Everybody Hates “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” for the Wrong Reasons
In which I encourage you all to watch a sub-par reality show.

01

Okay, maybe you’ve seen this show, maybe not. But what I’m sure you have seen are the people getting angry about this show.

It glorifies obesity!

It promotes an unhealthy lifestyle!

It just shows how far America has fallen!

But, okay, let me take a minute here to say that none of that is true.

First of all, if anyone is “allowed” to be fat (and Jesus Christ, it’s not like it’s a crime), then the star of “My big Fat Fabulous Life” is. Whitney Way Thore rapidly gained weight as a result of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a disease which, as a side effect, makes weight loss extremely difficult. Her obesity is not a result of some hedonistic lifestyle where she just shovels mountains of food into her mouth constantly. The show, in fact, chronicles her attempts to stay active and involved in dance, which was one of her passions prior to her illness.

Sorry I can't be your scapegoat!

Sorry I can’t be your scapegoat!So anyone who dislikes this show on those grounds just has to admit that the real reason they aren’t a fan is probably that they are mad that a fat woman has the nerve to be on T.V.

 

 

Gasp! IN A BIKINI???

Gasp! IN A BIKINI???

 

Also, this is hardly the first show to feature a fat woman, and fat women are hardly an American invention. For instance, My Mad Fat Diary, from the UK, is a great show about an obese teenager. (Really, it’s fantastic. Watch it.)

So… it’s time to get to an awkward little wrinkle in this blog post, which is that I kind of hate My Big Fat Fabulous Life.

I know! I’m sorry! I just don’t think it’s very good!

Like, man, I want to be supportive of fat ladies being on television, but man do I not like this show.

And it isn’t bad because of some inherent badness associated with a fat woman being on T.V. It’s just bad in the same ways that a lot of reality T.V. shows are bad. Like, the issue that things are pretty obviously staged, but the people on the show aren’t good enough actors to convince you that they’re not staged.

And it straddles that uncomfortable line between reality T.V. and like, outright creepy voyeurism for me. Like, there’s gonna be a special where her fans pick a tattoo design for her, and she’ll get the tattoo done on live T.V.. That’s weird to me. That’s not quality television!

Plus, gonna be brutally honest, Whitney is kind of annoying. I watched one episode of this show for research purposes, and the whole time I was like “Oh my god shut up.”

If she's reading this, I hope she takes comfort in the fact that I feel bad for not liking her.

If she’s reading this, I hope she takes comfort in the fact that I feel bad for not liking her.

 

But, goshdarnit, I will fight to the death for this show. Because Lord knows there are plenty of other crappy reality shows out there, and if you think that The Bachelor doesn’t promote an unhealthy lifestyle, then you are an incorrect jerk.

BUT AT LEAST NONE OF THEM ARE FAT, AM I RIGHT?

BUT AT LEAST NONE OF THEM ARE FAT, AM I RIGHT?

 

And this all ties into something else I’ve been thinking about. You remember my whole post about comic books and how they’re pretty much the pits when it comes to female characters?

Well, I recently read a comic called Lumberjanes, and this comic had it all… Female writers! Lesbian couples! A variety of body types!

Cute art!

Cute art!

So I read it, and… I didn’t like it that much.

I mean, like, it was okay? There wasn’t anything really wrong with it, but it just didn’t really WOW me, you know? It wasn’t quite my thing.

Please don’t let my dumb opinions keep you from reading this comic.

Please don’t let my dumb opinions keep you from reading this comic.

I think the issue we’re facing here is that the viewing public puts a lot of pressure on any media that tries to do something new or represent an underrepresented group.

Like, if people don’t like a Batman movie, nobody ever says it’s bad just because the lead was a white guy. Nobody who criticizes it is ever accused of hating white guys. It’s bad because the director was bad or the actor was bad or something else went wrong with the movie-making process.

Or it's because they gave him nipples.

Or it’s because they gave him nipples.

But if people don’t like a Wonder Woman movie, it’s because people don’t like movies about women! Duh!

So every movie or reality show or comic book that takes the risk of representing an underrepresented minority is stuck in the shitty position of essentially defining that minority for the viewing public. So if they aren’t absolutely AMAZING, then they’ve failed at some imagined moral obligation to be incredible. Like, a standard action movie is allowed to be mediocre, but if a comic book about lesbians is bad then it’s either failed feminism on the whole, or it’s impossible for anyone to criticize it without the fear that people will think they’re just criticizing lesbians.

I think the issue here is that representative media is stuck in this binary where it’s either good representation or bad representation, and it means that we can never appreciate the work on its own merit. Everyone’s analyzing My Big fat Fabulous Life based on how well it represents fat people, rather than how good it is at being a show in general. And I think part of this is just from the desperation to have a good show about a fat woman! Everybody’s a little afraid to admit that they don’t like it, just because they so desperately want it to be good.

To me, “Lumberjanes” is good representation, but the story is missing something. And it sucks that we can’t just appreciate these works on their own merit, and instead have to overanalyze every aspect of them in the interest of examining how well they represent something.

So if My Big Fat Fabulous Life fails to entertain me, then it is not due to an inherent failing of fat women to be entertaining. If “Lumberjanes” wasn’t quite my thing, then it’s not because comic books can’t be about strong women. I am not a bad person for not enjoying these things, and neither of them have set feminism back just by being kind of less than okay. If anything, we have to have these middle-ground shows and comic books so that they can establish a norm in which fat women are allowed to be on T.V. and lesbians are allowed to be in comics.

And if they aren’t perfect? They deserve credit, if nothing else, for shaking up our monotonous media a little bit.

—Rachel Sudbeck

 

 

Why are Bagels so Great?
In which I ponder how freaking good food is.

bagels

Lately I’ve been thinking about bagels.

Namely, I’ve been thinking about how freaking incredible bagels are.

They’re like, so good, guys. You can get them sweet, like blueberry, or savory, like asiago cheese. Even the plainest of bagels is a breakfast fit for a king.

And the true miracle of bagels is that they’re pretty much just boiled bread. That’s the basic process of making a bagel. I mean, I’m not a bagel chef; probably there’s a little more involved. But to my understanding the basic formula for a bagel is: bread + boiled water = bagel

Let’s, for a moment, ponder the intricate miracles of life, and appreciate how we live in a world in which the scientific process of boiling bread (which sounds super gross, let’s be honest) makes something as miraculous and great and beautiful as a bagel.

And don’t even get me started on cream cheese.

I’m talking about this because of that Kate Moss quote, “nothing tastes as great as skinny feels.” Now, I’m not intimately familiar with how “skinny feels,” but boiled bread HAS to taste better than “skinny feels.”

The issue I’m getting at here is that there are a whole host of reasons that I’m body positive and opposed to dieting. Dieting is unhealthy, to the point that being skinny has become an end-all indicator for health. I once, direct quote, heard a girl in one of my classes say, “Well, my doctor says I’m practically diabetic, but I’m still skinny, so…” No. Skinniness is not all that it takes to be healthy. Conversely, fatness is not an automatic indicator of unhealthiness.

Not to mention all of the gender issues at play here. Guys are allowed to be fat without going on dangerous crash diets, but ladies aren’t. I’m not saying that men don’t have body image issues as well.

 

 Don’t worry dudes, I feel for ya.

Don’t worry dudes, I feel for ya.

 

But the disproportionate number of women suffering from eating disorders speaks to the pressure put on young ladies to be skinny above all else.

And dieting is such a weird rejection of the fleshy fun parts of the feminine form. It’s taking a woman with life and culture and thoughts and a body, and it’s reducing her to a number.

And I swear to God, the next person who tries to lecture me about the “cleanse” that they’re doing is gonna get their face cleansed.

 

Haha. Facial cleanser. I'm hilarious.

Haha. Facial cleanser. I’m hilarious.

 

And even though there are all of these great reasons (and zillions more) to be against dieting and stuff, the one that I keep coming back to is the simple fact that food tastes so good.

Freaking bagels, for instance. Why are they so good? There’s something so intensely satisfying about them; a morning with a bagel fees like more of a morning somehow, you know?

And I feel this way about most food. People talk a lot about food in terms of family and culture. Like, my Grandmother makes a pecan pie that is freaking amazing, guys. But food, for me, goes maybe even deeper than that.

If I’m sick, then a bread bowl full of chicken noodle soup from Panera is a religious experience. I feel a deep personal connection with every person that delivers my Jimmy John’s sandwich. Every time I eat McDonald’s feels like a tiny victory for my eight-year-old self (who was trapped with an awful mother who wanted her to be healthy for some reason). Calories are some intense carriers of emotion. I know “comfort food” is a clichéd phrase, but it’s so accurate. The right food can turn a day around.

One of my clearest memories is from the time I was around ten or eleven years old. My mom and I had gotten lost on the way to a softball game. We were a half-hour late, and I was really upset. I was crying. I was afraid that I would be kicked off the team, or all the other girls would hate me, or like, the world would explode or something.

And my mom stopped at a gas station to ask for directions, and she bought me a donut and a chocolate milk because I was crying like an idiot and she needed something to stuff in my mouth.

I wish I could express how transformative that donut was. I don’t even like donuts that much, but somehow at that moment it was the exact mixture of sugar and dough and icing that my tiny dejected ten-year-old body needed.

Everything was fine after I ate that donut. The world calmed. We never found the field, but it was all good, because I’d had a donut and a carton of chocolate milk, and they had healed my broken heart.

 

I’m a simple girl.

I’m a simple girl.

 

And I think that dieting denies all of that in a really concerning way. Weight is not simple, and food is not simple. Acting like food is just a matter of calories is a denial of how intricately it’s tied to our hearts (and, yes, our arteries). Even ignoring all the other really important reasons that it’s bad, I think one of the worst things dieting tries to do is rob people of these simple pleasures and comforts.

 

-Rachel Sudbeck

Why do we hate boobies?
In which I Will Not Diet officially becomes NSFW

 

bfb

Okay, we all knew this was coming. From the second I started blogging here this post was on the horizon, biding its time until it could finally strike this unsuspecting blog and its innocent readers. [Editor’s note—you know what, Rachel? I honestly didn’t know this was coming. But I’m so glad it is.] So here it is everybody—my titty post.

0perky

Boobs are, obviously, fantastic. Everybody likes them. Straight men, gay women, gay men, and straight women—everybody loves the tits. It’s a fact. It’s a universal constant. And the general logic with boobies is the bigger the better.

However, allow me to bring in my unpopular opinion… I think that big boobs are going out of style.

“Bwaaa?” you say, possibly doing a spit take. “But everybody likes big boobs!”

And, of course, ostensibly that’s true. I, for instance, love me some big boobs. One of the few victories I have in the world of siblings is that I have the biggest boobs of my three sisters. (I mean, they’re both A-Cups, but still.)

But I think it’s becoming increasingly apparent that, while society may talk a big talk about loving big boobs, they don’t do a whole lot to show that love.

00calm

I got to thinking about this primarily because of a recent episode of Project Runway. Or, to be more specific, several episodes of Project Runway.

See, every season of Project Runway has at least one challenge where the contestants have to design a dress for a woman who is (GASP) not a supermodel.

And every times this happens (even though this happens every damn season and the designers should clearly see it coming) there is at least one contestant who looks at their average-sized woman and proclaims something to the effect of “What? I have to sew around boobs?!?!?

And the justification they always end up making is that they’ve never had to sew for average-sized women before! And boobs are hard! And why can’t I just keep making clothes for flat-chested size double zeros forever?

And they never seem to find it concerning they they’ve gone their whole career without ever making clothes for a woman with breasts (which in my experience are a very normal and common thing for women to have).

 Tim Gunn is obviously still a gem of a human being though.

Tim Gunn is obviously still a gem of a human being though.

 

The truth is, the fashion industry is very hostile towards titties. Take, for instance, fashion model Jourdan Dunn, who wasn’t allowed to walk for Dior because her boobs were too big.

00dunn

And we see the effects of this even outside the world of “high fashion.” Every big-boobied lady knows the struggles. All the cute lacy bras are in the little sizes, the only “modest” neckline is a turtleneck, and button-up shirts do that thing.

We live in a society that can 3-d print organs, but we can’t fix this?

We live in a society that can 3-d print organs, but we can’t fix this?

 

I’m sure we’re all aware that little breasted ladies have to deal with their own trials and tribulations as well. Don’t worry little titmice, I get it.

 It’s tough.

It’s tough.

 

But can you imagine the struggles of the ladies who are bigger than a D cup? Have you even seen a G or H cup bra for sale at Target? Because the lack of such bras is not due to the lack of G and H cup women, it’s due to a lack of interest in making such bras easily available.

And let’s not pretend that this is limited only to the fashion industry. I used to know a girl with a pretty big set of lung protectors, and she mentioned once how, at a mock interview, the interviewer told her, flat out, “you have to accept that women in your position are more susceptible to looking unprofessional. A shirt that clings like that would not be acceptable.”

I mean, she was wearing a suit, but society has still deemed this specific body part to be unprofessional. It’s worrisome.

And I think that we all know the dirty little secret behind this, which is that our society’s rejection of all things “chubby” has extended even to boobs, the two things which are supposedly allowed to be large on a lady.

But, you know, it might be a little more insidious than that. Boobs are a handy symbol of femininity. A happy bouncy fun symbol of femininity. And the lesson we’re giving to those members of the nitty gritty titty committee is that their boobs should be enjoyed by everybody but them. Yes, big boobs are fine for porn and movies and comic books, but Lord knows we aren’t gonna actually allow them out in the real world!

But Amy Schumer and her boobs continue to make the world a better place.

But Amy Schumer and her boobs continue to make the world a better place.

 

So my point is not that I don’t think big boobs are great, it’s that I think that everybody knows that they’re great, but society’s dumb standards towards women and bodies has trapped us in the no-win scenario of telling ladies that their badonkadonks are shameful, need to be hidden, and are generally unacceptable. The question we have to ask is—who wins from this? What monster benefits from beautiful boobies being hidden away and trapped in beige, ill-fitting bra prisons?

Nobody does. My point is, it’s stupid. Boobs are delightful and wonderful, and we need to stop punishing ladies for having them.

 I’m sure you were all eagerly awaiting a nip pic.

I’m sure you were all eagerly awaiting a nip pic.

 

-Rachel Sudbeck

Is There Love for “Ugly” Ladies?
In which I encourage all hot guys to come hang out with me.

Fun fact about me—my first job was at a grocery store in Nebraska. I still work up there during school breaks and stuff, but I spent most of high school behind a register.

Spend enough time working anywhere, and you’ll start to get some regulars. It’s just inevitable. Most grocery store regulars are like, angry old people or “extreme couponers” though, so you don’t tend to look forward to their visits that much.

But every once in a while you get some genuinely nice people. There was this young couple that used to come through my line all the time, and they were just wonderful. I can’t think of any specific incidents demonstrating how nice they are, but I think everyone who’s ever worked a customer service job knows the distinction between people who talk at you and people who talk to you. These people were so close to actual friends that I could swear around them.

The husband was, in all sincerity, probably one of the most attractive men I’ve ever seen. He didn’t even look like a real person. It was like an Abercrombie and Fitch model had gotten stuck in Nebraska and realized he needed some cereal. He had that fluffy kind of hair, a very specific type of jaw line, and sleeve tattoos (a.k.a. the most attractive thing a man can do to his forearms). It was, like, insane how beautiful he was.

Sort of like this, but happier and with a shirt on.

Sort of like this, but happier and with a shirt on.

 

His wife, meanwhile—and I will not mince words here—was…large. She just was. She was a large woman. Not like, that hourglass sort-of-curvy-big-titties kind of woman either, but the kind of woman who gets dirty looks and has middle-aged moms peeking into her shopping cart so they can judge her for buying non-diet soda.

And every time they came in, I wanted to give this woman a quiet fist bump while her husband’s back was turned, because she was married to a man who looked like he’d been Photoshopped. I do not know how she snapped that up, but she snapped. That. Up.

Like, imagine this guy is asking you which aisle the soup is in.

Like, imagine this guy is asking you which aisle the soup is in.

 

 Imagine this guy’s coupon has expired.

Imagine this guy’s coupon has expired.

 

Imagine this guy has a recipe that calls for chopped garlic, but he wants to know if you think that minced garlic would work instead.

Imagine this guy has a recipe that calls for chopped garlic, but he wants to know if you think that minced garlic would work instead.

 

And here’s sort of the guilty little secret that doesn’t really paint me in the best light, but I really wanted to know how. Like, was she skinnier when they started dating? Was he fatter? Did she make a lot of money? Did he need American citizenship? Was it a fetish thing?

But really, why did I want to know? There were a million and one couples who would come through my line that were the reverse—an ugly guy and his hot wife. But I didn’t really think about them.

And I think the issue here is that we are raised not to question this.

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Or this.

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Or this.

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Or this (I could go on).

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But we are sure as hell expected to question this.

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Something I’ve been thinking about is that I very rarely see relationships that make me think, “that guy can do better,” but I see a million and one relationships where I think, “oh, man, that girl can do so much better.” And I think the issue is that men are given the message that they deserve a hot woman, even a woman who is far and beyond that guy’s own level of hotness, while women are given the message that they should “settle.”

Ladies should look for “nice guys,” should “give geeks a chance,” should stop being so shallow. Like, how many movie and TV show plotlines hinge on the woman learning that she should stop dating dumb hot guys who don’t respect her or whatever, and start dating nerdy ugly guys who put her on a pedestal?

Ahem.

Ahem.

 

this is my secret alt text cuz I just figured out how to do that.

AHEM.

 

So the lesson that audiences get is that guys deserve hot girls and girls deserve…okay guys. Men are encouraged to date women who are out of their league, and women are encouraged to go with whatever guy is willing to have them.

 

 I mean, she’s literally the prize you get for finishing the game.

I mean, she’s literally the prize you get for finishing the game.

 

Let’s go back to that grocery store couple. This woman was a wonderful human being. She was nice and smart and witty. She and her husband had a great rapport and a lot of obvious love between them. He was always kissing her and holding her and laughing at her bad jokes. I was shocked to learn that they’d been married for ten years; they acted so much like newlyweds.

Or maybe I was just shocked to see a man acting like he was the luckiest guy on earth to be married to someone who–according to everything my teenage mind had seen or heard or read—did not deserve to find love.

So let’s acknowledge, for a moment, how messed up all of this is. And I don’t mean in the sense of “oh yeah media is sexist and that’s bad oh well the world is an unfair place.” I think everybody is sort of dimly aware that movies and tv aren’t necessarily super great at portraying women, but we have to look at how pervasive this has become. It’s a weird creepy part of our culture; a hundred million people have written a hundred million essays about it, and we all know that it’s bad. But I worry that this trope has become sort of like a racist grandma—we know it’s problematic but we figure we can’t really fix it, so we just accept that that’s how things are. My point is, we need to be holding our media more accountable (and maybe our Grandmas, I don’t know) and we need to be aware that this is happening and that it is hella weird and creepy and needs to stop. It’s not acceptable. The end.

My parents read this blog.

My parents read this blog.

 

-Rachel Sudbeck

 

Gabourney Sidibe is Important

gabourey_sidibe

Gabourey Sidibe (GABB-UH-RAY SIDD-UH-BAY) is living everybody’s dream life sans the typical “dream body.” She’s beautiful and fabulous, and in her interviews she seems like a really cool person. (a.k.a. please be our friend, Gabby.)

Gabourey Sidibe got her first acting job with absolutely zero experience. At age 26 she went to a huge open audition at age and was given the lead role in Precious, which would later earn her almost universal accolades for her acting ability, along with an Oscar nomination for best actress.  In other words, she’s living the exact daydream we all had in middle school.

She is one of the few plus-sized actresses really in the game right now, and she’s using that exposure to encourage confidence in young girls. As as she said in her speech at the 2014 Gloria Awards, “It’s my good time, and my good life, despite what you think of me. I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame. I show up because I’m an asshole, and I want to have a good time.”

Gabby has dealt with more than her fair share of bullies and internet jerks, and she’s handled it with grace and aplomb. All you need to know is that, after numerous magazines and fans criticized her appearance at the 2014 Golden Globes, she made this tweet: “To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK

–Rachel

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

This is your brain on exercise: 

how I conquered depression by moving my butt
… a guest post by Natalie Rickman

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It’s hard to talk about my depression now because I don’t really remember it. The parts I do remember are really painful, and when I think back on them, I squirm in my seat with regret and embarrassment.

I do remember that days turned into nights, turned into mornings, turned into days, and I was floating, walking around existing, mostly just sleeping, and drinking whiskey and diet soda for months.

I first became depressed in February of 2014. I’ve battled anxiety sine I was about thirteen, but I had never been so unbearably sad. I was in denial for a short time, and then the floor broke through, everything I knew crumbling at my feet. I dropped out of college, I ended my relationship with my boyfriend of over a year, I was always drunk, and I was experiencing migraines four or five times a week.

My life was wrecked.

I picked up more hours at my part-time job at the fro-yo store where I’d worked since high school and took on more responsibility there. It was mundane work, but I was making money and making myself get out of bed everyday.

But I finally came through the depression about six months later, and energy started to creep back into my body. I reconciled with my boyfriend, re-enrolled in college, and gradually I was able to try a little more. Even though I was still experiencing the migraines, I had so much energy. Some people might call this behavior “manic”—some people being my mother—but I held on to my high and started writing and cooking again and faced a goal that would ultimately be what pushed me through manic and onto a more stable wavelength.

I also started running. I became friends with this crazy, runner girl and asked her to coach me. I told her I wanted to get in shape, that it was my lifelong dream to run a mile.

What a dream.

But we went for it, mostly because she was ready to start training for a 5K and liked having a running partner, but also because, I believe, she wanted to help me.

Because I was enrolled in school again, I had access to the university’s fitness center. We started on the treadmill, and I was surprised to find that I could run half a mile in about six and a half minutes. We kept going, training every day, and soon I was able to run an entire mile in ten minutes and then I was able to run a mile in nine minutes. We went on like that for months, training like mad people, sweating and showering and sweating and showering.

Here’s the crazy thing—while I was training like that, I had virtually no anxiety and no panic attacks. I also wasn’t the least bit unhappy. I was sore, and when I slept, I slept hard, but I wasn’t sleeping too much. I wasn’t mad at everyone all the time either. Everything was easier to handle; all my tasks were realistic to me.

All the while I’m running a mile here and there and doing yoga in the park, challenging everyone I knew to a planking contest like a dumbass, and feeling great for it. At the same time, there were all these voices—all the doctors, my mom, and various other people—telling me what they’d been telling me for years: “Exercise can help you feel calm.” They were right, and, in fact, exercise helped me more than medication. Where medication mad me sleepy and puffy, exercise made me take hard, calming breaths and gave my body a tightness I didn’t know it could have.

I haven’t been depressed since I started running, and though the migraines are occasional, they are less frequent when I run a mile a few times a week and eat a piece of fruit. Fruit! Who freaking knew?

The training isn’t as hard now either; we are lucky to get together twice a week. But both my friend and I feel better on the days we go, even when we haven’t run in a week, and the warm-up makes us want to hurl. The nausea goes away, but the good feeling in my chest—the feeling that makes me stand taller—lasts.

I’ve learned that if I treat my body well, all other parts of my life benefit. People tell me depression is a battle that I will never stop fighting, and while I believe them, I don’t feel helpless anymore. Running is my new battle, and it’s one I’m fully equipped to tackle. It’s one that not only gives me the energy to live a better life, but gives me the focus to live a more authentic life.

*

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NATALIE RICKMAN is a junior creative writing major at Western Kentucky University. She was born and raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and loves shitty beer. She one day hopes to own a vintage clothing store.

(Fat)al: a story of growing up fat in America
… a guest post by J.C.

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Shame. It’s a heavy word.

When people ask for my story, they assume I have been hurt because of prejudice about my sexual orientation. That’s the narrative they want. The you-came-out-as-gay-in-the-South-let-me-praise-you-for-getting-through-this-hardship story. That is not the narrative I feel obligated to write.

Yes, I was ashamed of my sexual orientation when I became conscious of it at fourteen. But that shame no longer exists. Sure, the word “faggot” still gets fired at me, but that isn’t the problem anymore. My “story” is about my anxiety as a fat man, especially a fat gay man. I’ve been ashamed of my fat ever since I can remember. “Fat” is the word that has plagued my entire existence. “Fat” is the hurricane that dilutes my humanity.

My mother provided me with my earliest memory of shame. She didn’t just tell me I was fat: she showed me. Pushed into countless fitting rooms, I was unable to find clothes my size at a young age. Still, she refused to buy me jeans that fit. For three torturous years, I wore pants that would attach by Velcro, not buttons. I wanted to be vapor. I wanted my fat to instantly vanish into thin air because I felt like a burden to her. After all, what would the other parents think of her fat first-born?

Imagine a child as young as eight telling his grandparents he wasn’t hungry because he was fat. That’s what I did. Their solution was to bribe me with one dollar for every meal I attempted to eat.

At age twelve, I was too embarrassed to change my clothes for gym in front of the other boys. Refusing to do so, I received a C in the class. It was worth it.

When I started a food diary, I convinced myself SlimFast was the salve that would weaken the poison fat on my body. I drowned my stomach with that faux chocolate to the point of nausea. It replaced my breakfast and lunch. Every. Single. Day.

I got thin. But I also got weak. And I didn’t lose enough to satisfy myself despite my family complimenting my weight loss. There was a sense of Armageddon within my fat cells. My goal was a BMI of 18: I wanted to be underweight.

When one of my friends got her driver’s license, we went to Walmart, so I could buy Lipozene for the first time. The words “lose pure body fat” coaxed my brain into submission. I took my precious miracle to self-checkout only for an automated voice to say, “Please wait for assistance.” The employee told me I was too young to buy weight loss supplements and sent me home. My friend suggested eating only five hundred calories a day, and we became each other’s food coaches.

A year later, I came out as gay to my mother for the third time. Her response was to “cure” my “queer-washed mind” with anxiety medication. I launched the pill into my stomach every morning, and, as a result, my mouth got sore and eventually bled. I could only ingest a small portion, but I savored the metallic liquid, hoping it would sustain my body for one more day despite the excruciating pain.

In college, I had a health professor who wondered how fat people had sex because “their parts don’t fit.” I felt like the other students were staring at me as if I were the only overweight person in the course, as if I was the target of her words. I felt even more ashamed and thus began a diet of SlimFast and Special K. My roommate and I would run at the gym until I felt like I would collapse. Once, when I ate a cookie, he posted unsolicited advice to my Twitter page: “Go throw up.”

I could have died from that shame.

The treatment I got because of my fat made me feel as wretched as Frankenstein’s monster and as twisted as Mr. Hyde. That’s when I realized I needed to change before I ended up eradicating myself with diet rituals. What I learned is that fat people don’t need to feel shame. I’ve ended up gaining eighty pounds back in college, but I feel healthy and positive now. I’ve learned to be patient with myself and surround myself with people who encourage me to love my body. I have the right to exist and won’t let anyone water me down. I am not a problem, nor am I a before and after dichotomy.

I am a credible, intelligible fat human.

—J.C.

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