Friday, October 19, 2012

The "F" Word

I have wrestled with a lot of terms in my life... "Nosey," "talkative," "fat," "slut," "abrasive," you get the picture.  "Are you a punk?" "What's your religion?"  "Are you Republican?" "Democrat?"  "Oh MY GOD, you're a socialist?"  Every time I've allowed myself to accept a label that someone else felt the need to slap on me - or that I slapped on myself because I felt it was the right thing to do - I realized that I was only putting myself in a box.  I was packaging myself up for society and giving myself to them with a manual that said, "This is everything I am, and this is how to use me."  

Words are powerful symbols and in the English language there are so many meanings to be gathered from one little word.  In being labeled I felt that I was merely the sum of other people's perspectives.  

I have always had a strong will.  I have never 'known my place,' nor would I have wanted to keep it if someone made me really understand.  My stepfather tried to teach me, but that only ever resulted in a black eye or a few bleeding welts.  Older people tried to teach me, by telling me that children should be seen and not heard… especially little girls. 

It was damn hard growing up.  I’m sure it was for most of you.  Sometimes I think that it was because of all the expectations and pre-conceived notions, and in moments of weakness I think it’s because I was too stubborn to conform.  But I couldn’t.  They didn’t understand, it was (and will always be) impossible.  I was who I was and there was absolutely no breaking my mold.

Or so I thought…

Being a victim of gang violence can be a major spirit breaker.  So can being held up at gunpoint.  And rape.  My whole life something has been trying to kill or control me, it seems. 

For years I lived my life in fear.  Fear of being noticed.  Fear of being liked.  Fear of being heard (see fear of being noticed).  I went from bad relationships to worse… with guys who I truly hope came away better people than they were when they were with me.  I felt worthless and out of control.  I knew in my heart I didn’t deserve anything great. 

I went through a string of relationships in which I completely gave freely of myself and asked nothing in return.  I did this for years.  I allowed men to walk all over me and I was always afraid to walk away for one reason or another.  

If you wanted you could say that I was everything a feminist was not.  I put on a fake smile and pretended to ignore it when my boyfriends would make comments about other women, or whistle at a lady on the street, or say fucked up things about their bodies.  I never complained about being expected to do all the cooking and cleaning.  I never complained when they wanted to spend all their time with their friends and I never complained when those friends indicated that whomever I was with was “pussy-whipped” because he “let me tag along.”  I objectified myself, and I watched while women I knew and cared about objectified themselves. 

The worst part about it was that I was afraid of other women.  Women always seemed so confrontational, so manipulative, petty and shallow.  So I became a loner.

I was so unhappy.  I had completely lost myself.  I had no idea who I was.  I knew something was wrong.  I knew that I couldn’t go on like that.  I was nothing like the girl in high school who knocked her boyfriend out when he tried to twist her arm behind her back.  Yep.  I did that.  I wondered where that girl was.  I wanted to get her back.

In April of 2009 I ended my final abusive relationship. 
See ya!

I packed my shit and I got the hell out and I never looked back.  I got a better paying job, I got a place with a female roommate, and I made plans to go back to school.  I realized that nobody should have to live like I had lived.  That wasn’t living.  It was existing.  Barely.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit this much weakness in one blog entry, but I’m not ashamed.  Anything worth believing in is a concept that one should come to out of necessity and critical thinking.

I became impassioned about the female plight.  I wanted to inspire other women to take control of their lives.  I found myself being drawn to strong women, rather than being afraid of them.  I was attracted to movies that had strong female leads, I listened to a lot of Riot Grrl music, and I started to act out against sexism. 

About a year-and-a-half later I met a man who implied that I had feminist tendencies.  When he referred to me he always used words like, “progressive,” and “strong.”  I always said, “I’m not a feminist, I just hate sexism.”  I didn’t want to jump into what I perceived as a cult of man hating radicals who felt that women should rule the world. 

Then people started saying things like, “Hey, I should introduce you to so-and-so, she’s a feminist, too,” and emailing me articles about feminism.  I started writing a screenplay about two women vigilante time-travelers and caught myself calling them feminists. 

I think what really set me on the path to becoming more aware and concerned for women’s rights was working at an all girls’ college.  Mount St. Mary’s is crazy in love with raising women up.   I became a student there and studied under such amazing women as Joan Johnson, Dr. Jane Crawford, Dr. Millie Kidd, Dr. Bianca Ryan-Lopez, and many more.  I also worked with an extraordinary lady who has become one of my best friends.  I met women who worked full time, had families and were going back to school.  I met young girls who had just graduated high school and had a vision for their future that I never had at that age.  Being a writer and wanting to break into the film industry, I was very turned on by The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. 

I found myself starting to defend feminists and that led me to defending the term, ‘feminism.’ Webster’s dictionary defines feminism as being “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”  It doesn’t mean you hate men, it doesn’t mean you think women are the better sex, it doesn’t mean you think women should rule the world.  It’s simply the idea that women and men should be considered and treated as equal--this idea just happens to come from a female perspective.

The past year or so I’ve been turned on to a lot of feminist Internet writers - like Soraya Chemaly - who have educated and inspired me.  In fact, it was Soraya Chemaly's article, "Why I'm a Feminist With a Big, Fat, Loud EFF" that inspired me to write this post.  

It got me to thinking that it was because of the negative connotations involved with calling oneself a feminist that I have evaded the label for years.  I have stopped denying it when someone refers to me as such, and I now refer to some of my writing as being feminist – why am I still shying away from the term?  This symbol that dictates who I am…

Tonight, I am coming out.  Even though it’s a no brainer, and most of you are going to say, “well, duh,” I’m admitting that I am a feminist.  Because even though it isn’t all I am, by definition it is true.  I am a feminist and I promote feminist ideas.  Being ashamed of being called a feminist would be like being ashamed of being woman.  It’s part of who I have become, who I am, and who I always will be.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Patriarchy in the Ancient World: Early Mesopotamia to the Dark Ages

Essay for History of Western Civilization midterm
Patriarchy in the Ancient World
            For the most part we live in a patriarchal world.  In every society men are authority figures – fathers are head of the household, only men can become priests, and in most religious families, women are to be submissive to their husbands.  On average men make $.30 more on the dollar than women do; men are allowed more options in terms of work (construction, electrician, truck-driving).  Most advertisement is geared towards men (for cars, electronics, even food such as those sexist Carl’s Junior commercials where scantily clad models eat messy burgers in a highly sexually suggestive manner).  Patriarchy is not new.  The life we know has been shaped for centuries.
            Pre-historic societies were pretty much egalitarian, and in fact, in some hunter-gatherer communities, such as those in the Paleolithic era, most revered women because they brought forth life.  It wasn’t until people became more domesticated with self-ruling city-states that patriarchy emerged.  Once people worshipped the Mother Earth Goddess or Great Mother Tiamat; however, with early Mesopotamia came the rise of polytheism.   
Venus of Willendorf
            With the exception of the Hebrews, polytheism grew among the people of Mesopotamia with the earliest cosmological myth, The Babylonian Creation.  The Babylonian Creation is a Sumerian poem in which Marduk, the “hero-god” strikes down Great Mother Tiamat and founds the holy city of Babylon and creates human beings.  While there are still goddesses that have power (such as Ishtar) the polytheistic hierarchy was patriarchal in design. 
            Aside from the creation poem there is ancient literature that implies a patriarchal society, such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, in which the king of Uruk is a rapist and until the Gods intervene, women must submit to his insatiable lust.  Probably the most implicit source of misogyny that came out of ancient Mesopotamia was the Hammurabi’s Code, which set the law and social order in Babylon.  Among rules that delt with theft and kidnapping, there were ones that ordered harsh and cruel punishments to women who disobeyed.  For example, a man could divorce his wife anytime he wanted, but if a woman wanted to divorce her husband against his will she would have been made a slave.


            Fast forward to sixth century Greece during the time of the great philosophers.  Even though Plato spoke subtly of women’s rights in terms of work and playing an important role in society, he still felt women were inferior because they were physically weaker.  His student, Aristotle, was not so kind.  His patriarchal thinking was dangerous and paved the way for a lot of Western thought.
            Aristotle viewed women as subordinate.  He felt that women were simply inferior – that they were merely deformed or “unfinished” men.  He claimed that women were “receptacles” for men and they shouldn’t be educated or seen as rational beings - either he was a complete misogynist or just a totally clueless math geek.  Either way his ideas formed the opinions of men for centuries after his death.
"I just don't understand women."

            Ancient Greek society in general was incredibly patriarchal.  Women weren’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything unless they were young and unmarried, and even then only when accompanied by their father.  They were forced to stay at home rearing children and staying out of their husband’s way. 
            The men seemed positively narcissistic – so much that statues of men were created depicting them as youthful and strong, naked and full of pride.  They seemed to rather stay in the company of other men, and young boys, rather than experience romantic entanglement with their submissive wives.  Did men hate women so much that they became homosexuals or was it that they were just so turned on by themselves?  Women, as Artistotle claimed, were indeed viewed as merely a receptacle… good only for the bringing forth of life.
You know you want me.

            It wasn’t until the rise of the Roman Empire and Egypt that we saw women being treated more fairly.  Clearly the patriarchal hierarchy still existed, but the lines were beginning to blur.  Women were allowed to go out and shop, they were educated and some – like Cleopatra – even ruled. 
            Even though original Christian societies saw women as evil – daughters of Eve – I think that over time women became more respected - that the treatment of women got better.  As we get into the Middle Ages we see faithful men becoming chivalrous, placing women on pedestals, and showing them great respect.  Of course this was mostly done to women who were the object of affection, and ultimately it still stunk of male dominance; at least women were allowed to breath fresh air; they were allowed to speak in public; they were beginning to be seen as more than just baby-makers.  

All we needed was a chance to prove it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Horror in Haryana

A 16-year-old girl in Haryana, India was snatched off the street and gang-raped by 8 men near a canal.  They filmed the whole ordeal and when they were finished with her, they fed her some sort of pill and took off.

Out of fear for her and her family’s safety, the girl kept silent.  When her mother finally dragged the story out of her daughter, she too kept silent.  Her father was so distraught over the potential disaster to his daughter’s reputation that he killed himself. 

In the sparsely populated Haryana, the past month there have been 17 reported rapes and there were over 700 reported rapes last year – a mere fraction of the estimated actual rapes that occurred according to the National Crime Records Bureau. 

Police believe that the numbers are much lower, and that all this talk of rape is just “hype.”  Local politicians are blaming the use of modern technology as the reason behind sex attacks, and that if they lower the marriageable age of women from 18 to 15, men will stop being so rapey. 

According to women's rights groups, one of the main contributors to the attacks is the unbalanced ratio of women to men, which in turn is due to many incidents of female infanticide.

This seems to me a clear-cut case of accepted pedophilia.  The officials of Haryana clearly believe that it’s perfectly fine to have sex with 16-year-old girls and that some men are raping local teenagers simply because they aren’t old enough to be married and legally forced into sex.  Are all the men in that town so insecure about their manhood that they can’t handle a real woman?  They have to resort to powering over cowering little girls who are too afraid to fight, let alone seek justice?

Luckily the 16-year-old girl who was raped in Haryana is seeking justice, and the 8 men who tried to destroy her life have been arrested.  

But what about the other 16 possible rape victims this month alone?  Women and girls who have been forced into silence, and dishonor within their communities.  I can't understand how a community could punish a child so coldly for something she had no control over.  How could the victim be made out to be the criminal and left to live with a nightmare as if she was the monster and not a child who's innocence has been stolen from her?  

When I think of rape as shameful, that doesn't spark an image of a victim.  It sparks the rage I have for the rapist and the community that refuses to show even a shred of empathy to the one who was violated.   

The Little Dog Laughed: Saving Women, Children, and Pets through Animal-Assisted Therapy

On Monday, October 15, 2012, at 10:30am I interviewed Linda D. Keast, Director, and Lead Handler of The Little Dog Laughed Animal-Assisted Therapy.  Tina Arth, President of the Board at Animal Aid, Inc, introduced me to her.  Tina is my soon to be mother-in-law, and I want to thank her for setting this interview up.  Thanks, Tina!

The Interview

Jennifer:  Okay, shall we get started?

Linda:  I'm going to be a bit clumsy at this (so) be gentle.

Jennifer:  I am timing this, going to keep it at 10 mins - and this is my first interview since high school, so don't worry about being clumsy.  You just answer everything to the best of your ability - and if there is anything you say that you would like "stricken from the record" just let me know.

Linda:  Gotcha.

Jennifer:  So first I want to say that I've taken a look at the website - there's a lot of literature available so I had a hard time coming up with pertinent questions to ask.

Linda:  The FAQ sheets would be new.

Jennifer:  And even though a few of my questions were answered, I thought maybe we could go into more detail.  It is a very thorough site and I am impressed with the amount of work and detail that has gone into it and the charity.  It's a wonderful thing you all are doing.  And quite interesting!

Linda:  And fun!

Jennifer:  Oh, I bet!  So my first question is... Can you tell me a bit about the Washington County Animal Protection Multi-Disciplinary Team – its background and how you got involved with them?

Linda:  The Washington County MDT was formed by Whitney Zigler (now Whitney Zigler-Kubli) of the DAs office, with enthusiastic support from Deborah Wood, the head of Washington County Animal Services. They brought together representatives from law enforcement, animal services, human services, and independent animal rescue organizations to address the well-documented link between domestic violence and animal abuse.  

Jennifer:  There are a ton of statistics on the website, would you mind going into that a bit for us?

Linda:  Between 18 % and 48 % of battered women have delayed their decision to leave their batterer, or have returned to their batterer, out of fear for the welfare of their pets or livestock.  In one study, 71% of pet-owning women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control them; 32% reported their children had hurt or killed animals. 

In another study, 68% of battered women reported violence towards their animals. 87% of these incidents occurred in the presence of the women, and 75% in the presence of the children, to psychologically control and coerce them. 

The specific mission of the MDT was to cross-train animal services and human services personnel to look outside their own department focus - to take a wider view and act proactively to protect both the humans and the animals involved in any violence situation. This means knowing who to contact to report reasonable suspicions for example, in animal abuse cases, human services needs to be alerted to possible harm to human victims, and vice versa…

Jennifer:  Right

Linda - continued:  and getting BOTH the human AND the animal victims to safety.  My involvement was through my work with Animal Aid. Animal Aid not only helped the MDT build the first kennels at a domestic violence shelter so that dogs could be evacuated with their families, it also gives "safe harbor" housing for cats while the victims get stabilized.

Jennifer:  That’s great!

Linda:  To me, this left a serious piece of the puzzle out altogether - the children who had been exposed to this violence. The most statistically reliable predictor for determining if a child will grow up to be a violent offender of any kind is witnessing animal abuse as a child. What a child sees he is likely to repeat. Early intervention is critical. The ugly memories need to be overwritten by a much more compelling, positive view of human/animal relationships.

And I suggested what, to me, was a perfect fit:  introducing those kids to clicker-training therapy dogs. My viewpoint is the logical result of years of active exposure to Project POOCH, Delta/Pet Partners therapy work, SMART Reading with kids, and positive training methods like clicker-training.  Our dog/handler teams could teach the children life-skills via a novel method - with carefully structured classes on positive dog training. By actively being involved in the process, kids learn how to build empathetic, coercion-free relationships based on trust rather than intimidation. AND, of course, it's a total rush! The kids love it!  We named it STAR.

Jennifer:  And the MDT…?

Linda:  The MDT promptly took me up on developing the program, with all of us assuming that Delta would let us operate under their insurance umbrella. To our surprise, not only “no” but “HELL no.” Clickers, off-leash work, treats and training by the kids were specifically banned. Also by Therapy Dogs, Inc. Since we'd already lined up some pilot classes, I quickly formed The Little Dog Laughed, LLC to support STAR so that I could buy the necessary insurance. Since that time we've become a non-profit corporation, hoping this would facilitate grants, donations, recruiting, etc.

Jennifer:  Can you tell me a little more about what “clicker-training” is?  I’ve heard OF it, but never knew what it was.

Linda:  Clicker-training (actually, "marker-based” training) combines to totally different notions. One is that animals do NOT understand what we're saying -- they primarily use body language and scent.

Jennifer:  Right

Linda:  The clicker is a clear, never-differing signal paired with something the animal likes ALWAYS so that the critter recognizes it as a meaning "good thing". Based on that common first "word" the trainer builds a language unique to the animal and the trainer. Second concept: positive reinforcement - every living thing will repeat an action that rewards them. By clicking what we LIKE rather than punishing what we DON'T like, training becomes a highly enjoyable game for both the handler and the animal. Wrong moves are never punished - they just don't result in a reward.

Eli, being taught how to ride a skateboard by the youngsters at McKay Elementary.

Jennifer:  Great!  I love the idea of positive reinforcement... I try it on my cat, but so far it's not working all that well. Cats are stubborn, though.  It would be nice to see the MDT and STAR program branch out to other states.  Where do you see the STAR program in five years?

Linda:  There has been a change - actually, an expansion - in the target audience over the last year. Initially, the focus was on kids in a specific DV shelter (Monika's House). However they have been through four changes of management since this started, and have never settled down long enough to work us into their program. BUT! At-risk youths are not all at Monika's House, it turns out. They are identified by concerned professionals in elementary schools, in-group foster homes, in juvenile pre-adjudication holding facilities. My youngest clients are in a local elementary school. My oldest are teens in a Chehalem Youth and Family Services foster home - they spent the summer writing a script, training the dogs, and filming a video to be published someday on YouTube.

Jennifer:  That’s wonderful! 

Linda:  The hope of the MDT was to create and document a model program so that it could be picked up and used elsewhere in the country. I'm doing the same for STAR - everything I do is documented, why decisions were made, wrong steps, right steps, evolving focus, the works.

The MDT is a county-funded program, and STAR is not. I get a lot of moral support but zip for monetary assistance. And because we don't charge our customers (who are ALSO cash strapped) this is a bit of a problem.  If we can even cover our insurance expenses, I'm a happy camper.
Jennifer:  In the meantime, what are you doing to gather funding?

Linda:  Given that the served population is children and animals, you would think we'd be a shoo-in for grants. That said I find that I have no time to dig into this. The best I could do was use my personal connections with local businesses to, for instance, give handlers a discount on pet supplies.

Jennifer:  what can people do in other counties to get their city to pick up on the model?

Linda:  As far as setting up similar operations elsewhere, I'd say that information sharing is key. I'd welcome contact with other interested folks - particularly if they have therapy team experience.

Jennifer:  I'm just a lowly student with a blog, but I will do my best to get the word out!  Well, I have taken a little bit more of your time than I said I would - thank you so much for helping me out.  I will send you a transcript of our interview once I have put it all together.  And I'll send you a link to my blog

Linda:  You're very welcome - I'm glad you are active in this arena!

Jennifer:  I feel connected to your cause.  Thanks again, Linda.

For more information regarding the STAR program, please visit the Little Dog Laughed Animal-Assited Therapy website.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


When I think of Malala Yousaf Zai, aside from how much it hurts my heart to have learned of her suffering, I feel a surge of pride.  As a woman I am inspired in the face of this young girl's activism.  As a human being I am outraged at the attack made on her by the Taliban.

In case some of you don't know who this brave child is, Malala Yousaf Zai is a fourteen year old female activist from Pakistan.  When she was just 11 years old she started a blog in which she discussed what it was like to live under the thumb of the Taliban.  The regime had taken control over the Swat Valley, the area in which she lives, and had banned girls from attending school.  She eventually got the Pakistani military to oust the Taliban from the valley.  Not only were girls allowed to attend school again, but Malala won Pakistan's first National Peace Prize.

Yousaf Zai has been greatly influenced by her poet and activist father, Ziauddin, who also runs several schools.  Malala initially wished to be a doctor, but her father feels she is very special and has encouraged her to become a politician.

Malala's primary concern has been the education of girls.  Since 2008 the Taliban has destroyed over 150 schools in the hopes of preventing girls from becoming educated.  Many of her blog entries detail her fear of being killed by the Taliban, and these fears manifested in nightmares.  She writes:
"I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taleban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.

Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban's edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.

On my way from school to home I heard a man saying 'I will kill you'. I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone."
On October 9, 2012 these fears became a reality when she was shot in the head and neck on her way home from school.  A Taliban gunmen approached the students on a bus and asked which one was Malala.  He indicated that if she did not come forward, he would kill everyone.  Being the brave young woman she is, she stepped forward and he shot her twice.

Even though they were able to remove the bullet that lodged in her spine she is suffering from severe cerebral edema and will be under sedation for another 24 hours.  The other bullet has damaged the left side of her brain, the part of the brain said to be responsible for language and critical thinking.  Doctors are optimistic and feel her condition is improving.

Since the attack there have been protests against the Taliban, and a huge outpouring of support for Yousaf Zai and her family.  Pakistani authorities are offering a $100,000 reward for the capture of the gunman.  The Taliban is threatening to kill her if she survives.

I’d like to think that if she doesn’t survive, that the people of Pakistan would rise up and tear down the Taliban regime.  There is nothing more powerful than an angry mob fighting against unrighteous acts of violence and oppression.  They have it within their power to do so, if they can lose their fear and fight with everything they have. 

How cowardly, and shameful to be so afraid of women becoming educated that you would have to attempt to take the life of a child.  This wasn’t about politics; this was a flat out misogynist attack, because the Taliban hate women. 

I long to hear news of Malala’s recovery, but if by some tragic circumstances she doesn’t make it, I long to hear that it wasn’t in vain.  The women of Pakistan have a responsibility to her, as she risked her life for her gender.  If this little girl is willing to take a bullet for what she believes in, then the whole of the Muslim community can join forces to strong-arm the Taliban out of power.  May the people of Pakistan rise up and rip out the heart of the Taliban.  May they speak with one voice, and with one fist of righteous fury, may they change their nation forever.

Please check out this documentary, made by Adam B. Ellick in 2009.  It shares some lovely moments between Malala and her father.  

You can view her blog, here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Shame Spiral

Kenneth Kraus is fit.  He mountain bikes.  According to Katie Kindelan, of, he apparently has bulging biceps.  Another way to describe him would be the pretentious narcissist who felt it was his duty to email Wisconsin news anchor, Jennifer Livingston, to let her know how fat she is and what a terrible example for young girls she is setting.

You can view the whole email during this video reply from Ms. Livingston.

Kraus indicated that obesity is a choice and a poor habit to maintain. 

As if.

Her reply consisted of a four-minute rebuke of fat bullying, which resulted in a flood of support from family, friends, and fans.  In her reply, she owned her body.  She didn’t make excuses, she didn’t play the blame game, she didn’t back down.  She admitted to being overweight, even obese by a doctor’s standards (which is bullshit because everybody’s body is different), but also reminded Kraus that he “knows nothing of her but what he sees on the outside,” and that she is “more than a number on a scale.”

According to, Kraus stood by his email, claiming that Livingston can influence the children of her town to be physically and psychologically healthy by “transforming herself for all of her viewers…” How anyone can think that it is okay to assume anyone should transform himself or herself for anyone is beyond me.  Who the fuck does this guy think he is?  

I’m so glad that Ms. Livingston implied that people like him are raising children to bully fat people.  Even if his intention wasn’t to bully, he should have realized that his words were going to hurt, and when you hurt someone they feel bullied… so to that end, Mr. Kraus, you are a bully. 

The fact of the matter is, kids don’t understand intention.  They see their parent getting upset about something and then labeling that thing, the kid is going to automatically assume that anything that resembles that thing is deserving of that label.  Children emulate their parents; so if you don’t want your kid to be a dick, set a better example.

She's not laughing AT you, she's laughing WITH you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty thick chick.  I’m not gonna lie; I love food.  I don’t mean cheeseburger donuts or fried Twinkies food

Heart attack, anyone?
but deliciously healthful home-cooked foods with good (when I can afford it, organic) ingredients made with love and skill.  There are times when I will chow down on four slices of pizza and have a hefty portion of frozen yogurt, or some chicken hot dogs with thick, fluffy, multi-grain rolls and a beer.  There are even times, in a pinch, I’ll drive through somewhere like Del Taco and get a chicken burrito.  This is very rare these days, as luckily I have trained in the special art of healthful junk food (just ask, I’ve created a ton of recipes).  But for the most part I eat several small healthful meals throughout the day, and I work out three times a week. 

This is how I lived before I quit smoking (August 15, 2011), and even though I gained about 50 pounds since I quit smoking, I was still at least 40 pounds overweight while I was sucking on the cancer teat. 

He thinks he looks so cool.
I have spent most of my life working my ass off at not being fat.  Even eating a vegan diet and working out every other day, I still could not get down past 149.  I could barely squeeze into a size 11, and I know in my heart that my body is not meant to be anything less than a solid size 13.  I think that’s just fine, and so do a lot of people I know… but the majority of the world thinks even that is too fat. 

I do not choose to be fat.  I do not go out of my way to maintain obesity.  I have a super slow metabolism, and since I quit smoking it’s even slower.  Put me and ten other chicks in the same room together, 9 out of ten of us eat the same shit on a daily, and I guarantee 7 out of ten of us will be smaller than a size 13. 

Some people are just born to be overweight by society’s standards.  And even if you don’t have the so-called ‘fat gene,’ you might have other medical conditions making it harder to lose weight, like Jennifer Livingston (who also happens to be a tri-athlete and a runner) has.  According to her husband and fellow anchor, Mike Thompson, she has a thyroid condition that makes it hard to keep the weight off.  Had Kraus known that, would he have taken his stupid foot out of his big mouth?

It's not gonna fit...

I found a neat blog called The Fat Nutritionist from which I stole a quote about Livingston’s rebuttal:

Telling someone that they are fat, even when couched in expressions of “concern for their health” is not giving them any new information. It’s not helping them. And, especially when that person is a perfect stranger, it is mostly like a transparently aggressive maneuver to shame and put them in their place.”

Her tag line, “eating normally is the new black,” confirmed my notion that telling someone they’re fat is like telling a black person they’re black.  Like, no shit, asshole… what of it?  Why is it any of your personal concern?

Ever since I was a little girl I was horribly teased for being fat even though I wasn’t considered medically overweight until I was fifteen.  I was a wiry girl, who loved tomato soup and eggs, who ran everywhere and climbed trees.  When I hit puberty I had hips and breasts, and all the little boys (when they weren’t trying to molest me) called me fat.  They cried, “boom-ba-ba-ba, boom-ba-ba-ba,” when I walked.  They cried, “don’t sit on me!” when I would become upset at their taunts. 

In reality, I was not a fat kid.  I wasn’t a fat pre-teen, and I certainly wasn’t fat up until tenth grade (thanks birth control!). I look at pictures of myself from back when I was totally ashamed of my body and I see that I was gorgeous. If only I had enjoyed it when I had it. 

Ten years ago I went to my ten-year high school reunion and the brother of a close friend made it a point to tell me how all the girls had gained weight, except for me.  He praised me for losing so much weight, and that I looked great.  The totally hysterical thing about that is that I weighed exactly the same thing as I had when we last saw each other in high school.  

Unfortunately I did (and still tend to do) what Ms. Livingston warns us all not to do, I let my self-worth be determined by bullies.  What’s especially sad is that some of those bullies were parental figures that should have been teaching me to love myself no matter what, not stigmatizing food and sending me into a shame spiral that would haunt me the rest of my life whenever I sought to enjoy something tasty.   

Today my bully wears the face of the media.  My bully shines at me from the coat hanger shoulders of anorexic models in fashion magazines (who, to be fair, are also bullied by the same magazines into being anorexic in the first place).  My bully lies in the rudeness of the man who will open the door for the tall, skinny blonde and let it shut in my face because he didn’t even see me over the glorious perfection of slenderness.  My bully mocks me from the shapeless, over-sized tunic with the large flower print that only seems to be sold to women of my size.  It’s like the rest of the world is doing whatever it can to show me that my fat and I aren’t welcome. 

Kraus, like many other people, thinks his perception of health and beauty is (and should be) a reality for all.  That is an unrealistic expectation and, now that the government has taken to supporting this type of behavior, I don’t know if we’ll ever truly be free to be ourselves.