Body Positively Shamed

Fashion is made to become unfashionable.Coco Chanel.png

I am a shapely thing and by shapely I mean I have a shape. Round is a shape. I think at my smallest weight post-puberty I was maybe 180 lbs. I’m also only 5’1’’.  But in all of that, I’ve always struggled with finding myself “empowered” by my body. I’ve never felt attractive or pretty in conventional senses and I feel the most “in my skin” when I’m in costume. So with the recent trend of “body positivity” I’ve been caught between a rock in a hard place.  How does one stay true to who they are while also embracing positivity and not shaming anyone and not be shamed themselves?

I’m not one for crop tops. I’m not one for super short shorts. I dislike short skirts and dresses. I don’t like showing off my stomach and if I can hide my imperfections, I’m much happier in a one-piece swimsuit than a bikini: hell, I just recently started swimming in just the suit and not in a full t-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit. But with this lovely trend of “being body positive” and “ignore the haters” it’s been encouraged that women of all body shapes should wear whatever they want. And they should. If it makes them comfortable.

I love seeing big girls in crop tops and skinny girls in oversized t-shirts. I love seeing men in skirts and women in suits. Wear whatever the hell you want. But don’t feel like you have to compromise who you are. At the end of the day, I’m a relatively conservative dresser (even in costume be it male or female). As said before, I’m not comfortable showing off my midriff. So even though I think the girl on the boss rocking a crop top is fierce, it just isn’t my style.  And I will never condone anyone shaming someone who feels comfortable in what they’re wearing. It’s difficult seeing plus-sized models rocking an outfit and being shamed online with some of the most hateful venom I’ve seen online. It’s disappointing. What’s even more disappointing is mentioning that it isn’t exactly my style to wear something so short and being told that I should just “loosen up” or “be more in tune with myself”. I am in tune with myself. And that means I don’t want to show the world my stretch marks.  

Body positivity from what I’ve understood it means accepting who you are and I’m not ready to accept that I have zero torso and wide hips. I’m also getting older. I’m a Southern lady. There’s no excuse outside of a Truman Capote beach party that I as a person pushing 30 to wear a mesh crop top. No shame to the gents and gals at Pride rocking the same look, though. I’m short so that doesn’t mean that I want to wear heels that would make it easier for me to reach the dishes on the top shelf. But it comes from a legitimate place. Women’s bodies are hilariously (and by “hilarious” I mean it’s demeaning, cruel and disgusting that this is still a thing that happens in 2017) policed by mostly men and sometimes other women. Women are told not to wear certain things and they become the targets of criticism if they dress a certain way. And with such a history of being told what and how to wear things I get how bigger girls and guys can bristle at being told simply to lose weight or diet before wearing something. Fun fact, if it was that easy sometimes to lose weight I doubt obesity would be the problem it is in most of the developed world. And there are such a variety of body shapes that occasionally even relatively healthy people can be bigger in clothing sizes then you’d expect. Additionally, telling plus-sized models all the “health problems” that come along with being of size is just tragic at times. I am fully aware that my size puts me at risk for countless things, you know what the number one cause of mortality is? Being alive. If cheesecake shortens my life then viva la cheesecake.

But one thing I keep coming back to is there’s a difference between dressing for your body and dressing as you want. I can’t wear maxi dresses, I’m short, I look like someone threw fabric over me and left me to rot in a cloth coffin. Ill-fitting clothes, shorts that are too short and show me more of your business than you may expect and other moments when fashion fails you are somehow different from “policing bodies” as it is just “fashion knowledge”.  

When I was younger, I loved What Not to Wear and I still love Project Runway. Fashion is important to me and knowing how to dress your body is vastly important: and it’s easy to be a feminist and still desire modesty. I don’t consider myself any less a feminist if I’m showing off my neckline than I do if I’m covered up. And what I wear to mass or a sacred place is vastly different than what I’d wear out with friends or even to convention. There are sometimes that certain pieces of clothing just aren’t appropriate and claiming “body positivity” isn’t helpful when it’s used to excuse inappropriate fashion choices. A flower crown may be great for Coachella but less than ideal for a job interview.

I mentioned cosplay earlier and it’s one I wanted to pick back up briefly. I started cosplaying many years ago and quickly felt uncomfortable as insert generic Japanese school girl costumes. So I found crossplay and made a mark cosplaying as male characters. I felt far more empowered bound and in pants then I ever did in a skimpy miko costume. Suddenly, if I was objectified, it was on my terms. Suddenly, I had control over how much skin I was showing. It wasn’t until I was much older that I felt comfortable cosplaying Fem! or female characters again but I did so my way. I don’t show a ton of skin. I keep my dresses and skirts long. I cover up. I wear tights and usually shorts under dresses. I pick alternate character costumes and the times that I do show off skin it’s for small photo shoots. And it’s my history with cosplay that made me so comfortable at times ignoring or augmenting clothing items. When you’re my height and weight it’s very difficult to buy anything off rack to tailoring, hemming and adjusting colors and seams became second nature.  The additions or subtractions got to be fun signatures to me while also asserting that somewhere under the confused former punk turned prep aesthetic of my current wardrobe that there was something uniquely me in there somewhere.

The moral of the story is stay confident in what you want to wear. I leave the house plenty of times in a graphic t-shirt and a skirt or skinny jeans and I’m damn near 30. Tall girls, wear heels. Short girls, wear flats. Men, continue to slay the makeup game and contour better than me. Wear what makes you feel comfortable. And respect what others are wearing to make them feel comfortable. For so many people fashion and what you wear is so much more than just fabric. It’s an expression of gender identity. Of pride. Of what you love and what you stand for. And whether you’re out and proud or modest, be kind to each other and what their wearing. Each outfit tells a story and each story deserves to be told.

Pride vs. Performance

 

pexels-photo-211882.jpegI didn’t know how to write this post. I didn’t know if I ever wanted to really write this post. But let’s do it. Let’s talk about LGBT Pride and how 2017 has been one of performance for the LGBT community and those allied with them.

I’ve been vocal about my support of LGBT causes and those affiliated with them. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t take umbrage with the way the current American LGBT community behaves. Bisexual erasure is still a huge problem, current SJWs tend to be belligerent when they should be empathetic, and there is still a very problematic vision of what being “gay in America” looks like. But gender and identity questions aside, the pride community despite its flaws does its best to support each other at least in pockets. In pockets, the LGBT community can be loving, supportive, revolutionary. It was on the shoulders of community that Stonewall revolutionized how queer people were treated and it was in the shoulders of community that RuPaul helped shape the world we live in now. In these pockets of community, despite the pain of the less than ideal bunch, we grew and got better.

2015 had a landmark choice in the Supreme Court that paved the way for marriage equality all across this great nation. But that didn’t remove homophobia and transphobia. Shortly after were a string a “bathroom bills” and other flat out awful practices and legal nonsense. But yet the LGBT community  persisted. Strides were made. Idols created. Role models shaped.

And then Trump somehow won the presidency.

With him and his gaggle of GOP goons he could stand to turn on its head all the progress we have made so far. With him, “traditional” views returned to the collective consciousness all the while queer people are even more transparent than ever. So now despite many of the LGBT community already being out and already bring proud now we have to be even more so. I know more than one person who while “out and proud” still don’t participate heavily in pride activities because of some of the hypocrisies within the community.  But now the enemy is at the gate. Hell, he’s inside the gate. The wall has been breeched. The Vandals are inside the walls.

Bob the Drag Queen said it the best: now we have to be even more out and even more proud. Now we no longer have the luxury of hiding in our respectively gay homes. Now we must take to the streets draped in rainbow and clad in glitter to fight the menace that has breached the our inner sanctum. But what about those that who didn’t want to leave their hidden queer residences? Do we have to stand up, too?

Apparently so.

Recently, I took to wearing my LGBT pride shirts out and about. I’m proud to be part of this community. I’m proud of the allies. I’m proud the individuals, but I personally do take issue with some of the concerns listed above. But sometimes extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary support. It feels a little bit like the post-9/11 world. Remember how aggressively patriotic we had to be as Americans? Remember how important it was to be an American? Remember how violently any detractors were treated?

So if this is our Second Stonewall, I will fight at the barricades with you. But know that I am aware of the flaws in this barricade. Know that I am concerned about the hypocrisy. Know that my protest is not in compliance. Know that my support is not blanket. I am here for those who need a voice, but that will not silence my own.

Happy Pride, everyone.

 

Recommended Reading for the Care and Keeping of Your Amanda

Over the past convention weekend Carlos and I were able to air a few of our grievances and we both decided to work harder on being empathetic to each other and he came up with a rather brilliant idea:

Why don’t we each watch one of our favorite shows? That way we can better understand each other.

He offered for me that I should watch [REDACTED: did you think I was going to out Carlos for a blog post?] for him and for me he said he’d watch Gravitation. And that actually gave me a lot of pause (not that his answer was wrong or anything).

What would be the things I’d ask someone to watch/read to help better understand me?

Let’s start with the example Carlos gave: Gravitation. He’s not off the mark. I did spend convention dressed as the main love interest, Yuki Eiri. And I spent the weekend talking about the series a lot. I analogized a moment between me and my ex as one of the scenes from the anime. I sang the anime’s songs. I had a great time. Gravitation is, was and probably will continue to be one of the most important series in the world to me.

But why?

Well, to put it quite simply: I connected with the characters. Yuki Eiri is a stylized blonde version of me and I saw that from a very early age. Finally, a character in a TV show who had to act in many ways the same way I did: putting on a brave face of charm while slowly but surely having to cope with a past too dark to see the light. I loved the music, the animation, the darker storylines in the manga and I could relate to almost all the characters in the series (Except for you, Shuichi, you pink-haired ball of failure and forced happiness.). I empathize with Yuki, I sympathize with Ryuichi. I want them to be free of Tohma’s tyrannical control while simultaneously wanting the same charm, tact and strength that he has. Never before had a series so casually brought up mental illness for me (Yuki Eiri suffering from bipolar II and Ryuichi Sakuma suffering from what if often said to be schizophrenia but is probably dissociative personal disorder). These characters suffered; they had dark pasts but all of them, all of them were more than their collective histories. They wrote their own destinies (some more than others) and that really stuck with me. Besides, I make for a very handsome blonde.

Another great example series for understanding me has to be the obvious: Fullmetal Alchemist. God, this series meant the world to me when it came out. Imagine me: 14 years old, having just 2 years ago buried my father, living with my far too conservative aunts. I was angry. I was sad. I felt like I had no voice. And then busts through the door of my life a short, angry 14 year old blonde boy who faced similar loss and circumstances and took his destiny into his own hands. Edward Elric was my avatar to help me cope with the grief of losing a parent. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone. Suddenly, I had someone who understood my pain and on top o f it, he used science, logic and pragmatism to help him solve problems both emotionally and physically. Additionally, he also wasn’t always positive. He was sad, a lot. He had to be talked up a lot. He wasn’t alone. He had so much love and support around him and that made me feel much less alone in my own life.

Let’s move on to one more example and a more recent one: Twittering Birds Never Fly is a splendid yaoi manga and for the love of all things good and holy I never bonded with a cast of characters more. Which is probably troublesome since the series follows yakuza boss, Yashiro and his gang in a painfully emotional journey that shifts between love, angst, insecurity and the pain of wanting to feel but having to keep on a mask that you sometimes have to keep on because you think that mask proves that you have strength.

Is there any required listening? You bet there is. But sorry, it isn’t all happy stuff. It’s a lot of Panic! At the DiscoGood CharlotteGreen Day and Blink 182. These bands helped give shape to the tangle of feelings I had inside during my less than ideal teen years and if you give a listen to my mp3 player on shuffle, a clear image of who I was and who I came to be starts to form between chorus lines and guitar solos.

That was a fun exercise in self-exploration.

What pieces of media help those you care about better understand you?

Leave your answers in the comments below. This is a safe place. There’s no judgement here, just acceptance.