Book of Mormon and Other Bullshit We Excuse Using the Heading “Funny.”

Last night I sphoto(1)aw Book of Mormon at the Broward County Preforming Arts Center. We bought the tickets months ago and I was really looking forward to it because I’ve heard only good things, which is surprising because I don’t have a whole lot of good things to say. What I do have to say is this: Book of Mormon is painfully racist and not really all that funny.

If you haven’t seen it, let me summarize: Two 19-year-old Mormon missionaries go to Uganda, Africa on a mission to recruit and baptize new Mormons. There is lunacy that ensues, which is the basic plot of the play but who could even focus on that when the “African” reality represented is so stereotypical, derogatory and embarrassingly prejudicial. In the context of this play there are two versions of Africa – the “lion king” version, which harkens to ideas of the noble savage, glorious nature, dancing, singing and marching around with spears and the “AIDS, MURDER and FEMALE CIRCUMCISION ” version, which is presented as the ‘legitimate’ spoof of Africa’s reality. In other words, the “lion king” version is what the missionaries think Africa will be like, and the “AIDS, MURDER and FEMALE CIRCUMCISION ” version is what Africa is “really” like when they arrive.

I am not going to deny the fact that Africa – a continent three times the size of the United States – has its share of problems and that included in those problems are war, female genital mutilation (FGM), AIDS, rape and other complicated and destructive forces. And it’s true that these are the aspects of Africa that the news likes to focus on. Arguably, because maintaining a racist understanding of Africa makes it that much easier for Western cultures to pillage the continent for natural resources like titanium and diamonds without a whole lot of outcry.  Despite all this, in reality Africa is a spectacular place of innovation and culture, which has given us amazing men and women, including the likes of Chinua Achebe, Leymah Gbowee, Wangari Maathai  and  Nelson Mandela – who died today.  Here’s a youtube video that looks at these stereotypes:

Book of Mormon took the stereotypical understanding of Africa as an untamable, contaminated place – an understanding that is linked to a history of racism but usually based on ignorance and quickly alleviated/dispelled with even a smidge of exposure – to an extreme, which showed no consideration or respect for African people and affirmed a colonialist history of racism.

For example, in the Ugandan town that the Mormon Missionaries were sent to many of the people have AIDS – not HIV, AIDS. One of the African men believes that if he has sex with a virgin he will cure his AIDS. None of the adult women in the town are virgins – because clearly Africans are promiscuous (sarcasm) – so this man attempts to rape a baby. This attempted rape is repeatedly noted as a punch line in the song lyrics and scenes. This scenario is racist on so many levels – the assumed promiscuity of the African people, the horrifying ignorance of a man who would believe that raping a baby could cure disease, the prevalence of AIDS etc. There are other instances that are equally absurd as well as little prickles like the two African men who steal the missionaries’ bags as soon as they arrive, and local woman who warns the missionaries to shut their windows at night to keep out the murderers. It’s appalling.

photoIt’s worth noting that the play also clearly critiques Mormonism by highlighting the need for good Mormons to “just believe” the dubious roots of the Mormon religion and strangely the entire playbill was filled with ads for learning more about the Mormon faith. This is painfully ironic considering this is a play that actively attempts to render the Mormon faith inane and ludicrous.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that lately, it’s not just Book of Mormon that has offended me. Go ahead call me a party pooper or a grouchy bitch, I’m okay with that because these ideas, images, representation lack a basic sense of respect for the people they are portraying. It’s not funny when people make jokes about rape, bodies, races, nationalities, genders, etc. These kinds of jokes are lazy. They rely of human cruelty and hate. And to be honest, I’m not sure why we think they’re funny. How does it even make sense that we find ways to laugh at rape? What is up with that?

I Can’t Help Myself, I Love My Mad Fat Teen Diary

My-Fat-Mad-Teenage-Diary_g3I don’t know how many of you partake in the nighttime television dramadies on Britain’s E4, but I’m a fan, and currently, I’m particularly turned-on by a relatively new show, My Mad Fat Teen Diary. It’s worth mentioning that this particular show isn’t yet available in the US but through the magic of the internet, a simple google search will give you access to some of the episodes.

Based the real diary of Rachel Earl from the late 1980s, the show revolves around Rae 225238_551130004927875_97200257_n(Sharon Rooney),  who has just been released from a psychiatric hospital because she is dealing with metal health issues, which include self-mutilation, anxiety, and binge eating disorder. Concurrent with her fight to be mentally healthy, Rae is a teenager, interested in hanging out with friends, passionate about music, obsessed with having a sex life, cocky, moody, sensitive, and brash. Honestly, Rae is a hot mess and watching her is so refreshing. In part because the choices she’s making feel honest, but mostly because it is a pleasure to watch a young, delightfully messy, funny, smart protagonist who is fat.

I’m not going to lie to you – like all media – My Mad Fat Teen Diary has moments that are problematic, like the stereotypical idea that fat girls love junk food and that’s how they got fat, but my past self – a high school-aged fat girl – quickly overlooks any negative bits in favor of the fantastic fat heroine that I was dying to see then, and am still hankering for now.  Like the Women’s Media Center tells us – “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and as I remember it there were no fat girls on television when I was growing up, which meant fatness was something one was just not allowed to accept about themselves.

8440526385_07c8040903_oI want to tell you that this show, this character, changes that. Rooney’s portrayal of Rae gives fat women everywhere a realistic fat girl who is struggling to be happy and fat in a world that bullies fat people. There is a fantastic scene in the first episode where Rae fantasizes that she is having a conversation with a younger version of herself who takes no issue with her body.  Young Rae tells seventeen-year-old Rae that she doesn’t care if she gets fat because people will love her anyways. Seventeen-year-old Rae asks: “Why would they like you?” Child Rae responds, “Because I’m brilliant,” and promptly struts off chomping away at a pastry. Young Rae radiates the confidence that seventeen-year-old Rae fights to reclaim, reminding her that she possessed this confidence at an earlier life stage. It is moments like this that relay to the audience that one can be fat and still be awesome, happy and loved.

In short, I’m telling you to watch this show – and realize that representations of empowerment – of all kinds – aren’t necessarily always perfectly free of the oppressions that Western culture normalizes. Sometimes representations of empowerment are as simple as images of people who fight to accept themselves even though the culture tells them that what they are isn’t normal or acceptable, like mad fat teen Rae. Here’s the Trailer:

Thank you Rad Fatty for Dancing your ass off.

I know I’m a sentimental fool but in this world that puts down and torments fat women, seeing Amber Riley win Dancing with the Stars, made my cry.

And then she said this:

And now she’s my hero. I love to see strong proud women open their mouths and voice the reality that your body shape/size/color should not hinder you.

Hell Yeah. GO Amber Riley go.

Don Jon: Legit critique of Porn and Rom-Coms

SPOILER ALERT:

MV5BMTQxNTc3NDM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ5NTQ3OQ@@._V1._CR28,28.649993896484375,1271,1991.0000305175781._SX640_SY987_So, I went to see Don Jon, Joesph Gordon Levitt’s new film.  (Literally.  He wrote, directed and starred in the damn thing.)  The film is centered on the main character, Jon’s (Levitt) growth from a Jersey-shore-esq, macho, porn-addicted, women-objectifying goof into a more enlightened and fulfilled man, who values genuine connection based on the reality of individuals.

Jon, who spends most of his time acquiring notches on belt, cleaning, working out and masturbating to internet porn, begins to change by falling for Barbara (Scarlet Johansson). Basically, Jon’s porn addiction has created a monster – a man who functions as one in a constant search for female perfection, with perfection defined according to a pornographic beauty ideal. Notably, the film makes it clear that this pornographic ideal isn’t just confined to the seedy dark corners of the internet by showing  Jon oogling women on the covers of magazines on stands in supermarkets and in tv commercials. When Jon meets Barbara  the hottest girl that he has ever encountered, he decides to play the “long game” and commits to her in an attempt to score/screw/sleep with her.   Jon is able to give up other women for Barbara, but he cannot give up porn. He tells viewers that porn is “better than real pussy” – because he’ loses himself in porn, and real women are never as good. [POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING: It's worth noting that all this 'telling' comes with a lot of pornographic imagery]. Porn basically teaches Jon that there is a certain way that sex should be and the reality does not live up to the representation.   Throughout their relationship Barbara is clearly a pornographic conquest — but what is interesting is that Jon is equally so for Barbara.

imagesLike Jon, Barbara is basically a stereotype. She is a woman who is interested in controlling a man using sex, so that she might achieve her ultimate goal, getting married. Repeatedly in the film we see her manipulate Jon using sex – for example she convinces him to go to school and pursue a better job, while he is on the verge of orgasm. Like Jon’s porn addiction, Barbara  consistently watches romantic comedies (rom-coms) – which teach her that there is a certain way that “love” looks. Barbara’s rom-com obsession is presented as a foil to Jon’s porn obsession. In other words, the film makes a clear argument that the representations that we are watching obscure reality, rendering women as objects for sexual pleasure to men and men as objects of responsibility and violence to women.  Don Jon goes as far as to argue that these representations are forcing us to live as disconnected empty shells. The point Don Jon is making reminds me of Jane Caputi’s The Pornography of Everyday Life.

Ultimately,  Esther (Juileanne Moore), a widow teaches Jon that women are more that objects – and sex is way more than porn.  DONJON_JulianneThe movie is graphic – but it’s also funny and enjoyable. The acting is spot on and if you ask me, this is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time, which I would genuinely call feminist slanted social critique.  As long as you’re willing to put up with the pornographic images, I say see it. Here’s the preview:

 

I am not the first person to notice this - BUST magazine covered these ideas as well.

 

#hatefatshamingnotfatpeople

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with Emily McCombs who is the managing editor at XOJane.com, but I’m a fan. Emily often writes candidly about her struggles with her own body image and her attempts to embrace a Health at Every Size (HAES)® approach, a perspective which forwards the idea that good health can be reached independent of size.

Last week, Emily wrote an Article entitled, “I Worked Out With Jillian Michaels and She Made Me Feel Bad About My Body”. For those of you that don’t know, Jillian Michaels is one of the trainers on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.

In the article Emily admits that she “used to really like Jillian Michaels” but after posing a HAES oriented question Emily’s affinity for Michael’s has dimmed.  You should probably read the whole article, but I’m most concerned with Michael’s Response to Emily’s Question:

[Emily]: A lot of our readers are really into size acceptance and Health at Every Size. Your brand is so aligned with weight loss, I just wonder how you feel about exercise for fitness vs. exercise for weight loss.

JilIian: I don’t even really know what that means. I’ll define health for you. If your cholesterol is good, your blood sugar’s good, your blood pressure is good, that to me is healthy. I believe that you should accept yourself as every size. But I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that you’re physically healthy at every size because you’re not.

And I also don’t believjillian-michaels-yellinge that even though you might be 100 pounds overweight, you’re going, “Oh I’m good the way that I am.” BULLSHIT. I don’t believe that you don’t wake up in the morning and feel uncomfortable in your skin. I don’t believe that you don’t feel insecure when you pick your kid up from school. I don’t believe that you don’t feel uncomfortable when you’re naked in front of your husband or your wife for that matter. I don’t believe you.”

Clearly, The Biggest Loser is a show that buys in to the fat=bad/thin=good paradigm and according to the blog Dances with Fat, Michaels has a history of fat-shaming beyond the hollering, screaming and berating she does while training fat people on NBC. In particular, Michaels has been known to use the hashtag “#hateobesitynotobesepeople,” and as Ragen Chastain explains, “you can’t hate obesity but not obese people – it doesn’t work that way.  If you hate obesity, then you hate me.  I’m not a thin woman covered in fat, I’m a fat woman.   You can’t love the thin person who you wish I was without hating the fat woman I am now.”  In other words, if someone accepts their fat body or is trying to accept their fat body – they must begin by understanding that their fat is a casing to be shed. It is part of them. Jillian Michaels has made it clear that she doesn’t understand this.

Soooo… there is no reason that one would have expected Michaels to respond to Emily’s question in a manner that was fat-positive or fat-accepting, but still when I was reading Michaels’ comments my face contorted and smoke came out my ears. Who is this woman to say that if I’m fat I cannot enjoy my body? Why does she think she has the right to call my comfort and self acceptance “BULLSHIT” and impose upon me the idea that during my morning nude hours, when I’photo(3)m showering, blow-drying and primping for the day, I’m also feeling shame that my husband can see my nakedness?

Please. (Eye-Roll.)

And worse than insulting me, Micheals is confirming the fat fears of women everywhere: if I don’t ever get thin (a statistically improbably goal), I will never be happy.

ARGH! %^$&%*!!!! (Wave hands about in frustration)

The idea, that all fat women hate their bodies and not one person ever has loved them, is a lie.  It’s fat-shaming, a fat-specific form of body-shaming.

Please hear me. No matter what Jillian Micheals has to say, I am here to tell you that there are fat women, like me, who enjoy our bodies and feel comfortable in our own skin.  I can’t speak for all fat women but my fat body wears a bikini, has orgasms, lifts weights, runs, dances, has ideal blood pressure and cholesterol, eats fruits and veggies, laughs, cries, loves, struts about naked, and allows me to do pretty much anything I desire. My fat body is amazing. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

Furthermore – women of all sizes and shapes – not just fat women – feel uncomfortable in their bodies and this discomfort is the issue. Being a thin or thinner woman does not ensure a release from the trappings of bodily-hate.

In western culture – which is rife with toxic messages about woman’s bodies – there is no perfect body image. (How much do you wanna bet that Jillian Michaels has days where she feels icky about her appearance?)  That said, self-hate is not the only option. We can fight for our acceptance – we can acknowledge that some days we are able to embrace our bodies and feel awesome and other days not so much; we can point out body-shaming, fat-hate and fat-shaming and tell people it’s not okay; we can insist that fashion designers acknowledge the fat body as a viable canvas for cool clothes or make these clothes ourselves; we can write letters to the media calling for a diversity of bodies in our representation or better yet make media that represents a diversity of body-types. We can stop trying to hide, step into the light and say, “I’m Fat – and it’s none of your business, so keep you hands off my body.”love your body

If you’re interested in thinking about body acceptance you should go like Emily McCombs on Facebook, and while you’re at it go like her colleague Lesley Kinzel, and my body positive website, Extraordinary Being too. [Side note: Lesley Kinzel’s awesome book, Two Whole Cakes was published in 2011 by the Feminist Press]

To learn more about the HAES® approach or to have a speaker talk to your group about fat-positive living check out Kate Harding, Hanne Blank  or me.

#hatefatshamingnotfatpeople
#iheartmybody
#fatpositive
#extrabeing

This post was originally posted on Soapbox, Inc.

PSA: A Reminder to Those Who Have Gained Weight

Feminist Cupcake:

A worthwhile fat-positive read.

Originally posted on BITCHTOPIA:

I know. Your body looks different. It has changed, and along with your life, your jeans fit a little more snugly than you had anticipated. Maybe more than you like. Maybe you hate it.

You were a size X for such a long time, you’d grown accustomed to the shape your skin had taken, and suddenly, you are 10, 20, 50 pounds heavier. Fatter. Sometimes, you might feel discomfort at the thought. Sometimes, it is really fucking hard to deal with. It’s okay to feel that way- I get it. I’ve been there, along with almost every person I know. But just in case you need a little extra push out of that rough spot, (because sometimes “rough” doesn’t cut it, sometimes it just feels impossible) this is for you.

I moved to California at my lowest weight. I reached my highest weight one year later. I was finally in a relationship…

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Fat, Thin and Everything In Between is What We Want Feminists to Look Like

Hello Cupcakes — I am excited to announce that today – your very own feminist cupcake has written a guest blog for Soapbox, Inc.  Check it out here or read below:

 

Fat, Thin and Everything In Between is What We Want Feminists to Look Like

By Lindsey Averill

Kelly Martin Broderick posted this picture on facebook: Kellyfeminist

Only to have it changed into this meme:

082113feministmeme

It is clear that the meme attempts to use Kelly’s body type – her fatness –to insult feminism and underscore the a misogynistic misnomer that only women who are outside of the male gaze, i.e male sexual desire, chose become feminists. Clearly, the meme is childish, cruel and not factual (many people are attracted to fatness… there are whole dating sites dedicated to fatness…sigh). But, the meme also underscores exactly why feminists need to continue to concern themselves with issues like body-positivity and fat-empowerment – because when women speak up about their rights, they are still being pigeon holed based on their appearance.

Whenever something like this happens, I am reminded why, as a feminist, I still need to be fighting this particular fight – the fight for each woman to feel excellent about her body and the bodies of other women. I hate to say it – but sometimes even smart, savvy, dynamic, influential, informed, feminist women feel that they have a right to judge their bodies and the bodies of others, particularly if they are judging that body for being FAT.

In the mainstream, fatness is understood as always negative and therefore we are allowed to shame and torment it in ourselves and others. We discuss weight gain and loss endlessly: cabbage diets, juice cleanses, nutrisystem, weight watchers…We call out our muffin-tops and condemn our saddlebags. We pose in pictures with our chins stuck out or turned to the side to look thinner. We fear fatness at every turn and we save our “skinny jeans” because we refuse to believe that our bodies are awesome at any size.

I don’t mean to oversimplify, but arguably anytime we are accepting of shaming and brutalizing our bodies or the bodies of others, we are failing to see and dispute a source of oppression. As women, particularly feminist women, we need to constantly examine the messages that the media projects about our gender and our bodies and try to stand up and speak up when we see injustice.

I see injustice towards fatness. I see this injustice keep amazing women from feeling powerful and confident. I see internalized fat-hatred keeping women from being and doing awesome in the world.

I’m over it. picresized_ece6e5_1a97205ae8d4232b2a1e39a9226c626e.png_srz_205_195_75_22_0.50_1.20_0

This fed-up-with-it-ness is why I’m telling you about Kelly Martin Broderick because she is over it too. In response to the meme Kelly wrote an article for xojane entitled, “My Picture was Stolen and turned into a Fat-Shaming Anti-feminist Meme on Facebook,” and she created a tumblr, “We are What Feminists Look Like.” The tumblr calls for “folks” to send in their pictures or thoughts that make it clear that feminists come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, sexualities, genders, nationalities, political parties… you get the idea. I was thinking you should send in your picture – be over it too.

I sent in my picture: Feminist Bride

Also, if you’re ready to stop feeling oppressed by fat-hatred you should check out these amazing body-positive blogs, speakers, books, and coaches:

The Routund – Marianne Kirby
Big Fat Feminist – Kaye Toal
Dances With Fat – Ragen Chastain
Riots Not Diets – Margitte Leah
The Adipositivity Project –Substantia Jones
Body Love Wellness – Golda Poretsky
Extraordinary Being – Lindsey Averill
Two Whole Cakes – Lesley Kinzel
Big, Big, Love – Hanne Blank
Fat! So? – Marilyn Wann
Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quite Dieting and Declare a Truce with your Body – Kate Harding
Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion – Virgie Tovar
Body Drama – Nancy Redd

These suggestions are just the beginning – the world is full of amazing body-positive people, all you have to do is look.

Avoid Lessons from the Cave Men on TV – Define Masculinity On Your Terms.

Avoid Lessons from the Cave Men on TV – Define Masculinity On Your Terms..

Another post from feminist cupcake’s sister blog – Extraordinary Being. Check it out.

Extraordinary Being hosts life affirming workshops in west palm beach and private coaching nationwide. Get Body positive.

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