I love running but I hate getting sized up, which is what any woman is subjected to the moment she goes outside. And if you go outside dressed femme or sexy or working out or pregnant or discernibly Lady with a Body, it happens all the more. Guess what, fellows, I do not exist for your Boner-Scale of Awesome (or Fail)â„¢. After a near-lifetime of getting speculated on and checked over I’m about sick of it. Sure, you do it without thinking much. After all, why not? That’s what ladies are for, your once-over (and perhaps verbal speculation although that is not necessary every time), the quick way you decide Yes or No without regard to my personhood or my agency or my say in the matter (which is Nope).
The breathtaking scope and variance of the doodz who haven’t trained out of this culturally-assigned legacy is almost impressive in its nuance and the ways I’ve been evaluated and skewered or “approved”. Maybe some of these men see a buxom lady-jogger and it gets them going and they check out the bounce before off to get their shake and fries at the diner. Maybe some of them see a fat little potato-shaped matron trudging along valiantly but somewhat pathetically. Maybe my thighs are just right for their taste; but maybe my waist is too thick. Maybe my ass isn’t quite big enough although in general my proportions, yum. Maybe they like the lipstick and earrings or take offense at the dowdy sweatshirt.
I do not much care except to say you don’t have the right, and if there’s any part of you that thinks you do you are wrong, and I sympathize you were given this socially-prescribed birthright but as long as you employ it you’re seriously part of The Problem which is Vast and Boring at the same time. And I’m sure like me you want our daughters to grow up free to be people with agency who live in safety, not reduced to fantasy for whatever assholes come their way (nor scorned repeatedly and over and over again if she doesn’t make the grade, well wait a minute, none of us really can anyway), and I’m sure like me you want our sons to grow up respecting all people and sticking up for the women and children and otherwise-marginalized in their lives and showing integrity instead of being carbon-copy Apatowvian dickweeds who think men are center stage in their own comedy/dramady (either Alpha Male or Slacker Alpha Male) and ladies’ feelings are mostly just kind of jokes or Craziness or They Really Like Shopping Har Har!
And ladies. Seriously. If you think I’m running to pursue weight loss or fit into size X jeans or make sure to look good for my boyfriend/husband/coworkers? Nope. If you’re feeling shame when you drive by because my bodywork reminds you you’re “lazy” and “bad” (ZOMG you totally ate two slices of cheesecake last night!) that is seriously your call yet I wish you freedom from self-loathing (often disguised as weight-loss “empowerment”); I once bought this rhetoric, more or less, and I’ve left it behind (or continue to work to do so, rather) and Good Riddance. If you’re driving by and look me up and down and assess me as fat or slow and maybe not a threat, well, you’re certainly right about all that. Some day you’ll probably be fat and slow too, and about 80% of people breed so maybe you’ll be a Mama or step-Mama and get to find out what it’s like to carve out some Self-time in a culture that hardly allows for female imperfections or humanity, and maybe after a few years of exposure to that kind of thing when you see me you’ll stick your fist in the air and pump a Yes! because:
For me running is like every bit a visceral love, from the glittering water in the bay that looks so inviting but is cold and hostile, to the building 1324 long abandoned and faded to a pristinely-aged pink-grey of plywood bleached by sun and wind, to the sour-glue smell of the lumbermill and the attendant log trucks that blast by, to the intersection of Adams and Airport Way that today I have all of a sudden and immediate memory of the first time I saw the place, over 25 years ago, a memory called up; past the shiny, large Ford pickup trucks of the Latino workers with their Catholic church programs stuffed in the front windshield, past the glittering pelicans that dive and float in the treatment pond
I raise my hand and wave at every car or on-foot soul I see while I run. I can’t tell if people wave back as usually I have to get my eyes right back on the gravel-laden, treacherous sidewalks. In my ears screech the discordant disasters of Radiohead’s violence followed by their sublime, depressing, self-consciously drink-and-Robitussin-dose yourself on the couch at some party Friday night songs, the sweat is pouring off me and the sun feels better than just about anything.
Lesley writes on the all-important boner with “The Suffering Ween: An Important Social Essay” (satire alert).
Do not click on “Sexy and Pregnant: It Is Possible” (from womanist-musings.com) unless you can stomach the good ol’-fashioned lady-hate, which of course is amped up in these particularly specific and nasty little ways the minute a woman takes the step to become a baby incubator. Personally, never in my life has my body been more commented upon and groped by strangers.
Mamapoekie published two pieces having resonance for me today: “Respond With Sensitivity – Why Yelling Is Wrong And How You Can Avoid It” and “Out With The Negative… In With The Positive”.
The I-75 project by Norm Magnusson
Celebrate Bisexuality Day; I’m celebrating the same way I do every day: big a big ol’ bisexual. Did you know bisexuals are much-maligned, even within the LGBT community? Often portrayed as “confused”, unfaithful, or “greedy” (yes, greedy!) or my favorite, the sociopathic freak. Last night I watched an episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” where our lead criminal was a comely bisexual lady was also a mass-murdering, ex-prostitute, deeply-damaged-by-horrific-abuse (because all bisexuals are weirdos who had something terrible happen to them as kiddos!), manipulative and high-level identity-chameleon (now that I think about it the first episode of the entire series had a diamond-stealing, you guessed it, cold-blooded killing bisexual; then there was “The Enemy Within” about a murderous nurse who, uh, was a bisexual sociopath. This is that show’s sum-total bisexual treatment in one season plus change.). Or you know, most bisexuals are kind of like everyone else. People.
Incidentally the bisexual I thought of first thing when I learned it was Celebrate Bisexuality Day was Jeremy Brett, probably the best Sherlock Holmes ever, and you know I’m a huge Holmes-geek.
At Attack From Planet B we have a recap of Megashark vs. Giant Octopus. This film has serious merits and holds a special place in the Hogaclan esteem. First of all you have Deborah Gibson (yeah, that one) and Lorenzo Lamas (yup, that guy, and by the way, all my pregnancy ultrasounds were done by his brother – no lie); you also have an Asian male love interest for Ms. Gibson’s character (no – really!) and of course some wonderful implausibilities (warning: clicking results in spoilers). By the way please, please tell me Mega Python vs. Gataroid is real, and we will be seeing more B movies pitting 80s pop stars against the monsters.
Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950s; I want to get this so bad for Phoenix. She is an exemplary artist and loves creepy horror comics. I have not been able to find a lot of good examples. Contemporary ones usually have over-the-top rape and violence narratives, besides, much like me, I think the girl appreciates vintage.
I just ordered this pattern to sew my brother up some underwear (as per his request); today some stellar elastic arrived via eBay. Fabric choices: a lovely bamboo/cotton. I can’t wait to get started!
Finally: I am going to open up a homesewn shop here at the blog. Slow-sewing. What kinds of pieces would you like to see? (note: any feedback is not considered a commitment to purchase!)
*clap clap clap clap clap*
This is exactly what I would have said, were I half so eloquent. Now *this* matronly overweight Mama is headed out for my “me time” aka run and thank goodness I have that song on my iPod, because if I don’t listen to it in its entirety I may not be able to shake it from my brain for the remainder of the evening.
Keep running, and hell YES keep doing it for your reasons. They’re better than whatever any observer could possibly imagine for you. <3
I really hope that was a slow clap.
I love what you have to say about running and the body assessment. Usually my thought is, “Good for her,” regardless of what shape the body is who is running. I think that’s progress from “Oh my God my FAT ASS needs to get moving like that.” Which is what it used to be.
I never thought about bisexual portrayals in media before–mostly because I don’t think about bisexuality all that much except to say “Hm” when another celebrity comes out about it, or whatever. But you’re right. Even on Glee, which you would think would be pretty friendly about it given the show runner, the two bisexual females are both bimbos, and one is a vapid idiot while the other is a scheming social climber with no morals.
uh…. that’s why I like to run on logging roads? And/But seriously- I think there is a socio-cultural element to running in Grays Harbor that is somewhat “local”. When I run in town and/or see people (almost always ladies) running in town- I notice them and feel noticed because I don’t think it is a very familiar phenomena.
In Seattle (more of my hometown)- whatever: there is the Burke Gillman trail for working out, and Greenlake to run around, and I never really remember noticing anyone in the way you mentioned. Mostly because I think it was more common for folks to be out running (all kinds at all hours).
Out here in the “kah”- you see somebody running or walking and it’s ubiquitously, “Get on with your bad self!” At least from my perspective. Most commonly: high school students, grey-haired dudes- ladies of adult age, singly and in groups- walking fast and running. I think your reflection of your experience is valid and disquieting, but I am all the more happy to see you run on despite it.
Like many blog posts no couple paragraphs are the sum and summation of my experiences. Fer instance you could prolly look at my posts where I mention running & I’ll bet they’re all free of my cultural analysis re: body narratives & much more about the many joys of running. Just today, this is what I had to write.
If yer saying Harborites gawk, you’re right. If you’re saying there’s more running per capita in Seattle, I’m not so sure (when I run on/near the track I see a lot of running). If you’re saying sexist creepy narratives are more likely here than Seattle, I refute. When I lived in Seattle there were ladies getting raped on the Burke-Gilman. Sorry to be (potentially) a bring-down. Here are some kittens.
You’re right. It does help. 🙂
This shit used to keep me indoors, or if I was brave enough to go out I’d constantly change direction mid-route to avoid groups or whatever. I’ve been training for the Portland Marathon lately so have been running a lot and am glad to say I’ve pushed past it, both through talking myself down from the fear and through lots of runs where I’m not (visibly, verbally) harassed. I’ve gotten honked at a few times, but luckily I don’t hear most of what I’m sure goes on in peoples’ heads. The most verbal anyone has ever gotten with me was a teenage boy who saw the telltale blue tube coming out of my backpack (which I use on longer runs) and kept repeating over and over “That’s my Camelbak!”
It’s not completely gone, though. Sometimes, as I’m approaching a group (like the other night, the /night/ before school started for the year, middle of nowhere, 6 teenage boys standing next to their cars in an abandoned parking lot) I mentally practice the apathetic shrug I’ll do if someone says something, but luckily haven’t had to pull it out. Gawr.
I wrote “the doodz who havenâ€™t trained out of this culturally-assigned legacy”. That is not a referendum on ALL men (it’s an “if the shoe fits” kinda thing. If one reads and recognizes himself, he should thenceforth do better. If he reads and knows it’s not him, good!). Some men have been making these efforts and continue to, in fact one of them gets my (bisexual-and-all) monogamy because I respect him so, so much (besides being in love with him in every way). Good on him and the many men like him.
(p.s. what “helps”?)
(p.p.s. thanks for the comment as always!)
I’ve never experienced fear in part because I am not wired too fear-y (and wasn’t raised that way, as in overprotective parents/scary TV saturation) AND I haven’t been assaulted physically and/or have no associated PTSD. I hate it when I hear people tell other people to “get over” their fears. When there are real credible dangers it seems all the more trite.
Re: honking. I tell ppl not to honk when seeing a woman running/biking (my own mom did this to me recently while biking and we were along the highway which had CONSTRUCTION going and was all edgy and I almost swerved into a ditch). But I also laugh because of how the “friendly” honk can be misconstrued since we’ve had so many not-so-nice ones (for instance my friend A. just flips off whomever honks, it’s a reflex). Reminds me of this story of someone who honked at a car only to have the driver angrily make a gesture, forgetting I suppose his “Honk If You Love Jesus” bumper sticker.
I was thinking about that entitlement re: gawking at the laydeez. Men are culturally allowed ^^^^^ encouraged to chuckle at gawkers by drawling out “Hey, just ’cause I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu!”.
I’ve been trying to plan the perfect retort next time I hear it. So far all I gots is “It’s not a menu, she’s a person. I’m honestly wondering what right you have to announce your judgement that your boner approves, or for that matter, that people are just waiting to hear your opinion?” I know, I know, all my lightning wit replies are carefully thought out and rehearsed.
I do have to laugh at the idea we’re all just sitting around waiting for the guy to weigh in. “Thank you SO MUCH, and can I run by some other queries to your Esteemed Bonage? Like should I invest in mutual funds, and what color rain parka should I buy?” Divining rod, indeed.
You had recommended that I add “SOME” to stuff like this to remove myself from the group if it didn’t apply to me. It didn’t really qualify in this instance because (as you pointed out) you weren’t referring to all men. It just helped me end a 45-minute session of typing and deleting whatever point I was trying to make. What can I say, ya make me think. Maybe I’ll type up an email about it.
Also, (regarding a recent tweet) I don’t think anyone is ignoring your links. You just had a good post is all.
Oh right! I forgot about the “some” advice! Thank you for the reminder. Yes, I use this as an eval tool when someone’s writing another post dissing [some] white feminists. I don’t really self-identify as a Feminist but since I follow many feminist interests I get that whole, ears-burning thing.
Yer following me on Twitter… who are you? I’d love to follow.
I’ll be honest. For being a computer tech, I really suck at most of the social networking stuff. Twitter still confuses me. I have your tweets delivered to my phone, but most of it looks like great quips wrapped in code. So many times my wife has heard my phone going off and said, “Wow, you’re a popular guy today.” Then I explain, “No. Kelly is just on the Internet again.” 🙂
My Twitter account is also “Kidsync”. I tend to abuse online aliases. I only opened the account to follow you (awwww).
I don’t see my daily happenings to be interesting enough to tweet about. Most of my friends ignore my posts on FB so the posts are either very boring or they’re all uber-busy. Maybe a little of both.
“Awwww” indeed. I did bring a handful of tweeps (Ralph hates I ACTUALLY USE that term) to twitter from FB after I left. FB was too distressing for me (I left before “hide” but I don’t like the forced reciprocity anyway) and took too much of my time.
I am a tweet-freak and I admit it. 🙂
I’ve heard the argument about someone being “too boring” for twitter. The whole point of Twitter is nonreciprocal relationships, meaning I get to decide if your sandwich for lunch is too boring or not! I love more than anything to hear what people are doing in the moment. When we were on vacation it was Twitter I missed most of all amongst all many many online shenanigans.
Grays Harbor Gawker. Good read.
I think it was Plato who said “Gawk not, lest ye be- WOAH LOOK AT THOSE PEOPLE!!!!”
Thanks for the linkies, dear.
I completely get what you mean… I sometimes wonder if Burka’s might not be the next best thing.
I once had a guy tell a girlfriend (about me): well; she’s a wonderful girl, but she could bare to loose some weight. All the while that guy wasn’t the slimmest himself, never ended uni, had no job worth speaking of and wasn’ even goodlooking. What gives him the right?
How superfluous is our society that we put so much value on pantssize or looks.
Meh… topic makes me angry
I think this is why I’m so uncomfortable running in my neighborhood. The trails feel different. Everyone on them is doing something – walking, running, skating, and I don’t feel judged. I can’t handle the cars driving by and wondering what they’re thinking. I know that I’m horribly self conscious and that’s something I need to work on. My issue, of course. I love how you write. I truly do.
@Kelly- I’m saying there are less people out running in Grays Harbor than in Seattle, not less per capita. I imagine there is no dearth of sexist creepy narratives anywhere in the U.S., Seattle not excluded. I could say the world, but my experience is too limited to assume. And plenty of violent crimes occur on secluded logging roads, campus trails, small town sidewalks, and inside our homes. Main point? Outdoor runners are fewer and farther between in Grays Harbor than in Seattle and the average citizen appears to gawk more here, I believe, in part, due to their unfamiliarity with the situation. But that is just in part.
Remember, most women with body issues are too focused on themselves to give a rat’s ass what you are doing, and even those who are working through these issues can’t stop cold turkey. Kind of like those of us who obsess over the cleanliness of our homes are not bothered, and hardly notice the cleanliness of yours.
I don’t want anyone I don’t know to comment on my appearance whether they “think” they are giving me a compliment or not. I remember first noticing this when I was still a pre-teen walking down Lincoln St. and getting constant cat calls and honks. That takes the innocence right out of a fun trip to the 7-11 when you are 10 or so.
I saw an old man at a thrift store eying me the other day. I could tell he was working him self up to say something to me about my height or appearance. I gave him a serious knowing look and shook my head no in a dramatic way and kept walking. I thought he would get it, but surprise, he hunted me down and said something anyway.
I see what you’re saying about women “wrapped up” in themselves but disagree that women’s self-loathing has no effect on me; they are suffering but they are also Perpetrator as well. I spent years being a part of that too, perhaps not as drastically as other females, but I was a part of it all the same.
You’re right about “cold turkey” which is precisely one of the reasons I write about body image here and other places, including a criticism of such narratives. Not only do I think it’s not possible to just give it up (even if one has the awareness to do so), I have my personal history as a woman without a history of dieting, anorexia, bulimia, or a huge focus on appearance or weight-loss – and after my reading and study etc. etc. it’s STILL hard for me! (This is why I say I “continue to work” to leave it behind – because I haven’t left it behind). Sadly I think many women aren’t “working through” the issues very much at all – to judge by how popular the rituals of dieting and self-flagellation and weight loss are pursued. I can see it in other people’s eyes when they talk about how fat they are and their expectation I’ll make sure to denigrate myself and sign off on their Fantasy of Being Thin. However at this point I wouldn’t say I feel combative toward them (even if I believe I am rapier-like in identifying the problematic tropes in such typical thoughts and worldviews). On the contrary, I have a lot of empathy for all caught in the midst of this stuff.
Compliments from friends/family. You know for a long time when my mom would see me after we’d been separated she’d say, “You’re getting so THIN!” loudly and joyfully. In her family (and everywhere else) that’s such a compliment. Man did it irritate me. I wished she could just say, “I’m so happy to see you!” or “Seeing you again is so wonderful!” One time I told her rather acerbically that if I’d indeed gotten “thinner” ever time I’d seen her I wouldn’t exist. She eventually stopped thank God… and the other day at a restaurant I watched her start to say it to a waitress, then stop, and use the word “fit”. Hm.
I compliment women’s actions, clothes, accessories etc but I don’t do the “you look good” or “you look thin” thing for reasons above and a few more. I would love to talk to you more about this and get your feedback, next time we can meet for dinner/coffee.
I am so, so sorry for that old guy. What steams my dim sum is he thought he was doing something NICE.
It might be “your issue” in that you’ve internalized it, but I hope the stories here by my comment-ladies assure you that the source for these anxieties did not begin in your mind, and you aren’t being paranoid or weird. Run where you feel comfortable!
It’s not exactly related but all of this discussion reminded me of comments that I received about a year and a half ago after losing a bunch of weight. I had been exercising regularly for about 4 months. I was doing it partly for body image, partly because I wanted a change in routine, but mostly because I wanted to be stronger so that I could be more active (I want to hike the Grand Canyon again without puking). For the most part, the weight loss was a side-effect, not so much the goal. My cardio improvement was excellent.
Anyway, I had lost about 60 pounds and the comments were relentless. The saddest part was, none of the comments were positive. I wasn’t looking for positive comments, I was just surprised that ALL of them were negative:
“You need to buy new clothes. You look like a hobo.”
“What happened to your ass? It’s gone.”
“Are you sick or something?”
“You must be working too hard. Take it easy.”
But my favorite was when the HR manager at work took me aside and asked me if I was taking drugs. He was dead serious. I am 6’2″ and at that time I was 202 pounds. Seriously? I am totally on meth.
Shortly after that I experienced a shoulder injury (not related to the workouts) that took me out of the exercise routine for about a month. Then I had a bad “cold” for a month after that. I lost interest in the exercise routine and gained back like 30 pounds. The comments started back up:
“What happened to your diet?” (I was never on a “diet”)
“You were doing so well. What happened?”
“I’m worried about you. Once you turn 40 it gets so much harder.”
“When are you gonna get your ass back in the gym?” (I never went to a gym)
Like I said, I was doing it for myself, so the comments were more annoying than damaging. They’re just clueless as far as I’m concerned. It’s just hard to listen to these kinds of judgements. Especially when more than half of them were from friends and family.
I just roll with it though. Sometimes people just don’t think about what they are saying before they say it…including myself.
First of all it is TOTALLY related!
& wow… you got it from BOTH ends on that one. I am so sorry to hear about all those negative comments. Why is it so hard for people to refrain from weighing in? Sometimes when someone I know has lost/gained weight and references it I will ask, “How do you feel?” and then really listen. It actually works pretty good, maybe I should patent the method.
Interesting how many negative comments you got when you lost weight. From my friends’ experiences and anecdotes, if you are female and lose weight you get lots of praise (although the occasional snarky negative “you lost your ass” comments happen to!).
202 & 6′ 2″, that’s almost my husband’s specs exactly. And he certainly doesn’t look like he’s abusing meth.
I never said that self-loathing didn’t effect you. Of course it does! If that wasn’t the case it wouldn’t exist. What I said is that they aren’t focused on your weight/appearance because they are focused on their own. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. I am just thinking of this issue in the context of what you feel when people look at you running etc.
Yes, people are suffering and are also perpetrators. I think that is the same with many things such as alcoholism. This is a disease that a person has very little control over, yet their actions are often harmful to themselves and others, especially those who live with them. I see mental illness the same way. Something you have little control over, if any, yet something that can damage the people around you.
I think of alcoholism as a brain disease involving the dopamine pathway, a disease exacerbated by behavior and very, very difficult to overcome or manage for many people. Mental illness too, a stigmatized and under-explored field in our culture often misunderstood and maligned – as evidenced by all the bootstrappy comments out there for people to just “perk themselves up”. Not appropriate or relevant and potentially damaging for those suffering depression, etc.
While there are some women and men whose body issues are deep and pathological and tied to abuse or their parents’ NPD or whatever, for many people they are not. It’s those people I’m writing to here. It’s those people most body-image activists are writing to as well (although there are also many ED sites out there as well which I’m always careful to delineate my writings from, as in abovementoined underbellie link, as this is not a field I have expertise in). Those are the people who have the most power in making sure the cycle doesn’t continue to repeat.
Thank you for your comments and point taken; in writing about the experiences of body-policing it is important at some point to speak on all “perpetrators” and their varying motives/drives, etc.
I’m closing comments. Nothing personal and no one was naughty! I’ve just got other things to do today. Look for exciting Kelly-webaboom updates later today.