25 March 2014

Mixed Messages

People and Woman's World magazines from February

I know these magazines are from last month, but I wanted to point out the hypocrisy of the media. These two magazines were on sale next to each other at Wal Mart. One is People magazine, and it says: "Biggest Loser Scandal: Too Thin Too Fast?" The second is Woman's World: "10 Day Total-Body Makeover! Lose 25 lbs! Botox in a Cup!"

Talk about mixed messages. "Lose lots of weight! Change everything about yourself! But don't lose too much weight! Lose as much weight as possible! But only until you meet the arbitrary ideal body image!" It's pretty much impossible to meet the media standards of beauty, and I think that you can see that in just this one image.

What really kills me is the other messages on the Woman's World cover. "Bake Up Some Happiness!" "Make Stress Vanish!" So basically: "Lose tons of weight! Look perfect! But don't stress about your looks! And make lots of awesome food! But don't eat it, 'cause then you'll get fat! LOL!"

Ugh.

23 March 2014

Make Life More Worth Living

Do whatever it takes to make your life more worth living. Anything at all. It can be illegal, immoral, unethical, self-destructive...anything at all if it makes your life more worth living. There's only one rule to follow to make the kind of blanket permission work: Don't be mean.
-Kate Bornstein, author of Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws

What makes life "more worth living"? Brainstorming!

20 March 2014

Celebrating Death

As you may have heard, the former leader of the hate group Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, died this morning. Phelps is infamous for picketing funerals of dead American soldiers with signs like "God hates fags" and "Thank God for dead soldiers."

When news of his death came out, people had strong reactions. Many people, such as myself, are hopeful that his death signifies the end of the WBC's legacy of hatred. But others have been celebrating. Yes, celebrating a man's death. Now I understood when they celebrated Saddam Hussein's death, and they probably celebrated Hitler's death, too. While it's true that Phelps caused a lot of pain for a lot of families grieving their loved ones, it's also true that he was exercising his right to free speech--not slaughtering innocent people.

Fred Phelps was a hateful man who picketed at the funerals of dead soldiers, but he was a human being: a father, a grandfather. If we celebrate his death, we are no better than the hate-mongers of the Westboro Baptist Church. Have some compassion for your fellow humans, even if they would have none for you.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/obituaries/la-me-fred-phelps-20140321,0,4718547.story#axzz2wX312QhQ

19 March 2014

Settling for Unhappiness

"Why don't people do what they really want to do, Reuben?" he asked. "Why do we so often settle for what makes us devoutly unhappy! Why do we accept that happiness just isn't possible?" [...] "I don't know why I woke up every morning with the idea that I had to adjust, had to accept, had to go along with."
-Anne Rice, The Wolves of Midwinter

I do this a lot. Maybe it's because of my depression, but I have this belief that I just can't be happy. I don't try to make changes in my life regarding things that make me unhappy, since I don't think it will make a difference anyway. My depression tells me a lot of nasty things, and this is probably one of them. That's why this part of the novel really jumped out at me. Why do I just accept what makes me unhappy? I have to learn to not listen to my depression when it tells me things like this, but I have to learn to identify the voice of my depression first. Maybe then I can work at being a happier person.

12 March 2014

How Easy It Is

I got a nasty phone call today from someone who clearly thinks that fetuses are more important than the women who carry them, and in some of the hate-fueled garbage that she spewed at me, there was this gem:
How easy is it to kill a baby these days?
First of all, a fetus is not a baby. That's pretty typical rhetoric though, and that's not what I want to talk about.

I'm not sure what country she came from, but here in the good ol' US of A, it's not easy to get an abortion. In fact, it's getting harder and harder every year. In the past three years alone (2011-2013), there have been more abortion restrictions enacted than there were in the entire decade before (2001-2010).

In states such as Pennsylvania, a woman has to attend a "counseling" session at least 24 hours before her procedure. This extra step means that the woman has to come back to the office at least three times: first for the counseling session, second for the actual procedure, and third for a follow up visit. In many states (such as Texas), there are very few abortion providers, which means that women have to drive long distances (sometimes hundreds of miles) to get the procedure. The more times they have to come into the clinic, the more the travel expense is, and the harder it is to arrange to get off work or to get other childcare arrangements (most women who get abortions already have one or more children).

Even though multiple states already have mandatory counseling sessions and waiting periods, some states are trying to make those waiting periods longer. In January, Louisiana tried to implement a 30 day waiting period. That's an additional 4 weeks. In some places, women can't even get abortions if they're more than 20 weeks pregnant. The longer the woman is in the pregnancy, the more expensive it will be. And many clinics will not perform abortions after a certain number of weeks.

In addition to the counseling session, many states mandate an ultrasound before the procedure. In some states, the doctor has to show and describe the ultrasound to the woman, as if she doesn't understand that there's a fetus inside her. In some states, and in certain cases, the doctor would even have to do a transvaginal ultrasound for early pregnancies, since the fetus is very small and could be hidden behind the pelvic bone. (A transvaginal ultrasound is exactly what it sounds like: the doctor puts a wand inside the woman's vagina to see the fetus. It's invasive and unnecessary.)

Also in Pennsylvania, young women under 18 need to have parental consent before they can get an abortion. If they cannot or will not get consent from a parent, they have to go through a judge to get a judicial bypass. Even if they go through that process, the judge could still decide that they're too immature to get an abortion (but mature enough to carry, birth, and raise a child).

It's also important to mention that abortions are not cheap. For many people living around or below the poverty level, scraping up a few hundred dollars for an abortion and the related visits is nearly impossible. Most insurance plans will not cover abortions, and neither will any federal funds. The cost alone is sometimes enough to make abortion out of reach for low-income women.

And after a woman jumps through all those hoops and legislative burdens, she has to come to the clinic and face the protesters. Sometimes, the protesters are "peaceful"; they hold nasty signs and pray loudly at you. Many times, it's not that easy. Many protesters yell at patients and their family members: disgusting things about killing "babies" and going to hell. Some are violent and "in your face." A select few go with terrorism: shootings and bombings of abortion doctors and clinics. Even worse, the woman coming into the clinic often knows some of the protesters, especially if she goes to church with them. I've already had patients call to ask if we have a back door they can come in to avoid their fellow church members protesting out front.

And those are just the burdens on the patient. There are also plenty of laws about the actual abortion facilities and doctors that perform them, called TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers). Some of these laws force abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, which can be difficult when local hospitals are not politically inclined to provide those privileges to abortion providers. Other laws affect the actual facilities where the abortions are performed. These laws force clinics to adhere to Ambulatory Surgical Facilities regulations (ASF), which are burdensome and unnecessary. For example, ASF regulations dictate frivolities such as how wide the hallways must be. Meeting ASF standards can be extremely costly, and they do not ultimately benefit the patients.

So please, don't try to tell me that it's "easy" to get an abortion in this country. Just because it's legal to get an abortion in the US, does not mean that it's easy or even accessible to most women.

Sources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/04/us/women-losing-access-to-abortion-as-opponents-gain-ground-in-state-legislatures.html
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/03/11/many-accessing-abortion-already-undue-burden/
http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/updates/2013/statetrends42013.html
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/01/27/new-louisiana-rules-require-30-day-waiting-period-legal-abortion/
http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/02/15/1597701/wisconsin-forced-transvaginal-ultrasound/#

11 March 2014

Prince Lestat is Back!

It's official!
Can I just say that I'm REALLY FUCKING EXCITED for this? Please excuse me while I put my life on hold to re-read the original five books of the Vampire Chronicles. October 28 can't come soon enough!

For more info: LA Times article

10 March 2014

My Tats

I currently have three tattoos, and I'm planning on maybe one or two more. People sometimes ask what my tats mean, so here's a quick explanation.

Tat 1: Paw print for Mercy Thompson

The first tat I got was in summer of 2012: a paw print on my stomach in honor of Patricia Briggs and her character Mercy Thompson. Mercy is a kickass coyote shapeshifter in a world of werewolves, vampires, and other creatures bigger and scarier than she is, but she holds her own and is unapologetically herself.

Tat #1

Patricia Briggs - Moon Called

Tat 2: Raven for Edgar Allan Poe and Raven from Teen Titans

My second tat is a raven on my right calf. I got it on January 19, 2013, to commemorate the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, author of my favorite poem, The Raven. It's also a symbol of Teen Titan's Raven, who happens to be my favorite comic book character. I've identified with Raven ever since I first saw the Teen Titans cartoon in 2004.

Tat #2

Two Sides of Raven - Alassa (DA)

Tat 3: Bat for Bram Stoker

My latest tat is of a bat on my left calf. As you can see here, I've been obsessed with vampires for a long time. On November 8, 2013, I got a bat to commemorate the birthday of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula and the father of the contemporary vampire genre.

Tat #3
I don't have a source image for this one because I had my artist design it for me. Yay for cool tattoo artists!

Future Tats

I had wanted to get a lotus flower and the Sanskrit symbol for Om above it, but the more I think about it, the more I think it would be appropriation of Hindu or Indian culture. So I probably won't get it done.

Sprial goddess
Then I came across this image on Facebook, and I fell in love with it. I don't know where on my body I want to get it, but I'm pretty set on this image.

Superman / Bon Jovi
And I've wanted to get this combination of the Superman symbol and the Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet symbol for a long time. Still not sure where I want to get it, which is why I still haven't gotten it.

That's about it for now. Who knows, maybe later I'll find some other tattoos that I want to get. I just know that I love the ones that I have.

08 March 2014

What Being A Fat Woman Is Really Like

Apparently Cosmo did an article interviewing fat women and their experiences. I'm not going to lie, I hate Cosmo and have pledged never to give them my money again. But a bunch of other fat women bloggers have been answering the same questions from the interview to give a wider perspective, and I'd like to jump on the bandwagon. There's a list of other participating bloggers here, and I learned about the project from Issa (whose blog is totally awesome, and you should check it out!). Without further ado, here are the questions and my answers:

How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?

It makes me feel both sad and embarrassed. Sad because they are more worried about their weight than anything else, and embarrassed because they think it's okay to give intimate details of their food and body to someone they hardly know. Why is that socially acceptable? I think it's just awkward, and I try to change the subject.

How has your body image changed since high school? College?

I was pretty self-conscious in high school, even though I weighed a lot less than I do now. I felt fat even when I was in the normal range for my height. In college, I worried more about trying to lose weight simply because I recognized that I was gaining weight (I probably gained about 50 lbs between high school and college). In college, I became more and more depressed, which led to a lot of self-hatred that I still struggle with today. My self-confidence took a nose dive along with my mental well-being. [Also, way to assume that everyone can afford college. Did I mention I hate Cosmo?]

Have you tried dieting? What happened?

I have tried dieting on and off, but my focus has always been more on exercising. One summer I exercised pretty intensely at least five days a week, and I did lose some weight, but of course I gained it right back with some excess. I was never good at dieting just because I don't like to be hungry.

Do you think in your case you weight is partly or entirely genetic?

Of course it's partly genetic. If it has to do with your body, it's at least partly caused by genetics. Other people in my family are fat, and I look like people in my family. (Does the "duh" need to be stated?)

Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?

I'm healthy in some ways, and unhealthy in others, but that doesn't necessarily reflect my weight. I had depression and asthma before I was fat.

Are your parents supportive of you at the weight you're at? Have they always been?

My mom comes from a family where a lot of the family members are fat. I think that she understands that I look like the rest of the family, and I don't think she's ever really mentioned it. I know that I look just like her and my sister. :)

How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-sized people?

Carry more sizes. I hate going into a store at the mall and not being able to find my size at all. Why is it so hard to carry the same clothes in bigger sizes?

Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-size men are? How?

Women are always judged in a more sexual nature, like how sexy or "fuckable" they look. So if we're fat or unattractive, that's worse than a man being fat or unattractive.

Do you think there's an assumption made / stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it?

Of course there are stereotypes about fat people. We're lazy, sloppy, smelly, easy, gross, whatever. Stereotypes about fat people, just like stereotypes about any other kind of people, should be called out whenever possible. If you hear a stereotype, challenge it.

Do you think there's ever a right way or time to express concern about someone's weight?

Not unless you are that person's doctor or baby doctor. A family doctor should be concerned if a patient gains or loses a lot of weight in a short time person, and a baby doctor should be concerned if a pregnant patient is not gaining enough weight or is gaining too much weight. If you are not that person's doctor, then you should not mention it.

What are the worst things people have said to you about your body? How did you respond?

Except for on the internet, people don't say nasty things directly to me. They say them behind my back. In both cases, I ignore them (or block them on the internet).

What have people said (or do you wish they'd say) that would compliment your body or appearance?

The only time I'd like a compliment on my appearance is if I make a drastic change to my hair like dying it or cutting it. Other than that, I find it awkward for other people to comment on the way my body looks. A woman at my old job asked me on more than one occasion if I had lost weight, and I was just at a loss for words. Telling me I look smaller than I did before is not a compliment, and it's rude. Seriously, keep that crap to yourself.

Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?

Not really. I'm very socially isolated (due to depression and anxiety) right now, but in school the people I hung out with were both fatter and skinnier than me. We hung out because we were in the same clubs or the same classes, not because we looked the same.

How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all?

It made me more self-conscious about my body, but I'm getting over that. Other than that, we just push the fat out of the way. (Yay for TMI!)

When you've been single, has your weight affected your dating life?

I haven't been single for more than 6 years. Last time I was single, I was at a "normal" weight.

Do you feel weird if the guy you're with only dates larger women?

First of all, I hate that Cosmo assumes that they have no bisexual or lesbian readers. It would be so easy to change "the guy" to "the person." But no, I don't think that's weird. Unless the person is purposely trying to manipulate fat people because they think that fat people are easy or desperate. Then, it wouldn't be weird, but it would be creepy and manipulative.

Do you feel weird if he's only dated slimmer women before you?

I might feel self-conscious if that happened, but it wouldn't be hard to get over. They're dating me--and not their exes--for a reason.

That's all for the questions, but feel free to ask others. Check out some of the other interviews here!

07 March 2014

Intersectionality


To better educate myself, I've been reading feminist and African American history. Currently, I'm reading bell hooks' Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism. In this book and in the article quoted above, the two authors talk about the racism in the feminist movement(s).

Feminism, to me, includes women of color as well as poor women, trans* women, immigrant women, lesbians and bisexual women, disabled women, fat women, ALL women. We have to recognize and work to end problems for all of these women. If we just focus on white, middle-upper-class educated women's problems, then we're not doing anything to help women who may have it worse off than we do.

That's not to say that we should be comparing who is more oppressed or who has it better off, aka playing the "Oppression Olympics." We just have to acknowledge that different forces affect our lives in different and intersecting ways, thus the word "intersectionality." Straight working-class black women have different experiences than do disabled queer white women.

We have to work to end all types of oppression against women. Racism is a strong force in black women's lives, a force that white women can help combat. We have to start by recognizing and fighting against our own racism. And by listening to black women and what they have to say. That's where I'm at now.

05 March 2014

My Love Affair with the Vampire

Ever since high school, I've been in love with the vampire. It probably started with Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Ever since I read Interview with the Vampire, I've consumed any and all vampire books that I could find. I read the classic and the modern, the great and the garbage. I don't care if it's poems, novels, short stories, or graphic novels. I'm more picky with the movies I watch, but that's only because I have a hard time watching overly gory or violent movies.

To better remember what I've read and watched, I've started a list of books and movies. Of course, none of these lists are complete, but I'm going to keep working on them. Here's a start:

Literature
The Vampyre - John William Polidori (1819)
Carmilla - J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)
Dracula - Bram Stoker (1897)
Dracula's Guest - Bram Stoker (1914)
Dracula (play) - John Balderston & Hamilton Deane (1924)
I Am Legend - Richard Matheson (1954)
Salem's Lot - Stephen King (1975)
The Dracula Tape - Fred Saberhagen (1975)
The Vampire Chronicles - Anne Rice (1976-2003)
Vampire$ - John Steakley (1990)
The Vampire's Promise series - Caroline B. Cooney (1991-1993)
Goodnight Kiss Vol. 1-2 - R. L. Stine (1992-1997)
The Last Vampire Vol. 1-4 - Christopher Pike (1994-1996)
Carmilla: The Return - Kyle Marffin (1998)
Carpe Jugulum: A Novel of Discworld - Terry Pratchett (1998)
Vampire and Werewolf Stories - Alan Durant (1998)
Women of the Otherworld series - Kelley Armstrong (2001-2008)
The Mammoth Book of Vampires - Stephen Jones (2004)
Bite - Laurell K. Hamilton & Charlaine Harris (2004)
Fledgling - Octavia Butler (2005)
The Curse of Dracula - Marv Wolfman (2005)
Twilight series - Stephanie Meyer (2005-2008)
The Black Dagger Brotherhood series - J. R. Ward (2005-)
Mercy Thompson series - Patricia Briggs (2006-)
Renfield: Slave of Dracula - Barbara Hambly (2006)
Vampire Doll Vol. 1-2 - Erika Kari (2006-2007)
Marked - P. C. and Kristin Cast (2007)
Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives Vol. 1 - Ellen Schreiber (2007)
Vampire the Masquerade (not sure which one)

Film
Nosferatu (1922)
Dracula (1931)
Blacula (1972)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1973)
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Dracula 2000
Queen of the Damned (2002)
Vampires: Los Muertos (2002)
Twilight (2008)

Still Need to Read
Varney the Vampire - James Malcolm Rymer (1847)
Dracula series (the rest of it) - Fred Saberhagen (1978-2002)
Dracula Was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania - Raymond McNally (1987)
The Vampire Book (encyclopedia) - J. Gordon Melton (1998)
Mina - Elaine Bergstrom (2000)
Guilty Pleasures - Laurell K. Hamilton (2002)
Let the Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004)
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova (2005)
Real Vampires Have Curves - Gerry Bartlett (2008)
Dracula the Un-Dead - Dacre Stoker (2009)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smith (2010)
Shadow World series - Dianne Sylvan (2010-)
Prince Lestat - Anne Rice (2014)

Still Need to Watch (If you have seen any of these, please let me know if they are very violent or gory!)
Vampyr (1932)
Horror of Dracula (1957)
Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1969)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
Dracula A. D. 1972
Salem's Lot (1979)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Near Dark (1987)
From Dusk Til Dawn (1996)
Pitch Black (2000)
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Underworld series (2003-2012)
Van Helsing (2004)
Let the Right One In (2008)

If you have any other good movies or books that you would recommend, please let me know! Especially if you have a copy of the movie or book that I could borrow--that would be awesome.