of how close this topic is to my heart,” Clark wrote on her Tumblr. “I really hope people can relate to it at the very least, and that it can help someone think of their bodies a little differently at the most.”

colleen clark body image comic

colleen clark body image comic

colleen clark body image comic

colleen clark body image comic

All images belong to Colleen Mary Clark and are reproduced here with her permission.”

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“The thing is, it’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic…”

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Powerful Video Reminds Us All What Rape Is Really About

Powerful Video Reminds Us All What Rape Is Really About

“…NCFW is an ambitious campaign meant to “to change the problematic attitude of a country toward half of its population.” Since 2013, co-Directors Ria Vaidya and Shreena Thakore, both undergraduates at Brown University who grew up in India, have been conducting workshops to spread their message of combating sexual violence. They state in this video:

Gender policing by definition is when you force an individual to behave a certain way because of their gender. So, for example, if you see a man crying you tell him, “Stop acting like a girl.” Or if you have a daughter who really loves playing football, but you enroll her in singing class and not football class … because girls are supposed to like artsy things and not supposed to like sports, you are gender policing your daughter.

 

What is the connection between gender policing, which is so common … and something as heinous as rape?

It’s an excellent question. Gender policing can be extremely subtle and is often well-intentioned, making its harmful effects all the more difficult to spot. Nevertheless, it is all around us, from the pink aisle at the toy store to popular — and problematic — parental affirmations such as “boys will be boys.”

Image Credit: Twitter

To be clear, gender policing certainly does not actively endorse rape. But it does foster an environment in which men and women are expected to behave in a certain way, and implies that they may be punished if they don’t. One of gender policing’s most egregious forms, for example, occurs when a society valorizes female purity and, by default, demonizes promiscuity — that is, a deviation from the way society says a “lady” should act. 

When it comes to power dynamics, these types of societal expectations are very troubling. As the video points out, “The kind of mindset that feels like rewarding a female for acting and appearing like one is not very different from the mindset that feels like punishing a woman for not acting like one.” Such a mindset can allow things like slut-shaming and victim-blaming to thrive. Taken to an extreme, twisted conclusion, it may even lead to rape…”

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10 Everyday Sexisms and What Do You Do About Them

 
Posted: 07/31/2014 4:44 pm EDT Updated: 4 minutes ago
CONFIDENT WOMAN

This post is updated from an earlier version that appeared on Role Reboot.

Research shows that most people don’t see sexism even when it’s right in front of their noses.

“Women endorse sexist beliefs, at least in part, because they do not attend to subtle, aggregate forms of sexism in their personal lives,” wrote Julia C. Becker and Janet K. Swim, the authors of this study about the invisibility of sexism. “Many men not only lack attention to such incidents but also are less likely to perceive sexist incidents as being discriminatory and potentially harmful for women.”

How do you think about and respond to these 10 examples?

1. Religious sexism and discrimination. Do you really believe women are incapable of religous authority? This ritualized silencing of women is practiced by practically all major religions which, with minor exceptions, bar girls and women from ministerial leadership. That means access to the divine is mediated exclusively by men and their speech. This is legally unchallenged discrimination and its effects go way beyond places and practices of worship. From the moment a girl realizes that she is not invited to participate in clerical rituals because she is a girl, she learns that her voice is powerless and not respected. So do the boys around her. But, hey, at least we pay to undermine the public good through tax credits and subsidies. What if you objected? And stopped supporting this discrimination?

2. Double standards — lots of them. We live with an infinite number of hierarchy-building double standards based solely on gender, which restrict women’s freedom and impair our ability to lead secure, rewarding, autonomous lives. 50 of these are explored in Jessica Valenti’s book, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut. They range from expecting girls to exhibit more self-control and politeness to grossly different treatment of men and women when they age and when they use their bodies to express themselves, to distorted ideas about boys and girls “natural” capabilities.

3.  Chivalry, otherwise know as benevolent sexism, is part of our “manners.” A man who opens a door for you and doesn’t mind if you do the same for him is one thing. But, one who categorically refuses your offer speaks to a much bigger problem. Benevolent sexism, the kind that is passed off as “protective” and “gentlemanly,” is a core characteristic of how masculinity (and by binary contrast, femininity) are constructed in conservative cultures. Studies have shown that themore entitled people are, the more likely they are to hold sexist beliefs — which says an awful lot about #WomenAgainstFeminism. It’s defined as “the negative consequences of attitudes that idealize women as pure, moral, pedestal-worthy objects of men’s adoration, protection, and provision.” A lot of this starts in childhood and comes under the mantle of teaching girls and boys to be “ladies” and “gentleman” instead of just civil and kind human beings who care for one another equally. In other words, what many people think of as chivalry, gentlemanly and “real man” behavior. The negative effects on women are well documented, particularly in the workplace.

There is a well-documented correlation between benevolent sexism and women’s acceptance of biased gender roles. Take the ways in which denial of the wage gap is expressed. For example, Phyllis Schlafly recently announced that closing the pay gap (she admitted it was real) would result in women being unable to find husbands. Ideas like this are deeply related to systemic support for an ideal worker who is male and a single breadwinner. That idea is a recurring theme of conservative policies about work and gender.

Our not seeing sexism where it is evident enables people with power to speculate out loud that “money is more important for men” and not lose their jobs for incompetence. I want you to imagine a political today saying money is more important for Jewish people. Or Black people. Or tall people. The pay gap amounts to $431,000 over a lifetime. Men make less than women in only seven of 534 job types, so, of course, Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander recently demanded to know what gender gap legislation would do to help them. Benevolent sexists are definitively hostile to women’s workplace success. If we don’t challenge this very quiet form of sexism then we make sure it pays, but only a very small portion of the population. How much is chivalry worth to you? Because you can, after all, open doors on your own. Giving yourself a raise however, is impossible.

4. The high costs of “staying safe.” Every day women absorb, and are expected to pay, the costs of the safety gap. This gap costs us time and money and limits our movement. It can limit our employment opportunities, because some jobs can become very dangerous in an instant if you are a woman. Just ask reporterstruck driversmigrant workersactivists.

Ask yourselves, men, do you feel safe on your neighborhood streets? Do you choose where and when you shop or commute carefully? Do you have parking strategies, like not parking near vans? Do you use your keys as a weapon or take other similar measures? Do you avoid paying for a gym because you can exercise outside with no problems? We teach our children that these things are “normal” and to be expected. Talk about the costs to you with the people around you.

5.  Sexism in media is entertaining. “Family-friendly” media marginalizes and objectifies girls and women, creates damaging ideals of masculinity for boys, and sustains mythologies that support a violent, male-dominated status quo. Not only do we live with this media, but most people, genuinely otherwise concerned with their children’s well-being and future livelihoods, don’t actively challenge entertainment companies or related media to do better. When you see a movie and there are 20 men for every one woman (usually just one or two) on screen, do you say something? Do you think about the fact that that’s 20 times the number of onscreen jobs for men than for women? Or what that imbalance means on and off screen?

6. Women pay more for “our” products just because we are women and considered not “standard.”  A Jezebel article put it like this a few years ago: “Being born a woman is a major financial mistake.” Marie Claire published a similar list. Until recently gender pricing for insurance, which resulted in women paying up to 31% more for apples-to-apples coverage, was perfectly legal. Think I’m kidding? Here’s a 10 pac of Bic Cristal ball point pens for $5.89. Here’s the $10.14, six-pack version “for her.” Stop buying this sh*t.

7. Our language is profoundly biased, related to our social structure and affects the way we think. We pervasively use male generics and that has negative effects. I do it all the time — I can’t seem to break the “guys” habit. We still use male words, usually to denote positive categories, like “mankind,” but female terms for negative ones, “hos,” and “sluts.” We don’t, for example, sit kids down and talk to them about the social harms of “b*tch,”even when used affectionately. Women are routinely referred to as “girls” (childlike and dependent) and men “men.” This is part of a larger problem with the infantilization of adult women. We’re more likely to be referred to as animals, and with a purpose. It goes on and on. But, words are important — if only because they show the dynamic interplay between ideas. This may sound trivial until you consider that Japan has gendered terms for all three pronouns, whereas the Nordic countries are trying to introduce gender-neutral ones. Why does this matter? Well, Japan is the least gender equitable place when it comes to men and women’s labor and the Nordic countries the most. I’m not suggesting causality, just significant cultural correlations that we are not immune to.

8. We engage in prejudice against men that inhibits equality. I’ve seen women take babies away from their fathers in parks in order to change their diapers because “men aren’t good” at that sort of thing. Or maybe you’ve listened to men call themselves their children’s “babysitters,” or sat through television ads that portray men as incompetent idiots, slobs, sexist dolts or children when it comes to taking care of domestic life. More dangerous, however, is the repetition of rape and abuse myths that endanger boys and men by perpetuating discriminatory ideas about who gets raped — drunk girls who ask for it or make the mistake of stumbling into dark alleys.

9. We pretend street harassment, the public regulation women and LGTB people either doesn’t happen or doesn’t matter. I’d warrant that very few people talk to their daughters or non-gender conforming sons about street harassment before it happens. The effects of this harassment and really can’t be underestimated.

10. We let our schools teach sexist lessons and perpetuate gender hierarchical systems of organization. First, our education system erases the contributions of women in history and fails to provide an accurate portrayal of the past or sufficient role models. Girls go into our schools with assuredness and ambition, but they don’t leave that way.

Second, schools are filled with social norms that, if left unexplored, undermine diversity and equality, for example, dress codes enforcement.

Third, many remain structurally based on complementary models for men and women, from boards, which tend to be run by more men (because, you know, that’s where the hard job of money is done) to everyday volunteering and PTA involvement(mainly, still, women). School administration and coaching continue to be male dominated in an industry, education, that is made up mostly of women. So, children are immersed in educational environments that continue to sideline women’s historical labor, that sexualize girls with outdated rules about appearance and morality, that provide gender hierarchal examples of social structures and, for good measure, where classroom dynamics have been shown to fail at fairness in ways that hurt both boys and girls.

By the time boys and girls leave high school and enter college, boys are twice as likely to say they are prepared to run for office. I know hardworking individual teachers trying their hardest to offset these effects, but as institutions and cultures, many of our schools remain profoundly patriarchal. What if you challenged your school to make paying attention to core gender issues a priority instead of dancing around symptoms like homophobic and mean girl bullying, math problems, boy crises and more?

***

This is a short list. Setting aside the real physical harms that people can and do encounter, living with everyday sexism is like fighting a low-grade infection for your whole life. When women take note of sexism during their daily lives — for example, talking openly about street harassment or workplace bias — and name it for what it is, they stop accepting it as “normal.” For female politicians dealing with biased commentary and political opponents all too comfortable in the boys’ club of the public sphere, openly confronting sexism works. When men start to notice, when they think about the differences, they can empathize. Its the first step to understanding, as Jamie Utt put it, that “as it currently exists, masculinity is fundamentally an expression of patriarchal oppression.” But, before this can happen, women have to tell their stories and register their legitimate objections and people have to listen and understand why its important. Prevailing cultural attitudes continue to minimize gendered harms.

However, women are clearly in a double bind because calling out sexism can result in real penalties. A recent study very depressingly showed what we all know: Women who advocate for equality, in the workplace, for example are actively penalized for doing so.

The sad fact is that while it is polite to express sexist ideas, confronting them is considered the height of rudeness and humorlessness and this social politeness prohibition is a significant impediment to positive, everyday change. When a man at a neighborhood party comments openly and rudely on my breasts or when another in a meeting interrupts me incessantly, it is me, not them, who is considered hostile, “strident,” and unpleasant for saying, “My face is up here,” or “Would you please stop interrupting me?”

The fact is, we are engaged in a tidal process of awareness-raising that requires everyone to look at the role that sexism plays in their lives. Are you acknowledging it when it happens, and what do you do about it if you do?”

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