Gift ideas for the holidays, for all of the cranky feminists in your life (fat or slim)! This is a gift guide in progress, so don’t forget to check back for more great finds!
books I recommend!
Fatropoliswill take you away to an alternate world where big is beautiful. Hiding your body is unnecessary. Shopping for clothes is easy. Eating your fill isn’t embarrassing. If you’re a fat woman (or man!) this is a book you don’t want to miss! (age appropriate for high schoolers as well)
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is a book to not read lightly. It’s important work, it’s an important read, but it comes with a giant trigger warning. Amazon says “…a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. One chapter at a time, this is an important read.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic novel depicting Alison Bechdel’s childhood, adolescence, and discovery of her sexuality. She shows us her vulnerabilities, her family problems, and her journey to adulthood. I’ve read this several times, and highly recommend!
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is a graphic novel depicting Marjane Satrapi’s coming of age in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Don’t miss this! (also age appropriate for high schoolers)
On my personal wishlist is Sex Object: a Memoir, by Jessica Valenti. Amazon says “Valenti explores the toll that sexism takes on women’s lives, from the everyday to the existential. From subway gropings and imposter syndrome to sexual awakenings and motherhood, Sex Object reveals the painful, embarrassing, and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti’s adolescence and young adulthood in New York City.”
Fresh off the press, Feminist Fight Club: an Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace, by Jessica Bennett is also on my wishlist. Here’s why: “Part manual, part manifesto, Feminist Fight Club is a hilarious yet incisive guide to navigating subtle sexism at work, providing real-life career advice and humorous reinforcement for a new generation of professional women… Hard-hitting and entertaining, Feminist Fight Club blends personal stories with research, statistics, and no-bullsh*t expert advice. Bennett offers a new vocabulary for the sexist workplace archetypes women encounter everyday.”
“Fight Like a Girl introduces readers to the history of feminist activism in the U.S. in an effort to celebrate those who paved the way and draw attention to those who are working hard to further the feminist cause today.” How could this not be on my list of books to read and give?!
Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History features 40 women from 31 countries around the world. There’s also a list of 250 additional rad women to check out on your own. Get inspired, or inspire others with this awesome collection!
coloring books on my wishlist!
The Yoni Coloring Book is an awesome gift for anyone you know that loves to color, or would enjoy creating crazy colored vulvas! The illustrator is part of our CFF community.
The Ruth Bader Ginsburg Coloring Book: A Tribute to the Always Colorful and Often Inspiring Life of the Supreme Court Justice Known as RBG.Need I say more than “notorious RBG coloring book!”? <3
**disclaimer! I may receive a commission from purchases made via these links**
My first surgery scars came in high school from putting my shoulder back together after a weird overuse accident. (labral tear– the tissue that holds the ball and socket in place was torn from the bone) After being misdiagnosed for eight months the 3 one-inch-long scars felt like battle scars. (I also did the classic sports injury side effect: ballooning 30 pounds and numerous stretch marks due to my appetite staying the same and my metabolism slowing down– I had been weightlifting and distance swimming daily and immediately had to stop.)
A year later I had a breast reduction, three pounds and some drainage tubes later there are almost two feet of faint pink scars. I have yet to meet a man who noticed my scars until about a month of pillow talk later… it’s been quite the confidence booster. My other surgery scars are from having my appendix plucked out a few years after that. The scars are consistent with an ovary removal, but luckily it was my appendix that was infected and dying instead. The surgical scars could almost count as battle scars — except my belly and boobs have faced no true trauma.
Living life scars.
All along my arms and legs are bug bites. My ankles and shins are regularly disaster areas. Ants and mosquitoes for the most part, but the occasional family of chiggers or no-see-ums will try to take up residence under a flip flop strap. Many bites have scabbed over, and some have finally left smooth purple discolorations that no amount of cocoa butter or shea butter has fixed.
My legs have not seen a razor since January 2011 — thighs alone even longer. Luckily the hair is rather blonde and thin, so I don’t need to worry about shaving over bug bites and opening up scabs. I’ve also got my fair share of old scraped knees and shins from work as well as my years of tree climbing and mud-pie-pancake making in the back yard. Additionally, no guy has noticed my leg hair until I’ve actually pointed it out to him. (Women on occasion have noticed the leg hair… hhm?)
What men have noticed are my stretch marks… on my arms, the underside of my upper arms, up to my armpits. It’s been a (heart-breaking) favorite to point out since my mid-teens. I’ve even encountered a few over my shoulders. Moving down, I have those crazy pregnancy stretch marks all over my belly, my hips, and creeping around to my low back and sides of my waist. I have never been pregnant, and did not “earn” those scars. Of course my outer thighs haven’t been excluded, and my inner thighs have just begun to catch on to the stretch mark idea. (They’re also big on the rub-together heat rash during sun dress season, which is about 9 months out of the year here.) Stretch marks on my boobs are a given, but they are much fainter in the years since the reduction.
My belly has stripes.
My belly stretch marks began arriving about a year after one of my good friends showed me hers in an angry embarrassed confession. I did my best to be kind and comforting, but I was horrified. Then mine arrived in college (unlimited dining plan = forever stopping by for a coffee refill and a handful of cookies for the walk). First one, then three, then six, then you just stop looking at your belly in the mirror because you don’t have anyone to confess your stretch marks to, and you find that you can only be angry with yourself for causing your own stretch marks. (you know, because fat people made themselves fat, on purpose, and it’s all their fault, like trolls love to remind me.)
I love wearing tank tops (my boobs love the ventilation), but they often show off the awkward underarm and shoulder stretch marks. This means tank tops are only ever for confident days. (regardless of whether or not I’ve shaved my pits in the last week or not, because you couldn’t pay me to give a fuck about pit hair ever again) My legs are very skinny (in relation to the rest of me, I’m a V shape– which isn’t featured in any magazines. ever.) and are glow in the dark white, and my belly looks like it has a stress-beer-pizza baby growing in it.
On my not-confident days I feel the need to find a bigger shirt to cover my belly and upper arms and a way to cover my legs down to my toes. (And obviously keep that belly covered, no peek-a-boo allowed!)
Often I have to skip one (I mean, 95 degrees plus humidity for a huge chunk of the year…) and then if I’m not careful I’ll have a near-meltdown in a bathroom over my bug-bitten white legs showing, my shoulder stretch marks showing, my clothes being too tight across my belly… myself conforming to the shame that society places on fat people, and the overwhelming desire to hide my “unacceptable” body from other people’s judging eyes and potential comments.
Additionally, my pasty porcelain white skin is quite prone to bright red splotches. All over my face, ears, chest, neck, shoulders, and upper arms. When I drink I turn red, when I’m hot I turn red, when I’m embarrassed or uncomfortable or feel stupid I turn red… It’s rather common to find me at some point most evenings– even with taking my anxiety meds — in that bathroom talking myself down from a panic attack while applying wet cold paper towels to my face and neck and chest. If I wear makeup (which is absurdly hard to find in “white as a sheet of fucking paper”) I will turn splotchy under the makeup and be even more embarrassed. The worst is around my parents and grandma — judgement is passed about size and lack of makeup and my blood pressure skyrockets, and then there is constant loud worrying over my red face.
Work in progress. Body love in progress.
I am fully aware that I’m regularly embarrassed by my body (size, stretch marks, farting) but that I’ve personally conquered the hair and scars that adorn me. I often walk around my new place in just my underwear (and not just to save on the electric bill), and my boyfriend doesn’t care. At all. (and since I discovered my body confidence, neither have any of the others, minus a few POS boys that really didn’t work out.) (Yep, when you drink, I definitely don’t look like your favorite porn star.)
I try my best to think and talk positively about my body, and to think and talk positively about all bodies. But this is always a work in progress. It will always be a work in progress. You have to love your body before you can change anything. You have to love your body before you can lose permanent weight through lifestyle choices (eating, exercise…); you have to love your body before you can love the clothes you put on yourself; you have to love your body before you can truly love your partner’s body.
You have to love your body before you can better your body. You must accept your flaws and your fat, you must accept your stretch marks and the hair that does or doesn’t grow everywhere. (Seriously, I have dark blonde hair and light blonde eyebrows, and black pit and pubic hair. You glance over at me and you don’t see eyebrows. Where are my eyebrows?!)
There is no way to tackle your high cholesterol and your overbearing depression, your aching joints and your crippling anxiety, your chronic illness and disdain for leaving the comfort of home until you have accepted yourself. (And yes, this is speaking from personal experience.)
Fuck the haters.
Fuck society’s opinions, fuck the status quo, fuck anyone that has a problem with your body. You and your health is yours and your doctors. (And if your doctor wants to size shame you, or offer any other sort of physical shaming, get rid of that mother fucker.)
Yes, parents/partners/best friends are allowed to be concerned for you. They are not allowed to berate or harass you, belittle or shame you, in any way, in their expression of concern. And you have every right to tell them that, repeatedly, until you become rude. (Once, my concerned grandma gave me money for a 6 month gym membership because I told her– politely– to get the fuck off my back about my belly unless she was genuinely willing to help. Today I’d rather have a yoga studio class card, but don’t underestimate people’s willingness to help you help yourself.) Those that truly love you will help you however they can; once you can express your love and acceptance of your body, and your desire for productive and permanent change of any sort, get rid of anyone left in your life that does not support you in a kind and productive way. There is nothing wrong with having a time-out year (or five), or very limited contact with rules, with a family member.
The golden rule (treat others as you’d want to be treated) is always in effect. Do no harm, but take no shit. Love and accept your body, it’s the first step in treating your body better. And when you value treating your body better, your life becomes better, and you can start to rediscover some of the happiness that society’s ideals have taken from you.
To the CFF community — what about your wonderfully imperfect body have you been able to accept and overcome? What has been the most challenging aspect you’ve worked on? What have you worked on and not conquered?
I’ve worked in the theatre production business since before I could legally be paid to be there. I started in community theatre, worked on every middle and high school production I could get my hands on, and created my own major in college to continue this work. Primarily, I’m a theatre electrician and lighting designer. Occasionally I work as a production manager, and previously as a stage manager. Since it’s been over ten years I can do a little bit of everything, and I’ve even taught professional development classes for middle and high school teachers. I’ve done lighting design for local professional dance companies, symphonies, musicals, and graduations, as well as college musicals. Six years ago the minimum I was ever paid was $15 an hour. Right now I’m thrilled to get any gig working for less pay.
There is an international theatre union, IATSE (declining to share my local’s number and rat myself out…). While I live in a right to work state, we follow most union rules and are all treated the same. Except that I’ve discovered that the “girls get less work calls” rumor is actually the truth. Guys with years less experience than me are getting more work offers than I am. Guys with a much smaller knowledge base are getting more work than I am. Therefore, they do make more money than me.
Recently I found out that there was a huge work call at my local arena for a famous rapper on tour. A friend of mine that I helped get into my city’s theatres was asked to do the show, so he dropped a previous commitment I helped him get so he could go do the union-run concert with “his boys” (his words). So not only was I embarrassed, I found out that the union preference is having a penis over having the most experience or hardest work ethic. What other evenings am I at home, bored, ready and eager to work, and not getting a call because I have a vagina and can’t grow a caveman beard?
And written months later…
In about a month my boss man at the theatre (not the aforementioned arena) will begin texting me, looking to schedule my currently freelance self for work. I will almost certainly be in the top dozen people getting the first offers. I do appreciate that my boss appreciates me and knows how knowledgeable I am in my one sliver of the world. My boss knows how miserably unhappy I am with him and his lame employees. (and his boss knows too) The end of the season promise to “do better” “communicate more” “look into it” and do better to “respect me” is likely 95% bullshit. Optimists might say only 80% bullshit, but those are only the ones that haven’t met him.
Why fix what isn’t broken, right? Why fix inefficiency if it will still always all work out? Because it makes you someone WE can rely on, right? Well, if you’re in the top half dozen of his favorites, you’re a guy. And in this field guys work better in an all-guy environment. No deodorant, very few shirts, often beer drinking while working, and copious sexist, racist, rape-culture jokes. When girls are around — and all it takes is one — the party’s over. Beer away, Mary Jane away, shirts on. Jokes forbidden. Telling raunchy sexist jokes will get you in trouble — to the tune of “don’t come back for two weeks” or in extreme cases he might drop from dozen A to dozen B, or dozen B to dozen C, and receive about 20% less work in that venue. A girl complains without solid proof and a super credible witness, and she loses about 50% of her work there.
CFF became a place for me to understand that there is more than fat shaming — there is skinny shaming too, and that I’ve participated in it. Today, I do post mostly about fat shaming, but I make a point of never skinny shaming.
Every day when I check CFF I’m reminded that I MUST love my wonderfully imperfect body. I am reminded the true meaning and importance of intersectionality, looking through comments and looking at all of the countries and cities the “likes” originate from.
This then reminds me that all over the world fat means different things. When I was in Ghana fat was a good thing (although personally traumatic for the first six weeks). We must accept our bodies, love our bodies, and remember that maybe it’s your society that does not “approve” of your body — but it’s not the world that does not approve.
I love messages from other CFFs, and posts shared on the wall. It helps open my eyes more to the world outside of my little ass-backwards southern city.
I somehow was incredibly sheltered from the fact that men have body image issues as well. Having CFF really opened my eyes to this, and I’ve worked my hardest to include all genders in body image conversations. My own father’s body image problems have also been eye opening. He weighs much less than me, but is desperate to lose 20 pounds. His doctor hasn’t asked him to lose weight, it’s just for him and the man he sees in the mirror. While I don’t understand it, I still have to respect him.
Always a work in progress, respect and choice are essential to feminism.
A month ago, four hours from home, I arrive at this new work site, 6:45am, bleary-eyed and desperately clutching my nearly empty coffee cup. Turns out we were called in early just for the sake of being early and sorting paperwork, which really only took 20 minutes. By 7:45 my bladder is full of coffee and I have to ask where the restrooms are… only to find out that we had access to porta potties. Perhaps if I walked half a mile up the road to this fancy arena people would be there and let me in to use a real restroom. But that was perhaps. After tucking a just in case tampon into the shorts I’m wearing (which are really my new boyfriend’s extra pair of work shorts) I hand my helmet to one of my female coworkers and head to the row of porta potties. My hands have already touched the gross “community box” of hard hats, borrowed someone’s pen to sign paperwork, and had just touched the door of the porta potty. While trying to keep the bottoms of my shorts from touching the pool of water around my boots, I discover that I have indeed started my period. And I have no where to wash my hands before I use the tampon. Surely comical if anyone had been watching, I managed to keep the shorts out of the puddle and put in the tampon. About to walk out I remember, I still have no where to wash my hands. I clean my hands to the best of my ability with the one-ply, but have no choice but to walk out, grab my hard hat, and get ready to work.
It’s a male-dominated field and we’re in the south. Essentially, if you aren’t a badass feminist with a point to prove you won’t last more than a few months. As a general trend around here, the women have a larger skill set and a better work ethic. The men can get by as long as they’re very muscular or tall, or if they’re funny and love to kiss boss-ass. A large number of the guys will flat out tell you that they would rather have only guys working with them. More and more are getting smart enough to keep their mouths shut and just look down on you. As long as they don’t grope and don’t name call, they can’t be called out for being sexist, so they can’t get in any trouble.
If the work community doesn’t want women around, all they have to do is keep providing porta potties– no one wants to feel dehumanized, which is exactly how I felt using dirty hands to put in a tampon while making sure my shorts didn’t get wet. Maybe if cargo shorts were made for women and not nearly-exclusively for men I wouldn’t have had to worry about the bottom two inches of fabric getting pee on them. Maybe if there was just a jug of water nearby for hand washing I would have felt much cleaner.
Besides the panties and bra, my clothes were asexual. No, actually, that’s not true. Asexual would be fine. I was wearing men’s shorts, and men’s steel toed boots (what? women wear steel toes? never. hope they made a small enough men’s pair for you). I was wearing a t-shirt that I got after a show, which meant that others there had the same shirt too. And because of my big boobs, I can’t get away with a tank top or a cut-neck t-shirt to provide the twin heaters with some ventilation. The fastest way to be sent home is to have any sort of cleavage. (The fastest way to be sent home SHOULD be not wearing steel toes, or not wearing your hard hat.)
Indecent and distracting, boobs are definitely evil and always dangerous for men. Before and after every show the lights are on. During the show, the lights are off. When the lights are off the men can stare at anything and anyone without being caught– they can watch dancers change backstage, they can watch singers strip down and redress with so few seconds that modesty has no time. We are all human, and the understanding is that no one is watching because no one cares, because we are all people, with variations on the same parts. But the problem is that some of these guys are watching. And their bosses know, and don’t care. Some of these guys are watching the private dance studio 14 year olds change clothes, they’re staring at the bouncing boobs of a 19 year old college dance major. But it’s dark, and no one can see where they stare. Until the lights come on, and then suddenly they’re in deep shit for staring at the tiny bit of a coworker’s cleavage. So in an effort to save the good old boys from any embarrassment, cleavage goes home immediately so that guys don’t have to be reprimanded.