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:

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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.

 

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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Have y’all seen this Thai ad for a push up bra?

I think this is really forward thinking — but then I wonder if I am in some way not well enough informed about the reality behind this humor. I would love to be informed. What are your thoughts on this?

Lesbian Love Octogon – Final Weekend

So, if you happen to be in New York this week you should take the time and go to see The Lesbian Love Octogon, a musical, currently housed at the Krain theater.

I had the pleasure of giggling and belly laughing at this poignant and well performed show last Saturday night. The plot revolves around a group of lesbian women living on the lower east side in the ’90s. The music and lyrics are quippy and hilarious — ditties like “dyke drama and tofu scramble.” And the message the audience is left with is an increasingly valid notion – we are more than the theory that has been written about our identities.

If you don’t take my word for it check out this Time Out review.

It is also worth mentioning that the fabulous Viri Lieberman has been documenting this musical comedy’s trip too off off Broadway — so if you go there’s a chance you might spot her! Check out her promo on indie gogo.