It’s Time to Talk About Facial Dysmorphia
If you have ever read any fraction of this blog, then you know it’s mostly rageful documentation on how excessive consumption of mainstream media has caused us to hate ourselves. When cable television gained popularity in the early 90’s with larger demographics than ever before, the evidence that these media images were harmful and even punishing to females was rampant on screens around the world. That was back when we only had one screen to deal with – but now we are surrounded by them. Our devices are providing constant relief from the lives we are sometimes too afraid to live, because television and pop culture have been reminding us for years that we can’t and shouldn’t even bother trying. We have been raised by the same major media industry that served us Amanda Bynes on a plate and rendered her useless by her mid-twenties. We are sold self-hatred in the name of fashion, and we give into ideas that our logical selves know are insane, but we eat it up anyway. We struggle to achieve dreams that involve looking a certain way, and if we’re not trying then we’re slobs, and no one will tell us this more than we tell ourselves. We are investing more time into other people’s lives, people we’ve never even met and never will, than ever before. These often strong, highly addictive parasocial relationships with celebrities and their products are releasing short-term trauma in our daily lives while ingraining long-term blockings against our personal growth and success. We are escaping reality so often that our identities are being compromised, and our self-perception is becoming severely distorted.
I was born in the 80’s with a rare cancerous tumor that grew three times the size of my head, and when it was successfully extracted, my face was left with a sunken gap in my cheek and no nerves to smile with. I looked pretty cute, though. If I had my adult-self present to speak up for little me in the 90’s, I wouldn’t have agreed to the body modification I spent the majority of my childhood experiencing. I spent almost every Christmas break in hospital beds, recovering from major reconstructive facial surgery while my body was still developing. I have a huge scar on my leg from when I was seven and they cut a muscle from my thigh in attempts to fill the gap, and there are now manmade nerves that help me lift my mouth. The muscle fill was bulky, far more noticeable than any little sunken cheek ever looked, and to this day it weighs down my eye to overexpose the tear ducts, which in turn irritates it very easily. Unsurprisingly, this all made for a school life where every day was Carrie’s prom scene, minus the satisfying death and gore, and mostly I was just waiting for that whole swan transformation to happen any day now. When I turned 18, Children’s Hospital discontinued the funding for the same experimental surgeries they placed me under, and I have been living in an unfinished project ever since.
If I were to compare my real life to something you would be familiar with through screen media, think of the movie Mask starring Cher as the kooky badass mother of a facially deformed teenage son who just wants people to like him. This depiction is eerily accurate, but without the happy ending where he gets to miss his Spanish quiz because he died peacefully in his bed during adolescence. Oh, and I’m female, which means my entire identity is often going to be summed up by how I look—historically and presently a socially acceptable concept. I spent my early childhood sheltered from the outside world, holed up in my bedroom, creating dramatic fictional pieces using beautiful dolls and a composition notebook filled with extensive profiles on each character. I also watched a shit ton of television.
We love television because it is always there for us, and it is the friend that never judges us. We can shit talk anyone on it and they can’t hear us. Rarely do we feel bad about ourselves when the television is on, as it takes the focus off our own lives and keeps our brainwaves elevated in a way that’s difficult to achieve naturally. Television, combined with trauma, is the most common recipe for how effective the media connects to one’s brain, emotional senses, and personal identity. What you can’t find in yourself or in your immediate environment, you can find on screens. It was this basic need to find myself, combined with countless surgical recovery periods, that gave me a ton of time to submerge my entire being into the bowels of pop culture.
In December of 1997 after one of my more extreme operations, I got my first computer. I had begged for one every day of my life since being exposed to Reader Rabbit on MS Dos in Kindergarten. My single mother of two kids had scraped together every hard-earned dollar that winter to buy me a laptop hot out of the trunk of somebody’s car for $200 and the rest is history.
The internet gave me access to find myself in a way that my daily environment didn’t allow, and the more restricted I felt in my white-bread, suburban Catholic classrooms, the more I rebelled through self-expression online. I learned to code, to create graphics, to make something that looked like mine. Whenever I wasn’t creating something, I was thinking about how wonderful it would be to just die already. Nobody’s tragedy lasted this long in the movies, and even Ariel got legs by 16. I wanted to leave my mark before gently escaping the exhaustion and heartache. Everything was beginning to seem like a big load of bullshit and I wanted out.
My brain has a default setting of suicidal, and if I’m not chemically controlled, I’m ready to peace the fuck out. Growing up in an anti-medication generation, the organic cultists like to concern-troll with notes on what is going to happen to your liver, as well as herbal alternatives, natural remedies, and holistic healers. That’s good, and I’m into all kinds of options, but there are days where Kava Kava isn’t going to lift me out of the bed I’ve been occupying for days or stop the monster voices from telling me what a horrible waste of space I am. There’s only so far the aisles of Whole Body can take you, and I need all of the backup I can get.
When I was an undiagnosed manic-depressive child, often mistaken with Down syndrome or maybe even Asperger’s, I had no intensive therapy options to complement the extreme, life-altering medical procedures I endured. So, like any girl in 90’s suburban America, I turned to pop culture for the answers.
What I didn’t know, what no one could have ever warned me about, were the ways in which our lives were being impacted. Screens were eventually influencing my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and entire being. I wouldn’t learn for years to come that this was frighteningly common.
I spent a large portion of my life avoiding the mirror and projecting everything I wanted to be onto people on screens. I didn’t speak of my face out loud and never dared mentioned it to people I met online. Years of exposure to screens full of hypersexual bodies paired with sharp-jawed, symmetric faces left me in paralyzed silence because I knew, just like we all knew, that average was never good enough. Deformed was definitely not going to be acceptable.
Comparatively, my older sister is a screen standard beauty and has the social control of a silent lion observing the kingdom. And that’s what we’re taught to do, right? Compare. Since I couldn’t find anyone in my immediate environment that resembled me, and the only person coming close enough on screen was the Elephant Man, I asserted myself into the world through online publishing.
Middle school is a particularly wicked time for anyone to experience, and the investment in pop culture comes in through Kubrick’s elevator doors. The strive to liken oneself to popular media icons increases dramatically, which in turns makes us self-denying escapists at an early age. We only get better at it over time.
One of the most common, under-diagnosed illnesses we know of today is body dysmorphic disorder, and we’re all suffering from it to some degree. Being surrounded by glossy, photoshopped images, and screens full of carefully selected, modified versions of people selling you ideas, products, and brand loyalty, are all factors in the skyrocketing numbers appearing in BDD statistics today. There are many parts of our body to hate, too.
There’s nothing wrong with your face, or the color of your skin, or the way your body curves. But we can’t believe that because that would be letting ourselves off the hook too easily, and we must self-mutilate in any way we know how. We are born and bred, naturally talented, emotional cutters.
My life story is so utterly exhausting that I never have the energy to tell it out loud. The problem is, if I don’t explain it to some capacity every time I meet someone, it becomes a delicate centerpiece that gets nervously talked around. I used to over-emphasize myself in hopes to enchant everyone with this hyper personality I had developed, but it often felt like an apology exchange in which I was trying to distract with offbeat humor as some sort of comfort offering, in order to help people deal with having to look at me. This gave me mad sad jester complex, y’all.
Over the years I have met beautiful girls that hate their appearance in ways I never even thought to hate on myself. This caused me to grieve for pretty girls with self-worth issues, much like Mary kneeling at the crucifixion of her only child. Confused as to how we could have let this happen, I became more serious on women’s issues, which ultimately led me to become a news-obsessed troll. I read so much tragedy, and I write even more, and I’m drawn to anything that is real and deeply effective. While I find brutal news, personal essays, and morbid fiction to be necessary outlets, I also need safe spaces both online and in everyday life. This blog was meant to collect the positive pieces that occasionally surface in our RSS feeds, and to call bullshit on anything that deserves it. It is also to share shameful truths, to view media critically, and to open up girls to the idea that maybe we don’t have to hate ourselves. Maybe we never even had to give a fuck.
I attend a beautiful university filled with beautiful young people. Going back to school is hard, especially the older you get, and most especially when you are exposed to people that just got out of high school only moments ago. I can’t imagine life with Myspace or Facebook during high school or even elementary, and I don’t know that I would have survived the suicide boat had it existed. Those servers appeared just in time, when I was in college and got separated from my family and friends after Katrina. It was the perfect tool at a vulnerable and isolated time in my life, but it was before we knew people would use their accounts like guns, myself included.
Nearly ten years later, social media has catapulted us into a vicious, chaotic tornado of contaminated self-esteem and distorted perceptions. I’m inching my way through an education system that on most days I believe is a giant hoax, and I miss classes and important commitments because I can’t get past the front door. Daylight scares me, crowds scare me, people scare me, being in cars scares me, being in a room full of eighteen year olds scares me, and the only place I’ve ever felt completely comfortable is online. I’ve documented years upon years of my own mania and life experiences online, because my entire life has been in an endless, fragile state of “I will be gone soon.” If this doesn’t work out, I will be gone soon. If I can’t get through this, it’s okay, I will be gone soon. Plan B has always been suicide, and it is knowing that I have the option of turning the power off and ending the game that has always given me the most comfort. I just wanted to leave evidence that I once existed before I left.
Disorders such as body dysmorphia are often unchecked and even encouraged by popular media, which leads to even more disorders, like obsessive compulsive disorder, which has several sub-genres of disorders. Dermatillomania is a skin-picking disorder, that is heavily linked to anxiety and self-hatred, and is triggered by stressful situations. It is self-mutilation, similar to cutting, sometimes even worse as the ability to claw on oneself can be at any given time or place. The need to release something from under your skin is like trying to push the monsters from under your bed, and though the adrenaline can feel like a bizarre high like no other, most of the time we’ve invented those monsters in our heads. I pick at myself and can rarely even tell I’m doing it, the physical reaction to my nervous system takes flight without warning, and I am left even further damaged and undesirable than before.
Insecurity is a severe illness that must be tended to and treated like pneumonia or cancer, or at the very least a high fever. If you need medicine, then you need medicine. If you need therapy, then you need therapy. If anything, you need to take it easier on yourself. We all do. It takes a long time to realize that people don’t think you’re as bad as you think you are, or are at all worried about the way you look or talk or walk or breathe, because everyone is too busy worrying about themselves to focus on anyone else. If they splash their shit on you, it’s still their shit, and they’re the ones that have to deal with it. It’s time to stop treating our mirrors as enemies and start seeing the person staring back as a friend, and this is a daily battle in which we are mostly pointing the weapons at ourselves. Being gentler on yourself takes a very poignant and concerted effort that we must allow ourselves in order to survive all those monsters we create to haunt us late at night. It is a discipline and an exercise and it can be exhausting, but with practice and patience, as all learnt abilities are known for, we can find our way out of the paranoia jungle and ease into becoming the people we were meant to be.
spring break weak
The best title for a pause until early summer, am I right? Returning with new posts, maybe a podcast, and certainly a new zest for female friendly news when it stops being so damn nice outside. Until then, please enjoy Laura Mvula and some sunlight.
I’m Too Fucking Loud for the Library: A Survival Guide
For many people, the library is a lovely sanctuary of peace and quiet that contains a world of wonder and magic within its fine shelves. Then there are people like myself, who find public indoor spaces meant for discipline and control to be a total nightmare. I am too loud for the library—like, way too fucking loud. I have a naturally loud voice, even when I think I’m of a moderate decibel it tends to travel and fill rooms. I often have headphones on, big ones that I thought would engage sound only into my ears, so you can imagine my surprise the day I’m listening to my own speech on mid-volume level and get asked to turn it down. Even without headphones, without a single word uttered from my mouth, I am a walking twitch. I can’t sit still for long, I need constant breaks, repeated intervals of walking away and returning because I am convinced I’ll lose my mind otherwise. I am even one of those people that always has something clicking around in their mouths, like mints or gum or two and a half lozenges at a time. Everything I do is loud, every movement and every page turning and every dig into my bag is something reminiscent of a tornado, and it most likely drives people in my immediate environment to a maddening discomfort at best.
How does one survive the library environment like this? Why even bother going to the library? Well for one, being in the library reminds you that there is shit that needs to be done and that there are other people getting their shit done, and something about being around people who are progressing toward their goals is the simplest motivation. Going to a coffee shop can be the kiss of death on some days. Something about all that groovy music they’re trying to play for the every-crowd, and the utter lack of shame logging on to aggregator sites that would otherwise be too stressful to view in the presence of colleagues, it all just flies out the window. A coffee shop is too relaxed, you may be likely to run into friends, or even start making friends, who knows? It’s not time to socialize, it’s time to flex your goddamn brain muscles. Get to the library.
Are you there yet? It’s me, knowledge. I’ve been waiting for you. What’s that, you say? Even your thoughts are too loud for the basic comprehension skills required to function in a library setting? IS THERE A VOICE IN YOUR HEAD THAT’S IN ALL CAPS? You need to breathe, and I am totally not kidding when I say this is coolest anti-anxiety method I have learned, am learning, and will hopefully better understand over time. The easiest way to start is by literally – and we all know how little I dig using the word literally so let’s note the necessity – saying “in” and “out” in your head as you breathe. Coming from someone who battles with racing thoughts late into the night, this is the very first trick I ever learned and I have taught myself to pass out like a fat baby in a cloud made of other fat babies. You can do this while you’re sitting or even walking, which allows you the ability to focus on your breathing so that you can’t hear any of the thoughts or worries pounding. Trust me, it’s real cray when you realize how easy it can be to turn all that off. Take some time to let your mind get gently blown.
If you can’t turn your thoughts down and the brain chattering just won’t stop, you’re in luck because I’m going to graciously bestow to you the tools needed to survive both the loud thoughts and the physical loudness of yourself. Let’s start by getting the hell out of the quieter areas with all these still, controlled people.
Now maybe you’re like, hold up, I don’t have Tourette’s. This simply means that you do and you’re being defensive about it, as our kind are wont to do. The fact of the matter is, we are held much more accountable for our audio contributions to a room when they are designated to quiet areas, and this can cause anyone an adverse reaction at times. Here are some of my favorite ways to deal with this storm cloud above us.
Pick a spot where people are already talking, or better yet, near an espresso machine with an obnoxiously loud steamer. There is zero chance that you are going to trump either of these things if you’re just chilling. Sure, your jacket is loud, and yeah, your phone might have vibrated, but no one can even tell because this weight of needing to be audibly conscious has been so effortlessly lifted. Instead of that tension and possible side eyeing from people occupying the quieter areas, find a more common area where everyone is way too involved with their own lives to notice much about their environment.
Write your notes longhand, and then write them again. Seriously, turn the fucking Apple products off for a minute and experience what very well could be your hardest manual labor for the day. You barely have to think for this, especially when it is a mere dinostyle copy and paste job involved. You will be amazed at how much you got done without having to think too heavily. Writing out notes can be one of the most productive and least mentally strenuous exercises, and not only can you do it with all kinds of noise around, you can just as easily sit with your headphones on blaring In Utero, and your coffee slugging, chatter-boxing peers are none the wiser.
Maybe this isn’t an option for you, or maybe you want to be able to read in silence without the possible hypertension that comes with being in the most reverent place your barhopping ass has been to in years. Find a back corner, or any spot that is a sizable distance from too many people. Eventually, if more people show up then pipe your noisiness up to give them a taste of what they might be in for by settling in near you. If they stick around, then an occasional out-loud “oh my god” or random externalized thought probably won’t bother them too badly. Besides, you were there first, dude.
Getting stressed? Hang out in the ladies’ bathroom and listen to girls talk on their phones. We all sound so obnoxious talking to our biffles, and it will remind you that people give very few fucks about what you’re doing. It also serves as evidence that you can’t possibly be louder than people sitting on toilets or doing stretches in the mirror, talking into headsets about term papers and making out with hot guys. Even if this is not at all your bathroom experience, maybe you work in an office where the mannequin never turns off even behind closed doors, you are in the presence and comfort of women that are warriors in their own lives. The ladies’ bathroom can become an open door into relief and solidarity, because everyone in the room knows what it meant to be twelve, or to survive middle school with a bleeding vagina, and all the rapidly growing pituitary glands and hormones that came with it. We are surrounded by airbrushed inventions of identities that ask us to strive in their likeness, and we do. We do, so hard.
If you’re still not able to concentrate, that voice in your head is still criticizing everything you say or think or do, and you are groaning inwardly and possibly outwardly in awkward self-loathing outbursts – write down your thoughts. It may surprise you how much comes out when you simply put the effort into expressing yourself on paper. No one has to read it, it doesn’t need to make sense, and it doesn’t even need to be true or real or use proper punctuation. It just needs to be handwritten. You’ll notice after a line here or there you will let out these incredibly labored breaths, like you’re having some sort of emotional diarrhea that had been backed up in your brain for a long time, and that all this time your mental digestion just needed mad probiotics to regulate. Think of it less as a diary entry and more as a hearty dose of Activia for the soul. The more you become used to logging handwritten thoughts, the easier it will be to think clearly and calmly, and work effectively toward your goals. Productivity is just around the corner of your loose-leaf binder, as it turns out.
Lastly, try the quieter parts out little by little and make an effort to become more still and focused, because the more trips you make to a library, the more acclimated you become to low-key environments. As you become more conscious of your breathing, rather than the racing thoughts wrestling your confidence, your ability to concentrate increases and the worries of your own jostling demeanor fall silent. I know it sounds too good to be true, especially if you are a noisy disaster to begin with, but even with an arm full of bangle bracelets and wind chimes for earrings, you can achieve a successful tranquility both fearlessly and painlessly. Just remember that breathing is the first step, and the rest will read like an open book.
psa: i shared a photo
Hey, remember that super fucked up day in October we learned about Amanda Todd? This new public service announcement serves as a haunting reminder of her story as well as the dangers of online photo sharing. There are never enough ways to say that the Internet Is Forever but the more we try, the closer we are to ensuring safer online environments for girls.
tv still making kids assholes
I’m tired having to tell you this, and you’re tired of hearing it from me, but nevertheless it bears repeating: screens enslave us. Less dramatically, they will compromise your ability to connect with reality just enough to cause behavioral issues, and we see this especially in children. Don’t believe me? Think of that aggressive neighbor boy that mouths off without consequence - do you think his parents pay any attention to the screen media he’s consuming? As long as it shuts him up and gets him out of their hair, he can play all the Grand Theft Auto and watch all the Tosh.0 he wants, regardless of how inappropriate the content is for his single-digit age. It’s all just entertainment anyway, right? It’s not even real! Except when you have a classroom full of socially inept Nickelodeon junkies, and the poor soul that has to spend eight hours a day with other peoples’ children has to repeatedly take on the active damage, then it’s pretty real. This new study says the risk of behavioral problems or emotional disturbances aren’t that significant with excessive television viewing, to which I say you have no idea how to read their thoughts and as a former television addicted child I can tell you there is some demented shit going on in there. Trust.
“The links between heavy screen time and mental health may be indirect, rather than direct, such as increased sedentary behavior, sleeping difficulties, and impaired language development, and that the child’s own temperament may predict screen time habits.”
“[The study] suggests that a cautionary approach to the heavy use of screen entertainment in young children is justifiable in terms of potential effects on wellbeing, particularly conduct problems, in addition to effects on physical health and academic progress shown elsewhere.”
source: medical news today
sexist ad app calls bullshit
For the first time in history, we have access to say what the fuck we want, when the fuck we want, and let the whole world know via thumbs tapping on screens. The #NotBuyingIt app is a new and easy way to throw shade at major media outlets selling us fecal matter wrapped in sexy bows. If you haven’t seen the Miss Representation documentary yet, it’s time to get your closest gal pals and have a viewing party with allotted time for discussion afterward. Nachos are an excellent choice for this occasion, and make sure that not everyone brings dessert because that can get rough.
MissRepresentation, the organization and advocacy campaign behind the “Miss Representation” documentary, is currently producing and soliciting funding for an app called #NotBuyingIt, which will allow users to photograph, map and share advertisements that belittle or objectify women. According to Elizabeth Plank at PolicyMic, “[I]t will kind of be like a centralized, peer-reviewed, crowd-sourced complaint department for all companies that boldly continue to use sexism to sell their products.”
Twitter users worldwide currently use the #NotBuyingIt hashtag to publicly call out sexist advertisers. The MissRepresentation site keeps track of how many #NotBuyingIt tweets a company has received — GoDaddy is currently the worst offender, with 7823 tweets to date. The app will centralize users’ complaints, offer an interactive map of sexist print ads and billboards and convey information to both the offending companies and local officials.
#NotBuyingIt is similar in many ways to Hollaback!, an app that helps individuals document and publicize instances of street harassment. Powered by a non-profit organization and movement called iHollaback!, the app allows users to upload images or text about their experiences with street harassment, as well as the incident’s location. iHollaback! also encourages people to be “better bystanders,” offering support to anyone experiencing street harassment. The organization currently spans 62 cities in 25 countries, according to the Hollaback! website.
So, will the #NotBuyingIt app create a similar community? The folks at MissRepresentation say yes. Imran Siddiquee, director of communications and social media at MissRepresentation, told PolicyMic: "There are, in truth, millions and millions who want gender equality and don’t want to see sexism in media. We want this app in all of their hands — giving them a chance to easily express that perspective, be heard and to do so with the knowledge that they are not alone."
source: huffington post
starbucks says fuck off, homophobes
Feeling bad about ordering that venti iced red eye when you could have been down the street getting fresh local fair trade coffee? Well today Starbucks has redeemed itself to a slightly lesser degree of the evil when CEO Howard Shultz denounced stockholders with shitty attitudes. He was basically like, oh you got a bone to pick with my decision to support equality? Well suck it, find a new company to invest in. But yknow, more eloquent n junk. The point is, today we can allow ourselves a cake pop or even invoke our inner Mary-Kate circa 2005, shit could get real. Happy Starbucks Gay.
“In the first full quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earnings — shall we say politely — were a bit disappointing,” Starbucks shareholder Tom Strobhar said, referring to the National Organization for Marriage’s boycott of the coffee company.
Schultz replied bluntly that Starbucks’s endorsement of marriage equality wasn’t about making money, but about the principle of diversity.
“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much,” Schultz said, to applause from the audience.
full article - huffington post
comfort in old facebook photos
A contradicting Facebook study has surfaced to suggest that despite all of the evidence pointing to lowered self-esteem and higher rates of depression among avid users, looking at your old self might be okay. Possibly something about seeing yourself with all those friends that moved away after college, or that your online photo albums serve as evidence of being a functioning member of society that gets invited to barbecues and attends weddings or graduation ceremonies, or at least has at some point in time. Looking at old photos has had proven therapeutical value for some time now, but the interesting twist of adding technology to the equation is that we are congregating to an online space for the sole purpose of remembering ourselves. And you will forget, much more often than you think, you will forget and forget and forget.
The survey also found that people who have experienced mental health issues were particularly comforted by the site.
Dr Good said: “The results indicate we could use self-soothing as a form of treatment for low moods.”
She added: “We were very surprised by these findings, which contradict some recent reports.
“Although this was only a small study, we will go on to study larger groups to see if the results remain consistent.”
Psychologist Dr Clare Wilson, also of the University of Portsmouth, said: “Although this is a pilot study, these findings are fascinating.
“Facebook is marketed as a means of communicating with others. Yet this research shows we are more likely to use it to connect with our past selves, perhaps when our present selves need reassuring.
“The pictures we often post are reminders of a positive past event. When in the grip of a negative mood, it is too easy to forget how good we often feel. Our positive posts can remind us of this.”
Dr Good’s study has concluded that looking at comforting photos, known as reminiscent therapy, could be an effective method of treating mental health.
surprise: dating compromises grades
Remember when you were pounding back the books while your classmates were having sex and smoking weed? A new study says dating in middle school and high school leads to higher dropout rates, but this sounds kind of primitive. I don’t need to date somebody to totally fuck up my grades, all I ever needed was my extensive imagination and posters of Edward Furlong to guide me. I wish they’d come out with more studies on crushes, fandom, and the effect of screen culture on the adolescent mind. I can’t imagine participating in actual relationships at twelve, let alone get homework done. I was already way too busy with all of my imaginary boyfriends to study, and this is still a struggle fifteen years later. Godspeed, junior high teachers.
“In our study, we found four distinct trajectories,” Orpinas said. “Some students never or hardly ever reported dating from middle to high school, and these students had consistently the best study skills according to their teachers. Other students dated infrequently in middle school but increased the frequency of dating in high school. We also saw a large number of students who reported dating since sixth grade.”
Of the early daters, a large portion of the study group-38 percent-reported dating at almost all measurement points throughout the study. The second at-risk segment, identified as “high middle school dating,” represented 22 percent of the sample. One hundred percent of these students dated in sixth grade.
“At all points in time, teachers rated the students who reported the lowest frequency of dating as having the best study skills and the students with the highest dating as having the worst study skills,” according to the journal article.
source: science daily
feminism in romance novels
I know what you’re thinking: those goofy paperbacks in the library with Fabio lookin dudes and a vamped out lady dawning a silky gown on an isolated beach? Apparently, those are out of style and new erotica geared to women is full of fierce heroines with strong values and wit to spare. I don’t know how 50 Shades fits into this scenerio, something tells me it’s not quite dinner with Demi Moore in 1994, but I have no personal evidence to back this up. Maybe the main character(s) of 50 Shades is a total woman on her own mission that occasionally enjoys getting caged and bound, I am likely to never know. While this week’s piece in The Atlantic touches briefly on the commercialized rape fantasy culture, the conclusion is that women are allowed to fantasize about whatever they want, and ultimately women’s romance genres give platform to the expression of what women want. The emotional connections, duh.
Feminist romance authors often embrace the problems in romance fiction and then write plots that actively do the opposite of what readers expect. This subversion of audience expectations is often jarring because, as a reader, you are bound to notice actions and emotions that are not what you assumed would happen.
Still, there continue to be romance novels published where consent between the main characters is fuzzy. Robin Lynne, a scholar who writes on romance at the site Dear Author, argues that we should not see this as a failure of the genre but rather how it reflects the ambiguity of real life. “Women struggle with our sense of physical vulnerability, in some instances every day. So why would it be a surprise that a genre consumed by intimate relationships between men and women would not also be consumed by the issue of sexual force (and other types of emotional and physical coercion).”
This is complicated by the fact that a fair amount of women find sexually dominant men to be titillating. And almost any romance author you speak to about the genre will quickly tell you that what they write is not true life but a fantasy. The critical space between what one reads and likes and what one actually does is something that critics of the genre must remember, especially because their own policing of women’s desires is the product of the patriarchal system they are trying to criticize. MacLean argues that "we have to give ourselves permission as women to have fantasies. We aren’t saying that men should threaten sexual dominance or harassment or abuse. But it’s okay if we, at some point, find the idea of that threat hot.” In a society that often wants to boil women’s sexual experiences into the polar opposites of purity or sluttiness, romance novels, even when we may as individuals judge their plots to be problematic, are the largest cultural space available for women to read about and imagine their own sexual fantasies. Therefore, as Lynne says, the range of fantasies that will appear in the genre is going to be wide.
The potential for a romance novel to be feminist exists each time an author sits down to write one. Lynne argues that “Romance novels are as feminist, or anti-feminist, as anything else in our society: namely, that it depends on the novel, but most of the novels we’re talking about are produced within a society that is heteronormative and patriarchal (and most privilege whiteness, as well).” A genre centered on women, written primarily by women, and consumed mainly by women cannot be ignored because it can teach us about what women want. “Romance,” Cowan says, “even when it’s not feminist, gives us a reference point to begin looking at our own biases and desires.” The very discussion about where women derive pleasure and why is a feminist project.
full article - the atlantic
why blogging is activism
If you’re spending your nights staring at a ceiling wailing a repetitive, “why, why, why?” over your life choices, blogging doesn’t need to be one of them. Not only is it proven therapy but it is also allowing your voice to be heard on a platform available to the world. This is a power so newly accessible that we are still shying away instead of embracing what is truly a leveled playing field. I’m tired of begging my girlfriends to start blogs, ranting that everyone in the world needs a blog, so I’m going to let someone else to the talking. Behold, the feminist eloquence of Julie Z.
The first major aspect of feminist blogging as activism is its ability to allow young women to establish a voice. The act of writing about our beliefs and our experiences is itself a feminist act. There are so few outlets that allow young women to express themselves on an emotional level and even fewer that encourage us to express our intellect. The media encourages us to buy into images and depictions that objectify us and belittle our intelligence. We are rarely given the opportunity to push back – in fact, we’re actively discouraged to. Feminist communities like the FBomb, as well as individually curated blogs, allow young women to become comfortable with not only developing our opinions and ideas, but to publicly publish them – to refuse to buy into a culture that encourages our silence and subservience.
While previous waves of feminism encouraged consciousness-raising meetings or, more recently, zine-creation, neither parallel the visibility and potential reach blogging allows. There is something more public and transparent about blogging – while the goals of all three of these tactics may be similar, the first two are largely private endeavors, or at least endeavors confined to the feminist community where as blogging has the ability to garner support from the blogosphere, and internet, at large. This visibility makes it that much harder for the greater public to ignore our voices, and works to dispel negative stereotypes and myths about feminists and this movement by allowing us to speak for ourselves.
A second essential attribute of feminist blogging is the community it fosters. Feminist blogging is not just about emitting countless powerful voices into the greater consciousness, which is undeniably activism in its own right. It’s also about feeling heard and building supportive relationships. I’ve witnessed first-hand the ability of the internet to open up young women and feminists to a vast community of like-minded peers from whom we can derive support and with whom we can share knowledge. The power of this cannot be underestimated, especially for young women, like myself, who grew up in environments that were less than hospitable to feminist action.
While establishing our voices and a strong community is one of the great strengths of feminist blogging, critics often imply that this is our only means of activism, and that it is insufficient. The argument seems to be that we’re not organizing on-the-ground, and by failing to do so are sacrificing visibility and failing to achieve real change. We’re told that feminist blogging is a glorified echo chamber.
full article - bomb
our number of sexual partners
I know The Frisky tends to get a lot of shade for some of their content, but let’s not discount the dopeness. In a piece titled, “Girl Talk: I Lied to My Gynecologist About My Number of Sexual Partners” we are reminded that our sexual identities are not only sculpted by societal shaming, but inner self-torture as well.
I didn’t think I was ashamed of the number of sexual partners I’ve had in the 20 years I’ve been getting it on until I found myself filling in a number half the true total at a recent gynecologist appointment. Although I know doctors are trained not to judge, and this doctor in particular had been particularly kind, helpful and professional when I’d seen her previously, in my head, all of a sudden the number (at best an approximation as I haven’t kept an exact count in years) seemed like cause for alarm. Even if I never had to say it out loud and its size was simply one more piece of data for her to use in evaluating me, something about it made me erase what I’d typed in the online form and halve it. As it turned out, she didn’t even ask me a single thing about my number, so that fretting was for naught—except that it taught me a lesson: slut shaming isn’t just something other people do to us, but something we can do to ourselves.
The incident shook me up; I consider myself an advocate for sexual freedom and would never want to judge anyone for their number of partners, yet I did it to myself. When I actually recall the collected sexual experiences and lovers I’ve had, I’m not actually ashamed, because even the worst sex of my life and most harrowing relationships have taught me important lessons that I believe make me a better lover and better person. In the moment, I was making what I thought were good choices, whether sex for fun, for love, for the sake of experimentation—or all three. Do I have some former partners I wish I could completely delete from my memory, or go back in time and selectively not sleep with? Sure, but that’s part of life. If every sexual experience was perfect … okay, that wouldn’t actually be a bad thing, but it’s a pretty unrealistic standard.
full article - the frisky
an examination of tv’s older women
Yo girl, where’d your youth go? If we look hard enough we might find it on screens, and Jennifer Keishi has given us an excellent breakdown of what television is currently teaching us about aging.
More recently, The Mindy Project has added its sole older-woman character, an elderly medical office receptionist who doesn’t understand computers and otherwise barely seems to comprehend anything going on around her. Maybe this is just one more way Kaling, who was a writer and cast member on The Office by age 24, is working out her fears about whether her own relevance can last another several decades.
On the other hand, 2 Broke Girls, which is otherwise not half as clever as Mindy Project, has the late-20s main characters starting their own cupcake business under the odd mentorship of a fabulous, if often incomprehensible, Eastern European immigrant named Sophie, played by 51-year-old Jennifer Coolidge. While Sophie’s is in some ways the butt of the joke, so is everyone on this show—and Sophie gives as good as she gets. She also has a rollicking sex life with the girls’ diner coworker, Oleg. All of these shows could use more Sophies: older women who offer the younger ones guidance, support, and a vision of life beyond 40.
New Girl doesn’t have that, but it has offered perhaps the most balanced perspective on aging among the 30-ish-girl shows. One episode had Zooey Deschanel’s character, Jess, and her male roommates freaked out by a group of 20-somethings who move in down the hall and baffle them with their hipster clothes and names and lingo. The new kids mention they’ll be having a party, but Jess and company probably won’t want to come because, “It’s just going to be a bunch of young people.” The key difference here from the other shows: Jess and her three male roommates deal with aging on equal footing. While a later episode addressed Jess considering freezing her eggs, it did so with an appropriate level of alarm. It’s a legitimate issue for any woman in her thirties who wants kids but doesn’t want them now, but nothing Jess, in her early 30s, needs to panic about.
HBO’s phenomenon Girls takes us one step further down the aging anxiety spectrum, perhaps because its titular ladies are so very young. Fresh from college, the four women at the center of the show have (thankfully) yet to fret about their sell-by date. They’re too worried about figuring their current lives out. They are literally still “girls,” a fact underscored beautifully during the first season with Shoshanna making very adolescent “dream boards” and fretted over losing her virginity. They may make us feel old by comparison, but they also have an important message for any of us over 25: Getting older kind-of rules if it gets you out of the nightmare that is your early twenties. As 51-year-old blogger Sharon Greenthal wrote, “I don’t care if I’m decades away from the audience the show is trying to reach — it’s reached me anyway. I have high hopes for Hannah and her friends — that after they feel it all, they’ll be happy.”
deleting bad kids from the database
Every school is full of problematic children whose home lives are an even bigger nightmare than they are, and it is our right to ask them to be taken care of in some capacity outside the home. I can’t imagine being a teacher at any of the schools in my neighborhood, though. I listen to them in the school yards with no regard for authority and I don’t know how Michelle Pfieiffer ever pulled it off. Perhaps we are not asking teachers to strap on their leather jackets and get comfortable with Coolio, or even to give passionate speeches involving a metaphorical bus, but are we asking too much? Are teachers even making enough to survive? There is an ethical value of the educators’ dignity at stake, and if a student refuses to cooperate in a facility with no behavioral resources, how much more of the system can we demand?
To many, this is the point of choice: Schools need the “freedom” to boot out “bad” children who are messing up the classroom environment for everyone else. And there’s no question that expulsions are the most expedient way to manage classrooms filled with kids from all over the city, each with dramatically different backgrounds, ability levels and educational histories. Hiring counselors and other support staff for high-needs children (which J.’s school did not have) is expensive. Setting up behavior-modification plans takes time. Everyone is under pressure and on the clock to deliver testing results and keep “good” families from fleeing.
While dumping problem students from your books like a subprime loan is effective business management, it’s also a deeply unethical way to operate a system of public education. Any school operator who comes into D.C. should expect for nearly three of every four children walking through their door to live in poverty and for nearly every two in five to be diagnosed with learning or language challenges. You should expect to serve kids who have been bouncing around multiple schools, often coming from unimaginable home circumstances.
If you accept the challenge and run out of ideas, that is not the child’s failure; it’s yours. And when taxpayers pay for these phantom students that stay just long enough to be counted for their per-pupil allotment paid to the school, it amounts to fraud.
source: washington post: the root dc
cognitive behavior restructuring
One of the most amazing lessons I have learned in this year alone, that I wish someone would have told me years and years and years ago, is that just because you think something doesn’t make it true. Just because you feel something doesn’t make it true, either. In fact, often our thoughts are so distorted that we trick ourselves into believing baseless ideas because surprise, we’re good at making ourselves feel bad. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is not only the most effective modern therapy, it blows that Secret bullshit out of the water and allows you to assess your emotions from an intelligent distance. I cannot express to you how fucked up and insane you will realize some of your thinking is after practicing the discipline of simple exercises that can make a world of a difference on your mental health. Try some of the following tips below and I dare you to tell me you don’t feel better. You have to get off of Instagram for a few minutes, though. Consider yourself warned.
Practice Noticing When You’re Having a Cognitive Distortion
Choose one type of cognitive distortion to focus on at a time. Example: you recognize that you’re prone to “negative predictions.” For a week, just notice any times you find yourself making a negative prediction—for example, you might notice yourself expecting not to enjoy a party, expecting to feel too tired to exercise, expecting that your boss won’t like an idea, etc.
When you find yourself having the cognitive distortion, ask yourself: what other ways you could think? For the negative predictions example, you might ask yourself what other outcomes are possible. Try these three questions: What’s the worst possible thing that could happen? The best possible thing that could happen? The most realistic?
Track the Accuracy of a Thought
Example: Your rumination-related thought is “If I think a lot about my problem, it’ll help me find a solution.” For this example, you might write down each time you notice yourself ruminating (overthinking) in one column, and in a second column note if the rumination actually lead to useful problem solving.
At the end of the week, determine what percentage of the times you ruminated it led to useful problem solving? Another great idea is to record the approximate number of minutes you were ruminating each time you notice it. Then you can determine how many minutes of rumination you did for each useful problem solving idea.
Behaviorally Testing Your Thought
Example: Your thought is “I don’t have time to take breaks.” For a week (week 1), you could follow your usual routine and at the end of each day, rate your productivity on a 0-10 scale. For week 2, you could take a five minute break every 60 minutes and do the same ratings. You would then compare your productivity ratings across the two weeks.
Evaluate the Evidence For/Against Your ThoughtExample: Your thought is “I can never do anything right.” You could write one column of objective evidence (column A) that supports the idea that you can never do anything right, and one column of objective evidence that your thought is not true (column B).
Then, you’d write a couple of balanced thoughts that accurately reflect the evidence, for example: “I’ve made some mistakes that I feel embarrassed about but a lot of the time, I make good choices.” You don’t need to completely believe the new thoughts. For a start, just experiment with trying them on for size.
Mindfulness meditation involves picking a focus of attention, such as your breathing. For a set number of minutes, you focus on experiencing the sensations of your breathing, as opposed to thinking “about” your breathing.
Whenever any thoughts come into your mind, gently (and without self-criticism) bring your attention back to experiencing the sensations of your breathing. Mindfulness meditation isn’t specifically a tool for cognitive restructuring but it’s a great way to train yourself to be mindful (aware) of when you’ve become lost in thought. Mindful awareness of what thoughts you’re having is an essential first step in cognitive restructuring.
Self-compassion involves talking to yourself kindly whenever you have a sense of suffering. Like mindfulness meditation, self-compassion isn’t specifically a tool for cognitive restructuring, but it has that effect.
Example: you’ve done something silly and normally you’d call yourself a “stupid idiot.” Instead you take a self-compassion approach. You acknowledge you’ve made a mistake, that you feel embarrassed, and that this is part of the universal human experience. Over time, if you replace self-criticism with self-compassion, your thoughts will change. As you do this, you might notice your thoughts about other people becoming kinder and more accepting too.