Unpopular opinion: I really hate the phrase “male tears”

Not my cup of tea. (source)

Not my cup of tea. (source)

The concept of “male tears” is ubiquitous in the online feminist circles where I hang out, especially on Tumblr. I’ve seen at least one mug or teapot featuring it in nearly every feminist holiday gift guide that I’ve read this month (and I’ve read a lot of them). I know it’s meant as a critique of guys who whine about being called out on their sexist behavior, not ones who are genuinely in emotional distress. But it still makes me deeply uncomfortable.

On one hand, I don’t want to tell other women how to respond to the shittiness of dealing with sexism and misogyny; we all cope in our own ways. But at the same time, I can’t separate out anything that makes fun of the idea of men crying from the toxic culture–which is very much a part of the patriarchy–that tells men to stuff down their emotions, be stoic, don’t cry. This culture not only harms men by denying them a part of their humanity, but more importantly, harms women: because it encourages men to act with unthinking aggression and violence rather than empathy. To appear tough at all costs, no matter who gets hurt–and “who gets hurt” is nearly always a woman and/or a member of another marginalized group.

I know that the women who ironically revel in drinking male tears don’t mean to use the phrase that way. If you asked them, they’d say they’re just as opposed to that toxic construction of masculinity as I am. They’d say they’re all for men genuinely expressing their emotions. They’d say that their ironic jokes have nothing to do with the kind of people who actually think men shouldn’t cry.

But it’s axiomatic in social justice spaces that intent isn’t magic. If you say or do something harmful, it doesn’t matter that you meant well–the harm is still done, and you still need to apologize and work on doing better the next time. Likewise, it doesn’t matter whether the women who proudly drink from “male tears” mugs mean to reinforce the idea that men who cry are pathetic and deserving of mockery. We still live in a culture in which most men are expected to bottle up their emotions, and that still has harmful, even deadly consequences. I can’t get behind anything that reinforces it–no matter how unintentionally, no matter how ironically.

There has to be some other way to say, “Up yours, whiny sexist dudes.”

Sunday links, 9/21/14: it’s finally fall

pumpkins and squash at farm stand

Fa(t)shion
-The New Yorker has a great profile of plus size style–just ignore the obligatory crap about how “obesity is a genuine health issue.”
A first for high fatshion: the Design Collective at Evans LFW Catwalk Show.
Two up-and-coming labels sent plus size models down the catwalk at NYFW.
-Kath shares an experience of clothes-shopping as it should be.
-Affinity rounds up places that sell plus size Halloween costumes in a variety of sizes, some up to 12X.
Why do designers hide their plus size lines? (Spoiler alert: because they’re douchenozzles who let fat-phobia get in the way of profit.)
How to manage a massive closet purge.
Are you more likely to buy things from retailers who use models in lots of different sizes?
-Everything in Zelie for She’s Pink Carousel collection is amazing, and should teleport to my closet immediately.
Rock n’ Roll Bride’s new collection for Crown & Glory = awesome.
-The San Diego fat clothing swap looks like it was so much fun!
22 fashion infographics you need in your life.
While the fashion world swoons over this season’s styles, the workers making them are fainting on the job.
The fast fashion industry doesn’t want you to know about these things.

Fat Acceptance
Vogue didn’t discover big booty–booty never left.
Fat discrimination is real discrimination.
Things you only know if you’re a “fat girl” on the internet.
Why I’m not signing the OAC petition.
Fat para-academics, read this!
-If you’re in Oakland, check out this fat dance performance.

Climate and Sustainability
Environmental justice works, and these folks show us how.
-Rebecca Solnit provides thoughtful historical context for the People’s Climate March. (Sadly, I won’t be able to make it, as life has been exhausting lately and I am dead-tired. But I will be there in spirit!)
Why do we protest? “We shouldn’t stop trying to create the world that we want to live in, but at the same time, we need to live right now in the world we want to create. We certainly can’t buy our way there and we probably can’t fight our way there either. Better to make as many friends as we can, gather them close, watch the flames together, and try to figure out how to live in the light that the fire reflects.”
Watch out, Wall Street, climate marchers are coming for you next.
Naomi Klein is right: unchecked capitalism will destroy civilization. I agree with this 110% except for the predictable analogy comparing climate change to weight gain causing diabetes, sigh.
11 short stories about the People’s Climate Train.
Civil rights heroes offer climate marchers a little wisdom.
Hey, U.N.: climate change and population are related. Continue reading

Romantic rejection, gendered blame, and narratives we need to change

I’ve been reading so much–probably more than I should–about the Isla Vista shootings. There’s been so much important analysis of Elliot Rodger’s misogyny and racism. There have been so many women sharing their stories of everyday sexism, harassment, and abuse–and their experiences of not being believed by men. There have been reminders that stigmatizing mental illness and Asperger’s syndrome is not the answer. I’ll be rounding up the best of these pieces soon.

But what jumped out at me is the tiny, innocent kernel of pain hidden somewhere deep inside Rodger’s twisted worldview: the pain of romantic and sexual rejection. And the ways that men and women are socialized to deal with that rejection differently. (I will note that this post deals with the socialization of men who date women, and women who date men. As a straight woman, I can’t speak to the experiences of queer people, but I would not be surprised if they’re similar in some ways, different in others, and compounded by constant cultural erasure.)

When I read about Elliot Rodger–or any of the innumerable men whose sense of entitlement to women’s bodies has turned deadly–I always have a brief glimmer of recognition of that pain, mixed with overwhelming sadness, disgust, and rage. Obviously, no amount of pain excuses Rodger’s actions, and most people manage to deal with rejection without resorting to violence. But his case is an extreme example of cultural dynamics that are all too common.

I know that primal need for connection. I know what it’s like to spend years wanting it, watching seemingly everyone else have it, wondering why you’re left out.

But what I don’t know is a feeling of entitlement to anyone else’s body. When men are rejected, they’re socialized to blame women; when women are rejected, we’re socialized to blame ourselves. This is what patriarchy looks like: no matter who does the rejecting, women are at fault.

I still remember trying not to cry at a school dance in sixth grade because my crush was slow-dancing with his girlfriend and I had no one to dance with. Over the years, it didn’t get better–I just got used to it.

Yes, I was angry. But I turned my anger inwards, like women are taught to do in a million insidious ways. Before I came across fat acceptance, I blamed my body; afterwards, I just wondered what was wrong with me, even when I knew intellectually that it was a matter of luck. I clung to Kate Harding’s “On Dumb Luck” like a life preserver, trying so hard to believe it.

Then, by sheer dumb luck, I was in the right place at the right time to meet Steve, and the rest is history.

Rejection happens. Dating is never going to be smooth or seamless or pain-free. Sadness and anger about that are perfectly normal. But too often our culture twists that anger into woman-hatred, both internalized and externalized. It’s time to say, enough. We need new cultural narratives, new coping strategies. Continue reading

A short rant

I hate when people, especially other feminists, devalue the work that is raising children. Just because it’s not financially compensated in our current system doesn’t mean it’s not just as important as any other kind of work.

I also hate when people say things like “the world doesn’t owe me a living, or my children support.” I believe we have a collective responsibility to each other. I believe that the world owes everyone a living, whether or not they want to or can work in ways that are considered economically productive (under what are some very narrow definitions of productivity, I might add). I believe that by virtue of being alive, we are all owed food, shelter, clothes, health care, and education.

I don’t believe in the hyper-individualistic bullshit of “personal responsibility.” We’re all in this together–and we’d better start acting like it if we want to survive.

Sunday links, 3/16/14

pie crust nutella and peanut butter hamantaschen

One of my friends made delicious hamantaschen with pie crust instead of cookie dough for my Pi Day party on Friday!

Fa(t)shion
How to overhaul your look in 4 easy steps.
-A bunch of Fatshionista members talk about their experiences with Gwynnie Bee, the plus size clothing rental company (which I will be reviewing soon, I promise! I did a monthlong trial back in November and haven’t gotten around to writing about it yet…)
-I love everything about this colorful goth bridal shoot. Dark tulle gown and dark makeup + vintage-y pastel flowers = YES.
-Olivia and her friends look adorable in the new Cut for Evans collection.
-Cat reflects on Fatshion February.
-Total fashion inspiration: every single outfit in this post of pictures from a makeup expo.
Tokyo’s street fashion is ridiculous and amazing.

Fat Acceptance
-“Tall people are afflicted with tallness in exactly the same way fat people are afflicted with fatness.”
-Ragen answers a few common questions about HAES.
-Liss writes about two studies about anti-fat bias that don’t think they’re about anti-fat bias.
Someone stole a picture of Rachele in a bikini to sell a diet program.

Climate and Sustainability
-Everything Rebecca Solnit writes is brilliant, and this piece is no exception. If you read one thing this week, make it this: By the way, your home is on fire: the climate of change and the dangers of stasis.
100% renewable energy is feasible and affordable, according to Stanford proposal.
-A really cool new idea for renewable energy: catching waves with a seafloor carpet.
Offshore wind farms could tame hurricanes before they reach land.
Strawberry trees offer free solar charging for gadgets.
Fertilizing crops with pee sounds gross, but also really useful.

Continue reading

On fa(t)shion blogging, dead conversations, and the potential for transformation

Window display at my favorite jewelry store in Boston, So Good.

I recently came across a great piece by Arij Riahi at The Closet Feminist, Fashion blogging is not dead: our conversations are.

Arij analyzes the critiques of fa(t)shion blogging, which fall into two camps: elitists who look back fondly on the days when fashion was less accessible, and those who are dismayed by the increasing commercialization and depoliticization of the fashion blogging world. (See Natalie Perkins’ critique of fatshion blogging and the conversations it started.)

They note a similar evolution in the world of DIY blogs, including bloggers who sell DIY kits that cost as much as the item itself, and make an important point:

I question…how an idea that grew out of a rejection of mainstream capitalist consumerism could turn so easily into mainstream capitalist consumerism.

Capitalism co-opts everything it touches.

Including resistance to itself.

It’s pervasive and insidious, and incredibly hard to fight.

Arij continues:

I do find that there are a lot of larger, political issues in fashion– I like your camouflage coat, but I’d also like a conversation about the ethics of wearing military apparel. I don’t mind your luxury items, but I want to find out if it is craft(hu)manship or branding. I prefer a full tutorial, because I enjoy the agency that comes with wearing my own skirt. I have questions about second-hand clothing and the effect it has on African textile markets. I want to have these conversations, but I can’t find many spaces for them online.

I think that by narrowing down our fashion conversations, we miss the opportunity of reclaiming the body -the individual and the collective one- and highlighting how its presence, movement, and adornment is as an act of political resistance– not a commodity.

I agree 200%. I’ve found a few blogs that take on the ethics and politics of fashion, but not enough. I want more of these conversations. I’m thankful Arij is starting one.

I also I wonder if the commercialization of blogging is partly a symptom of our post-employment economy: people are trying to make ends meet however they can, including monetizing things like blogs that used to be non-commercial. And professional blogging can seem like a glamorous alternative to dead-end jobs, although it’s ultimately unsustainable for all but a small minority.

Of course, this commercialization is driven by corporations–but maybe they’d be less successful at co-opting everything if people had better job options. Maybe more people would be content to use their blogs for personal reflections if they could rely on well-paying, secure jobs to pay their rent.

And so the system replicates itself.

How do we break the cycle? How do we keep these important conversations going in a system that wants to co-opt and neutralize them? How can we, as fa(t)shion bloggers, get back to our radical roots?

I don’t know exactly how we can do it, but I hope we are on the brink of a transformation, a tiny part of the Great Turning that’s gathering steam throughout the world.

I’ll be right here, waving my sparkly pom-poms for the revolution.

Sunday links, 12/22/13

Merry almost-Christmas to those who celebrate it, and I hope you are all having a warm and festive season!

Fa(t)shion
-On fashion as armor.
-So apparently Torrid is rebranding itself to be less alternative and more trendy–didn’t that already happen like eight years ago? Torrid hasn’t been alternative in a long, long time.
Bangladesh factory fires: why brands are accountable and should compensate victims now.
-The Closet Feminist questions the meaning of quirky style in a three-part series here, here, and here.
Why “12 Years a Slave” star Lupita Nyong’o should be your new fashion idol.

Fat Acceptance
Memo to Michelle Obama: fat shaming is not ok.
-Sadly, there will not be a NOLOSE conference in 2014, but people are planning local fat events all over the country. If you’re in Boston, check out the Boston area fatties meetup group for updates!
-If you’re looking to make a holiday donation that promotes body positivity, check out the Girls Rak bellydance and body image program.
Just no, Jennifer Lawrence.
Tyra Banks, please say no to Special K.
The HAES files: examining the so-called “evidence.”
-If you’re in San Francisco, check out Marilyn Wann’s Movement of the Month Club.
-Yet another way that diet culture is harmful to people’s health: spike in harm to liver is tied to dietary aids.

Climate and Sustainability
-Bill McKibben’s latest: Obama and climate change: the real story.
Renewable energy, education, and economic development combine at Philadelphia Solar Schools Initiative.
Sink tank: in Miami, climate scientists ask, “how soon, how deep?”
The entire IPCC report in 19 illustrated haiku.

Jobs and the Economy
This new conference on transition economics looks potentially awesome.
-I love the idea of Write A House, a new organization that gives houses to writers in Detroit. They’re raising money by IndieGoGo for their first home renovation.
An open letter to Sheryl Sandberg from a 20-something woman in tech.
“We don’t have a marketing budget”: the dirty side of blogging.
Surviving rent: why artists can’t afford critical neutrality.

Everything Else
I don’t want Tim Wise as an ally. No thanks.
-Melissa writes about how the way Beyonce is sexy with her partner feels safe to her.
On defending Beyonce: black feminists, white feminists, and the line in the sand.
Hot sauce over humanity: on Sriracha.
Notes from the urban/rural divide: romance vs. reality.
-I really like this piece, which ties in with my recent post on the complexity of hope: Hope, power, and how Occupy invigorated our generation’s fight for survival.
On gender diverse parenting vs. raising a gender creative kid.
On depression, and the toll academia extracts.
A female author talks about sexism and self-promotion.
-Lindy West’s takedown of Love, Actually is perfect and hilarious. “Cock-blocktopus” = my new favorite word ever.
How to be less of a jerk to students with anxiety disorders.
Sensitive Santas, who are specially-trained to work with autistic children, are a huge win for families.
20 last-minute black feminist gift ideas for girls.
Calling IN: a less disposable way of holding each other accountable.
-Tori writes about many of her students losing their food stamp benefits.
-Angi writes about her big polyamorous wedding.
A personal look at #NotYourAsianSidekick, and an interview with Suey Park, who started the hashtag.
On long-term travel as running toward, not running away.
Darcy the hedgehog’s Instagram pictures are adorable!