Women’s Voices

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Originally published on May 25, 2014 on https://wordpress.com/post/dstluke.wordpress.com/422

I read a blog today by Leigh Patrick called “What a Straight White Man Knows About Strong Women”. In the blog Patrick talks about the strong women of his family. It is this interaction with a few emotionally and psychologically strong women that Patrick assumes he understands feminism. In a Twitter battle where he first accuses me of saying that all men are potential rapists and later calls me an idiot and a psycho, I get the full brunt of his “understanding”. But someone somewhere is missing the point.

I’ve heard the same refrain over and over from other people. It goes like this; person A has met or lived with a woman who is strong and intelligent. This leads person A into the false sense that this experience leads them to have an understanding of what women are like/go through in their lives. The idea being that because the woman or women in their lives were strong that means that all women are strong or have a well of strength to draw upon. After all, this one or few women did it, why can’t we all be like that?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if women and girls around the world were able to draw upon such a well of strength on command? Shouldn’t we all be able to share in this strength? It’s been proven that it can be done. Why not?

Let’s start with circumstances. I’m privileged to live in Canada, a country that embraces diversity and supports those who cannot support themselves. As a Metis woman, I draw upon a culture that has a rich heritage from my Metis side and embody that stubborn Scots blood that runs so thickly through my veins. Yet I realize my privilege and I still struggle with anxiety daily. I see the problems women around me have that are not of their own doing.

I can honestly say I don’t know what it’s like to be a young girl who gets shot for posting a video on YouTube explaining why she wants to go to school. Yet, Malala Yousafzai is one of my heroes. I don’t know what it’s like to be a young girl in Nigeria, ripped away from her home and family simply because she had the audacity to go to school. My heart bleeds for them. I have never been a five year old girl enduring a genital mutilation without anesthetic where my labia is ripped away all in the belief that it will ensure my virginity will remain intact. I have never miscarried five times as a result of beatings administered by a man who kidnapped me and held me as a slave in his basement. Nor have I been a woman who has survived giving birth to a child in that basement amid terror and pain. I am lucky.

The person who has known the strong woman doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a curvy woman and to feel the fear she feels just going outside. He doesn’t hear the whispers or see the stares as she walks down the street. They don’t know what it is to be a young woman dressed in a short skirt on a spring day to get leered at and have guys assume she’s a slut simply because of what she wears. Those strong women don’t look in a mirror and hate what they see because the media says they aren’t perfect. They don’t spent three to four hours on makeup trying to hide the flaws that only they see. Flaws that are beautiful like the brush strokes on a painting.

I’ve heard people rip apart female celebrities because of what they were wearing to an event. Call into question their very existence because of a few snips of fabric. I’m tempted to tell the celebrities to start going naked and see how that fixes the critics’ little red wagon. If a woman like Angelina Jolie is torn down because of a dress, how much better can I fare when wearing shorts from Walmart?

I see women endure abuse, abuse themselves, hurt themselves, hate themselves, injure and kill themselves all because of the pain they hold inside. A woman who is a saint, a mother, a nanny, a caregiver, a grandmother is held in esteem and may be forgiven those mistakes and flaws they have made of themselves. A slut, a whore, a cunt, a bitch, a vixen, a succubus can never be forgiven. She must be ridiculed and beaten down for the error of believing her sexuality, her being is her own. She must be transformed into the Virgin Mary so society can feel safe around her. She must have a husband, although a wife is allowable in some circumstances, to keep her from straying away from her path and becoming a danger to all around her. She must never alter her gender, her genetic code defines her. We do not talk about those who have an XY gene but live as females.

So many women have lost their voices and do not wish to or cannot speak out. They hide in terror at being less than perfect and mutilate their every flaw or imperfection. If I could say one thing to those women it would be this; please show those flaws. They are beautiful. Those scars, those pains, those small things that make you who you are. Please paint them so I can see them. Please be proud of them. They are your flowers. They are your voice. They are you and they are beautiful.

I understand, Mr. Patrick, that you’ve had a few strong women in your life and I applaud them. Most of us, though, aren’t that strong. We’re scared and afraid of the ridicule and scorn we face daily. So we’d appreciate it if, until you’ve experienced some of that, if you’d kindly keep your opinions to yourself. We’ve had enough opinions of who we should be in our lives. We really don’t need another.

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Playing the Victim

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I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I was raped. More than once. I’m sorry that the memory of it sticks with me to this day as a kind of awful background noise that colors everything I say and do. I’m sorry that makes you uncomfortable. I’m sorry that in this era of #MeToo, I am starting to feel like I can finally talk about it. I’m sorry that you want me to shut up. I’m sorry it still hurts and makes me stop during my day to wonder what I did wrong.

I’m sorry I was abused. I’m sorry that my mother was so messed up about my sister suffering severe bullying that she thought handing me over to her was a good idea. I’m sorry that my sister took such pleasure in finding new ways to torment me all in the name of “discipline”. I’m sorry talking about it helps me to put it into perspective. I’m sorry I’ve tried to connect with others like me on the internet to share our stories.

I’m sorry I have Nonverbal Learning Disorder. I’m sorry I haven’t said the right thing or done the right thing or made you feel better or praised you enough or stood in the right spot. I’m sorry I got distracted again. I’m sorry I melted down again. I’m sorry I don’t understand when you’re joking. I’m sorry I don’t know how to organize my clutter.

I’m sorry I’m a woman. I’m sorry that I have to struggle harder than you do just to achieve the same things you do. I’m sorry that I have to point out when you’re being a douche. I’m sorry that I have to go to the bathroom in packs because I’m afraid a man will follow me in and attack me. Again. I’m sorry I carry my keys in my fist. I’m sorry I don’t walk outside at night. I’m sorry that these things make me angry and I want to change them. I’m sorry that I want to make things better for the women coming behind me just as others made it better for me.

I’m sorry I’m fat. I know how that offends you. I’m sorry I have an eating disorder. I’m sorry I have diabetes. I’m sorry I don’t exercise four or five hours a day. I’m sorry I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I’m sorry my anxiety makes me seek out certain foods. I’m sorry I’m not strong enough to be thin. I’m sorry I’m not wise enough to be the person you want me to be.

I’m sorry I’m playing the victim just by existing. I’ll try to do better in the future.

Five Pounds

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Dear doctors,

I lost 5 pounds. I know, not a big deal to you but to me it’s a huge event. Because of the circumstances surrounding this event I want you to hear me. Not as a woman who suffers from obesity and diabetes but as a human being. I need you to listen carefully.

Let me tell you my story.

About a year ago I went on Victoza. An insulin that has been shown to help diabetics lose weight. This was an important victory for me because I had to not only fight my government to cover it but I had to fight my doctor to prescribe it.

Why?

My doctor was angry at the government for not covering the drug therefore, he didn’t want to prescribe the drug to those who couldn’t afford it. The poor like me. He initially made the decision to withhold the drug based on my economic status. Let that sink in for a moment.

After I was approved for coverage of the Victoza, my diabetic doctor prescribed a dose of 1.8mg. That’s important to this story. I initially began to lose weight. In part because of my natural eating habits and in part of my love of exercise. However, a large part was due to the Victoza.

In January 2018 I had a slip and fall where I broke my funny bone. Literally. A radial tip fracture left me in pain and severely phobic of slipping and falling again. I sought comfort foods and avoided the outdoors. Yes, I was miserable and gained weight.

After a time I got control of things again and got back to my routine. However, I didn’t lose weight. I didn’t gain but I didn’t lose. In October 2018 I found out why.

My family doctor informed me that to lose weight effectively I had to be on 3.0mg of Victoza. A higher dose than I was on. When I asked my diabetic doctor about it he got angry. Accused me of self-harm and said I was looking for a magic pill.

However, I’ve had time to think about that visit and let my anger simmer for a while. Let me sum up what I know;

  • He saw my fat and not me. He knew nothing about my eating habits, exercise routine or other health concerns. Nor did he care.
  • He deliberately withheld information due to his belief that my weight was solely the result of overeating and his political views. He would see my obesity no other way no matter what I told him or what facts I presented. Obesity had one cause and that was it.
  • He decided that I was incapable of making an informed decision about my own health care. A fat person obviously doesn’t care about their health so just decide for them.

Doctors, you don’t have the right to decide for me what is right for me. It’s your job to work with me to find the right course of action unless doing so would put others at risk. I rely on your information and experience so that I can take an active role in my health care. If you withhold it because of your own prejudices, you put me at risk for the sake of your ego.

I will do my part in my health care but what I won’t do is let you use my health to masturbate your ego. If you have a problem with that then maybe you shouldn’t be taking care of patients. Perhaps you should go into research instead where it won’t be a problem.

Sincerely,
A Fat Patient.

A Toast to the Fallen

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Here it is, New Year’s Eve day and my last blog of the year. It’s been a strange year and I thought I’d share some of the highlights, lessons learned and heartaches.

Feminism

In the past I thought that feminism was merely trying to balance the scales. In this past year I’ve learned that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We can’t begin to navigate that iceberg until we start chipping away at the elephant in the room; abuse.

Abuse comes in many forms; domestic, parental, sibling, person in power; but it all boils down to the same thing. One person exercising control over another. Whether that control is physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or a combination thereof doesn’t matter. What matters is the disproportionate amount of women who are at the receiving end. I think 2019 will see me addressing this matter more and more.

Poverty

I’ve been an avid advocate of those who live in poverty. Mainly because I experience it first hand. However, in 2018 I saw how much racism affects poverty and the damage they can do together. There is still a genocidal race going on but it’s been pushed beneath the blankets and has become more insidious.

One note of optimism, though, is the idea of Basic Income. I see this as a brand new hope for those living in poverty and will keep advocating for it wherever I can. I think 2019 will see me continuing to support such efforts as End Poverty Edmonton and Basic Income. I’m a writer and words are cheap. If my words can help then I will spill them freely.

Health

I’m fat and along with that is an awareness of my health that others don’t have. In 2018 I learned that everyone and their god has an opinion about my size, my body, my lifestyle, my health, my eating habits, my exercise routine, my attitude, my ego (or lack), my self respect….. well, you get the idea. Apparently being overweight means that anyone with an internet connection can tell you how to live your life.

So my message in 2019 will be this; not your body, not your rules/business. Okay, that’s been my message all along but I think it’s time to get louder about it. All these well-meaning “health” gurus need to shut up. To sell their crap they bombard us fatties with these shaming messages over and over. They claim concern over our health or our lifestyle. They claim they understand and empathize. The truth is that I’m a dollar sign to them and nothing more and that needs to stop. I don’t care what color bow they put on that package, all that passive-aggressive shit is just a hard sales tactic and that’s it. This year is about loving the body you have and taking care of it which is a conversation between you and your doctor.

Creativity

2018 I began expanding my creative self into the world of art. Okay. So far it looks like it was painted by a drunken 5 year old most of the time. However, I’ll get there. After all, I mastered writing, didn’t I? Okay. Stop giggling.

Lastly, I leave you with this as 2018 comes to a close; it’s been a rough year and we’ve survived. Live, love, laugh, cry and remember to always keep going forward.

Pound by Pound

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Today I got fat shamed by someone who didn’t like the fact that I called them out on their bullshit. They somehow thought that pointing out that I’m fat and laughing about it would make me slink away and shut up about their misogyny. They were wrong. They aren’t the first to try this tactic and they won’t be the last. I know who I am and I know my body. There is no shame in that. However, I’d like to show you where the shame in my obesity really lies.

Every time I was called stupid, there was a pound. Every time I was called lazy, there was a pound. Each time I heard ugly, freak, weirdo… there was a pound.

Whenever I realized I wasn’t good enough, there was a pound. Whenever I thought I wasn’t being enough, there was a pound. Every time I knew I wasn’t kind enough, considerate enough, polite enough… there was a pound.

Each time I wasn’t perfect when it was demanded, there was a pound. Each time I fell short of expectations, there was a pound. Each fail, fall, foundering… there was a pound.

Those times I was told I was unlovable, there was a pound. Those times I was told I was good enough to fuck but not to marry, there was a pound. Whenever I became nothing more than a trophy, a fuck toy, a thing… there was a pound.

Times when I was the odd shaped peg that couldn’t fit into the square hole, there was a pound. Times when I asked questions that people didn’t want to answer, there was a pound. When I was too curious, confused, disorganized… there was a pound.

When I laughed instead of cried because jokes hurt, there was a pound. When I agreed that I was too sensitive rather than admitting words can wound, there was a pound. Those many times when it was easier to say nothing, to agree, to mimic… there was a pound.

When I was sexually harassed because of my large tits, there was a pound. When I was grabbed and assaulted because I wore a short skirt to a bar, there was a pound. When I was raped with a hand around my throat ready to choke me, there was a pound.

I carried shame with each and every pound I put on like an albatross. I’ve carried that weight most of my life it’s only now after the diagnosis of diabetes and thyroid and anxiety and depression and polycystic ovarian syndrome and… It’s only now that you can see the manifestation of words and actions taken on me.

My fat makes you uncomfortable not because it makes me less of a person but because it reflects on you those abuses that you have been guilty of. I am a mirror of your worst behaviour, of those dark parts inside that you’d rather not see. I am your own shame made manifest.

I am learning to love my body as it is. I am learning to heal it slowly. I am learning to appreciate it as it is. If you think to shame me for that then you are sadly mistaken. This body is my pride, my beauty, my glory and you will not take that from me.

I Am Fat

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Dear Men and Women:

I am fat. I know this. I am comfortable with my body. I do not need nor want your approval. I would like, however, to clear up a few myths.

Fat does not lower my IQ. I am an intelligent, thoughtful, creative woman. I am able to talk to you about Chaucer, Shakespeare, Zen Buddhism, the occult, philosophy and the Bible. I create entire worlds in my head and bring characters to life in such a way that makes you want to join them in their travels and travails. I am not stupid.

Fat does not make me lazy. Sunday mornings do that. I work hard and put my full effort into everything I do. Perhaps I can’t do the splits anymore or hike the five miles down the River Valley, but I’ll do my best. You can’t be a lazy writer. They don’t exist.

Fat does not make me ugly or lessen my sex appeal. I am a beautiful, sexy woman. If you feel disgust or shame when you look at me, keep it to yourself. I don’t need to hear it. I don’t expect everyone to be sexually attracted to me but don’t try to make me feel like I should be asexual. I am a very sexual, sensual person and enjoy the company of many men and women who enjoy my body. Accept that.

Fat does not make me desperate for your company. Don’t act like you’re doing me a favour by being seen with me. If you are ashamed to be seen with me, that’s your problem, not mine. There are far too many people out there who do want to be with me because I’m beautiful and funny and intelligent.

Fat does not mean I’m unhealthy. My health is an issue between me and my doctor. I’m a 50 year old women with the common health concerns any 50 year old woman faces. My fat does not give you licence to dig into my medical history so you can use it as a means to justify your discrimination and bullying of me. This is not your body so don’t you worry about how well it’s functioning and don’t give me that crap about how concerned you are about my health. That’s just bullshit and we both know it.

Fat does not determine my choices. No, you can’t lecture me on what I should wear or eat or where I should go or how I should get there. My fat does not give you any right to determine what my choices are or should be.

If you are uncomfortable with my body then that’s your problem. My body, my rules. If you have a problem with the way I look then look away. Keep your tongue behind your teeth on any opinions you have on my life.

I am fat. I am not going to crawl into a hole because you can’t accept that I’m beautiful. I will wear dresses and spandex and cotton and bikinis and I will dance and play and run and I will be happy. Either accept that or get out of my way.

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