I am a feminist. It’s an expression I started using after reading bell hooks's “Feminism is for Everybody” about 13 years ago. Sadly, I’ve been perpetually confused about how to be a “good feminist” ever since. Let me step back though. I really do believe that feminism is for everybody. If you want to disagree, that’s fine, but at least read chapter one, “Feminist Politics: Where we stand,” from hooks's book. It will take you 5 minutes.
For me, feminism represents a much deeper well than the equalization of women in our society, according to western values or any one set of ideas. I do think, at the time of this writing, addressing the oppression of women, both conscious and unconscious, is and should be the primary focus. But that is complicated as fuck. Especially if you’re someone like me who has literally been in the seat of privilege, not just in my gender, my sexual orientation or the color of my skin, but also in where and how I grew up.
I have never really been oppressed in my life, even as child I learned that I had an inalienable right to health, happiness and my fair share. That same right is not extended to everyone and that is something I learned entering my adulthood. I struggled to understand others’ perspectives, and further to take up their causes as my own. In response to a female coworker who was making less, I had an urge to storm into the boss’s office and demand “EQUAL PAY!” Yet, this too was just my privilege, like an uninvited umbrella, shadowing over her own voice and her own demands. So I recoiled, and simply told her I supported her in asking our boss for whatever she would. In that limbo I have spent most of my adult life as a feminist. Like an over-excited fanboy in the stands, screaming for the team, wearing the shirt and telling all my friends, “I’M A FEMINIST!”
Rewind to 6 months ago. It was a Saturday morning and I was dawdling around like I do, cleaning up the apartment. I disassembled piles that collected during the week, put items in drawers, shelves or wherever. Christina was in the shower listening, very loudly, to an episode of This American Life named “If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS.” I couldn’t help but be drawn into the episode. The first act included a writer, Lindy West. Probably due to her writing and presence in larger conversations, she had attracted a number of trolls, people who would just take every opportunity they could to say shitty things to her. But something magical happened with what was probably her worst troll. He apologized. In the above episode she spent time talking to him, picking apart why he trolled her, what his motivation was, and what he thought he might be accomplishing. Then something she shared from his perspective struck me.
“He told me that at the time he was about 75 pounds heavier than he wanted to be. He hated his body. He was miserable. And reading about fat people, particularly fat women accepting and loving themselves as they were, infuriated him for reasons he couldn't articulate at the time.”
Those first lines pulled at my heart, and I realized that while I detested what this troll had done, I understood part of it. I knew what it felt like to look in a mirror and feel shame, self loathing or even hate for my body. I knew the feelings of rejection and loneliness that a body of large size brought.
I finally knew how to be more than a fan of feminism, I would fight the proxy war of body positivity. If a guy hated his large body, how could he understand those who loved theirs. But if a guy loved himself, loved the large body he has, felt the acceptance of being a big badass, it opened him up to love and appreciate those women who did the same. And maybe join them in this together.
That is the purpose of this space. To promote self love, to promote the beauty of the body in every shape and size. To promote the unity of large men to the cause of challenging oppression of women, especially women of size. It's not a clear and certain objective, but I think that elevating dudes like me from self-hate and self-loathing is at least a step in the right direction.
Does getting dudes to have more self-love actually combat hateful, shitty perspectives?
Well, that's my theory for now. The complexity of how and why oppression/hate/inequalities exist is pretty crazy and I'm not here to try and deconstruct those. I just know that many of the terrible things I've done or said to others have come from my own feelings about myself. I think we need those working from within, so I'm giving it a try.
Does that mean this blog will all be heady, feminist theory?
Hells no. I’m writing up everything from style tips to product reviews to pointers on existing in the world as a plus size human.
Does this all mean I need to be a feminist?
Nope. I’m not trying to politicize or activate folks on the reasons I do the things I do. Not everyone needs to take on the mantle of some label or title. You do you.
Though if you’re an asshole, I’ll probably call you an asshole.