Book review: the Green Boat

I had high hopes for Mary Pipher’s book The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture. I’ve been a fan of Pipher’s writing ever since I read Reviving Ophelia when I was 10, so when I wandered into my local bookstore and found out that she’d written a book on healing  ourselves and the earth in the age of climate change, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

But like cheap Chinese food, the book left me hungry an hour later.

It does contain some good ideas; I especially like Pipher’s concept of the “new healthy normal” way of being for which we should strive:

In the context of our global storm, the new healthy normal requires the ability to move from awareness to action on a regular basis, to maintain a sense of balance, and to live intentionally. It also requires a particular kind of optimism, a connection to community, and a world-class set of stress-reduction skills. Implied in the term “new healthy normal” is my assumption that it is not mentally healthy to sit idly by while the human race destroys its mother ship. (Pipher, 117)

I also like her description of the coalition she built with other Nebraskans to fight the Keystone XL pipeline–which, thanks to her and many other people’s activism, is still an ongoing fight rather than a done deal. I like her emphasis on community-building, bringing together people from different walks of life, and combining hard work with good food, art, and music.

But overall, although the book was well-written, it just felt…shallow. It didn’t get into the depths demanded by the scale of the climate crisis. I read a Goodreads review by a woman named Megan that articulated exactly what I found so troublesome:

…I think the book fails at its main goal of breaking through the emotional paralysis to help us adequately address our current ecological, political, and social crisis.

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Book review and matching OOTD: Hot & Heavy

How awesome is Steve? He got me Virgie Tovar’s new anthology, Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, & Fashion, for Hanukkah!

Dress: Sealed With a Kiss Designs, leggings: American Apparel, shoes: Naot, bangles: Torrid and Deb, necklace: I Am Joolienn, earrings and headband: So Good

The dress is sort of a Hanukkah present to myself. I’d been eyeing it for a long time, and couldn’t resist when it went on sale half-off for Black Friday.

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The concept of “flaws” is flawed

I’ve been re-reading Linda Grant’s book The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter. I remember liking it well enough the first time I read it, but now…not so much.

Grant has some interesting things to say about the history of fashion, and the meaning that clothing can have, even–or perhaps especially–in dire circumstances.

But there’s so much about the book that rubs me the wrong way. I have another post coming about my alienation from the type of fashion that Grant focuses on, but for now, I want to talk about one concept that keeps popping up throughout the book: that of “flaws.”

“Flaws,” as in body parts belonging to those who are older or fatter (or both) than the average. Body parts that must be disguised, hidden, cloaked in both fabric and shame.

All I have to say is, fuck that noise.

If one body has a larger stomach, or ankles, or thighs, than another body, that doesn’t make those parts “flawed.” It just makes them different. There’s no reason that a 60-year old woman shouldn’t wear a mini-skirt if she feels like it, or a 400-pound woman a tank top. Hell, there’s no reason a 60-year old, 400-pound man can’t wear both a tank top and a mini-skirt if it suits his style.

Yes, we’re all human. We all have flaws.

But those flaws are not our hips, or our stretch marks, or the fat rolls on our back. They’re not our cellulite, or our frizzy hair, or our eyes that crinkle unevenly when we smile.

There is no perfect body from which all others deviate–no matter how many multi-billion dollar industries try to sell you that idea.

We’re all human.

We can all be beautiful in our own ways, if we want to be. Or we can reject the idea of beauty altogether.

None of us are flawed simply for existing in our bodies.