Being the Funny Fat Person is Serious Business

Funny fat people squeeze their way into the tight pigeon hole of stardom by fulfilling fat fallacy. There is a sense of security and empowerment in the notion that when we’re in charge of the fat joke, it’s ok for the audience to laugh at fat bodies. Similarly, I learned that to survive the playground bully calling me fat, all I had to do was laugh with them, making it possible for me to be in on the joke rather than the victim of it. I latched on to being the proprietor of laughter, getting to the fatty punchline quicker than my enemies. My biggest hit as a 12 year old chubby girl was making a funny face where my double chin multiplied into 12. While I never wrote a joke, I could always make a whole room laugh at my body as a caricature of fatness, so that my audience could be comfortable with the “elephant” in the room.

Garnering laughter for positive attention kept space between me and harmful insults, but they both shared my body as the punchline. Coming into fat-acceptance consciousness often stares directly into the face of learned coping skills. Once one realizes that telling self-deprecating jokes feels just as shitty as being hurled insults, the laughter loses its feeling of security. After the laughter fades, a more serious fat performer is left standing under the proverbial limelight sans jolly material. The audience is uneasy if and when they realize they are laughing at the body and not the joke.


Healthcare starts with a focus on height and weight. It’s the first recorded stats after a baby is born. There are no less than one thousand reasons health is focused on thinness as a virtue, so it’s no wonder that thin people (and some fat people) see fat people and wonder, “What went wrong?” The assumption is made that everybody, especially women, is working to attain and maintain “health.” Health is in quotations because “health” is usually a code for “thinness,” as BMI and the social constructs it inspires dictates. Those who haven’t reached their “healthiest” peak are constantly pressured to present and perform.

Natalie, the plus size influencer and fat activist that makes up Nataliemeansnice, recently asked her audience, “Can you imagine being as unbelievably talented and having such an incredible career and list of accomplishments as Adele does and all people can talk about is your weight?” When fat people are surrounded by comments about how proud spectators are of Adele’s weight-loss, it serves as a reminder of how much weight conformity and thinness is valued over anything else. “Good for her,” comments are made from an assumption that Adele’s thinner body is not only an improvement of her health, but also an improvement of her overall wellbeing. There is no proof that either of these assumption are true. Adele has not made her any comments about her weight-loss and she does not owe anyone an explanation. The only thing these assumptions do is inform the fat people who hear them that you can have more Grammy Awards than your fat arms can hold, and people will still praise you more for becoming thin.


Even when I was holding a big foam finger to my fatness, I knew I had other talents that were more impressive than simply living hyper aware of my “shameful” body. However, no matter how I packaged my skills, like singing or making art: unless I was exclaiming that I was doing it in spite of my fatness, my audience would tell me how brave I was. Which was also to tell me, “you’re so brave for not waiting to lose weight before doing this publicly.”

The demeaning undertone of calling a fat person “brave” is unintentional, based on one’s own relationship with their body and the virtue of thinness. Since healthcare in the United States relies on weight being maintained against the Body Mass Index, we are conditioned to believe that those who fall outside the chart are doing a poor job with their health. When a thin person who values thinness sees a fat person, their internal bias informs them that this fat person has already failed at something: Attaining thinness. I’m using the term “internal bias” because most fatshamers lack the intention to hate or harm fat people. However, unintentional bias like this can act as an insidious undertone in communities, causing real harm to fat people in a systemic way. We should be encouraging to call out internal bias by its true name: Sizism.

Fat folks who don’t care to conform to thinness are pushed into harmful, hateful stereotypes like “lazy” and “careless.” If a fat person wishes to be taken even remotely seriously, they must be well-groomed, reserved, and working towards “health” as others see it. If a fat person wants to be respected, it seems that they must let the world know they are aware of their fatness as a problem.

I find myself working several times harder as a fat person than many of my thin counterparts to shed the lens of failure. When I was bullied in grade school for my size, I learned to find personal pride by finding value in myself that wasn’t informed by how I looked. I threw my heart and soul into vocal training. I enrolled in a tech school to get my cosmetology license. I ran for president of an extracurricular program and won the election. When I graduated high school, I finished with three degrees in my hand. These documents served as an exhaustive list of qualifications on why I should be respected. On paper, I was no less than perfect.

Perfection is something I’ve been practicing and performing as an indicator of my worth since I stopped telling self-depreciating jokes about my weight. I don’t speak without being certain that I’m well-informed because many people link fatness with low intelligence. When eating in a group, especially around new people, I’m hyper vigilant that the food on my plate is well balanced because many people link fatness with gluttony. Whether health studies or social constructs are recognized as classist and fatphobic, many fat people learn to play the part of the “Good Fatty” to protect themselves from criticism because no matter how talented we are, there is no escaping thinly-veiled fatphobia masking as health concerns (pun intended.)


Sometimes, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that my personality and strengths are a reaction to abuse. My eternal need to achieve is because I see my value through my accomplishments, which have to outshine others in order to been seen before my fatness. Dedication to peak perfectionism has reared its ugly head in ways I didn’t anticipate, too. I am committed to being the perfect friend, the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect employee. Anything less than perfection feels like a big fat failure, because my productivity and how I can be of use to other people informs how valuable I am. Each time someone accepts a piece of what I have to offer, I feel rewarded with approval.

Understanding that fat people are often painted like failures regardless of any of their hard work is not to say that being a high achiever as a coping mechanism is bad. Coping is a way to heal, like a bandaid protects a wound. There’s a voice in my head (re: my therapist’s voice) that reminds me that being committed to being a good friend is a positive trait to put energy into. However, there are times when an obsession with perfection that’s fueled by running from failure has turned positive traits into harmful addictions.

A Plump Wife and a Big Barn Never Did Any Man Harm

With no exaggeration, I’ve been so distracted by the need to be perceived as successful to others that I burned myself while cooking a four course meal for a large dinner party I felt I needed to host. I didn’t realize I had permanently scarred myself until the next day. I’m embarrassed to say that the burn felt like a trophy of what I’m willing to do to love those around me. It’s proof of how hard I worked, but I also now realize that it’s also a piece of me I’ll never get back.

The need for fat people to fulfil a lifelong quest to collect accolades or use humor to be in control or is exhausting and violently tolling, even if it can also feel rewarding. I’m quick to write stories about my resiliency as a fat person because maybe it will offer a piece to someone else’s puzzle in their own advocacy and self-discovery. I stand with open arms willing to give pieces of myself away because giving benefits whoever is receiving and it represents their approval of my high worth. If I am useful to others, there is a hope that a part of my personality will take precedence over any misconception about failure that is tethered to my fat body.

There are positive stereotypes about fat people, particularly fat women, that we hear about far less than the negative ones. Positive fat tropes are born out of actions fat people take to be valued. Fat women are often the emotional sounding board for their friends and loved ones, often welcoming and warm-hearted, and often open books about our struggles to build community and camaraderie. Fat women are healers. Our need to use humor to be accepted by others was just one way we proved variance in fat stereotypes. It is but one facet to a history of fat nurtures taken for granted.

I often dream of a world where my wheels don’t always have to be turning at full speed to prove that I’m not failing. I have wondered what it would feel like to stand still and breathe in success in the moment, rather than continuing to push forward towards a new achievement. I wonder if I stop climbing towards greatness, I will also lose all the worth I’ve built up. I feel conditioned to consistently and unrelentingly work hard be seen as successful, even though it’s rarely a compliment I receive from the thin people in my life. I hope for experiences where I feel wanted and adored without having to give parts of myself away to be worthy of it.

I like being the serious friend, even if it’s emotionally heavy sometimes. I like working towards awards and high ratings. I like being the smartest person in the room. I like feeling worthy in a way that highlights the things I’ve worked hard for, even if it exhausted me to do so. By recognizing the amount of energy I use in my quest for knowledge or greatness, I can hold boundaries in how much I give away to others. I can know to check-in with myself to make sure I didn’t give too many pieces of myself away in order to feel purposeful. I can also make sure that when I’m useful to someone else, they appreciate it instead of expect it. Knowing some people will always see me as a failure simply because I’m not thin has also helped me recognize how privileged I am to have the affordability to hold virtue through other classist structures, like academia and the arts.

The strengths and accomplishments I’ve harnessed as an entertaining, funny, smart, fat woman were built from trying to prevent the pain of disrespect. Being an accomplished person is still a complicated mess conceived from a need to be valued by others. As a serious fat person, I’m not as easily likened to a punchline. I am in control of my own narrative in a way that feels important, even if there’s more dismantling ahead of me. At least now when I tell a joke, no matter how cheap, it’s one I find funny, too.

On Being So Fat It’s Inspiring

I had once made a vow to never leave the house without lipstick. At 17, I was ready to commit to my persona. I would gather my small paycheck from working part-time in a popular mall to spend it all on MAC lipstick bullets, using beauty in full-forced defense towards the oncoming inevitable judgement in the thoughts of each passerby. My thick-winged eyeliner became a shield, which seemed to grow like a vine to become a permanent fixture on my eyelids. Though I wore heavy make-up as a young teenager and was often championed as “fierce” and “bold” by my peers, I simply saw it as practicing an art.

In these years, social media blossomed into a full-fledged pastime and I was quick to share my craft with the world. I uploaded photos of my face often. It wasn’t long before my dedication to public displays of unwavering existence that my visibility online was hailed as “inspiring” and “brave” by my internet followers.

I had always recognized that I took up more physical space than my peers. Though with this knowledge, I never pinched my body rolls in hatred or looked at the mirror in disgust. Delving deep into my past, I remember having crushes develop naturally and being treated as any other awkward tween during my most embarrassing puberty-driven experiences, regardless of being the chubbiest girl in my 5th grade class. It wasn’t until bullies evolved and began finger-pointing, while exclaiming metaphors matching my body to objects much larger, that I started seeing how my body made outsiders react. In my 7th-grade history class, a few rotten male students called me “the ocean” while they threw pens at me. Our teacher was quick to defend them because “boys will be boys.” Through a handful of tough school bullies over the years, I was reminded time and time again that I would live through all this and be stronger for it. This was work I had to do as a consequence for possessing this body. After feeling sorry for myself for a few short moments, I could always pull myself up by my bootstraps and go on living. I didn’t have a problem with my body, and I was making a choice to keep it. The bullying was my cross to bear. It wasn’t bravery and it wasn’t survival. Yet, when I retell the story when a girl posed as my friend, only to reveal private details from the life of the Girl Who Isn’t Upset That She’s Fat to her actual friends, I am awarded ribbons and medals. I must be so strong and heroic to have overcome such targeted hatred.

Yes, in high school I packed on the cover-up, wore my eyeliner as shield, and I made my lipstick oath to myself. I cared very deeply for my aesthetic. I wanted to paint myself as someone who hasn’t built walls with words like “even though I’m fat.” In my eyes, I had nothing to make excuses for. I paraded myself on online because sticking my face out on those social platforms allowed me to be in charge of my very new, strong persona that I was dedicating to control. My face told a better story than my words ever could.

My eyes have always been the bluest blue. I always wanted everyone to see right through me, put their hands through my eyes and into my brain, and see all the things I wished and tried hard to be. A therapist once further explained, “you have sad eyes.” I thought back to the ocean in which I had been compared to a few years prior. I am a vast vessel in which so many living things circle inside daily. I have highly sensitive currents which make up my machinery, none of which are focused around my body, but rather all the things nestled inside of it. This was the moment I came to terms with dealing with depression that was unrelated to my bully endurance or possibly body issues. I may have a full aquatic underworld behind these blue eyes, but deep waters can lead to shallow ground. My therapist spoke of courage and endurance when we tackled the subject of my sadness. I only envisioned effortless floating.

singing

College was when I chose to swim. During this time, I would sing in front of an audience of 400. I would have my writing published in the school paper. I would ask people to hang out after only talking to them for five minutes. I savored every experience I could get my hands on. When I walked through campus one  blissful day during my junior year, I overheard one half of a couple say to the other, “If I looked like that, I’d kill myself.” I didn’t run and hide or yell obscenities at them in my own honor. At first, I was shell-shocked. I’ve often flirted with the idea of killing myself, but never because of my body. It was always because the voice in my head was sadder than my personality. The voice in my head has been tired and broken from trying to reflect on these comments thrown at me, one sharp dagger after another. The voice in my head has meticulously molded a shield of thick, sharp eyeliner and stocked up on lipstick packaged in bullets to help protect my sad, blue eyes, which couldn’t hide the self-hatred that has proven much larger than my body.  When I walked to receive my diploma, built on unique accolades and experiences, my peers and elders hailed me once again as “promising” and “fearless.”

When I was applying for jobs that could become careers, I ran through the vocal recommendations that people had given me, based on my past success: I’m the brave, strong, courageous, promising and fearless girl with sad eyes. To sum up all these words that never agreed with me, I can only think of a conversation I was never meant to hear: “It’s like she’s so fat, it’s inspiring.”  My thoughts were rarely driven by “If only I was smaller, I wouldn’t get harassed.” More often than not, I wanted to be so talented at something that my body was an afterthought to the discussion. I used my well-trained beauty routine to keep a space between myself and these words of encouragement because they were based off the idea that my body was the culprit. Each time someone finds me inspiring, it is because of the perception I’ve overcome so many obstacles with my heavy burden of belly and body. It is as if my success should not have been given to me, but rather I aggressively stole it back. I am stronger for being a thief of my destiny. I am viewed as a warrior because fat bodies so seldom see success and I seem to have tackled all my doubters down to achieve mine. I was brave for combating for my beauty and proving that I, a fat person, could see myself as worthy of trying. When I gather the reviews made by those I trust, they were all reactions to my lust for life in this fat body, rather than the impressive work I put into the world or the person I have come to be.

While the traditional young bully trope has stopped appearing as obviously in my day-to-day, the adult beastly counterpart prevails. At 24, a video I created for an online lecture was repurposed as a hate-campaign on the internet and edited in tandem with scenes from gore movies. Hundreds of trolls begged me to kill myself because I choose to live in my fat body so visibly. Though I struggled with suicidal thoughts during this time, it was caused more so by the fact that in spite of my words and hard research, that all strangers noticed was that I was fat. In turn, when I was hurt that my work went unnoticed, my consolation prize was that I was lauded as brave and inspiring for not ending my life when some other fat people might have ended theirs.

To live up to praise like “courageous” and “confident,” I’ll work myself tired to prove that I’m talented and smart. I’ll be funnier and more savvy than my neighbor. During the last months of 24 and into turning 25, I stopped wearing makeup every day. I stopped curling my hair and some of my fancier dresses have been left hanging in the closet. I am a fat girl with no daily frills, in an effort to highlight my hard work and loyal friendship. While it’s true any form of vicious bully has not stopped me from being my fattest, raddest self, they haven’t stopped me from succeeding on my own terms, either. I am not brave for remaining fat and visible.

I am a vast vessel of earned courage. I’ve lived full years of my life debating if it would be easier to go to work or to end my life, because my gears have been tired of working in double time so that my talent can be heard louder than my body. When I’m stepping out on a stage to sing in front of 400 people, the only thing I want to hear is, “damn, that girl can sing.”

U want it U got it

This is me. All of me. U want it? U got it.

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War Zone

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Art by Natalie Weinberg

My body is a war zone.

Sickly red poppies bloom along the expanse of my thighs, ocean waves rolling against the cellulite I was taught to hate, to sail away from as people tell me to keep my ships of self love anchored.
The rolls of my stomach lap over each other like prisoners contained in fabric, so desperate to spill out from their confines and be free from a crime they did not commit.
The tops of my legs touch in a no mans land that no one wants to invade and distant voices shout that I am not going to win this fight.
My body is a battleground because I have been taught that what I am is not to be loved but there is still fight left in this vessel.
Poppies will wither and fade leaving traces of scarred petals on my skin, pale and glistening.
The waves of my cellulite will roar unapologetic and loud, a tsunami of strength silenced by no man.
The soft delicate rolls of my stomach will breed love and warmth, a picture of health and comfort in cold winter nights that I will not hide.
The tops of my legs will touch because they are so full of love they cannot keep apart and I will not validate my worth by my desirability. I will not let my thick muscle and soft flesh halt my ability to be beautiful; they will help me run from negative self talk.
Yes, my body is a war zone.
But this war I will most definitely win.
— Lucy-Ellen, 19.

Hairy, Angry Feminist: Why I Put Down My Razor

As of October last year, I stopped shaving my armpits. Of course, I’d heard of other feminists doing it, and thought it was pretty damn awesome. Yet, I never mustered up the strength to throw out my disposable razors and go “au naturale.”

Oddly enough, I hadn’t shaved my legs consistently for about a year before I stopped shaving my pits. I didn’t really show my legs off, so didn’t see the need. However, every time I jumped into the shower, I always made sure my underarms were smooth as a baby’s bottom. That was, until the next day, where a furiously itchy, red, bumpy rash made my armpits feel like they were on fire. It was one particularly bad occasion that made me impulsively throw out my razors, and I have never returned to them.

I have always felt that body hair is a personal choice, so it never seemed like a big deal to stop shaving. I would love to tell people  I stopped shaving to fight the patriarchy and to combat society’s beauty standards, because that sounds much more impressive than “because I got a rash.” And whilst, I suppose, my passion for feminism has given me the carefree attitude to dump the razors, it was more for comfort than a political outcry.

However, it seems that regardless of my explanation, people always associate my hairy armpits with me being a bra-burning, hairy, angry feminist. Even when at my liberal and loving workplace, I have to cover up my underarms due to a few awkward conversations with customers regarding my body hair choices. I feel uncomfortable wearing tops with no sleeves, just because I do not want to have to explain myself everywhere I go. The stereotypes have already been set in place, and I fit all the criteria.

I am hoping that when I move to art university in a few weeks, that I will be among open-minded people who will not care about whether I’m shaven or not, but I know this is a pipe dream. I am always going to come across people who do not agree with me, and are not interested in my reasons for growing out my armpit hair, but I’m okay that. And I’m okay with being an angry, hairy feminist. I just wish everyone else was.

Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and Intersectionality

Tonight is MTV’s VMAs but as many previous ones, this VMA is not devoid of controversy. As the VMA nominations were announced, there were some high notes, and then there was Nicki Minaj. The rap artist expressed her discontent with the fact that her music video for Anaconda was not nominated for Video of the Year. This came as a surprise to her, and I assume many other people, considering the similarity between last year’s winner for Video of the Year, Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball. Both music videos were not only controversial, but they both broke Vevo records and had a large impact on pop culture.

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So why wasn’t Anaconda nominated? Nicki Minaj used Twitter as a platform to express her beliefs. She tweeted about how videos with skinny bodies are praised while videos, specifically hers, along with other black women, are often not acknowledged for their contribution to culture. This could have sparked an interesting debate on issues relating to body image, racism, and sexism. Instead, Taylor Swift took offense to the tweets and decided to respond.

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Instead of sparking debate and bringing a widespread awareness to the issue, many chose to instead focus on Taylor’s response that Nicki shouldn’t be “pitting women against each other.” A topic which often comes up when talking about Swift’s feminist values. Instead of debate, Taylor turned it into something it really wasn’t— a conversation about herself. Not only did Nicki’s tweets not mention anything about Taylor’s music video, it really had nothing to do with the feminism she insists on spreading— this ideal of women for women, instead of the complex issues that surround feminism and women’s rights, including intersectionality. Feminism is  intersectional, meaning that women also face sexism in relation to other parts of their identity. Women have different experiences based on these factors, and there are issues that go beyond just “lean in” and “don’t pit women against each other.”

So what is it about talking about womanism that makes white feminists uncomfortable? Why is it that when black women speak up on injustice they are overshadowed, shushed, and made to look like angry black women? Is it that they just don’t understand that WOC experience sexism and feminism a different way than them? Or is it that despite the fact that society apparently accepts minorities and curvy women, we don’t truly accept them when they’re in a state we’re uncomfortable with them. Despite the fact that more than ever we see scantily clad women, women with big butts, etc, we still find black bodies disgusting? Because white, straight, and cis is still the basis of beauty and worthiness in the mainstream media, other types of bodies are cast aside and seen as strange and gross.

When they are “appreciated” and “celebrated” it is often fetishized instead of being seen as both beautiful, normal, and acceptable. This is something that’s hard to admit. It’s hard to admit the deep seated prejudices we have. Society thinks that it’s accepting of differences, but turns a blind-eye to when instances like this happen. Instead of denying any prejudice, society should be admitting that there is a problem. As open minded as everyone seems to think they are, there are still deep seated misogynistic points of view  within even the most liberal and forward thinking communities. Once admitting this, society can have a real conversation and make steps to rid this prejudice from the our voting and judging practices.

Know Your Own Anatomy: Not All That Glitters is Gold

I never fail to laugh when my boyfriend tells me the story of when he discovered that the female anatomy had *gasp* not one genital orifice— but two. However, it made me question how in depth I knew my own body. It was a slightly awkward encounter when my notes on the vagina fell out of my bag in a photography class, and hilarity ensued when my peers realized that I didn’t know parts of my body.

It was only when I questioned them on which was the labia minora and which was the labia majora that the laughter stopped—we realized that none of us knew. I found that I needed to know this information not only for my own benefit, but also for the purpose of the discovery of my own feminism. I needed to know anatomical references in order to be a trans ally—to explain to people that not all women have vaginas, and that not all people who have vaginas identify as a woman. By knowing the anatomical break-down of the vagina, I can explain to people why this is.17002923122_464f9a31c4_o

I found that making the following photo-set not only allowed me to experiment with glitter (I was covered in it for days after), but also allowed me to test my own knowledge of a topic I seemed to berate people about. Needless to say, I knew hardly as much as I thought I did. I wanted to draw attention to what was happening inside our bodies, and combat the parts which were sexualized everyday, or are highlighted as being important on a body, such as nipples and hair follicles.

I would encourage everyone to investigate their own anatomy—as well as other anatomies— and to be honest about what you know about your own body. Be willing to explore your own body to see variation of anatomy. You may be surprised on what you know. 16381941044_0490de1906_o 16818146929_7ee20707cd_o

Girls Need Our Support, Not Our Silence

“What’s that there?” A grandmother points to her granddaughter’s belly. The girl is large. This is not an insult. She is very tall, very strong looking. Everything about this body exudes capability and health. For a group of women sitting in a nursing home, I am surprised that the body under scrutiny is that of a young, thriving girl.

Her mother looks and calls the girl’s stomach a spare tire. The girl turns pink but stays quiet. “We all have one,” the mother says. She is obviously embarrassed for her daughter, but does not defend her. I watch,uncomfortable. I know what it’s like to be the fat girl. The mother then redirects the conversation. “Do you like her shirt? It’s new.”

I said nothing. And I am sorry.

For women, there is nothing new or surprising about being critiqued for our weight, and yet I was still amazed when I watched it happen to someone else.  I don’t remember when or how I came to struggle with my body, or how I came to hate it, but for many women, it becomes just a part of growing up.  And in this one moment, I understood how insidious and normalized this behavior was. I could tell that this was not the first time this girl had been critiqued for her size. She blushed, and cast her head down, a sign of shame. Somewhere along the line she has learned  that her body is shameful and not worth defending. To her, it  was acceptable for her body to be pointed at and ridiculed in public, and that she is supposed to take this abuse quietly.

We wonder why girls as young as 10-years-old worry about their weight, and we blame the media. However, we fail to realize that we inflict just as much, if not more, damage on these girls. You may feel like you don’t have anything to do with this. You may think that you would never dream of saying these things to a child, and you may sincerely believe in all the lessons the body positive community has taught. However, that just doesn’t cut it.

It felt like a slap in the face when I realized that I had watched this whole exchange in silence. I had watched something that I morally disagreed with, but did nothing. As I watched the scene, I felt that I should speak up, defend her, but I didn’t. Part of me realized that my silence was the result of social rules—knowing that it was considered impolite to interrupt someone else’s conversation, but another part of me realized something much sadder; that my own internalized body hatred kept me quiet, kept me passive. I know what it’s like to be that girl, to be teased and joked about. I knew that deep down there was a part of me that believed that I still deserved to be spoken to like that, that I didn’t deserve to be treated with respect. A despondent piece of me tried to say that this was just what girls like she and I had to live through.

Everyday I have to reaffirm my body to myself—to tell myself that it is good, capable, and sometimes even beautiful. I wish it was something I didn’t have to do. It feels like an obligation, and sometimes it feels like I am lying to myself. It was with a sense of guilt I realized that my silence was only perpetuating this cycle. More and more young women would grow up and see their bodies as burdens. I should have looked out for this girl. As a feminist, I should have disregarded social codes and my own self comfort to reach out to her. It could have been a small gesture, something as tiny as saying “I think you look great.” This is an element of my feminism that is often hard to execute. The realization that I have to put myself out there sometimes, that people may think I’m being rude. However, I can’t even imagine the good it would have done me as a young girl to have someone tell me I looked fine the way I was. For so many girls, our compliments are pointed: you’d look good if you did this, if you lost a little you’d look amazing.

I have to remind myself that if I want women to be happy in their bodies, I have to do my part, no matter how small.

Nothing is ever accomplished by silence.

Stop Pretending

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 by Esperanza M


Stop pretending girls are ethereal beings instead of humans.

Stop feeling grossed out by nature.

Stop with your ridiculous expectations.

We have body hair, stretch marks, scars and birth marks.

We have biological functions and needs,

Blood pours out of ourselves once a month for days.

We are humans.

We are living beings.

Our bodies do what they’re supposed to do.

Get used to it.

Please.

Leak

 

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I wanted to create something that reflects upon my own sexual activity and personal choices. Such a personal subject can often become tangled in society’s expectations and change what I felt. I wanted to create something which does not say ‘”this is wrong and that is right” but to explore my thoughts at a point in my life where growth and reflection is important.

At the age of 12, my friends were wearing bras from Ann Summers, using tampons and shaving off all their body hair. I, however, was a late developer. I had no breasts to support, no period to block and little body hair to remove, but of course I joined in. Being a teenage girl was much more difficult than anything I have met in my adult life. I was bullied for the pace at which my body developed, both physically and sexually. Taunted for not yet starting my period, and mocked when tampons were found in my bag. Labelled ‘frigid’ for not kissing boys, but branded a slut for having a male friend. Being bullied is horrible, especially when you’re hormonal, confused and lonely.

Even as an adult, I am self-conscious about my appearance and how others perceive me. Since becoming an adult, I have taken naked photos— for myself, for others, for art, for whatever. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, it makes me feel good and encourages me to accept my body for the imperfections, slowly but surely.

Using this piece introspectively, I looked over intimate pictures of myself and analysed them. Body hair removed, makeup applied, nice underwear and questionable positions. Who was I really doing that for? I certainly do not spend my evenings lounging around in a full face of makeup, with baby smooth legs and French knickers. We’ve been conditioned since childhood to believe that is what counts as attractive and anything less is unacceptable. Instead of perpetuating the dishonesty, I chose to highlight the leak of a period as it is something many women experience but go to great lengths to hide.

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On the Bench

 

 Using embroidery I recreated those images but added more; more ‘natural’ elements which I had gone to such effort to prevent or remove before. I chose the medium of embroidery for its ‘imperfections’. There are a range of embroidery artists whose work I find intricate and vibrant such as Inge Jacobsen. However for this piece I took much more inspiration from the artist Sarah Walton. Walton’s work appears more like a threaded drawing than an embroidery, the images are simple and minimal. I looked at her embroidery “On The Bench,” the purposely uneven lines outline figures and represent clearly the intended image, yet smaller details such as shading has not been done in excess – often leaving negative space. This style communicates exactly how I wanted my body portrayed in these ‘threaded drawings’ – vague, imperfect and impersonal. I wanted to remove any sense of individuality, not to mask my identity but for the imagery to resonate with as many people as possible. 

Another artist,  Rupi Kaur experienced first hand how sensitive society is to the taboo’s surrounding menstruation when her photo was reported and removed from Instagram for containing blood. Kaur released on her Facebook page this statement—

10570451_821302664630678_486914682100446405_n“Thank you Instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. you deleted my photo twice stating that it goes against community guidelines. I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in underwear but not be okay with a small leak. When your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified and treated less than human. Thank you.

As a part of my final project for my visual rhetoric course I created this image along with a full set which you can view at http://www.rupikaur.com to demystify the period and make something that is “normal” again, because rape categories in porn are okay and objectification and sexualization are okay. People getting off on naked underage women, bondage, torture, humiliation and abuse are okay but menstruation makes them uncomfortable? That’s what this work is supposed to do – make you as uncomfortable as you should feel when you watch others get abused and objectified.

This just goes to show who is sitting behind the desk and who is controlling the show, controlling the media and censoring us.

Their patriarchy is leaking.
Their misogyny is leaking.
We will not be censored.

I bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. My womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. Whether I choose to create or not. In older civilizations this blood was holy and in some it still is. But most people, societies, and communities shun this natural process. Some are more comfortable with objectifying women, we menstruate and they see it as dirty, attention seeking, sick, or a burden. This process is a bridge between this universe and the last. This process is about love, labour, life, selflessness and striking beauty.”

Kaur hits the nail on the head. Periods are not disgusting, they’re natural and beautiful. I’ve often thought “I wish men were as repulsed by rape as they are by periods.” I hope this piece provokes more thoughts about our bodies and how they are represented. I will continue to take naked photos and I’ll likely groom my body as I do now. There is no wrong or right way to have a body or a sex life, but reflection and understanding of yourself is important. The natural should be normalized. Why should we perceive our bodies in any other way than how we want to? Hair, no hair, sexual liberation or a more private approach— we are all beautiful, we are all in control.