Don’t tell me I can’t call myself fat.

My actual reaction when someone tells me off

It’s a pet peeve. Whenever I refer to myself as fat in front of people, I immediately get a barrage of well intended admonishments.

You’re not fat, you’re curvy!

No. I carry more fat around my body than I should. Curvy refers to the body shape, not how much extra fat I have hanging around. People can be fat and curvy, fat and not curvy, curvy but not fat. The term curvy doesn’t equate to fat.

But you’re beautiful!

Why thank you! But just like the word curvy, being beautiful doesn’t mean I’m not fat. That extra fat doesn’t magically disappear when someone sees me as beautiful. The fat in my body is a physical certainty, an absolute fact of being. Beauty is more flexible, a preference in the eye of the beholder.

Don’t put yourself down!

Where did I do that? Calling myself fat is no different to commenting on the colour of my hair, my eyes or my height. It’s a noun with no nefarious purpose past what cultural norms pins on it. If you personally think fat is a bad word, maybe examine why you feel that way instead of telling me what I shouldn’t call my own body. That is more about you than me.

You’re being so negative!

How so? Let’s try something. Oh no – the term ‘dry skin’ is now considered terrible, horrible and no good. Imagine telling someone who has flaky skin that they shouldn’t say dry skin but ‘dehydrated’. Let’s see what the response is when you tell them how beautiful they are because of their sensitive skin. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Again, that negativity you ascribe to a word is external to what the word actually means. Fat is just descriptor and without additional negative context surrounding it, it’s silly to assume the person using it is meaning it in a detrimental way.

Does this look like a person who is being negative?

I get it. I understand and appreciate that you’re trying to make sure I don’t put myself down and we’ve all been conditioned to have an immediately adverse reaction to the merest mention of the word fat. I also get that every single one of us is guilty of using self deprecation as method of self harm and most people – especially with the people I (gratefully) surround myself – are sensitive to that. So yeah, I truly do appreciate that trying to remove the word from my vocabulary comes from a good place. In the end though, telling me not to do or say something is still harmful. I’m sure you don’t realise it, because I didn’t for the longest time, but silencing my voice, telling me I shouldn’t use the word I deliberately chose is wrong. It’s unconsciously reinforcing both the word fat as a negative term and that I need to care more about what others think about me than what I think about myself.

Not so shrinking violet over here!

Putting it like that might seem harsh – but it is fair. Yes, words absolutely matter. Yes, we should be more aware of the power of words but equally we should be aware of the power we give to words. When I call myself fat, I’m simply stating a fact, not deliberately putting myself down or looking for validation. Please don’t feel the need to tell me why I’m wrong, and just let it be.

I’m fat. I’m also 5ft 4in, a dyed redhead, gothy, (yes) curvy, music lover, sore all the damn time, friendly, shy, a homebody and sarcastic as fuck. All this and more. It’s ok to call myself all that. I’m ok with it. Please, be ok with it too.

The Marilyn Meme

I’m fat. I’ve wrote several times about how ‘this time’ I’m going to do it, ‘this time’ I’m going to lose weight dagnamit! I’ve not been happy with the way I look for a long time. Basically, I’m every woman I’ve ever met. Because even if you’re not overweight, there’s a little troll sitting on the shoulder of every woman who tells you you’re not perfect the way you are. Too fat, thin, tall, short. Your nose is crooked, your legs are stumpy. Sound familiar? Some lucky women can ignore that little bugger, but we’ve all felt the troll’s influence from time to time. The only person that hurts is you, right?

There’s an awakening right now on the internet, women all over Instagram and YouTube who celebrate themselves and encourage that same love in their readers. If When I feel crap about myself, I jump across to these websites and read their heartening words, mottos and hard won truths and I start to feel pretty damn comfortable in the skin I’m in. It doesn’t stop the urge to be fitter, an urge I’m taking control of and positively acting on, but it comes now from a feeling of loving my body and protecting my greatest asset, not of loathing the skin I’m in. It is a combination of mind and body, accepting my strengths and weaknesses and moving forward with my life.

Part of that is a greater acceptance of other women and their differences. No longer do I judge on how I see their weight. I can not abide the way I used to instantly view women as ‘skinny’ or ‘fat’. I wasn’t supposed to do that. I thought I was better than that. Growing up, I was very close to my cousin’s girlfriend – a girl who even to this day has to justify her small frame to complete strangers. It made my blood boil every time she had to say ‘I eat like a horse, honest’. How dare people feel it’s appropriate to question the eating habits of someone else?

And yet, I’ve done it too. Keira Knightly was ‘obviously’ anorexic. Cheryl Cole looked better with ‘meat on her bones’. Two complete strangers I judged and thought it didn’t matter because it wasn’t as if they knew that’s what I thought. Big NO. It may not have affected them, although with the amount of articles dedicated to the weight of the rich and famous, it would be remiss of me to assume they aren’t affected by how the public see them – but it did affect me. Which, to be completely and unashamedly selfish about, is my main concern. Me. My biting comments and unfair assumptions made me a cold and hard person, and I’ve decided I’m not down with that. I want to grow into a nurturing and open person, and it’s a difficult admission that I wasn’t the nice person I always thought I was. Live and let live has always been my motto, being a staunch supporter of LGBT, disability and religious rights, but I didn’t see the pile of unfairly treated women growing in my brain.

Whenever I seen a picture saying ‘curvy is better’ or ‘what man wants a lollipop’ floating around, I reposted it, on my high horse like YES! CURVY IS BETTER SO THERE. You’ve all seen a picture of Marilyn Monroe V random ‘skinny’ celebrity. On one hand its great women find Marilyn’s figure empowering and want to celebrate their own bodies, but why does it have to come at the cost of another women’s figure? Why does it have to be versus? Women against women? Why can’t we enjoy Marilyn’s iconography as well as the celebrity she is pitted against, the ‘skinny’ subject to ridicule and judgement by women who want to validate their lifestyle choices?

I say iconography deliberately. Marilyn Monroe’s life is a sad story, and when women see her, they want to look like her, but they never want to be her. I think Marilyn would be saddened that even in death, she is viewed as a figure, a sexy body – and not as the woman she was. Men have viewed her as a sex symbol for years, and now women are using her image to put down a fellow human being. When you think about it like that, isn’t it a little shameful? I know I feel ashamed. Not only for using Marilyn the way she always was, as an object, but for unfairly dismissing the still nameless celebrity as a figure of ridicule to make me feel better about my own shortcomings.

I’m not saying changing my viewpoint was easy. Even today, practise and history has conditioned my mind to jump to judgement. But knowing I’m taking an active step to stop seeing other women as the enemy helps. I suppose the moral of the story is; image matters. It’d be fake to say it doesn’t. How much it matters is up to you, but when you look at images of other women to further your own prejudices, that image mirrors the ugliest thing about you. Those images are women, not icons. With feelings, dreams, hopes, strengths, as well as weaknesses and flaws. And I’m done pretending it’s ok to objectify them by saying they’re beautiful or imperfect, because it’s all negative. Beautifully imperfect, and altogether human – women are awesome at any size.

Burlesque & Stripping… two sides to the same coin?

Anyone that knows me knows I love burlesque. I was an audience member for 7 years, and last April, I made my debut as Mama Silverside. I’m strictly a hobby performer, and have no intention of turning it into a career, but my passion for all things burly is as strong as any career performer. I believe. I know. Yes.

mamafirst

Anyway, recently a few performers and enthusiasts had a great discussion based around a newspaper interview with a lap dancer, where she states there is very little difference between performing burlesque and working in a strip club. It raised opinions from each end of the spectrum, and loads from in between. I gave my opinion and read with interest everyone else’s, but I’ve found that days, even weeks later, I’m still thinking about it. So I thought I’d write about it! Please note this is about female-led burlesque, I’m not negating the other branches, they just aren’t what this discussion is about. Context yo’.

Burlesque is an art form, stripping is for male titillation.

This is a fairly popular opinion, so I thought I’d explore it first. These days, most people see burlesque as socially acceptable entertainment, geared towards the empowerment of women. It focuses on the beauty, the comedic and artistic merits of women, where the ‘strip’ is not more important than the ‘tease’. This can be seen when we talk about the famous performer Gypsy Rose Lee, who managed to whip men into a frenzy when all she removed was a glove! Of course, she revealed a lot more than her hand during her career, but the reason she is remembered as an icon was the artistry involved in her routines.

But this same story can be viewed from the other angle, where Gypsy performed (at least initially) solely for men. Back then, burlesque was for male titillation. She just managed to be memorable enough to break through the old music halls and vaudeville theatres and perform also for mixed crowds who regarded her performances as artistic, if a little crass. These days she is regarded as a pioneer, but then she was simply a stripper, a title she owned up to. Nowadays, burlesque seems to have little to do with stripping, but without burlesque, stripping wouldn’t exist. Strip clubs remain mostly the domain of men, and asking around most men I know would seldom even admit going to a strip club outside of a stag (bachelor) party. Strip clubs as a form of regular entertainment seems tacky, seedy and according to my male friends, embarrassing to admit to. Women I know have went to strip clubs on a lark, as a cool and different activity, but often end up chatting with the ladies dancing there instead of watching them perform!

And what of the performing? When you think of strip clubs, is it pole dancing, stripping, or lap dancing you think of first? If we leave out lap dancing as an obvious act of male titillation, most strippers have a routine they have worked on, with music, costume, make up. If they use a pole, they also need countless hours of practice and exercise. There is even pole dancing competitions and classes where the focus is not on titillation but artistry, form and poise. You must be very fit to look good on a pole!

There will always be strippers who wear a ‘sexy’ outfit or nothing at all and mindlessly grind and dance to a song with no thought other than making money, but I feel lumping all strippers together as that does a disservice to the women who make an effort to inject some personality and art into their routines. Like their spiritual predecessors, they perform primarily for men but insist on setting standards for themselves.

Stripping demeans and objectifies women, burlesque empowers them.

This one actually annoys me more than anything else we discussed. This opinion relies on treating strippers as poor lost souls who have been forced into the profession. I can’t deny that could be true of some strippers, but it certainly can not be the case for all. Some women do it simply for the money, some because it makes use of whatever qualities or talents they possess. Some enjoy being the centre of attention. I would place my last penny that some even do it because they enjoy performing the same way burlesque performers do!

Burlesque as a tool of female empowerment is a relatively new concept. Again, back in the early days of burlesque, the general consensus about burlesque was no different to how a lot of people view strippers today. It almost seems that when burlesque and stripping split, burlesque took the positive aspects and stripping took the negative! When I perform, I do feel fantastic, the audience is there to support you, cheer you on and make you feel like the centre of the universe for 4 minutes. I know that regardless of body shape or size, burlesque enthusiasts champion body confidence and enjoy the variety of performers on show. I know it’s a big part of why I love it so.

With stripping, it’s easy to assume it’s all teeny tiny tanned blondes with big boobs. Again, it’s easy assumption to make, but to judge that kind of appearance while championing variety seems counter productive. Teeny tiny tanned blondes with big boobs deserve respect too! The funniest thing to me is it’s been proven time and again men like all sorts of women. The choices strippers make about their appearance is their own, no one else’s. In the end, I don’t see why it has to be stripping = bad to mean burlesque = good. This doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. It’s not empowering to any women to put one down in order to raise another up, if that’s the only reason you think that.

So what about the lap dancers?

Stripping and lap dancing are as different as burlesque and stripping. They are related, held together by a common ground, but they are not one and the same. Not all lap dancers perform on stage as strippers, not all strippers are lap dancers. Again, it’s down to assumption. Even so, I don’t see lap dancing as ‘beneath’ anyone. You either enjoy it or you don’t. If you don’t, that doesn’t give you right to bash people who do it or enjoy it.

Opinions are like assholes…

…everyone has one. I respect that other people will have differing opinions on this, and I encourage discussion on it, because it’s the only way to learn. What I can’t abide is the frankly unnecessary hate and judgement that comes with the ’us versus them’ mentality. I’m not asking to like, enjoy or support anything you don’t want to. But when it comes to differing opinions, one doesn’t have to be wrong for the other to be right.

So what’s your take on this subject? Do you prefer burlesque to stripping? Do you think there’s much difference or do you hate when people think they are one and the same? I’ll be writing more on this subject but I’m taking pity on those who’ve made this far! Until then, feel free to sound off!

Sig

In which I come to the defence of Barbie, of all things!

The HORROR!

Barbie isn’t my favourite toy in the world. I could wax lyrical about the various ways her very image and persona is harmful to growing children and their (hopefully) maturing minds. It’s pretty easy, I’ve heard all about the damaging ways of the evil Mattel all my life.

But wait a minute, and look closer. Children derive pleasure from all sorts of silly toys and none of them are held up to the same level of accountability as Barbie. She is expected to be a realistic role model. A women with aspirations and goals outside pet doctor (never veterinarian, oddly) or home maker. Even the very real and difficult careers of teachers and doctor get the Barbie treatment, sanitised and playful. Like OMG U GUISE. How dare Mattel make something so whimsical and not at all true to life?!

IT’S FUCKING PLASTIC TOY.

The only reason we know Barbie is supposed to be female is those two triangular moulds on the torso. Otherwise, it’s just a doll, a doll I played with as a child for years without ever looking at her and thinking, why don’t I look like that? I didn’t do it with Barbie anymore than I did it with my Teen Mutant Ninja Turtle figure. Why? Because even my 5 year old mind knew the difference between a toy and reality. My Lucy doll is a rag doll, who used to have purple wool hair before my little sister ripped it out. She has a hat stitched onto her head. I never wondered what was wrong with me because I didn’t have a hat stitched onto my head. Again, I knew it was a toy.

Regardless, Barbie has been the blame for pretty much every problem young girls and women have. Who says so? Why, the adults, of course. Putting their own bias and insecurities onto a bit of shaped plastic instead of thinking the way a 5 year old does and realise it’s just a doll. Barbie will always be unable to reach any form of realistic expectations if if Mattel tried because everyone on the planet has a different idea of realistic. For some, it’s a size 22 short women wearing wolf t-shirts and leggings who clean for a living. Others think it’s vintage clothes and a career as a makeup artist. Some think realistic is Jersey Shore. It’s all relative, and all true. Apart from Jersey Shore.

So, Tattoo Barbie. My only real gripe with this new addition to the family is the dog. Stupid idea, stupid name. It’s the only thing that makes the whole shebang seem like Mattel are deliberately trying to piss people off. Regardless, much of the articles I’ve read make little mention of the dog/cactus thing, and focus mainly on the fact that SHOCK!!! Barbie has tattoos!

But none of her incarnations has caused so much fuss as her latest: a rock chick with dyed pink hair, a chest and neck covered in tattoos and a small dog in a cactus suit called Bastardino.

My god, the world is going STRAIGHT to hell. I mean, if this unrealistically proportioned doll now has artwork ON HER NECK it means we are encouraging the young ‘uns to go out and get riddled with STDs! Seriously, that was a thing. Sack the notion of how tiny her waist is for now, even though we’ve been bitching about it for 50 years – she has PINK hair! The horror!

This is a fucking joke. Quick, what’s the most popular TV show right now? If you said Glee, you’re saying all sorts of things about your credibility as a grown up, and I love you for it. Season 3 opener, Quinn went bad. Pink hair and a tattoo. It was played for laughs, and pretty much everyone got it. It wasn’t a social commentary or a valid lifestyle choice for the former cheerleader and she very quickly reverted back to her own look. That was it. It wasn’t telling young kids to get a tattoo of Ryan Seacrest anymore than saying smoking is cool (which, by the way was commented on very little!). So why, when you look at them together, a plastic toy and a real person (albeit, playing a character) – does the plastic toy get the dubious honour of leading tomorrow’s adults? Why should Barbie have to answer for the influence it may or may not have on young children?

Some have said it appeals to children’s natural desire to appear more grown up. Again, OMG U GUISE! Like a kiddie kitchen, a baby (that poops like real!) and all the other toys that affect a grown up (read, homemaker) lifestyle doesn’t appeal to kids either. But that’s ok, isn’t it? Playing house? Wearing an apron. Seriously, wanting to have pink hair is waaay more dangerous than thinking you know how to use an iron so try it with the real one. Just me?

This doll is more covered up than I’ve ever seen Barbie. So what if the style isn’t my personal taste, I still think she looks cute and would have less of a problem seeing my 9 year old niece try to replicate the look than Barbie’s other outfits. In fact said 9 year old niece, my Cookie, has insisted on her own choices of clothes since she could walk and enjoys a greater sense of self than I did at that age due to the careful encouragement and nurturing of her mother. Her style? Leggings, a tutu and a t-shirt feature frequently, a get up not entirely different to the one Inkd!Barbie sports. And Cookie ROCKS the shit out of it. Age appropriate and fun.

I have 3 tattoos. All of them have meanings special to me. I will be getting more. I’m 27. Many of my peers have beautiful ink across their bodies. Many of them even have children. The shocking thing is, they raise them well! Who’d have thunk it? And here’s me thing having symbols and lettering scrawled onto your body killed off the good parent gene. The fact of the matter is, having a tattoo is not the taboo it once was. When we get old and our tattoos wrinkle, it won’t look stupid because the majority of the population, for good or bad, has at least one. Even that shining figure of elegance and sophistication, Dita Von Teese, has a tattoo (10 internet points if you know what it is!). Maybe using a burlesque performer isn’t the best example, but I like to refer to her as often as possible! Today’s kids will grow and not think anything of the fact some people have decorated their bodies, and that’s a good thing. There’s so much you can judge a person on, the colour or colours of someone else’s skin shouldn’t be one of them.

In essence, I say the same thing I say every time adults get their panties in a twist over something like this. Why don’t YOU look at it from another angle? Why doesn’t someone else have to change to fit in with your views? Is there the slightest chance you might actually be wrong? Is this an opportunity to learn and expand your world view?

If a 5 year old can look at a doll and see a doll, so should we. If that 5 year old starts asking questions about why Barbie looks the way she does then you can talk to them about it. Start a dialogue. Or, simply don’t buy them. You have control over the content of your children’s life. Take responsibility for it.

I’ll end this by reminding you Mattel intended this to be an “Adult Collector’s Item”. If you choose to let your child play with it anyway, more power to you. Because incase I haven’t mentioned it enough – IT IS NOT REAL. IT IS A DOLL.

Next up, why parents are angry that the dinosaur toys they gave their children are too realistic after a small boy was eaten by one.

The Art of Me part 2

A lot of what I write about comes from a desire to understand myself better. Without blaming my past for my present, there’s still a fair amount of “dealing with” that I need to go through in order to understand why certain things are just that much more difficult for me. Every time I do have a “breakthrough”, even though rationally I know it’s not the magical cure to my issues, I still feel disheartened when I realise I have not changed too drastically.

I was reading Cracked recently(so named, I believe, for the addictive tabbing I do!) and this quote really stood out to me.

Simply put, psychology is not a game of Jenga, wherein one crucial block can bring down the entire tower of mental illness. No one factor made the person snap, and shoving one thing back into place won’t make them whole. If it did, this mental illness stuff would be easy.

In the real world people with severe personality disorders are about as predictable as the weather, and so far the fact that we all know what causes lightning hasn’t helped us figure out when and where it’s going to strike with any kind of certainty.

What it made me realise is that I expect too much from my ability to overcome issues. I don’t take great joy of the simple fact I have had progression, a step away from letting those issues control my life. I just focus on the fact it hasn’t cured me.

The main thing I’ve been thinking about is learning the idea of me isn’t ever going to be me. I am a constantly changing entity, and the Nicki of last year isn’t me now, just as the Nicki I will be in 5 years isn’t me now. Hell, even writing this will change me into a new version of Nicki. I need to stop trying to change myself and let myself grow organically. When I get to the point where I truly understand why I do what I do, I won’t stop changing. I can’t. I will always evolve and grow and change. I need to stop idealising who I think I should be, and remember to take each day as it comes. I’m not always a sad bunny, so I have to slow down and enjoy the person I am right now, instead of just paying attention when I’m in a cream puff.

Today, Nicki is 27, chubbier than she wants to be, slightly sweaty (it’s too warm!) and sitting in a messy flat. She’s not unhappy. She’s in love. She’s about to go tidy up said messy flat, and later will be going to see Captain America with a few friends (she’s very excited.)

I wonder who I’ll be tomorrow.

The Art of Me

This might be the understatement of the century, but I love makeup. I know, I know – wild confession! There’s a few different reasons why, of course – but let’s face it, they’re not exactly ground breaking or exclusive.

Makeup is my comfort food, I apply it like armour when I’m feeling vulnerable, I use it to hide my less than perfect mood, I take joy in feeling amazing in it. I enjoy the ritual I have of being so particular, cleaning my brushes, sweeping on some liner, and watching as I transform myself into a different side of me. I bestow care and attention on myself – and for a little while, it’s all about me. Exaggerating my lips, drawing on a pout, or even just shadowing in my eyebrows so they photograph better when I know I’ll be out on the town.

“Pretty is something you’re born with. But beautiful, that’s an equal opportunity adjective.”

-Anonymous

I’ve already wrote about how I knew I wasn’t pretty. But to me, this was a good thing. I knew I could care for myself and feel pride in knowing I looked after myself in my own way. I think, all things considered, it gave me confidence, knowing I could practice beauty, not rely on prettiness. Some of my idols are their own created beauty. Mae West, Dita Von Teese, Marilyn Monroe.

“The makeup is simply an extension of the personality and colors, clothing, makeup all express something.”

-Gene Simmons

These women are larger than life. Their painted face, the control, the poise. Even faked, the image they leave is hard to forget. But make up didn’t make them who they were, or who they became. It was the cliff notes version, one look and you knew what they were about. Marilyn, a next door girl become sex goddess. Dita is controlled, powerful, and just a little naughty. Mae, well she just didn’t get a fuck, she’d prefer you take her, but see ya if you left. They commanded, and got, respect. It isn’t the make up on their face that made these women iconic, but it makes looking up to them easy on the eye!

“How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being.”

Oscar Wilde

Every person in the world is entitled to feel amazing. But no one deserves that attention or respect if they won’t even give it to themselves. Everyone has their own way of stamping their identify on the world, even if they don’t know it yet. Mine’s is make up, and my red hair. I may not always feel the most gorgeous, the most talented, the most anything – but I know I’ve done something I love to do, and that makes me, me. And because of make up, I decide to be a different me every day.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

-Miss Piggy