Well, I never got around to making that loincloth I had planned, but this week, my underwear practically fluoresced when the sun came out. Win.
More High-Fives Than You Can Shake A Fist At
Something felt different about this morning when I got up. I felt vaguely like something was going to make me angry and depressed. I’ve been feeling down and dissociated for a while now, but especially since earlier this week, when someone announced a call to action to protest homeopathy products at Shoppers (of all things), while I continued to discuss the pro-choice demonstrations. He looked interested when he heard the word “demonstration”, until he determined it was about anti-misogyny, and then made sure he was on the other side of the room for the rest of the night. When I walked down to the bus stop, the sun was covered by clouds that looked prepared to dump all over us. When I got to the meeting location we had agreed on, I discovered that there was just one other person waiting there. I felt as though I was being told, in so many subtle ways that I’ve seen before, that no one takes misogyny as a serious priority, and I’ll just be out there with my one companion because no one else can make the time any more. But as we approached the demonstration location, everything started changing. People were honking their horns, saying thank you, and giving me high-fives before I had even gotten to the same corner that I’ve been standing on for a month. Before long, we were joined by so many pro-choice allies that we outnumbered the pro-lifers.
When the sun started to come out, my underwear started to fluoresce (only a slight exaggeration) — it was like watching my clowning visibility super powers become activated by solar radiation. For the win. At every light change, people told me “Good work” or “Thank you for doing this”, and cars were honking at us from within the first five minutes until we dispersed over an hour later. I received just as many nods of support from drivers and high-fives from passersby. More people stopped to talk to us, picked up extra signs, and started picketing along with us. A few people even remarked that they didn’t even see the pro-lifers in their sandwich boards until we pointed them out. One woman told me she’s so happy to see me out there every week — she’s happy to see me — and my friend Gwen rode up on her bike to stop and give me a huge hug for the second week in a row. If I wasn’t wearing fingerless gloves, I think I might have bruised my hands from so many high-fives (one of which was through the sunroof of a passing car!) Combined with the success of last week, I was feeling like I was on top of the world. I felt empowered and affirmed. And I have been asked to do an interview for Y57 Media (a local youth-focused initiative that airs a co-op radio program). I’ll write more about how that went in another blog post. And that’s when the pro-lifers started trying to take our sunshine away.
“You Only Get Raped If You Provoke It”
This is what one of them told a fellow pro-choice demonstrator. I guess I know I’ve written a sign they can’t argue with when ideas like this start pouring back into our streets again. I had formally expressed gratitude for what I thought was influence on the part of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, for putting a stopper on their slut-shaming and rape-victim-blaming dialogue. I now take it back. The very idea that a human being can do anything at all to provoke a sexualized violation of their inalienable human rights can only be found at the intersection of slut-shaming and rape-victim-blaming. The above statement essentially means that the rapist is so completely helpless against his own carnal impulses, that it’s not his fault when he rapes someone.
Pro-tip: if you feel the urge to rape someone, call for help so you can be stopped.
The thing that pro-life rhetoric and rape culture share in common is that they are both rooted in misogyny, and both reveal a dialogue about the policing of women’s bodies. I’m losing my capacity to distinguish between people who uphold one but claim to renounce the other, because they are so intimately related to each other. In other words, my risk tolerance, as the writer of this article about Schrödinger’s Rapist would put it, is extremely low. And it has to be. Every week or so for the past month, a man who is utterly obsessed with both me and his ex-girlfriend sends me another text trying to claim his entitlement over my time and loyalty, or his now-tarnished reputation (which he blames on me) since he started stalking her and tried to make friends with me to pry into her private life. I attend events in a dimly lit pub with a community of people (both familiar and strangers) who have probably crossed paths at one point or another with a writer for Skepchick, who, since vocalizing her experiences of being sexually harassed and threatened with sexualized gestures through the same community, is now being held to blame for both the diminished safety of similar events that many other women also report and a sudden drop in female attendees. She spoke about her experiences because she wants to see a call to action to make a safer community. But don’t take my word for it. Read about it in her own words here. And when I stand out in the street, down to nothing but my underwear, to demonstrate against body-policing and misogyny, I get comments like…
“You Have A Very Sexy Body” And “You Need To Lose 20 Lbs.”
Somebody missed the memo on what “my body belongs to me” means. I mean, don’t get me wrong — it’s a fucking amusement park, and thank you for asking. But I’m not there claiming that space to collect admission tickets from prospective lovers. It’s also completely creepy for a total stranger to assume that I’m completely comfortable in my body — just because it passes for cisgendered and he likes the look of it — while his gaze burns laser-stares into my curves as he fantasizes about plunging into my Bermuda Triangle. I stand without a hint of shame, but whether or not I feel shame about my body is irrelevant to whether or not I’m consenting to the way he is gendering me and projecting his sexuality onto me. During a demonstration against policing of women’s bodies and blatant exhibits of misogyny. In the first week, I mentioned when a man acted towards my fleshing as though (to paraphrase) he had never before seen an adult female-bodied person in a bikini anywhere in the outdoors. And the man who walked up and tickled my armpit. Obviously, I’ve had some time to think about what these things mean (and about the elderly gentleman in the pro-life group who has taken to leering at me for extended periods of time since the demonstration at the art gallery), and the assumption of accurate gendering and entitlement to my body as a prospective lover are certainly wrapped up in these behaviours.
But the guy who told me I need to lose 20 lbs… From where did he think I have 20 extra pounds to lose? I currently weigh an average of 165-170 lbs and stand at a height of 5-foot-8. I have a metabolic disorder, as a result of both genetic inheritance and being starved in my natal home as a means to wield control over my body. My metabolic disorder made it pretty well impossible to keep weight on until just two years ago, when I finally started taking a medication to speed it up. Prior to the start of that medication, I have weighed as little as 120 lbs as an adult (at which time I was an inch taller), and had barely enough energy after a day at work at the doctor’s office to do as much as carry a box down my apartment hallway without collapsing from exhaustion. My body had no muscle tone at all, I was constantly freezing cold (my feet and hands felt like ice cubes), my skin was pale, and I was in a consistent state of fatigue (often complemented by a generous helping of all-over body pain). I was dying from weighing so little, and the amazing part was how much attention was lavished onto me by admirers of my boney frame (it was “normal” for me until I finally had fat — now I see how sick and emaciated I looked).
I can’t even begin to put into words how misguided this individual man’s idea of beauty is, and yet I know where it comes from, because women in mass media look like I used to, with very little variation. Women are worshipped for having the figure I used to. Worshipped and showered with positive affirmation for taking up as little space as possible while they silently waste away. Again, don’t get me wrong — there are women who are genetically small-waisted with narrow hips and very little body fat, and there is nothing wrong with their bodies. But there was something seriously wrong with mine, and I have no idea how much my life expectancy has been shortened from living for more than half my life without medical treatment for it. The first sign of my metabolic disorder should have been that it took until my senior year of high school to exhibit my first regular menstrual cycle or any visible sign of sexual maturation, while my oldest sister was made fun of for having adult curves at the age of 9. And when I went on oral contraceptives for approximately a year, the width of my hips and size of my breasts literally doubled (features I now use to make myself more visible).
P.S. I Have Rights, An Educated Opinion, And An Air-Tight Argument
I am not just a body. I also have the right to expose it within very loose legal restrictions. I have an educated opinion, too, and so far, have not presented any fallacious and/or poor-quality arguments in these demonstrations. If I don’t assert my rights, I am signalling my complacency with all manner of attempts to diminish, undermine, or violate them and those of anyone else I feel connected to because of our shared identities. And this is exactly why I’m demonstrating. My body is a tool that I use to gain visibility for my ideologies, experiences, and opinions. I am fortunate that I live in a city where the vast majority of people get that when I’m standing around in my underwear, yet I am well aware that is also wrapped up in my racial privilege. If I do nothing at all to fight for change, that change isn’t going to just be handed to me. People who have it worse than I do will continue to suffer under a constant trampling wheel of oppression, and I will find fewer allies in this world. I don’t find this an acceptable state of being any more. I don’t think this should be what normal feels like.