My Map of Tasmania

Posted in bodies, Uncategorized on January 23rd, 2011 by steph – 5 Comments

Musically, I’m pretty neutral about Amanda Palmer. Not a fan, don’t hate her music; just chilling here in Switzerland. But for someone who has no real opinion about her music, I sure do have a lot to say about the views she expresses in public and the “boundary pushing” she’s also well-known for.

Some things I like about her:


Essentially, execs at Palmer’s record company (Roadrunner) asked to cut shots of her bare stomach from a video for her single “Leeds United”, and this inspired a “ReBellyon”, with Palmer refusing and fans creating a blog where they posted pictures of their own bellies and commentary. I am all for people refusing to fold under shitty and harmful ideas about how women should look and what an “acceptable body” is.

-The OMGArmpitHair!!11!! scandal.

Pit hair is natural. Don’t get it twisted, disgusted dude bloggers of the internet. I am very cool with someone making whatever grooming choice they want and then saying fuck you to expectations of what women should do- once again, the body police was out in force, and I’m happy to see a middle finger raised to them.

And now, the flipside: some things I do not like about Amanda Palmer:

Evelyn Evelyn. (and here, for extra TigerBeatdown love)

-Her response to the Evelyn Evelyn controversy, which is quite a good “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by this”

-Her lolz at the expense of disabled feminists, and how she was crucified by them on the interwebs. Which, to be fair, was a real group effort.

And now a new thing that I feel conflicted about (maybe NSFW based on merkins and general pubic area shots!)- where does this belong in terms of those two lists?:

This is the video for a song that started as a one-off in-joke written by Palmer for a Tasmanian tour; “Map of Tasmania” referring to female pubic hair (a euphemism I hadn’t heard before but am quite fond of now!). A fan got some video, requests rolled in, and Palmer expressed her hope for a sweet remix. More backstory is here. Although meant to be fun and jokey, Palmer says it also speaks to a deeper issue

“I’ve been really shocked and distressed to find out that 8- and 9-year-old girls are getting all their pubic hairs waxed off by their mothers,” she says. “I think if I have any purpose at all, it’s to stand up there and say, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, girls. You totally have a choice. You can wax it, you can shave it, you can grow it out, and this really is up to you.’ That’s the way that I feel about everything, that you just need to know there’s a choice out there.”

Well, awesome. I love choice! (I am a feminist, after all…hahaha…). And I’m certainly pleased that people are speaking out and saying that rigid beauty standards and expectations are damaging. And I can’t not be a fan of glitter merkins. The merkins in this video are the bomb.

But……..this is a song about telling women they have choices, right? And that however they want to groom (or not groom) their pubes is totally 100% fine, right? Because these are some of the lyrics

Soft and sweet and shaped like a triangle
Some girls want no shape and they shave it all
That’s so whack, it hurts with the stubble
Walking ’round and look like an eight-year-old

Sorry, my bad. It’s really up to you, ladies. But you know, waxing it all off does mean that you’ll be walking around looking like an 8 year old.

Right now I might seem like the nit-picking spoilsport trying to ruin everything for everyone. But the thing is, every article or discussion I’ve ever read about the “to groom or not to groom” debate has turned from people discussing how they’ve felt shamed for not waxing it all off to people shaming women who do wax it all off. And I get it, I really do. When you feel as if a choice you make puts you in the outsider or “abnormal” category (such as being a full-bush lady in a society that sees pubes as disgusting things to be gotten rid of), you push for ideas of acceptability to be broadened so that more diversity can be portrayed and celebrated. But it can be easy for that goal to turn from “accepting everything” to “making the old norm unacceptable”, and just reversing the status quo. This happens when people talk about bodies too: people want the celebrated ideal of the supermodel body to not be the only acceptable body, but end up ripping into thin women (“eat a sandwich!”, “do you ever eat??”). So, rather than adding more types to the “acceptable” category, it ends up being just a restrictive as before but in the opposite direction or with an alternative ideal held up as the gold standard.

It makes me feel bad to read comments from women saying “ew, why would you shave it all off, you’d look like an little kid!” and “your boyfriend must be some kind of child-loving perv to like it bare”. Maybe these people have been hurt by comments about how dudes wouldn’t want to be with a woman who has pubic hair, and I can see how hurt can provoke that reaction. I don’t want any woman to feel shamed for her choice, be it all-on, all-off, pubes sculpted into a lightening bolt, or anything else.

This is why I’m a bit conflicted about Map of Tasmania: on the one hand, big ups for saying there’s nothing wrong with not waxing your pubic hair (and flouting some oppressive ideas of what women have to do). On the other hand, the same song that’s meant to make women feel empowered with choice is still shaming some kinds of choice. So it’s just a reversal of the norms, it isn’t really about diversity at all. If that line about looking like an 8 year old wasn’t there, I think I would love this song. It would be funny and cute and the comment about painful stubble is more of a personal preference comment. A light, semi-raunchy song about pubes and how there’s nothing wrong with them would be very welcome.

My muffin top is all that

Posted in bodies, Feminism, on January 12th, 2011 by steph – 10 Comments

Apparently the latest item of clothing to be resurrected from the fashion graveyard is the humble crop top t shirt. Yes, crop tops are in again. Well, they’re in again for thin people, that is. The original article only vaguely alludes to this with a reference to the “unsightly muffin-top phenomenon”, but the comments get right to the point on this one: fatties should stay the fuck away from this trend. Like, on a different continent far away. The consensus seems to be that crop tops are fine/awesome/acceptable/fashionable when worn by “people who can pull them off”, i.e. “girls that look like the one in the picture”: “slender and toned” women can wear this, but it is not for “fat chicks”. To that I have to say: fuck you. Fuck you; I wouldn’t tell you what to wear, so don’t tell me or anyone else. I personally have no desire to ever wear a crop top (I find them fairly hideous not matter what the person wearing them looks like; I think it’s some sort of visceral reaction to 90’s revival fashion), but that doesn’t mean I have any right to stop other people from wearing one. I find lots of items of clothing generally weird and not aesthetically appealing (three-quarter length pants, maxi dresses) but I don’t get to make that call for anyone but myself. Even if I see someone wearing a maxi dress and think “ugh, maxi dresses are awful”, I don’t actually have the power to tell other what to wear and I have no desire to actively police people’s outfits and enforce some sort of dress code. And I certainly don’t get to say things like “people who look like X shouldn’t wear Y item of clothing”, or decide that only certain people can “pull off” that look. It’s none of my business. If these people who think that only the toned and slender should wear crop tops genuinely think that, then they should just keep it to themselves and if they see an “unacceptable” person wearing one then maybe they should just swivel their head around 90 degrees and look at something else.

The thing I that stands out most to me when I think about how my feminism has evolved lately is that I feel very strongly that we don’t actually have the right to police other people’s choices in this way;  nobody gets to tell me how to dress and dictate whether an item of clothing is acceptable for me to wear or not, so by that logic I have no right no judge the choices that others make when it comes to that. Which is why even though I think crop tops are weird and kind of ugly, my stance isn’t going to be that nobody should wear them, or only thin women should wear them. All those people telling women with muffin tops to back away form the crop tops fatties should stop worrying about the idea that they might have to see the midriff of a woman who –gasp!- isn’t a size 6 and move along. And this body-policing, fat-shaming shit has to stop. Right now.

And anyway, what’s with all the muffin top hate? Surely everybody agrees that the muffin top is the best part of the muffin, right? I’m sure Jenna Maroney agrees with me on that one.

Christina Hendricks and aspirational bodies

Posted in bodies on September 15th, 2010 by steph – 3 Comments

I’ve got to admit, I’m a fan of Christina Hendricks. Mostly because Mad Men is fab, and Joan is the shiz. Sadly, it seems that her beauty and her body seems to be a big focus of much of the attention she receives. I admit, I am pleased that a body type that isn’t often typically represented is being promoted: by this, I mean thinness is praised a lot, and she does not fit with the typical ideal. On the other side of this coin is that even though she isn’t very thin, her body is still within the limits of ‘safe’ pleasing aesthetic: large breasts and hips, narrow waist, classic hourglass. However, my point isn’t to discuss these two perspectives, but to go back to the idea of representation that I mentioned earlier.

This article I read recently talked about how much praise she has received of late, then mentioned that

She was even named by the British government as having the ideal body shape to which women should aspire.

This is where I have a problem. As I said above, I am happy about representation of more (more being a very relative term here…) diversity in body types in the public arena, but there is a real problem with these body types being held up as aspirational. What is generally held up in the media as an ideal body type is completely unachievable for me, full stop. I will never be a thin woman like the women that are considered TV-thin, or movie-thin, or jeans ad-thin. So holding this body type up as aspirational is, in my view, not a good thing. But I will never look like Christina Hendricks either. My body might be closer to hers than it is to Kate Moss’s body, but it is still an unattainable goal. So, because of this, I’m wary that representation of a different body type is now straying into aspiration territory – and in fact the word aspire is actually used in the linked article – which is problematic. I want to see diversity of body types represented in the media, but I don’t want any to be held up as what I, or any other woman, should aspire to look like. These aspiration figures will always be unrealistic goals, and the problem is how to promote greater representation of diversity while also emphasizing the message that the best way to look is the way that you already do, and that the bodies seen in ads or in movies are not the best, or better than the one that you have.

“Dude, did you see that chick’s 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio?”

Posted in Allie Brosh, bodies, diets, exercise, Uncategorized on August 30th, 2010 by steph – 2 Comments

Ladies, have you been kidding yourself that the man in your life (surely you have one?) actually finds you attractive? Well, you’ll be shocked to know that he would actually find you more attractive if you looked like Jessica Alba or Kate Moss. Reality hurts, huh? It’s cool, this situation is fixable. Like the article says,

you don’t have to be a size zero to achieve this scientific definition of sexiness, it is after all, all about the ratio, so you could be a few sizes bigger than Alba and Moss but still achieve the desirable ratio, with 60s siren Marilyn Monroe an example.

You don’t have to be super thin; all you need is the ideal waist-to-hip ratio! No more struggling in vain to lose weight all over; now you can attempt to selectively increase or decrease specific separate areas of your body! Thanks for replacing an unattainable goal with another, different unattainable goal. Now,  if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get myself a Weasel Belt so I can trim my waist and transform into a hottie that my boyfriend is actually attracted to instead being someone he feels kinda dissatisfied with.