Paleo for Women
Evolutionary Health, Revolutionary WomanhoodNavigation
The modern notion of womanhood, in which women eat little, exercise a lot, have eating disorders and body image issues, and are expected to look like rails, fails women time and time again. The solution to that failure–to all of the pain, to all of the confusion, and...Read More
Our genes are the blueprint with which we were born, generated by millions of years of evolution. In this way, genetics provides the spectrum of health in which we get to live out our lives. Genes provide the text of each of our own Choose Your Own Adventure stories; we, in...Read More
Much like the wider society in which we live, the health world is biased. In the past, this was an overt bias, but today, it’s much more insidious. It’s hidden, and it’s sneaky. But it’s there. Researchers are mostly men. Doctors are mostly...Read More
This morning at 3AM EST, one of the most epic things to ever transpire on the paleo interwebs happened.
Unfortunately, none of us were awake for it.
Fortunately, well, it’ll last for the rest of the week.
It is, literally, the biggest sale I have ever seen, let alone had the honor of being an active part of. AND IT IS ONE OF THE MOST EPIC THINGS TO HAPPEN TO THE PALEO INTERNET.
I hate, hate hate hate hate selling things. It makes my skin crawl. (Imagine how my PCOS page makes me feel.) But this — well. This is something.
This is how excited I am:
This is the deal:
71 (!) ebooks on topics from cooking to parenting to acne–listed below–which total a value of over 1000 dollars (!), are now being sold for just 37 dollars total. That’s for the whole thing!
These include stellar and brilliant authors such as Seppo Puusa, who is my favorite acne-related health blogger and contributes to this sale the best acne resource I have ever encountered, Matt Stone, the controversial radical who contributes a book on the real poison behind veganism, and George Bryant with a book all about cooking a paleo Thanksgiving (which I have used and love!). Good friends of mine Bill and Haley Staley, Jimmy Moore, and Melissa Joulwan, are also on the list of all-stars.
Before I list all the cool books and stuff, there are two other important things to bear in mind about my own participation in the sale.
First, I am releasing my new book for the first time in this sale, and second,
I am offering a half off discount on PCOS Unlocked to anyone who purchases the bundle through me. Simply send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and at the end of the sale I’ll email you back a discount code with instructions.
My new, never before released book Birth Control Unlocked: Your Body, Your Options, Your Guide is a part of this bundle. It will later go on independent sale probably around $14, so if you read just one or two other ebooks in this bundle you’ll have gotten your value back, and then some.
You can read more about Birth Control Unlocked here.
I love sales!!
You might remember Todd Dosenberry (also known as Primal Toad) from the kick ass bundle he put together last January. This one has, however, blown that one completely out of the water. This bundle includes most of those, but then has 50 more still to go! And is CHEAPER.
Pretty freaking cool. Check out an itemized list of all of the resources and a jpeg of the ‘e-library’ below.
AND, don’t forget – 50 percent off PCOS Unlocked!
Good luck and enjoy the bundle if you choose to invest $37 in YOUR time and fertility and health and beauty and wellness!
Ladies! I am SO EXCITED to bring you Birth Control Unlocked: Your Body, Your Options, Your Guide.
This is the first, and it is the only, and it is the holy crap its about damn time resource for paleo women who are looking to be on birth control, who are currently on it, or who have been on it before and are reeling with consequences.
It is a map to the world of birth control, and it shares with you all the information you need to navigate it safely and happily.
(At least I tried.)
Anyway. This book details:
All birth control options, both hormonal and non-hormonal, and details all the side effects, benefits, and risks.
The health impacts of different hormones
How to minimize the negative health effects of birth control while on it
How to recover fertility and manage symptoms when coming off of birth control
How to have happy and healthy hormone balance no matter which birth control method you choose
Birth Control Unlocked is going to be available from this website soon enough (but honestly I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it), but before that it is a part of the Harvest Your Health Bundle Sale RIGHT NOW, and I can guarantee you can get it right now, through the end of this week! The Harvest Your Health sale is, legitimately, the biggest bundle sale that has ever hit the natural health world. 71 ebooks. 3 magazine subscriptions. 14 fitness plans. (Check it out at HarvestBundle.com)
The value? A whopping $1037.
The price we pay? $37.
That’s 44 cents a piece.
So anyway. Birth Control Unlocked, which is probably retail at the outside somewhere around 10 dollars, is going to be a part of this 37 dollar package with a bajillion other sweet books. Not too horrible a deal, IMHO.
Plus, don’t forget: if you haven’t yet heard: if you purchase the bundle through me, email me at email@example.com, and I will send you a half off discount code for PCOS Unlocked, too. Seriously.
In the meantime, Click here the download the table of contents or view below:
Again, for more on the bundle and getting this book through this ridiculous sale, click here: http://harvestbundle.com or the button below.
Today Paleo for Women brings you the five most infuriating statements to come out of Hollywood females this week, ranked from the”oh, that’s unfortunate” fifth place of Scarlett Johansson to Lauren Conrad’s “ohmigod-that-crazy-said-whaaa?” gold medal. They come from an article in the Huffington Post titled ”8 Sexy Celebrities Who Don’t Feel Sexy.”
The two runners up are Scarlett Johansson and Kim Kardashian.
Scarlett Johansson, first up, says “I don’t feel sexy, not right now.” Ok. Maybe she feels sexier after she’s showered or gone to the gym. I’ll give Johansson the benefit of the doubt. She comes in fifth place.
Kim Kardashian, the other runner up, says “I don’t find myself as sexy as everyone thinks.” Kardashian gets off the hook largely due to the ambiguity inherent to her statement. It remains plausible that she still thinks of herself as sexy. Not “as sexy as everyone thinks.” Fair. She could still consider herself a sex bomb. She passes under the fiery-depths-of-hell threshold and does not, like the forthcoming women, make me want to light my hair on fire in protest.
The medalists do, however, send me reaching for the matchbook. They have no excuses. Check it out. I might cry.
Third place is a tie. First up is Nicole Scherzinger. She says: “I don’t really see myself as sexy; I’m the biggest nerd I know.” To which I can only say: “please close your mouth, Nicole Scherzinger.” She does a major disservice to herself first and foremost. She speaks as though she cannot be sexy as herself. She cannot be sexy because of what she loves and enjoys, and she cannot be sexy because she doesn’t conform to some ridiculous standard of plastic, objectified womanhood. Please.
Maybe worse, though I am not positive, is that she speaks as though nerd and sex appeal are exclusive. To which I can only say “false!.” I myself am an excellent example of just how wrong she is. Her statement reveals that she thinks – or at least lets popular culture think she thinks, that being smart is a bad thing. As though all smart women cannot be sexy. As though all women being themselves in their own skin and enjoying their own hobbies is antagonistic to sex appeal. As though liking Game of Thrones automatically disqualifies any woman from the sexy category. Boooo hiss. Please don’t make it any harder for the rest of us to live out our own empowered sex appeal. Don’t let culture make you think sexy is a thin woman in a red dress and heels. Sexy is just as easily – if not more so – a woman in sweats and a Gryffindor scarf.
Tying Nicole for third place is Carrie Underwood, who says ”I don’t consider myself sexy. I am kind of a nervous person in general.” She gets the same critique, though with a bit less fire. I understand that she is nervous and self-conscious, and that is perfectly okay. Nonetheless – just because she is (and we are all) vulnerable to pressure to perform and to be confident and to obtain love, and because she feels uneasy – does not mean she cannot still love herself. Nerves are okay, if sad. Letting those nerves get in the way of your own empowerment, however — letting them prevent you from your self-loving goals – not okay. I hope all of us learn to embrace and to love ourselves and to live through our nervousness.
Jennifer Lawrence is the recipient of the silver ribbon — an infinitesimally close miss of taking home the gold. She says first “I don’t think of myself as sexy.” Okay, fair. Lots of women don’t, and all of these celebrities are guilty of that. She goes on, however, to say: “And, obviously it’s not true.”
To which I can only say, “we are not in seventh grade anymore.”
The reason this statement infuriates me with the fiery passion of a thousand suns is that Lawrence makes the categorical statement every single woman in the history of the world makes: “Obviously it isn’t true.”
No! Fuck you! How many times have you said this yourself? How many times have I? It took me years and years and years of effort to overcome this problem. It’s the world’s easiest cop-out and a frightfully obvious cry for someone, anyone, please, will you?, tell me I am wrong.
This is something I learned to do when I was in seventh grade. Probably sooner.
We as woman are told time and time again that our sex appeal is out of our own hands. We need validation from the outside. We need men to tell us we are sexy. We need other women to bow to us in sexy deference. And then – worst of all – is that it is never an internal feeling. It is only a descriptor other people can give to us. We make statements like the one Lawrence did because we have sacrificed our confidence and our sex appeal for the sake of false humility and this horrible culture that beats into us from birth that we are small and should always think of ourselves as small.
True humility is honesty, not deprecation. True humility is receptivity to correction, not rejection of inherent worth.
Finally, I do not know who Lauren Conrad is, but apparent she is famous. She wins. It’s not her fault. Same as the rest of these women. It’s not their fault. But her statement indicates something horribly insidious that lies at the heart of femininity in America today, and I’ll be damned if I don’t shout its rebuttal from my rooftop (or blog) every day for the rest of my life. She says: “I’m not a sexy person. I’m okay with it. I’ve never been the sexy girl.”
A) “I’m not a sexy person. I’m okay with it.” In this, Lauren commits the same sin as Lawrence. She goes even farther, in fact. “I’m okay with it.” Yeah, I get that. I’ve said it a thousand times myself. I even kinda like it. It’s acceptance. It’s having worth beyond sex appeal. But is it really? Is that really what she’s saying here, however? I’m not sure — I highly doubt it. Most women who say things like “I’m okay with not being sexy” are really saying “Please tell me I’m sexy. I’ve gotten really good at being self-deprecating, but that just gives all the more reason for you to tell me I am sexy.”
B) “I’ve never been the sexy girl.” This one takes the cake and is the one that has set my poor hair to frizzy ashes. The sexy girl. As if there can only be one. If that’s true, I’ll eat my own arm.
Conrad could not be more wrong about what it means to be sexy. Every woman (and man) is sexy. Every woman has sexiness inside of her, much as she and all these celebrities might deny it.
More importantly, however, is the fact that just because one person is sexy does not mean another person’s sex appeal is less. Sexiness is not relative. Sexiness is absolute. Sexiness is a fucking right, for god’s sake. Everyone’s got it if they will only see it. We should be able, as women, to delight in each other’s beauty rather than fear or hate or estrange ourselves from it. God damn. I want every single one of you – every single woman in the PfW community and beyond – to be extraordinarily sexy. And to be extraordinarily beautiful. It’s not going to make me afraid. It’s not going to make me jealous, or hate you, or resent you.
If you own your extraordinary beauty and hope that I do the same, then you will join me and every other woman in a community of mutual love and support. We will delight in each other’s womanhood. We will be strong, self-loving, and femininity-loving together. We will boost each other up rather than tear each other down. We will be a community of empowered, self-loving, self-determining woman, throwing off the heavy hand of American Sexism and doing things our own damn way. We are what we please, and it’s about damn time we stop pretending anyone else has any say over who we are or how we feel.
There are a couple of brief notes I should make before moving on for the sake of fairness. First, I want to commend these women, and to obviously give them as much love and support as possible. I have been flippant about their statements, and have even called them “sins” – though obviously what I have shared about each of them is a quote out of context from a very real and very difficult life in the limelight.
Second, what these women might actually be after is a move away from defining themselves by sex appeal. “I’m not sexy and I’m okay with that” might be their way to empower women in terms of other qualities. It’s not important to be sexy, in all honesty. Much as I’ve been ranting about it – hell, I called sexiness a “right” – there are still about eight million things it is more important to be than sexy. “Nice” is one. “Smart,” another. Now – I consider both of those things qualities that enrich a woman’s sexiness, but I appreciate the sentiment and want us to love ourselves first and foremost for who we are, and only secondarily to give that the mantle of sex appeal.
My definition of sexy is extraordinarily inclusive. I consider sexy to be a feeling. I think sexy is “excitement to be in the skin you’re in.” I think of sexy as ownership of our own selves, and of recognition of inherent worthiness of sexuality.
For that reason, we are all worthy of sexuality. We are all beautiful, natural, imperfect, alive human beings. We are all worthy of love, worthy of being loved, and worthy of loving ourselves. We are worthy of confidence. We are worthy of comfort in our own skin. We are worthy of life and dancing and strutting on the way to work, and of wearing make up if we want to or not if we don’t. We are worthy of our wardrobes and of flattering clothing, and of looking in the mirror and saying either “hell yes” or “it’ll do.” We are worthy of having acne or being overweight and still being hot, of being in pain or sick and still being sexual; we are worthy of sexuality because we are women and we are ourselves and we are alive, god. damnit.
To that end, I would like to posit an alternative to the statements above, in the form of an assertion of my own sexuality. I invite the rest of you to do the same in the comments. This is a community of love and support, so please feel happily free and affirmed. You will be affirmed by me and this kickass community no matter what, this I promise you.
My name is Stefani Ruper. I am a super young almost-25-year-old. I am inexperienced in life, but I try very hard to be good. I try to be kind. I try to be smart. I try to live a life of integrity and awareness. For these reasons more than almost anything else, I think that I am sexy.
I have PCOS. I have a sex drive maybe 8 percent of the days I am alive. I have acne scars all over my chin. I have comedones on the side of my face. I have always hated my thighs, and I spent my entire adolescence wishing for a thigh gap. My breasts are small and boring and I have one nipple pierced, not like it matters, except that it means to me every lesson of love and life I learned while living on the tiny island nation of Taiwan. For these reasons I am sexy.
By some miracle of my upbringing and location, I was a girl of rabid curiosity and anti-authoritarianism, which means that it wasn’t long before I took a long, hard look at the sexism in our society and said “fuck that, I would like to feel differently than just plain bad all of the time.” For that reason, I am sexy.
I love frosted flakes. One of my greatest feats is that I have watched all seven seasons of the West Wing in the span of four weeks. I have read several million words of slash Harry Potter fanfiction over the course of my life. I have a purple sex toy named Maurice. I almost never do laundry and I wear the same socks several weeks in a row. I prefer to work than to spend time recreating. Sometimes I spend all day in the library and don’t speak to another soul until 10pm. Usually I like it this way. I am anti-social on most days. On other days I am super social. When I day dream, it is always about dancing. For these reasons, I am sexy.
I am also a natural woman. I do my best to be in harmony with my body. I feed my body what I think it needs. I eat every single time I am hungry. I lay on my roof like a lethargic, passed-out lizard every sunday afternoon, and there I delight in the simplicity of my existence and the sizzling warmth of the sun on my skin. I have learned through years of trials that American society put me at war with my body but the best place to be is on her side, in her skin, working with her to do what needs to get done. I accept my illnesses. I accept my limitations. I accept my psychological scars. I work hard to overcome them. I don’t give up. I don’t let rejection worm its way under my skin. I get hurt and I hurt myself most of all, and some times I have done it real bad, but I have never given up. For that reason, more than anything else, I am sexy.
My name is Stefani Ruper. I am not afraid of who I am. I am nothing more, and I am nothing less. I think I am sexy. And I think you are, too. Thank you for bringing so much beauty into my life, even if you have never known it or thought of it that way.
Thank you.Read More
It’s funny. Sometimes I think I spend most of my time on this blog trying to drum up ways to legitimize inappropriate topics for it rather than actually writing. Fear of rejection? World of Warcraft? The nature of human community? Why not? I can manufacture a paleo reason to talk about anything.
Today’s topic, I do think, however, has serious paleo resonances. I do a lot of talking about the paleo diet, and I even talk about the paleo lifestyle, which includes things like play and ample sleep on this blog. And we like to talk about differences between how we live today and how, presumably, many of our ancestors did. How did they think, live, eat, sleep? Beyond that, even, we get to ask: how did they relate? Love? Act? Is that important for us now?
Sometimes I think what’s most important is not figuring out what ancestors did, but rather different things that we do in different cultures today, and comparing them. This enlightens us to how incredibly conditioned we have all been. For example, we know well that beauty norms come largely from culture. Whether we like big noses or small noses or men in high heels versus women in high heels is all a matter of perspective. We can dig deeper than that, however. What about our basic fears, our basic hopes, our basic loves? Here’s one example I’ll delve into at another point in time: consider the notion that we do not have capitalism because humans are inherently selfish, but rather that we are selfish because we have capitalism, the idea being that we have to become defensive and self-aggrandizing in order to be safe and hold our own. Culture over time can make us fearful and think of ourselves as more selfish than we are, and it sits so deeply in our psyches that it’s nearly impossible to find.
Which in a roundabout way brings me to today’s topic: why are we such a mess about death in American society?
I began having panic attacks about dying when I was five years old. I laid in bed at night, shaking with a racing heart, terrified of the abyss. I imagined winking out of existence and sobbed in abject horror. This was largely, I believe, because I was not raised in a religious or openly spiritual household that talked about that kind of thing. This notion, however, presumes that there is something terrifying at all that needs to be reconciled with a spiritual viewpoint. Why was I terrified of dying before I even read my first novel?
By the time I was in first grade, I had been exposed to two things. I was exposed to media in which death is portrayed as the one thing to fear and avoid at all costs, and I was exposed to our culture response to it. In TV and in movies especially we portray death as the ultimate horrible end. People and story plots go to the most incredible length’s to preserve lives — this simplistic and dramatic trope is, in fact, the dominant plot thread in most of Western story-telling. This indicates a more broad abhorrence of and distance from death in our culture as a whole, but in the media, and as a child, I was bombarded with it and all its terrifying might without context. Worse is the aftermath. We dress in black. We weep. We sob. We storm. We conduct solemn funeral processions that last days. 100 years ago, I might wear a black dress for a whole year if my betrothed happened to past.
I was exposed to a barrage of negative images around death as a child. And I am of course similarly exposed today: the act. The event. The response. All of it terrified me for most of my life. What is this horrible thing, this non-existing thing, this thing that everyone talks about in hushed voices only and that is far away from me, far away from my life, and this horrible, gaping, looming threat? Because the worst part of it all, to me, is that we continue to portray and treat death as the most abhorrent curse without ever sharing our experiences or thoughts or doubts around it.
The roots of the Western fear of death run deep, deep, deep, deep. Fortunately for me (!?), one of my specialties in my work as an (aspiring) philosopher is existential despair and dread and nihilism in general. So I have learned a fair bit about it and have come to grips with so much of it that I feel quite at peace with all of it now. There’s too much to go into in any great detail here, though our estrangement from nature, our (waning?) investment in supernatural deities, and our Christian/Judaic/Islamic heritage play no small role.
This, however, is not how it has to be done.
Consider the funerary practices of the Maori culture in New Zealand:
At one point while living in Taiwan I became close friends with a Maori woman. She expressed to me that she was puzzled over our fear of death. She thought (and I do now, too), that a great deal of it has to do with our cultural practices. For the Maori, when a family member is nearing death, everyone related is called to their home, and they throw a day, or two-day, or week, or however-long-they-choose party for the ailing member. They have festivities and the children gallivant and play out in the fields and everyone does what they can to be present with their precious loved one in the time remaining, full of laughter and lightness. And then they bid her farewell, surrounding her on her deathbed as she dies. If she does not pass, everyone goes home and comes back to Ethel’s Goodbye Partay 2.0 the next time she looks like she might be ready.
Being closer to death, this Maori woman I knew thought that it was less of a big deal, for one. She was familiar with it. She wasn’t raised to fear it, to cloth herself in black, to be private about her feelings, and to stand in awestruck terror in front of corpses. She was, instead, encouraged to be close to death, to be present with it, and to be familiar with its processes. Psychologists know well that a large portion of our fear comes from the unknown and from things about which we perceive we have no control.
Looking at this Maori culture demonstrates that we don’t have to be as afraid of dying as we have been conditioned to be. Many other cultures around the world shed similar light on the topic. Hell, Buddhists don’t think there’s a “self” that exists to die anyway, so what’s the big fuss about? Of course holding that belief and practicing is easier said than done, but that is the goal of much of the tradition. Non-attachment is the name of the game.
One more example is something – one of my favorite belief systems – called the Religion of Nature. One of its primary tenants is that we are inherently natural beings, part of a great cycle of good and evil and death and rebirth. It’s all inevitable. It’s all a part of the process. What have we to so intensely fear? Death is as much a part of life as anything else. In fact, one thing you may want to consider is a biological fact popularized (somewhat) and interpreted by famed biologist Ursula Goodenough:
Life used to exist solely in unicellular form. This form was, more or less, immortal. It did not have to die as it regenerated itself and reproduced. But in order to utilize more cells and grow into larger organisms, life needed to burn more energy. More energy meant more oxygen. More oxygen meant burning more strongly, more brightly. It meant that life became a flame that had, necessarily, to be extinguished. Death, it turns out, is the biological price of life. Without it, no advanced lifeforms would exist. With out death, so the evolutionary story goes, none of us would be alive.
All of which is to say that there are tons of things in our culture that make death more terrifying than it needs to be. The process of death as we portray it, and the way in which we mourn it, and the incredible, terrifying distance we give it from our everyday lives (not to mention our increased ability to avoid it with medicine…leading to an even greater attachment to immortality) is a bit absurd, and it’s everywhere. It demonstrates an underlying terror in our psyche, but we cannot chip away at that terror unless we start recognizing all of it’s sources.
And the reason I bring this all up, and on a paleo blog, to boot, is three-fold.
1) Anxiety is a huge problem for the modern world. A large portion of our anxieties, I think, lie in our unresolved feelings regarding both the deaths of those around us as well as our own looming mortality.
2) Looking at the variety of cultures around the world and at the variety of ideas out there like the religion of nature demonstrates just how culturally conditioned we are in our basic fears and hopes and loves and dreams. We do not have to be any particular way. We do not have to feel a certain way. There are biological imperatives, sure. Of course we do not want to die. Of course we want to be loved. But we have choice and agency and the ability to feel any number of different things. The only thing to do with that choice is to act on it.
3) If paleo is about natural stuff, and if my writing on this blog is about being natural women, then we might have the leeway here to consider what true naturalness means.
If you are attached to immortality, if you believe in God or gods or any number of things, or you don’t, whatever, that is awesome. I give giant thumbs up to all metaphysical views.
But we should, individually and together as a community of beings, to be able to, no matter what our belief systems, consider ourselves a part of the natural world, and love ourselves for all of that. When we wrap ourselves up in fear of death, and when we distance ourselves from it and erect barriers in our lives to avoid confronting it, we distance ourselves from perhaps the most essential part of being human. And of course we cannot ever learn how to love that part of ourselves.
We cannot–or at least I now refuse to–hate or fear or resent our bodies for degenerating. We cannot live in terror. We cannot fight constantly against a natural process and expect that we will maintain positive mental health. I refuse to be upset that I live so precariously on the edge of life. I am what I am–no more, and no less. I am a body. I am a woman. I am a speck of universe-dust come alive. More importantly, perhaps is the fact that death runs on its own clock. And as it does, I can only breathe. I can only peacefully accept my place in the overturning processes of the cosmos. I accept and embrace my fragility as it is, and do my best to live a life that floats among the chaos.
The universe is rife with uncertainty, though we can still be certain of our power and serenity as natural beings in a natural world. None of us can beat death. But we can dance against and around it, and live courageously into a future that is unknown.
My body is designed to be little. My hips are narrow. My knees knock together. My breasts are tiny. At 5’2, 98 percent of American adults have to look down to speak to me. Littleness has been unfortunate in many regards (having to stand on a bench to kiss people, for example), but it has also been a great delight. I can completely stretch out on a sofa. My clothing fits easily into small suitcases. And I can curl up in a seat on an airplane and fall asleep on myself without having to come in contact with people on either side. Littleness genuinely kicks ass.
On the other hand, over the course of the last several years I have had to seriously take myself to task for all of the other reasons I enjoyed being little. It was never just about the sofa or the suitcase or the airplane. It was also because I fit into the sexist feminine ideal.
Being little means that I am smaller than just about every man. I was once told in a bar that I am “5 foot fuck-all.” Crude, but accurate. Men are completely free to be romantically or sexually interested in a woman if she is smaller than he. It’s more of a gamble for the woman if she is larger: all of my taller or better built friends are far better women than I, but they get fewer hits on their OK Cupid profiles. With a diminuitive frame, I have the potential to be universally desirable as a romantic or sex object. Hooray.
Worse than that, it’s the same thing in the opposite direction. We women will usually only date or be interested in men if they are larger than we are. With obvious exceptions, humans all over the place are on the same page: men should be big, and women should be small.
This applies to skeletal frame as well as to total volume, height as well as pant size.
Now, of course: males are bigger and women are smaller. That’s how sexual dimorphism goes: its a fact of the species. But to be better because you fit into a culturally-conditioned sexist ideal that conforms to those standards? Gross.
As an example of how much the Western world desires physically smaller women, just for kicks and because my brain is overloaded on hermeneutic phenomenology this week, I’d like to point to World of Warcraft. It’s a fun and unique example, and a powerful one because it is about deliberate construction.
In one of the original versions of the game, called ‘Alpha,’ female and male characters were the same size. Players complained that the female characters were big and ugly, however, so game designers made some hotter and smaller ladies. To be honest, I am surprised at how large the females are. My experience and exposure to these kinds of games tells me that the female characters are horribly sexualized (see the last image), and also I know that they are smaller.
On the other hand, the WoW community is a bit more counter-culture and a bit less mainstream than, say, Cosmo or Shape magazine, so I am aware that the WoW picture is fairly complex and might even be laudably “progressive.” Look to the left and the right for the differences in image 1 and 2, and then to image 3 for the smallness and lack of musculature of female characters in general.
(images from the link above, a great site, btw)
Is it just me, or is there a trade-off between absolute height and musculature here?
These are just female characters, notice the lack of musculature:
However, it is quite cool how terribly bad ass each of these characters is, and I have a feeling they do more to empower than a lot of other images women might associate themselves with in our society.
Ok, that’s enough for my nerd. Moving on to the important part.
This whole idea applies to more than image, however. It applies to voices, to personalities, to muscles… to salaries… it’s all a part of the same paradigm, though here it manifests itself in our very physicality. Men are supposed to be big. Dominanting. Protective. Strong. Enfolding. The caretaker. Women are supposed to be little. Protected. Held. Dependent. The taken-care-of.
I crave these things, personally. And strongly. I was a princess for Halloween ages 4 through 9, with the exception of one year as a caterpillar.
I want my men to be large. More importantly, however, I want them to be capable of holding my space, to take care of me, to be strong, and to enfold and embrace me — physically and otherwise. I want them to be big not just in physical space but in personal space. The physical is important because it symbolizes and embodies the rest of it. With my desire for big, hulking men (women is a different story, and I imagine this is because I am okay with women being the small feminine ideal) comes a desire for big, hulking protectors. I want to be overwhelmed by the bigness of men around me and to be small in comparison.
I cannot figure out how much of that is the simple, universal human desire for love and protection in me, and how much of that is a sexist norm implanted deep in my brain. We all want to be protected, right? Is my desire healthy or normal? Or is it a sexist smallness that wants me to disappear into the dreams and power of a sex bigger than I?
This phenomenon is just as harmful for men as it is for women. Just as we are forced to be little, needy, taken-care-of, and the like (though of course we may resist and challenge the paradigm, as so many of the women in this community relentlessly do!), men are forced to be strong, to support, and to be fearless providers. The subjugation on one end and the pressure on the other are both enormous. What about as women our abilities and rights to be strong providers and take care of romantic partners? What about as men their desires and rights to be to be held and be taken care of by romantic partners? These roles are actively discouraged by gender norms in general.
As a species, females are smaller than males. This is a fact. That’s fine! Sexual dimorphism exists across the animal kingdom. But our abhorrence of female fat, female muscles, and any part of larger female stature is not a genetic requirement.
We know that it is less socially acceptable for women to be overweight than for men. That is in large part because we are still sex objects whose worth is somewhat predicated on the way that we look. I believe another part of that is that women are not supposed to take up any more physical space than they absolutely have to.
We as women can be physically small without fetishizing it; we can be smaller than men without having to be smaller than men; we can have smaller frames without being small beings. We can still be large or thick beings, can still walk with chins high up in the air, and perhaps most importantly we can still present large auras and big personalities and strong, vibrant bodies and souls.
Don’t let lightness norms fuck with your femininity. Being small and light and waify is not more feminine. Being healthy and fit? Sure. But little? No! Get out, I won’t have any of it.
To that end, I hope that all of us own the sizes of our natural frames and bodies, and own the sizes of our souls.
Let each of these be as they are naturally, and stand up defiantly against all that oppressive sexist crap that tries to make you small.
I know we cannot change the culture at large. But we can in our own lives at least stop trying to fit into it in order to fit in. The good girls and boys out there will never resent us making that choice. They will, instead, be happy, and hopefully be liberated in turn.
I believe in my big, radiant, strong light of a soul that refuses to be caged, and I believe in yours, too.Read More
It has been brought to my attention several times that my website has recently begun swimming in malware. This I know. Unfortunately, for a wide variety of reasons new word press installs have not gone well for us in the past, so I am having difficulty navigating this stuff right now. I know it’s a horrible pain in the ass. Please just know that I am doing my best and trying to get it up and running cleanly as soon as possible.
Thank you so much for your patience and love and support,