Monday, September 22, 2014

Streetside Glances

"Eye contact is also a way of expressing power. Men may stare at women and women are not supposed to stare in return but to decorously cast down their eyes."
- 'Beauty and Misogyny' by Sheila Jeffreys

Ever since reading the above quote, I've decided that it's my prerogative to stare back at any man who makes aggressive eye contact with me. I do this despite the strain it puts on me. I am making a point. Most of the time the men don't take my defiance into account in their wider paradigm on gender equality. But sometimes they do. The last time it happened, the man in question apologised wordlessly, looked down and away. As a feminist performance artist, this is the kind of reaction I'm after. It makes all the uncomfortableness of the unflinching staring back worth it, and reminds me that I am making a difference.

*

Heads Up

I recently made friends with a remarkable woman who helps survivors of psychiatry safely discontinue the taking of antipsychotics or antidepressants, and helps them stay healthy. I noticed that she often droops her head, as if ashamed of her mental differences. I've resolved to always look for ways that my mind is fruitful, imaginative and useful (it always in, in some way, even when that way is not obvious to the outside world). I have as much to be proud of as the next person in terms of mental capacity, if not more. I write beautiful prose and exquisite poems. I do my best to contribute to society in whatever way I can manage. I am special. Just like you. So I keep my head up, look people in the eye, and subvert the narratives which privilege non-survivors.

Psychiatrists would like it if I paid more attention to their in(s)ane theories about how to manage my mind, but I think they're the ones with the problem. It would be a gross perversion of nurture if they were the happy, secure ones, and I was not. I choose to be happy and, yes, secure, in and of my own mind. If they don't like it, that's just another of their problems.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I lost 30kgs and put it back on again

So there I was, enjoying my lighter physique, experiencing a boost to my health and feeling more vital. And then they started to look at me. Men, with their predatory smirks and cunning 'male gazes'. I felt more self-conscious about my body than ever. I was conscious of representing myself as a sexual object and not knowing how to operate outside the ideology that led me to do so. I was worried that my new, 'more attractive' appearance made me more vulnerable to sexual violence. It made me more vulnerable to problematic heterosexual circumstances. I didn't want this.
And so I gained the weight back. I'm newly invisible to the average male, and this invisibility protects me. Why lust after my body when there are so many other bodies that are much more appealing? I suppose I'll never be immune to the libidos of some who have a fetish for big women, but they are part of a minority I rarely experience.
I don't know how healthier women do it. I don't want to dispense the 'keep your distance' defence at every step that I take. I don't want to feel that I am a one-women army, disarming or ignoring a million micro-aggression per week. When you are reduced to sexual object status, you start doubting your right to your own agency.
It's not good for my health to have added 30kgs to my weight, but I felt it was what I had to do to keep my sanity. I had become accustomed to doing without the vicious male sizing-up, and this brief interruption of that narrative was unwelcome. Of course, I still value the healthier habits I adopted, but I don't have the luxury of attaining them. Not just yet. Maybe in a decade, when my fertility is no longer, and I become invisible due to my age, I can safely resume sounder eating and movement practices. For now, I have no wish to wage a war every time I situate myself in a public place.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Structuralism & Sexism

I have taken many a personality test in my time. One of the most popular of these is the Myers-Brigg test, which has sixteen results and splits the world into archetypes based on four categories - extroversion or introversion, sensation or intuition, judiciousness or perceptiveness and thinking or feeling. This post is primarily concerned with the last category.
Thinking vs. feeling is a binary which deeply implicates gender. Throughout modern history we have the commonly accepted rationale that men are the traditional custodians of rational thought, while women are to be found embodying the realm of the emotions. Women have been described as 'hysterical' in innumerable contexts. Less extremely, as 'too emotional', 'unable to reason', and so forth. 'Too reasonable' or 'too logical' don't work as insults, on the other hand. Our patriarchal societies prioritise thinking over feeling, putting the characteristic associated with males on a pedestal and reserving emotions for those so-called inferior beings, the women.
We separate the thinking and feeling personalities just like we separate gender into female and male - without a second thought. But it's actually impossible to separate the two because both thinking and feeling are part of the same process. Thinking has an emotional valency, and emotion cannot happen in the absence of mental processes. To act as a human being is to perform both simultaneously - however we haven't figured that out, because dualism and structuralism still make up an awful lot of popular theory. When will we wake up?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A culture of conflict

A preoccupation with violence
A romance with war
A fetish for fistfights
I simply want more

The annals of peace
Lie unperused
While we hold
A moment's silence
For the soldiers' abuse