Archive for September 20, 2015

The Issues with Reading Comics
haha get it? ISSUES?

I am a girl who likes comic books.

As any girl who likes comic books will tell you, the trouble with being a girl who likes comic books is that there are guys who like comic books.

Like, let’s examine my Deadpool shirt. My brother, the poor naïve sap, bought me a Deadpool shirt for our birthday one year, because he knows that I like Deadpool.

 

It looks like this. Cute, right? It’s even cuter on my boobs.

 

What he didn’t know was that a woman wearing a comic book shirt opens herself up to a whole world of trouble.

Like one day I’m wearing this Deadpool shirt, and I’m filming a project for a class. This project was due the next day (I never said I was a model student), so me and my partner were trying to bust out our shots as quickly as possible so that we could edit it in time.

Picture this– my partner was standing a few feet away from me, and I was lining up the shot on her, when this guy- this guy- stood RIGHT IN FRONT of my camera.

“That’s a pretty cool shirt,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said, trying to figure out how to get him out of the way.

“Do you know who that is?” he asked, pointing at my boobs.

“It’s Dead-”

“It’s DEADPOOL” he said, like I wasn’t the one wearing the shirt.

“I know,” I said, still trying to be polite (for whatever reason).

“You know when his first comic was?”

“I, uh, I dunno.”

“He’s been around since 1991. Most people don’t know that since he just got popular.”

He was really settling in, all ready to set up camp in front of my camera. My partner was watching anxiously from behind the place where he stood.

“You know,” he said, “I liked Deadpool better before they made him all funny and stupid.”

“I- what?” I said. “Like, what do you mean?”

“Like, back when he was a villain,” he said, “back in 1991. Before they made him all dumb.”

Now, I don’t know if you’re aware of all the social mores at play here, but what this guy was doing is the exact thing that just about every guy tries to do if they find out I like comic books– he was quizzing me. He was, essentially, testing me to see if I really liked comic books, or if I was just some kind of fake geek girl.

See, there’s a very specific type of comic book boy, and they’re the ones who think that comics are just for guys. And any girl who reads them, or wears a shirt with one of them on it, is just doing it to get attention.

Now what does all of this have to do with body positivity?

It has to do with the fact that, in all honesty, much as I might try to deny it, comic books are notoriously a man’s game. They’re made overwhelmingly by men, for men, about men.

And all you have to do to see this in action is look at the way these men draw women.

Let’s compare some lady heroes with their male peers, for instance.

Telepathy

Kryptonian

Hulk

 

 

You can debate the similarities and differences between these characters (Jean Grey’s powers aren’t exactly the same as Professor X’s) but the point is to look at the variety of body types present in the male characters, and compare that with the…total lack of variety in the female ones.

Think about it. When was the last time you saw a lady hero who wasn’t fit and skinny and totally free of cellulite? When was the last time you saw a female protagonist, in general, who was bigger than a size 6?

And I know that I literally did a whole blog post about butts, but does every superheroine have to be posed with both breasts and ass facing towards the audience?

 

 

I feel so empowered.

This is a casual fight pose.

 

I’m bringing this up because the thing people always mention in regards to body image is magazines and how magazines set an unreachable standard for women.

But, like, I didn’t read magazines, you know? I was a loser! I had too many books with dragons on the cover, and I didn’t start wearing eyeliner until I was nineteen. I wouldn’t have known an issue of Vogue if you’d hidden it inside a Harry Potter box set.

But I still had the same body issues that every girl has, and I had them because every comic book and cartoon and novel and movie and tv show was saying the same thing-

A girl can’t be a hero if she isn’t skinny.

And don’t get me wrong- I love Jean Grey and Super Girl and She-Hulk and Wonder Woman (I can take or leave Psylocke). They’re great characters and they have great stories when the right writer is behind the helm, but they don’t wear those costumes the way I would wear them, you know? There aren’t any short heroines with big butts out there,  saving the world with snark– probably because a certain type of male comic book reader would find that offensive.

And yes, things are improving. Every day we get new female writers and new female characters. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention amazing comics like Miss Marvel, written by G. Willow Wilson.

But I would also be remiss if I avoided mentioning the insane twitter rant Erik Larson (longtime comic artist) went on over how Miss Marvel’s costume is “bulky and clumsy and unattractive.” He thinks that the outfit of a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl should be sexier, and that comics are “pandering to a vocal minority” (i.e. women) by giving her a costume that isn’t skintight latex.

Ugh. Disgusting.

 

And all of this is why my general reaction, when annoying comic book bros start grilling me on minutia, is to just shrug it off. It’s not worth the fight, you know? Comics are a man’s game, and no argument is gonna change that.

So I want you to keep all of this context in mind when I say that some guy who likes comic books was standing in front of me and quizzing me on my Deadpool shirt.

And I want you to keep in mind that the thing that really pissed me off wasn’t the fact that this guy was sexist and annoying and blocking my shot.

What really pissed me off was how stupid his opinion on Deadpool was. 

“You liked Deadpool better before he was funny?” I asked, crouching behind this camera, open-mouthed in disbelief.

“Yeah.” He had this stupid smug smirk on his face. “Like, when he was a regular mercenary, when they took him seriously.”

“But that’s stupid,” I said, “there are like a million and one mercenary comics out there. Read Punisher if you want a serious comic.”

He started to say something, but I interrupted; I was hitting my stride. “No, the whole point of Deadpool is that he’s silly. If you don’t want a funny comic, then don’t read a funny comic. Saying you liked him before he was funny would be like- like if I said, ‘Oh pish, I liked Batman better before his parents died.'” I rocked back onto my heels. “It’s just an idiotic thing to say.”

I can only wish that I had a picture of this guy’s face at that point. He put up his hands in that classic “well excuuuuse ME” gesture, started to say something, reconsidered, and then finally walked away.

And I wish that I’d torn into this guy about something a little more important, like the fact that he was taking something that was supposed to be fun and inspiring and makes people feel excited and happy, and he was excluding me from it. Comic books had been actively avoiding a female audience for years, and they’d done that by drawing females in a way that was almost exclusively geared towards the male gaze. And this was what let this guy think that it was okay to interrogate random women about their t-shirts. Because comics were for him and nobody else.

So I hope that you understand what I mean when I say that, even if all I’d done was have an argument about Deadpool, I still felt kind of heroic.

 

Rachel Sudbeck

 

 

 

Puberty is a Rip-Off
In which I fish for compliments and ponder the struggles of being short.

So here’s a question for you…

At what age, exactly, did you first realize that you weren’t going to be beautiful?

Like, maybe you were okay looking, but when did you realize that you were never gonna be heart-stoppingly life-destroyingly gorgeous?

For me, it was a very specific moment. I was at the orthodontist in eighth grade, and he was looking at an x-ray of my hand to determine how much longer it would be until I could get jaw surgery.

“Well, you see,” he said to my mother, “there’s no real space left between the bones of her hand, so she’s pretty much done growing.”

And that was the moment when I realized that this was where I peaked.

See, I’m a pretty short person, and I don’t mean the tiny, fae-like sort of short. I’m more like the…stubby, hobbit kind of short. I’ve been short since day one. I was a short baby probably. I started out short, and whenever I grew, the other kids grew proportionately, so it’s just been a lifetime of shortness.

This has only been exacerbated by my twin brother, who is a giant. He has always been a giant. He is, currently, over a foot taller than me. They literally thought he was going to eat me in the womb. It’s probably the biggest injustice of my life.

And the real issue is that, when you’re a short kid and your behemoth of a brother is making fun of your shortness, adults always say the same thing: “She’ll grow.”

They talk about how they were short as a kid, or they throw around fancy words like “growth spurt” and “growing pains,” and it all adds up to that fact that I entered into puberty with certain expectations. There I was—little fifth grade worm Rachel—waiting to enter a pubescent chrysalis stage and bust out of it as sexy grown-up butterfly Rachel.

Now, I knew that there would be a given amount of acne, and I understood the whole business with a period, but those were all pitched to me as being mere steps in the process to becoming Adult! Rachel.

So in my imagination, puberty was a lot more transformative than it actually turned out to be. It would straighten my nose, fluff my boobs, plump my lips, and make me taller. And by the end I would be a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, because that’s what adulthood is, right?

Now imagine all of those expectations, all of those hopes and dreams, and they’re all smushed by some orthodontist telling you that your height had peaked at five-foot-two.

Okay, five foot one.

People act as if puberty is very cut and dry, start to finish. There’s kid you, there’s teenage you, and there’s adult you. So I hope I wasn’t the only one to have the shock of a lifetime when I realized one day that, hey, adult me is already here, and she still has acne!

I hope I wasn’t the only one to have the disappointing thought that this is as good as it gets.

Please don’t misunderstand. I get by. I have no real issues with how I look. I actually think I’m pretty goshdarn cute. It’s just that I was all set to become a ten, and instead I settled into, like, a six and a half (in the right light). You know, all right, but nothing really special.

And that could have been the sad end to my puberty tale except that there’s a little secret nobody tells you in middle school—

It’s hard work to be pretty.

Being pretty takes time and determination and make-up and spanx. It requires a whole lot of effort. Pretty girls don’t just wake up that way. Well, okay, maybe some lucky jerks do, but most people don’t just wake up one day and find out they’ve become gorgeous (barring plastic surgery). Pretty is something you have to cultivate. Famous people and super models look that way partially because of fortunate genetics, but also because someone is paid a lot of money to spend two hours putting make-up on them.

And the thing is, you can approach this in a few ways:

  1. You can say, “screw it. Screw everything. Screw Tyra Banks and her stupid tv show.”
  2. You can say, “I have control over how I look, and I am able to make myself prettier if I want to.”
  3. Or you can embrace a cautious mix of numbers 1 and 2.

Now, I’m never gonna be on America’s Next Top Model. (Their minimum height requirement is 5’7, the fascists.) But I also sure as hell don’t look the same as I did at age thirteen. Even if I haven’t grown in height, I’ve learned about make-up, I’ve figured out how to dress myself better (thirteen-year-old Rachel really liked cargo pants) and I’ve taken plenty of bombin’ selfies. Turns out it is possible to take the bum deal that puberty gave you and make your own gorgeous out of it. And whether that means t-shirts and yoga pants or sundresses and sandals, we’re allowed to change ourselves into any version we like.

And, just a heads up, at six-foot-three my brother is well within the requirements of America’s Next Top Model, so that’s something for him to start working towards.

 

Rachel Sudbeck

 

Assets
In which I muse on the power of butts

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I figured I would start out my term at this blog by writing about butts. They say to “write what you know,” after all. So, you know. Butts.

Let’s think about butts. Really think about them.

Let’s start with the fact that I have two sisters, and the three of us run the gamut from tall to short to redhead to brunette. We aren’t the type of sisters who look exactly alike, is my point. Nonetheless, fate saw fit to bless each of us with what my mother has deemed “the Sudbeck ass.”

The Sudbeck ass is characterized by cellulite and protrusion. It’s supported by thick thighs and sassy personalities. It’s not humongous or anything, just…prominent. It’s an ass that takes no prisoners.

Me and my ass have been through a lot together. When I was six, it was tragically maimed when I was taking a bath and fell onto a broken soap dish. What this meant was that I had to go to the hospital, naked, and get stitched up. I’m serious. My parents took me to the hospital, naked, to get thirteen stitches…

In. My. Butt.

I still have the scar, crossing my left ass cheek like a very confused snake.

Still, perhaps even more traumatic an experience happened in high school when a well-meaning boyfriend made me a mixed CD. The first song? “Baby Got Back” by Sir-Mix-a-Lot.

“Because,” he said to me, “I like your big butt, and I cannot lie.”

All I could think to say was, “Thanks?” Oh, and “I poop out of it sometimes.”

I remember the exact moment that I realized that puberty had left me with a little more junk in the trunk. I was in the Target dressing room, playing with the mirrors they have arranged to let you see yourself from different angles. I looked at myself from behind and found what, at the time, just seemed like a huge flabby mess. I was thirteen, and I was distraught.

But has anybody ever thought about how narrow the restrictions are for a perfect butt? It can’t be too big, can’t be too small, can’t be too flabby, and certainly can’t have any cellulite. It’s got to be a smooth, tan, shiny, tight little Gluteus Minimis.

It’s insane, especially since butts were made for farting and pooping and wagging in people’s faces. They’re the most fun body part that you’re gonna get, but people insist that you feel bad for having one.

Butts have a weird sort of unifying factor to me. Mine is the ass of my ancestors; I can find it on my sisters, my aunts, and my cousins (though please don’t look at your cousin’s butt at the next family reunion—people will judge).

They unite us humans on a global scale. Go to any country and the people there make butt jokes. They’ve been the subject of story and song for generations. Did you know that Mozart wrote a song called “Lick me in the Arse?” Because he did. And isn’t that kind of beautiful in a way? Mozart thought that butts were just as funny as you do. It’s like he’s reaching through the generations, through the degrees of separation, just to give everybody a friendly pat on the ass.

I guess what I’m saying is that, in all sincerity, butts are about more than fat or skinny or poop jokes or whatever. They carry stories. They unite us. They’re funny and stupid and sexy, and we shouldn’t have to apologize for them.

So I’d like you to thank your butt. Take a little time to say, “Thanks ass, I see you doing you, and I appreciate that.” Give it a smooch if you’re flexible enough. Enjoy the fact that your butt can do all of the things butts are supposed to do (or DOO. Haha, I’m hilarious). Take joy in a body part that provides such juvenile pleasures without fail.

And, if you feel like it, why not give it a little wiggle?

Rachel Sudbeck

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