31 July, 2007

Invisible Illness Bingo!

ETA: New version is here.

Inspired by the now-classic Fat Hate Bingo and Anti-Feminist Bingo cards, I give you the Invisible Illness Bingo Card! All of these are things that have been said to me or people I know IRL. I know the design isn't too high-tech, but I'll save the super-fancy Photoshopped version for the next incarnation. Click to see a bigger version.

Also, I am now taking suggestions for Version 2, because there's more truly stunning vitriol and misguided "good intentions" out there, waiting to be assigned places upon an online bingo card. Leave suggestions and feedback in the comments, please.

25 July, 2007

"You're Just Not Trying Hard Enough": Notes on Disability and the Size-Acceptance Movement

Over the past week or so, I've been reading a ton (no pun intended) of posts on various blogs that are part of the size-acceptance movement. While I'm probably not what anyone could call "fat" [for the record, I'm 5'2 and weigh 142 pounds], something about these blogs has resonated with me personally. In recent months, I have done quite a bit of research on disability and its cultural meanings, and I can't help but notice the scary similarities of our culture's treatment of fat people and disabled people. An old post of Steve's, in particular, inspired this, so if you're going to blame anyone, blame him!

Before I go into this any further, I should bring y'all up to speed: I have a disability. Two, actually, if you count the cerebral palsy I was born with (the result of a premature birth), and the fibromyalgia that rather spontaneously developed last year. [Three if you count my experiences with major depressive disorder, but for this post, I'm going to focus on the physical.] Cerebral palsy and fibromyalgia can both affect an individual neurologically, and can vary from mild to very severe. I am fortunate in that my CP is mild; I can walk, albeit with a bit of a limp, and the muscles on the left side of my body "spaz out" on occassion and are a bit weaker than those on the right. In sum, I have an unequal body. Doing things with my left hand--the non-dexterous one--is difficult, possibly more so than most people think. Most of the time, I can manage just fine with my right, but the reality is that that the two will never be entirely equal. The fibro, of course, adds a great amount of pain and fatigue to my unequalized body, and I must say that it has been harder to deal with than the CP. While I sometimes get stares and occassional comments from random strangers asking about my limp, the fibro makes it worse, as it is difficult for me to even walk some days. I thought the stares from the CP-caused limp were bad--until the first day I walked with intense joint and muscular pain caused by the fibro, which made me move like a wingless stork on 'roids and attracted stares so intense that, by the end of the day, I collapsed onto my couch, feeling like someone had given me a colon-cleanse for my emotional state. Ouch.

In our culture, there is a certain standard of the white, heterosexual, not fat, able-bodied, attractive and preferably male subject. The fat person and the disabled person both buck this norm, often to the point of it being noticeable. For some reason, "normal"-bodied people love to stare and perhaps point it out, if they are feeling especially saucy. And yet, most people say they'd "never" stare at make fun of a person with a disability, or call them out. Our cultural conception of "disabled" exists as: a.) Someone in a wheelchair; or, b.) Someone who is blind and/or has a seeing-eye-dog. Hilariously, it seems to me that it is still acceptable to stare at people like myself, who "walk funny," or to ask why I walk funny.

It is still culturally acceptable, even encouraged, to make fun of "fatties." I have heard people say, "Wow, look at that fatass!" upon seeing a fat person cross the street, or stare and giggle at a fat person who is ordering a cheeseburger at a restaurant. And, though I am ashamed of it, I have never said anything or thought of saying anything until now. I am too familiar with hearing people try to hold in their laughter as I have stumbled around with my weak foot and aching body. I am too familar with people asking, "What's wrong with your foot [or feet]?", perhaps out of good intentions--nonetheless, one can be well-intentioned but entirely misguided. I know that if I were fat, it would be much, much worse.

Then there is the uniquely American trope of "You're just not trying hard enough." Feminist theorist and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome-r Susan Wendell explains:

[T]he idea that the mind is controlling the body is employed even when physical causes of a patient’s symptoms are identified clearly…The thought that ‘she could be cured if only she wanted to get well’ is comforting…to those who feel the need to assign a cause and cannot find another, and to those who want to believe that they will avoid a similar disaster because they have healthier, or at least different, psyches. (The Rejected Body, 100)

She's talking about illness and disability here, but I think it applies to fat hatred as well. We've all heard it: If she could stop eating, she wouldn't be so fat. If only she'd diet, she'd look so much better. If only she'd lose the weight, her health problems would go away! If you're fat and don't lose the weight, you're just not trying hard enough. If you're ill and can't get better, you're just not trying hard enough. You must be getting something out of it if you're still fat/disabled/ill. This person got better, and so can you! [Don't believe me when I say that these sorts of comments are made? Here's proof.]

The message that we cripples and fatties get, overwhelmingly, is: Your chub/limp/whatever offends those of us who are normal. It disgusts us, so you'd better make up for it by hating yourself, saying, "Yes, I am too fat; I wish I could be thin," or "Yes, I hate having a disabled, non-normative body; I wish I could be like everyone else."

I propose the following: We STOP buying into this load of bull, starting today. We realize that whether you are rich, poor, fat, thin, able, unable, of color, female, male, neither, both, gay, straight, trans, in between, none of the above--judging based on outside appearances is a shitty thing to do. Give everyone who's ever stared or made rude comments the finger by refusing to go along with what they want to put you through. Stare back.

Other people to blame for this post include Rio, Kate and The Rotund. Thanks, ladies.

23 July, 2007

Dumbing it Down With HilDu

Hilary Duff would like you to know that she is not a feminist, no siree!

I'm not, like, a crazy feminist. I think women definitely need men. Like, I couldn't imagine having a girlfriend!

KIDS THESE DAYS. How many times do we have to tell 'em that "feminist" does not equal "man-hating-lesbian?" Also, I didn't know that having a girlfriend is a requirement for being a feminist now. How quickly the rules change!

If you are feeling particularly masochistic, go read the whole thing.

21 July, 2007

Saturday Doggie Blogging

Really, this is just an excuse for me to post a picture of Winston, one of my Yorkshire Terriers:

15 July, 2007

In Which I Defend My Near-Irrational Hatred of Musicals

In recent weeks, a number of people have asked me whether or not I'll be seeing the remake of John Waters's classic Hairspray. My short answer is "No." Since I am both long-winded and somewhat self-important, the post that follows is, for all purposes, the long answer.

Normally, I detest remakes, but there is one film genre that I detest even more, and that is the Musical. I love John Waters like my dogs love day-old scraps of meat from Whole Foods--which is to say, a hell of a lot. The original Hairspray, which I consider to be one of the best moviefilms ever made, was/is not a musical. I understand that the remake is based upon the Broadway musical version of the film, however, one question remains: Why would you produce a remake of a musical instead of a remake of the film upon which it was based--when the film was, well, way better?

Additionally, why on Earth would you cast John Travolta, who is arguably one of the least talented actors to ever leave his horrendous marks upon the world of modern film, in a major supporting role, especially when the original performance cannot, in any estimation, be topped? Travolta's utter idiocy surrounding his role has been covered in more detail by various bloggers, so I won't go over that.

Anyway, I hate musicals**. I hate musicals because they are sunny. I hate them because the main characters are almost always young, good-looking, able-bodied, and always in pursuit of the Guy, Girl, the American Dream, or what have you--whatever they pursue, it is supposed to be Something That We Can All Relate To. I hate musicals because in the world of musicals, it is somehow "realistic" for characters to break into song and/or unbearably cheesy dance numbers. There are certain components of musicals for which I reserve the most scorn. In list form, these are:

* The Opening Song in Which All Major Characters and Conflicts Are Established
* The Song in Which the Protagonist Bemoans His/Her Lot in Life
* The Song in Which the Supporting Character Does the Exact Same Thing
* Song Wherein the Protagonist Falls in TWU LUV
* Song Sung by Antagonist
* Instrumental Dance Number or Dream Sequence
* Action Sequence in Which the Protagonist and True Love Sing to Each Other, Whilst One is in Great Peril
* Song in Which the Protagonist and True Love Declare Their, Well...Love
* Reprise!
* Giant Ending Song

Yeah, just like in real life! Turning Hairspray into a musical pretty much neuters the original message of the film, which was that "different" people are often more interesting than those who are constantly trying to live up to society's various ideals. How the hell do you put that into a musical? You don't.

My ideal musical would be offensive, slightly disturbing, very, very dark, and only include musical numbers in, say, dream sequences. The score would be co-written by Diamanda Galas and Laurie Anderson, with lyrics by Tori Amos and Jarvis Cocker. Also, Willem Dafoe would have to appear in it at some point, preferably in a singing role. Icelandic music video director Floria Sigismondi, I'm sure, could potentially make a fabulous set designer.

Anyone want to volunteer any story ideas for an offensive, dark musical? Thus far, I'm calling it AnnaHam Presents: The Darkest Musical Of All Time.

**Except for Dancer in the Dark, because it's one thing most musicals are not: DARK. Also, Bjork is in it.

06 July, 2007

OH MY GOD...I forgot that I have a blog.

I know that everyone is probably clammoring to know why I've been MIA for more than a month. The simplest and most truthful explanation is that blogging, like many other things that I don't engage in regularly (including watching reruns of Project Runway, eating French fries once every few months, and indulging in rounds of noisy Scrabble with my crew), tends to get lost in the shuffle of daily life. Shameful, I know.

While indulging in one of my rather infreqent lazyfests last night (which involves sitting in front of a television equipped with cable and watching whatever catches my interest--this can be anything from TMI-filled documentaries about gastric bypass surgery to American Chopper), I caught, quite by accident, an interesting half-hour of television entitled Hey Paula, a series which purports to follow former pop sensation and erstwhile paparazzi magnet/Simon Cowell foil Paula Abdul as she navigates life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Watching Hey Paula is somewhat akin to watching someone get punched repeatedly between the legs, while being hung upside down by their feet in a glass cage, which is then suspended over a tank full of acid while a group of hungry sharks (that can, weirdly, somehow survive being in acid) swim in it. The glass cage, of course, is liable to break at any second. The person who is in this situation, additionally, has volunteered to do this on national television**, which makes it somehow worse. This is a strange scenario, certainly, and, much like what we witness on Hey Paula, is almost funny in a grotesque, David Lynch-esque way. Though I wanted to end up rooting for Paula while witnessing her consistently erratic and bizarre behavior during this particular episode, there was something slightly disengenuous about her repeated claims that she was, and is, "just a regular girl."

Paula Abdul is not a regular girl. This seems obvious, yet some people seem to inexplicably love the fantasy that their favorite celebrities are just like them. Paula lives in a gigantic mansion in Los Angeles. She is wealthy. She is an entertainer. She is a "judge" on a show that is arguably one of the cruxes of the American myth of celebrity, fame and fortune. She is the product of a culture that emphasizes a notion of instant celebrity, of breakthrough, of the belief that anyone can be insanely famous and therefore "successful," provided that they express talents that are safe and culturally acceptable.

Fame is not regular. Fame and "success" are not the default cultural positions for Americans. And yet, many people, particularly people of my generation, seem to think that being famous is not only desirable, but realistically attainable. And I have to say, I do not understand this drive toward fame and fortune. It seems stressful. Tiring. Perhaps a little scary, especially if you, like Paula Abdul, agree to have cameras follow your every move. Talk about not being able to fulfill cultural expectations--some of these famous people are the blueprints after which young people are supposed to model themselves! How odd such a role must be.

When I see interviews with "MySpace celebrities" trying to increase their level of fame, or pop stars trying to make comebacks, I am perplexed. Why would someone voluntarily subject themselves to being under a cultural microscope? Is it for money? Do they believe that fame will cause them to be "loved" in some way?

This is probably a theme that will be explored in other posts, because I sure as hell can't think of a good way to end it.

**Beat that, Fear Factor.