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.

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Using Free Speech to Bully

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There’s a misconception going on in the Internet about what is free speech. Somehow people believe it means you can say what you want when you want. As a result, people use words as a weapon to beat others down. When the victim objects, people cry “free speech” as though it’s some kind of shield. It’s a kind of “don’t tread on me” battle cry for online bullies to be allowed to continue their bullying. Yet, not one of them would say half of it if they were face to face with that person.

So I’m going to get unpopular now.

You’re not allowed your opinion if you use your opinion to harm others.

Yep. I went there. If your opinion hurts someone, if you’re using your words to cut and make someone bleed, keep your tongue behind your teeth. You don’t get to give it a voice. You don’t get to air it. I don’t care how loudly you scream “free speech” at me. Words that hurt stay unsaid.

I’ve seen people post things that are so incredibly damaging yet they seem oblivious to the harm they’re causing. When someone posted a video of the “World’s Ugliest Woman”, no one seemed to think about the fact that this was a 17 year old girl.

Teens commit suicide after hearing such things as “kill yourself” or “no one likes you” and other hurtful things. Then, after they’re dead, everyone is surprised by the event. Seriously? Months of hearing how you’re useless or a slut or ugly and no one thinks that has an impact?

I’ve seen adults lose their jobs, suffer from depression and cause damage in families because of online bullying. How is it that people will type these vicious words and think they have no impression?

Here’s a little test before you hit send; if you wouldn’t say these things to a person’s face, don’t say it online. It’s that simple.

The Words Were Stones

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When I was 6, I was brushing my teeth before bed. I was one of those kids who put way too much toothpaste on the brush and took way too long to brush my teeth. However, I found it fun at the time. It meant, though, a mess to clean up for the adults in my life.

This particular night, my sister, who was 18 at the time, came in and saw the mess. To say she was less than impressed is probably an understatement. My sister cannot abide the smallest chaos around her. Everything must be orderly and precise within an inch of everyone else’s life. She always blamed this need on her lack of ability to see (she had glaucoma and was legally blind all her life). I think, though, that it was just her pathological need to control everything in her environment. Something I’m not unfamiliar with.

As I said, though, she came into the bathroom, saw the mess and it was on. Even though I was only 6 years old, I knew when I’d displeased her. Suddenly I felt a funny feeling in my stomach and waited to see what was coming. I didn’t want to brush my teeth any more.

She picked up the tube of toothpaste and said, “if you squeeze the tube from the middle you’ll get divorced.”

Even at 6 that made no sense to me and I laughed which was exactly the wrong response. “That’s silly,” I said.

She made her angry face and I cringed. “No one will love you if you can’t do things properly. You’ll be alone all your life and no one will want you.” With that she threw down the tube of toothpaste and left the bathroom.

Tearfully, I went back to brushing my teeth but it wasn’t fun like it was before. I cleaned the bathroom sink as well as I could, spending so much time doing so my father came in to see what was going on. I never told him what she said.

Brushing my teeth after that night became a chore filled with anxiety. Was I squeezing the toothpaste wrong? Was this too much toothpaste? I would measure the amount with my little finger every night. I brushed quickly, barely brushing at all. I began to associate the taste of toothpaste with that sick feeling in my stomach.

Even after I grew up into an adult, the ritual of brushing my teeth, once filled with fun, soon became a nightmare. It was reinforced by the twice yearly visits to a dentist I’m sure learned his bedside manner at the hands of the Nazis. He’d scream at me for not brushing properly then dig into my gums painfully while I cried and begged him to stop.

Years later, when I was in university and beginning to understand my own past, I asked my sister about it. She barely even remembered the incident that had scarred me so badly. Her only response was a mumble about joking around. I was shocked. It was one of the incidents that defined me as an adult and left my childhood a nightmare. There were no apologies, just a scathing remark about my “oversensitivity”.

Whenever my sister didn’t want to admit that her words hurt or that they cut deeply, the problem became my oversensitivity. I was too sensitive, too quick to take offense. I took her words to heart. After all, she was the person I saw as a mother figure in my life. My life’s devotion was to please her. If she said I was oversensitive, I grew anxious about every thought, every gesture, every word I uttered. Her word was truth. My need was to please her.

This is the Dance of the Abused. Please the abuser at all costs just to gain an ounce of love and acceptance. The abuser withholds that love unless it’s given with pain. Still, the abused welcomes it. It’s love from the one they’re trained to please no matter what. Sometimes the abuser will give gifts but these are not without their price. Each gift is a constant reminder that behaving, doing the abuser’s bidding, being perfect is the only way to gain their love.

Yet the other half of this dance is darker. There is no perfect. The abuser will always find some flaw, no matter how small, to justify their actions or words. Watching the abused dance for them is the abuser’s entertainment, their mana, their orgasm. It is this dance that the abuser focuses their every action and word and the abused will dance it. They must. They don’t know any other way.

Outsiders don’t understand this dance. They can’t. They can’t feel that drive that seats itself deep in the soul of the abused. All they see is the trundle of the abused and the glee of the abuser. It makes no sense to them. So they give such sage pieces of advice as “just don’t put up with it. I wouldn’t.” Or, “just leave.”

I hear people say again and again that words don’t hurt. There is a myth within a truth in that. Words are like stones in a sock. One word or two won’t hurt when they hit their target. 20 words or 50 words hurt. A hundred, a thousand words can kill. Yet, how many words does a person speak in one day? How many of those words are a stone in a sock? No person speaks a single word. Our words come together in the soul of their target and have impact.

I was a little girl. Those words were stones.

Shut Up

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More often than not I’m told to shut up or some version thereof. I’m not surprised. I tend to be bluntly honest about what I see and how I feel about things which can be unnerving for some people. It’s not that I’m rude unless I’m cranky at someone, which I don’t do without good reason. All of this leads up to a variation of “shut up” when I speak out about something.

“No one wants to hear.” “No one’s listening to you.” “One person talking can’t make a difference to anything.” “It’s all been said.” “Who do you think is going to listen to you?” “People are tired of hearing about it.”

The problem with this sage advice is I tend to be a bit of a Don Quixote. I keep tilting at those windmills in hopes of slaying that dragon. My windmills are those things I see as unfair or wrong. Racism, bullying, LGBTQ rights, pro-choice, the list goes on. There are things that are wrong in the world and I’m not going to shut up about.

So why not just  go along with the masses and let things be. After all, how much impact can one person have?

A young teen went on YouTube and spoke out about why girls in her country should have an education. Since then she’s gone on to continue speaking about the need to educate girls and women’s rights. Malala Yousafzai was just one young girl but now she’s a voice that’s heard.

A woman was on a bus when a bus driver ordered  her to give up her seat to a white passenger. She refused. She was arrested and helped to spark a revolution that ended segregation. Rosa Parks did one small act that changed an entire country.

The list goes on of small people doing small acts that change big things. Malcolm X, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller… Each of them were just one person doing what they could to make their world a better place. People following their consciences.

I’m no Mandela or Keller. I don’t claim that greatness. I do claim to have a voice. Even if it’s a small one. When I claimed the title of “Writer” I also accepted certain obligations. To speak out. To question the world around me. To give voice to those who have no voice.

Words

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A wordle text of a story I wrote

The Power of Words

This past week lessons abounded in the power of words and the effect they have on people. The Universe has an odd sense of humour and when things like this happen, it’s best to just go with it. Otherwise She gets cranky and the lessons come with bruises.

We’ve all heard the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That is a dead lie and I think we’re all grown up enough to know it. Words do hurt. Sometimes words can leave scars deeper and more painful than any belt or fist.

When I was 12 years old, I picked up a discarded copy of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’ve always been an eclectic reader so I picked it up and read it. This book was the first book that made me realize just how powerful words were. Disturbed, I went to a teacher who tried to explain that the book was simply enduring. I didn’t understand so I went to the library.

The library happened to be having a reading by an author whose name I no longer remember. I walked up to the author after he was done and shyly asked about Lee’s book. I didn’t understand how it could affect me so powerfully.

The author smiled at me and said, “writers craft words. We use them to build cities or to kill nations. Each word we use has its place and time. Words have power” (yes, I’m paraphrasing since I don’t remember exactly). I do remember the phrase, “words have power.” It’s stuck with me ever since. As a child in a powerless situation (I was the victim of abuse); to be able to hold power in my hands, in my mind was intoxicating. I went home and recreated those stories, those songs that I loved. I learned my art through mimicry. I would use the style of Pink Floyd to write a story about a princess and a dragon, the style of Harper Lee to write a love story, I even mimicked Robin Williams at one point with mixed success. From this imitation grew my own style over years and years of putting words on paper. A style as much a part of me as my own skin.

Today I’m well aware of the power that writers wield but I’m even more aware of the power that everyone has with the words they use. I was walking through a mall when I heard a parent tell their child, “you’re being stupid.” I was shocked that a parent would say that to their child but when I looked back, the parent carried on as though nothing happened. The child, though, gave me a look of shame that I will never forget. That parent has no clue of the impact of that casual phrase they threw out. The child will never forget, sadly.

Casual hurts are tossed out all the time and we don’t realize it. A teen girl refers to herself as a “ho” and her boyfriend as her “pimp” (overheard at a bus stop), a friend tells another friend they’re an idiot, a parent tells their child they’re stupid. We use these phrases and words casually and never think twice about the impact. Yet each word lands like a blow and leaves its mark.

I’ve been known to spend days trying to find the perfect word. Other writers will spend weeks or even months just to get that word that sets the tone. Do we really think that the words we say to each other has less importance? It’s time we stopped using words as weapons and started using them to build each other up.

 

Finding Amusement in Brutality

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I was going to write a post on using tools, but I will leave that for later in the week. Right now there is another issue at hand that has me thoroughly disgusted.

Elan Gale's publicity stunt photo of "Diane"

Elan Gale’s publicity stunt photo of “Diane”

By now everyone’s had a good chuckle or cheered Gale’s antics over the Thanksgiving Holiday. We now know that Gale made up the entire story as a publicity stunt. So, if you hated what he did that should excuse him, right? If you cheered him this should give you a sense of self-righteousness about the need to stand up to rude people. Right?

Wrong. On both accounts.

I view Gale as a hairy little pimp. His show, “The Bachelor” is nothing more than legalized prostitution but that’s not my issue. My issue is with this entire publicity stunt. Let’s call it what it is, shall we? Public bullying.

Let’s take a look at the situation. He created a character, “Diane” and publically bullied her. Then subjected her to Internet humiliation that I view as no better than a public rape. This woman was obviously distraught and ill. Possibly suffering from anxiety and he thought it a fun idea to bully, harass and humiliate her.

And this was a publicity stunt.

Okay. He’s had his fame, let’s move on to the heart of the matter. The millions of people who saw Gale’s actions and cheered or laughed, congratulations. You’re a bully.

Let’s imagine this was a real situation for a moment. A woman who is sick (Gale described her as wearing a medical mask) is distraught at the idea of her flight being delayed. This is understandable. If I changed this scenario and said a woman who was a former Marine and suffered from PTSD was subjected to Gale’s antics, people would be outraged. Gale would be raked over the coals. Yet, because this woman wears “Mom pants” and a “medical mask”, it’s okay. She was rude, we say self-righteously. This means that Gale gets to tell this woman to “eat my dick”. Is there any decent person that is going to tell me there is EVER a situation where that’s acceptable?

A sick and distraught woman harassed and bullied by a Hollywood producer for yucks and giggles and that’s all right? Am I the only one that sees a problem here?

Now we can sigh a breath of relief. It was just a publicity stunt. We can all get a little red-faced as we realize someone put something over on us, give a nervous little giggle and forget everything.

No. We can’t.

Our reaction to this publicity stunt should have us thinking hard about our acceptance of bullying. We applauded and cheered Gale’s bullying. Let’s imagine your child was at school and a bully humiliated and harassed him. Now, imagine the teachers, principal and other students cheering the bully. This is no different and we should feel shame.

The fact that this is what Gale thinks is acceptable to put forward as a publicity stunt should have us all sickened. A publicity stunt is supposed to get someone seen in the public eye for a period of time. There was a time when these publicity stunts garnered a positive reaction. Now any reaction will do.

As someone who lived with bullying all her life, by family members and in social settings, let me say that it is never acceptable and we can’t afford to let down our guard. What Gale did has made bullying something to laugh at. Something to cheer. It isn’t. Bullying, whether it’s a child or an adult, is wrong and needs to stop.

For those who believe that bullying is a childhood disease, let me assure you it isn’t. Adults do it to adults all the time. So what’s the difference between standing up to someone who’s rude and bullying? When you stand up to someone, it’s because your hands are clean and they are guilty of behaviour that is unacceptable. The point of standing up is to make the behaviour stop in a way that is not stooping to their level. Bullying is simply a way of putting yourself in the alpha position by any means necessary. Humiliation, harassment, goading or passive aggressive behaviour. When you’re a bully you are determined to show the other person you’re better than they are.

You’re not.

So, the next time you’re going to speak out against someone ask yourself this; is what I’m about to do going to escalate or de-escalate the situation? And are you doing it just so you can be on top? If you need to put someone down to be on top, then you have to be pretty low to begin with.

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