Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My "Awwww" Moment

This is a picture from our super-secret meeting at
Krispy Kreme, back when we were plotting - I mean
planning - Operation: Anti-Discrimination . . .
I know I talk a lot about the girls in Real Beauty Revolution (the women's rights club I started at my high school), but I dug something out of my drawer the other day that pretty much had me grinning like an idiot, and I wanted to gloa--- I mean share

A while back we did the time-tested activity where everybody passes a paper around and writes something (nice) about each other. I recognized my paper immediately when I found it, because it's bright, blinding yellow with a precarious grease stain that just decided to show up one day. Nonetheless, reading it over for the nth time made me remember why I love what I do - and who I am.

You see, RBR didn't take off like I wanted it to (we have a steady membership of about eight). But instead of standing up in front of a group of girls I don't know each week, I get to sit at a table with girls I've gotten to know so well in a matter of just a few months. We laugh, and joke, and talk about the "big things," and generally support each other when somebody has a problem or something on their mind. 

It's corny, yes, but because "my girls" are mostly freshman (excluding a few of my Junior friends who managed to sneak in), I've gotten to play the older sister role. And if I had even a tiny, miniscule, microscopic fraction in helping them to become more confident and to realize how smart and strong and beautiful they are . . . that would just make everything I strive for - everything I believe in - worth it, you know?

So! Back to the point, here are a few of the things that were written on my paper. I plan to keep this thing for a hundred years (or more!) just so whenever somebody tells me "Give up!" or "This stuff is a waste of time!" I can whip it out and say "Excuse me, I think these girls would believe otherwise."

P.S. Pay special attention to the last one. *smiles*

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sting Operation Results Part #1: Hollister

Life's Big Question #283: Why don't the models
in clothing ads ever wear any clothes?
Well, as I sit here in the gentle glow of my brother and his girlfriend playing through a stack of new video games (Santa brought me a Chuck Norris t-shirt and feminist literature!*), I would like to wish everybody a very happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or whatever the heck it is that you celebrate. If your family is anything like mine, today should consist of comfy pj's and incessant snacking . . .

Anyway, it's taken me long enough, but I've finally summoned the strength to write about last Saturday's sting operation. I am, however, realizing that if I want to do this thing right it's going to take a lot more than one post.

For those of you who didn't scroll down a few notches to read my last post, the girls from Real Beauty Revolution and I conducted a little sting operation at a nearby mall last Saturday. Each dressed as a different stereotype (see below), we infiltrated several stores (that sounds cooler than "walked into") to see how the workers would react to us. We wanted to see how blatant discrimination is in today's society - be it against sex, physicality, economic status, or otherwise - and while I can't say that we got any 100% conclusive results, it was a very eye-opening and, strangely, empowering experience.

I've decided to go about this one store at a time. I apologize if I'm keeping anybody on the edge of their seat (anybody?) but I've got a lot to say, and I don't want to glaze over anything just to keep a modest word count. So, what better way to introduce Operation: Anti-Discrimination than to recognize the lovely ladies (or better yet, kick-ass chicks) who made it possible:

From Left to Right: Lacee, Carrie, Jenny (eating Lorrie's head),
Lorrie (having her head eaten), Holly, Tia, Saundra, and Tamara.

If you look a bit closer, we're loosely divided into three categories:

  • The Rocker Chicks: Tamara, Saundra, Lacee and I (though I'm not in the picture) were somewhere in the goth-to-rocker spectrum.
  • The Preps: Lorrie and Holly suffered from what one might jokingly refer to as "preppy-princess-itis."
  • The Normies: Tia, Carrie, and Jenny were dressed normally . . . though "normal" easily passed for "grubby" in some of the stores we went into.

In a pre-operation meeting at a nearby Krispy Kreme (that pretty much felt like we were planning a bank robbery), we devised a brilliant plan to enter our targeted stores in three waves. First, two or three girls would enter a store and plant themselves near some workers without being too conspicuous. Next came the stereotype "operative" who was different depending on the store (i.e. the person who would look most out of place). And finally, a second round of "observers" as we called them would meander in to play extra sets of eyes and ears. It was the stereotype operative's job to wreak a little havoc - ask questions, seek help, simply exist - but it was the observers' job to mentally log everything and anything that was going on around them.

In all the weeks it took RBR to plan Operation: Anti-Discrimination, I only had one request:

"I want Hollister."

Meaning, of course, that I wanted to be the stereotype planted in the blasted place because I've heard too many horrific tales of discrimination and abuse not to want to check it out for myself. And going into that skinny paradise as a PLUS-SIZE WOMAN who's been the victim of understocked and sizist stores her entire life (and who also warrants capital letters to contain her fabulosity*), I felt like some kind of crusader for every girl out there who's been told her thighs were too big, her boobs were too small, or . . . well, just think up some misogynist crap that's been fed to you.

*Did I really say "fabulosity"?

If you want to know the truth I was quite happy with my get-up, but only because it was what I wear on a daily basis. Donning a slightly worn Dream Theater cap, Iron Maiden t-shirt (with "Best of the Beast" printed on the back in bold, red letters), old jeans, fuzzy striped socks, messy locks, and a mocking expression, I felt like a warrior geared up to face her demons.
Lorrie was a good partner in crime for
our first stop! I have more pictures of
The Girls to show in future posts :)
I was nervous up to the second we stepped inside the store, which was dimly-lit and smelled as if it had been fumigated with cologne, but thinking back, I don't know why I was so worked up. Maybe because I had never been in there? Because my brother and I have always made "snooty" comments when we pass it in the mall? Because I half-expected the place to look like some "beautiful peoples' nightclub" where I would be the freak attraction? I dunno.

Life Lesson #4,313: the Teenage Girl mind isn't always rational.

Anyway, I slithered into Hollister with my new friend Lorrie in tow (our established "preppy" stereotype). Our million-dollar idea was to act like we were trying to find a shirt for her mom. Now I know what you're thinking: a prep and a rocker joining forces? But I knew finding a shirt for me, a plus-size girl in an old Iron Maiden shirt, would be a stretch. And besides, stereotypes suck.

"So, Lorrie, you're looking for a shirt for your mom?"

"Yeah, she likes blue."

"What size?"

"Probably XL."

"Don't you mean 2XL?" Wink.

"Oh, yeah!"

*Hypnotic voice* I am a young, attractive,
white female. You want to be me . . . and
even though you'll never come close, Hollister
clothes might help. A bit. *Demon voice*
We searched for a tag that didn't say XS, S, or even M, but (unsurprisingly) came up empty-handed. Holding up those shirts that were purportedly medium made me feel either (a) that I was a size XXXXXXL by Hollister standards, or (b) that I had cast some wacky spell and everything was shrinking around me. The shirts were so small.

"I dunno Lorrie, I've never been in this store before" I said in my best acting voice, yet remaining entirely truthful, "they must have a plus-size section in the back somewhere."

By this time - with secret agents planted all around me, falling from the rafters even - I worked up the gumption to trot over to the counter to a wide-eyed, perfectly trimmed employee. She had pale skin (shock?) and curly brown hair, but I made a mental note that she probably still fit Hollister's "beautiful employee" requirement.

"Hi, we're trying to find a shirt for her mom . . . but I noticed the sizes only go up to Large."

"Yes . . . our largest size in women's clothing is 11."

Mock disappointment.

"Will you be getting a plus size section any time soon?" I asked, chuckling a bit and trying to seem personable. "It just seems funny to only go up to size 11 when the average person can't fit into that."

Blink, blink. I guess whatever the heck I said didn't compute. The girl looked at me - my senior by only a few years - and said she "wouldn't know the answer to that."

I thanked her for her time and left, muttering disappointments about the store to Lorrie as I shook my head like a reproving grandmother. I hadn't felt overtly discriminated, but one of the observers, Jenny, noticed that the oh-so-lively store clerk "grimaced" as I was walking away. When I asked Jenny what that meant she said "It was a why-would-you-ask-that sort of look."

Now, is that enough for me to convict Hollister of any sort of crime?

*Sigh* No. And I was so ready to sue any sucker who looked at me funny.

But that was only the beginning of the epically-titled Operation: Anti-Discrimination. We also went into Hot Topic, Torrid, Gamestop, Macy's, Nordstrom, Abercrombie - and I even stood up to annoying, holier-than-thou idiots at Spencers when I called one of their sexist shirts into question.

More about that later! So stay tuned!

*Santa, being the wily fellow he is, brought me The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti! I mentioned the book in an earlier post but haven't had a chance to read it until now. It's pretty freaking amazing, considering I lapped up the first 80 pages in about twenty minutes. It's all about the ridiculosity of a juxtaposition women face each and every day: pressures to be sexy on one side (think: pornography, 15-year-old sex icons, padded bras for children), and pure on the other (think: crazy idiots who blame sex education for promiscuity and measure womens' worth by their hymens).

It just amazes me that people could be so closed-minded about sexuality, propagate an archetype in which girls (i.e. pretty, young, white girls) are only worth something if they're virgins, and find a way to blame feminism for virtually everything.

My eyes have been bulging like crazy reading the book, and I'll look up and begin to rant - but then I realize it's only my brother and his girlfriend there, and they don't appreciate a good fem-rant . . . *pouts*

P.S. If anybody's looking to get me an early Christmas present for next year, the next "Valenti gem" on my list is He's a Stud, She's a Slut: And 49 Other Double-Standards Every Woman Should Know!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

P!nk & Operation: Anti-Discrimination

Well, I have to say that Operation: Anti-Discrimination yesterday was (for the most part) a success! But I've got a lot to say about what happened, so while I'm taking my sweet time on that check out these videos. I can't believe I just discovered P!nk, considering a friend of mine has been hounding me to check out her stuff for ages. Regardless of whether or not you like this type of music (I'll admit, it's a bit outside of my comfort zone), you have to admit the underlying messages are just awesome.

P.S. Rosie the Riveter FTW!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do video games cause children to behave violently?

*Shoots zombie in the face* Teeheehee...
Since the time video games were invented - even before graphics were what they are today, showing magical lands, spaceships and yes, I'll admit, blood and gore in crystalline quality - concerned parents have pegged violent behavior in children as a direct correlation to the types of video games they play. If Jimmy is acting out in class the immediate question isn't "how did his parents raise him?" but "what sort of influences is he getting at home? Is he playing violent video games?"

These days parents are quick to penalize games that contain violence and gore, but they almost never want to accept that if a child's morals are already in tact, it doesn't matter if they're blowing up a zombie with a 12-foot bazooka. By the time a child is able to hold and maneuver a video game controller, he or she should without a doubt be able to discern what's truth and what's fiction, what's right and what's wrong. I implore the nation to stop using violent games as a scapegoat for bad parenting, and start bringing up children with enough moral fiber to know the difference between violence on a TV screen, and violence in real life.

Whenever I hear a parent or news anchor go on a tirade about video games being a major factor that drives children to behave violently, I get personally offended. My older brother and I have been playing games like Resident Evil for years (i.e. your objective is to survive a zombie-ridden world using as much artillery as possible), but we're still fine, upstanding citizens. That being said, I know firsthand that aggressive games do not have a negative affect on all children. There may be a case here and there of a child lashing out and replicating something he or she saw in a video game, but children can mimic violence from any source: movies, television, websites, real life. Violence is everywhere, and while it's extremely unfortunate that our society is so desensitized to it, violence isn't going to disappear anytime soon.

Oh Leon, when will you ever learn...
Should we lock our kids away in a dark, dank basement with nothing but a few chunks of bread and a stack of Mr. Rogers tapes? Or should we teach them the difference between right and wrong - the difference between what's acceptable in the realm of videogames, and what's acceptable in real life - before they get into the Big Bad World so they can make good choices for themselves?

Blaming violent video games for a child's misbehavior is the sorriest excuse for bad parenting I've ever heard. A person is not going to go out, beat up a stranger, steal his car and commence to wreak havoc simply because they saw it in a video game. If a person is being physically or verbally abusive it's because they have some underlying problems that have never been dealt with properly.

They say that our parents are our first teachers, and that's absolutely true. We may change as we start experiencing the world and accepting new people into our lives, but our morals - set in stone by our parents - almost never change. If we were taught to be compassionate and respectful, guess what? That's what we're going to be. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, if we're brought up watching Mom and Dad duke it out every night and thinking that's okay, we're going to have some serious problems. If parents are at all confident in the caliber to which they raised their children, they won't have to blame video games for petty reasons.

Saying that graphic video games cause violence in all children is the same as saying all elderly people drive like slugs, or that all blondes have to take their shoes off in order to count to twenty. It's a ridiculous stereotype.

Regardless of what has been found in labs or through critical analysis, scientists will never be able to say for sure that video games heighten aggression in all children, so we need to stop calling parents into question when they allow their kids to play these types of games. As long as they've instilled certain values into their children - like kindness, respect, and good judgment - it shouldn't matter. By the same token, if parents have such a problem with M-rated games I propose a radical, ground-breaking solution: keep them out of your house! Don't let your precious angels play them if you think they'll corrupt their character!

But please, don't go around blaming video games for our country's problems. Because honestly? Parents who waste time playing the blame-game instead of nurturing their children are the real menace to society.

After some thought, I'd like to add that the "degree" of violence in video games is another issue entirely. For example, I play games where the extent of the violence is knocking the head off a zombie with a chainsaw. Some games, however, take it to the next level by torturing humans. I've don't usually play games like that. They make me uncomfortable, and I'd be a bit wary allowing my kids to play something so graphic. I guess what I'm saying is, my original argument makes it sound as though I'm advocating violence, but that's not quite it. Parents have a right to choose what their kids should and should not be exposed to, but if their children misbehave they shouldn't blame video games alone. Get what I'm sayin'?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Two Cents on "True Beauty"

You always hear people talk about "true beauty" like it's this untouchable, imaginary thing we keep locked up inside. I think this picture (taken at one of our Real Beauty Revolution meetings) proves that theory wrong.

True beauty is tangible, robust, uninhibited, and real.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Am an Emotional Creature (Ain't That the Truth)

A couple of weeks ago I checked out Eve Ensler's I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, and dang was it good. I was starting to think I would never be able to read a full book again (because it's been so long and I'm really impatient), but this book was good enough to keep me hooked for a solid two hours - the time it takes to read it from cover to cover.

"Dear Emotional Creature:

I believe in you. I believe in your authenticity, your wildness. I love the way you dye your hair purple, or hike up your short skirt . . . I love your restlessness and your hunger. You possess the energy that, if unleashed, could transform, inspire and heal the world."

The book isn't a novel per se, but a collection of facts, fictional letters, lists, poems and short stories meant to draw attention to issues girls around the world have experienced: child labor, bullying, genital mutilation, teenage pregnancy, and human trafficking, to name a few. At some points I was on the verge of tears because I just kept thinking "here I am worrying about a test I have Friday, and girls around the world are experiencing this?" but I actually came away from the book extremely empowered, and I'm recommending it to all of my friends (including you)!

Here's the official summary of the book from its website, V-Girls:

In this daring, provocative, and insightful book, bestselling author and internationally acclaimed playwright Eve Ensler writes fictional monologues and stories inspired by girls around the globe. Moving through a world of topics and emotions, these voices are fierce, alive, tender, complicated, imaginative, and smart. Girls today often find themselves in a struggle between remaining strong and true to themselves and conforming to society’s expectations in an attempt to please. They are taught not to be too intense, too passionate, too smart, too caring, too open. They are encouraged to shut down their instincts, their outrage, their desires and their dreams, to be polite, to obey the rules. I Am an Emotional Creature is a celebration of the authentic voice inside every girl and an inspiring call to action for girls everywhere to speak up, follow their dreams, and become the women they were always meant to be.

Among the girls Ensler creates are an American who struggles with peer pressure in a suburban high school; an anorexic blogging as she eats less and less; a Masai girl from Kenya unwilling to endure female genital mutilation; a Bulgarian sex slave, no more than fifteen, a Chinese factory worker making Barbies; an Iranian student who is tricked into a nose job; a pregnant girl trying to decide if she should keep her baby.

Through rants, poetry, questions, and facts, we come to understand the universality of girls everywhere: their resiliency, their wildness, their pain, their fears, their secrets, and their triumphs. I Am an Emotional Creature is a call, a reckoning, an education, an act of empowerment for girls, and an illumination for parents and for us all.

I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls will be a vehicle to empower girls and inspire activism. Through the newly created V-Girls program, young girls can participate in the V-Day movement, in the same way The Vagina Monologues has built a movement on college campuses and in communities around the world. The goal of V-Girls will be to engage young women in our “empowerment philanthropy” model, igniting their activism.

V-Day believes that girls are the future of our movement. Women are the primary resource of our planet. It is imperative to educate and nurture future activists so we can see our vision of a world free from violence against women and girls come true.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Random Thoughts for a Friday Afternoon: Abortion, Diets, and Krispy Kreme Donuts

There have only been about two days in the past few weeks where I actually got some free time, so while I regret not writing for a while, I don't blame myself. After all, it's hard to write anything interesting (let alone coherent) when your eyes are about to fall out of your head from exhaustion. But anyway, you know when you get into one of those crazy "thinking" moods? I've been like that a lot lately, just thinking, thinking, thinking. Here are my random thoughts for a Friday afternoon:

Abortion. I realized the other day in an epiphany-kind-of-way what being pro-choice is really about. People make pro-choicers out to be inhuman baby-killers (and I'll admit, I would never want that stereotype on my head), but it's a lie. When a woman has an abortion it's not as if she just bops out of the clinic whistling "Singing In the Rain." Having an abortion would tear anybody up inside.

Pro-choicers don't celebrate the act of ending a baby's life, but they do respect women enough to allow them to make their own decisions about their own bodies. That's what we're celebrating: the fact that we are intelligent creatures capable of intelligent, rational thoughts. Why should I let some governor in [insert state here] dictate what I can and cannot do with my body?

I'm not sure if the statistic "77% of anti-abortion leaders are men. 100% of them will never be pregnant" is true, but if it is, dang. How can they make decisions about something they will never, ever experience for themselves?

Maybe if we did more to make abortions unnecessary in this country - like amp up sex education in schools; make contraception more accessible to at-risk couples; and make it easier for single, pregnant women to receive report (financial and emotional) - women wouldn't have to suffer so much.

Overall? Being pro-choice doesn't mean that you're anti-life.

Diets. I haven't really blogged about my weight loss struggles before, but I'm horrified to admit that I've gained back nearly three-fourths of the weight I spent nearly a year losing. I let stress and school get the better of me, and used that as a (lame) excuse to drown my sorrows in Oreos and cheesy enchiladas. Well, I hopped back on the weight loss bandwagon two days ago, and I'm feeling a load better. I'm approaching things differently this time, and believe it or not it's all because of what I read in a random Yahoo! article.

The article said that when women try to lose weight, we're way too hard on ourselves. Instead of "Oh wow, I lost a pound!" we tend to say "Aww man, I only lost a pound?"

Well, no more.

I'm going to start celebrating little successes. If I get it in my head that this is a short-term "diet," I'm going to crash and burn. It's way less pressure to think of this as a lifestyle change, something I can stick to from now on. I'm going to make good choices and drink lots of water, of course, but if we're having pizza one night - dammit, I'm having pizza.

If you want to get healthy and start tracking your food, check out Sign up to use one of its features called The Daily Plate - it's great!

For an A&F clothing ad,
something invariably seems
to be missing.
Operation: Anti-Discrimination. Okay, this doesn't have a ton to do with Krispy Kreme donuts (though my group and I will be enjoying them on the day of our "operation"). What is this "operation," you say? On December 18th the girls from Real Beauty Revolution and I will be going under-cover at a nearby mall as different stereotypes to see how people treat us. I'm completely stoked because I'll finally be facing my demon: Hollister.

Whenever my brother and I walk past Hollister we plug our noses and make "snooty" comments. I absolutely abhor the store.

As an overweight woman I'm really interested to see how they react to me, if at all. I'm going to wear sweatpants, a sweatshirt of some sort (I've got a lovely one with my brother's face on it!), a cheap-looking bag, and no makeup. I might pretend that I've never been in the store before, and innocently ask if they have my size...

A part of me hopes we won't experience discrimination in any of the stores we target, but a larger part - a biased, immature part - wants to bust some suckers.

Am I biased against stores that routinely judge and treat customers like crap (i.e. Hollister, A&F, Nordstrom)? Yes.

But that'll make the results that much more interesting when I post them on the 18th!

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