Monday, 26 October 2015

Body Shaming by Victoria by E. Amato

My relationship to Victoria’s Secret is basically: why are they so expensive? Why do their things fall apart so quickly? Why do they never fit properly? On their side, there's my old satin robe, which wasn’t expensive, doesn’t fall apart no matter what I do to it (like burn it on the stove when I'm boiling water for coffee) and has been reclaimed from the Good Will pile about a dozen times: I can’t let it go; I love it too much. It keeps false hope alive that one day, I will walk into a Victoria's Secret and find something that fits, that is quality, and that lasts. Also, it's kinda sexy.

Much of my life, I’ve had DDs or sometimes, even more. I’ve worn 36 and 38. I’ve discovered the ridiculous way the number size affects cup size – these assumptions that if you are skinnier around the ribs, your breasts are also smaller. I will never understand bra sizes. 

Finding bras is a challenge for every one who wears them. My last good purchase was at Intimissimi and before that I got some from Felina. Both brands have great styling, fit well, last long, and are a good value. Not cheap, but priced comparably to Victoria’s Secret, and they last about 5 times as long. But those brands can be hard to find, and bras need to be tried on. As I walked by a Victoria’s Secret, feeling that strange combination of desperate and hopeful, wearing my 34C Intimissimi demi cup that I love and that really needs replacing, I went inside.

First off – everything in there is padded. I’ve never needed or wanted extra padding.. I also have no idea what those pads are made of, if they let my skin breathe, and what toxins they are leaking. I asked the overly friendly sales associate (I hate the way they stalk you the minute you walk in. Do they think that's helpful? I think they are always just letting me know that they think I might shoplift.) for “unlined” and she showed me lightly padded. I asked again. She said she’d confused unlined with no underwire. I thought she should probably be fired, but none of my business.

They had two styles without pads in the whole store. Two. A t-shirt bra and another. The other is modeled completely on the Intimissimi bra I already had on - a total knock off with cheaper fabrics and construction, but the same price. (VS actually used to distribute Intimissimi in the US; presumably it's more profitable to just steal their designs.) There was a very sparkly bra that looked like something a six year old would really like, but no.

In the dressing room, I tried on the 34Cs I’d asked for. The t-shirt bra was too small in the cup - like way too small. The band had no extra fabric (which helps to hold on to when you are doing it up) and appeared to not have extra settings. Women have cycles, our bodies change within a month (I used to change so much I actually had to have different bras for different weeks of the month), it’s good to have a few hook and eye options. I tried the other bra; I was coming out of the cup. I know I'm not a D anymore. I mean, not even close. And good luck getting a D cup below a 36. I came in there wearing a bra that fits, and is a 34C.

In the  changing room, I had a momentary blast of…’Oh, I must’ve gained weight!’ And a tiny little red flush of shame. As soon as it surfaced, I laughed inside and called bullshit.  Just like dress sizes go down over time, in the boob culture of Victoria’s Secret, cup sizes need to go up! Pad them, demi cup them, push them – make the girls look bigger. While simultaneously, making them feel like it’s too tight around the ribs and they might be getting fat.

And then it hit me:

Corporate body shaming. 


Honestly, what a perfect strategy for hooking consumers. Make them feel sexy, but imperfect, and you have them hooked. With their sizing strategy, a woman who always felt she was "small" could feel bigger. A woman who felt she was fat would feel shamed. Both of them will come back for more. That's how body shaming works.

Marilyn was a size 12 in her day, which would make her about a 4 in today's sizes. Yes, fashion has been making women feel better by making the numbers smaller for decades. I recently found a cocktail dress I got for an event about twenty years ago. It’s a stunning black velvet one and a size 10. It used to be tight, but I wanted it and was unable to find it in a bigger size, so I bought it, starved myself the week before the event, wore control top pantyhose and sucked everything in. That’s how I used to do it. Now I buy everything too big, because I like to breathe. I put on this dress, thinking, well, it’s a size 10. I’m about a size 2. It couldn’t possibly fit me anymore.

It fit perfectly. 

Even with evidence of what the fashion industry does with sizing - statistics, anecdotal, observational - we still seem to let ourselves in for these games.  We pour money into companies that use our bodies as psychological war zones.

I don't want to be the one who calls out Victoria's Secret, the one who can't buy anything without thinking about the political implications of the purchase. I just want a new bra. But in an environment where one competitor has almost shut down the competition, it's hard to make that happen. I mean, when was the last time you were anywhere a department store to get to the "Intimates" department?

Expressing ourselves with clothes has been one of the few areas of creativity consistently allowed to women who could afford to do so. It has become part of who we are, how we identify ourselves, and how we fit ourselves into the world around us. We dress our mood, we dress our role, we dress for the event, we dress for effect. It would suck to have to trade the fun of dressing up for our balance and dignity. It sucks that the huge amounts of money women spend on clothing and accessories isn't enough to get companies to stop trying to get more of it and to respect us in all our shapes and sizes.

…unapologetic feminist, dulcet-toned poet, activist, film-maker, editor of Zestyverse” (LossLit) E. Amato  is a published poet, award-winning screenwriter, and established performer. She has three poetry collections by Zesty Pubs: Swimming Through Amber5, & Will Travel, and is a content writer for The Body Is Not an Apology. She also has a special relationship with Marmite.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Quote of the Week - Luscious Jackson

"Faith will come humbly down.
Fear will come tumbling down."
~ Luscious Jackson

Sometimes I forget  how much I love Luscious Jackson! Then one of their songs floats up in my consciousness and I have to listen on repeat.

Here are the rest of the lyrics:

I cry for the love in your eyes.
I try to let you be free.
If you're blue, don't let it worry you.
We'll make it through.
And if you don't believe me...

Faith will come humbly down.
Fear will come tumbling down.

Cynics may fill the books.
Critics may give you looks.
But I'll stand by ya 'til ya die.
And I'll be wise in the afterlife.

Faith will come humbly down.
Fear will come tumbling down.

Faith will come humbly down.
Fear will come tumbling down.

Faith will come humbly down.
Fear will come tumbling down. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

Quote of the Week - Lao Tzu

“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?” 

I don't know. I'd like to think the answer is yes, but the world doesn't always move at the same pace as inner clarity. Sometimes it's hard to hold on until the way is clear.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

On Being Unapologetic by E. Amato

Could Cookie be the patron saint of our unapologetic posse?

Recently, I apologized to a friend for dropping out of an online comment thread in the middle, saying I was overwhelmed. He brought to my attention the fact that I’m “unapologetic” and didn’t need to say sorry. I replied that I did have to say sorry, because I did something wrong.

I can’t say where I first heard of the concept of unapologetic - it probably wasn't because of Rihanna, at least, not directly. I know that I'm influenced by The Body Is Not anApology, and Unapologetic Bitch has won a place in my fight song canon. Not that long ago, LossLit called me an “unapologetic feminist, dulcet-toned poet, activist, film-maker, editor of Zestyverse, ” which I wish I’d written myself, and my twitter handle is currently "Unapologetic B." 

Wherever it came from, I've embraced "unapologetic." But what is it?

Here are some things “unapologetic” means to me:

Unapologetic means not apologizing for being here. Not apologizing for having been born, taking up space, existing while woman or person of color, while plus size, trans, or disabled. It means no one has to apologize for being a human being in this body at this time on this planet. Ever.

Unapologetic means not apologizing for how you feel. Ever. Even if others’ around you do not feel that way.

Unapologetic means not apologizing for what you think, or how you think it.

Unapologetic means not apologizing for speaking or writing down your thoughts or feelings. This one is hard. I just read this great piece on famous quotes if women were trying to say them in a meeting. I so used to be that girl. “I’m sorry, if I could just….” “I was just thinking, maybe…” I don’t do that anymore. I try to use kind speech, but I don't caveat myself into a corner or apologize.  A guy I met after a gig emailed me asking me for a drink. But also after the gig, this guy made a very inappropriate comment, and knew it. It made me, and others there uncomfortable. I wasn’t going to go out with someone who’d made me that uncomfortable, but as I wrote back, I kept having to delete the “I’m sorry, but…” Each time I drafted my response, it would try to creep back in. Why was I apologizing for holding him accountable for his behavior?

Here are some things unapologetic does not mean to me:

Unapologetic does not mean you don’t apologize. Being unapologetic is a way of being accountable, taking up space, being present. In order to do this, it has to go both ways. This means when you speak in a hurtful way, when you take an action that has a bad consequence, when you harm yourself or someone else, when you don’t live up to your agreements, you apologize. Not for being wrong, but for doing wrong.

Unapologetic does not mean you get to go around and say everything that comes in your head. That is having no filter and no boundaries. Being unapologetic requires more mindfulness from me, not less. If I am going to be in integrity and authenticity, if I am going to be honest in the moment, I have to bring a very strong practice of mindfulness to bear on my unapologetic words and actions.

Unapologetic means not apologizing for your needs, wants, desires, dreams, life story, personal history, weaknesses, vulnerability, identity, economic status, state of wellbeing or illness.

Unapologetic does not mean we are right. In fact, it frees us from having to be so. When I first started writing for TBINAA, I was scared. I was going to be writing about things that were hard to even speak about with friends. What gave me courage was one sentence in the guidelines they sent to new writers: “We are not afraid to be wrong.” I highlighted that and came back to it a lot. This was the most liberating thing ever. I get to say what I want to say, without apologizing or backtracking or making excuses. And if I’m wrong, or if I’m not, that’s where the conversation starts. This is how we create dialogue, which is how we build community. It might seem like the opposite, but unapologetic communication is the first step in community building.

Being unapologetic isn’t for everyone. It means there will be an end to hiding, a heightening of accountability, and especially when dealing with online platforms, it can mean a lot of friction. For me, it’s meant all that. But it’s also meant that I’m often sharing in ways that creates empathy and connection between people. It’s meant that when I do apologize, it’s from a place of making amends, rather than making excuses; it gives “I’m sorry” its real power and meaning back.

It means that I don’t spend time wondering why I’m on the planet, and can spend more time on what I’m meant to do now that I’m here. It’s also meant a stripping away the filter between what I think and feel, and what I’m willing to witness and testify to, which feels a little dangerous and like an emperor’s new clothes kind of moment, but I think that’s how we go forward.

Maybe unapologetic is just having its moment, but I think it might be here to stay.

Monday, 12 October 2015

There’s Something About Vinyl by E. Amato

I stayed at some friends for a few days while they were away. Before they left, one said, “Oh and the stereo works, and the turntable.”

My eyes darted to what in fact was a working stereo and a turntable with an LP already on it. There was a teeny twinkle in my soul. I recognized the disk and not far from it, its cover told the whole story: R.E.M.Reckoning.

The first time I heard R.E.M., I was standing about fifteen feet from them at Nassau Coliseum. They were opening for The English Beat, who were opening for Squeeze. We had no idea there was another opening act, but we’d pushed our way to the front to dance and be as near as possible to Difford & Tillbrook as we could. Even though we were still fifteen or sixteen and judgy as hell when it came to music, the first few chords of the first song made us look at each other in recognition. Who were these guys? Where had they been all our lives? How could we both be in love with Peter Buck so fast and what in the world was the lead singer saying?

Chronic Town wasn’t out yet. We had to wait and go to the record store the next week to get the EP. Like all trips to the record store in town with my bestie, we each bought one or two records. We debated endlessly which ones these should be and who should buy which. Even then, we were buying Maxell XL-IIS’s by the box. Tape runs were a thing. Whoever was going into Manhattan or to Uncle Steve’s would take money and buy boxes and boxes of blank cassette tapes. After visits to the record store, once we were done with town, we’d go home to one of our houses, play the records and tape them for each other. 

Maybe it was because R.E.M. was the first band we felt like we got to discover, apart from friends’ bands, Reckoning was important. By the time it came out, other people were noticing them. But for us, their music was already part of our language. Hearing new fans wondering aloud what Michael Stipe was singing made me laugh. We spoke Stipe.

Although there are later albums that have masterful tracks, this one always felt the most them to me. It held together as a document (yeah, I see what I did there) and the songs are each little gems.

It was just waiting on the turntable. How could I not?

I lifted the cover, the needle, moved it right to left and onto the vinyl. Let the needle down. And there it was: music in the room.

People say a lot of things about the transition from vinyl to CD to digital. They say that there’s static and the sound of dust coming off a record. That it can deteriorate and warp. They say digital has limiters and is cold. They say CDs are flawless, but we all know they aren’t. I have no CDs anymore. But I still have my vinyl. Even if I’ve been separated from it for much of my adult life, I know where it is, in alphabetical order, waiting for me to have more space. I refuse to give up my vinyl.

Still, I believe wholeheartedly in the reality that we can have any song anywhere, just when we think about it. I have a friend who has an infinite mental jukebox and who can “listen” to any song he’s ever heard whenever he wants. But for the rest of us, streaming and MP3s are a wonderful moment in evolution.

But now I am listening to those first melodic lines of “Harborcoat.” I am here in the room, and so is the band. The record brings a physical presence to the music the CD and the digital file never had. I feel a band. I feel a drummer, a singer. I feel a studio. I feel a time. The ‘when’ of this recording becomes alive. The context and perspective of this music make themselves known. Who was mixing Americana with new wave in 1982? Who was bringing gorgeously layered tracks to music that was supposed to feel unfinished and urgent?

I don’t hear needle fuzz or static. I hear more of the mix; I hear all the tracks they recorded. I hear all the times they went through the song to lay down those tracks. I see the food delivery containers on the soundboard where the engineer has probably told them never to put food. I wonder about the studio it was recorded in and who else made albums there. As I am listening, this isn’t just music – it is a story; it is taking on a life of its own.

I forgot how much I love vinyl. How my deepest connections to songs come through its frequencies. My digital archive of music is hundreds of gigs. But what do I know of their covers, their lyric sheets? They come and go, ephemeral and capricious. I forget sometimes I have them. Snippets of them haunt me without titles or track numbers. Yes, I will listen to Jim James’ Regions Of Light And Sound Of Godor Beck’s Morning Phasea million times and yes, iTunes will keep track of those million times. Yes, I will have them in my headphones and between my ears and right up inside my brain when I am writing. But they won’t ever feel like they’re there with me. In the room, holding it down. Like there’ll be a shot of whisky when the needle comes up or an after party.

It’s wonderful that we have all the content we could ever want or has ever been. But the flip side is this hemorrhaging of context. I feel Chelsea Wolfe’s angst as I listen to Abyss, but it’s simply not the same as feeling Chelsea Wolfe’s presence. This is a tiny distinction, it is splitting hairs, I know. I do. But there is a difference between an injection of sound between your ears, and a wrapping of sound around you. Records create atmosphere – something you are held inside of. Digital seems to facilitate separation.

Across the board, we are sacrificing our experience of touch; as we become more digitized, we seem to become less sensitized. Yes we still love analog – the turn of a page, the drop of a needle on a record – but we don’t seem to recognize how much we need it, relegating it to a throwback, kitsch, or curiosity. This while we envelop ourselves in adult onesies and fleece everything, become rigorous foodies in search of the latest taste.

There is something about vinyl, though. Sleek, elegant, and right there where you can see it, touch it, smell it. The magic is that you can hear it all from those scratches circling into spiral grooves.

…unapologetic feminist, dulcet-toned poet, activist, film-maker, editor of Zestyverse” (LossLit) E. Amato  is a published poet, award-winning screenwriter, and established performer. She has three poetry collections by Zesty Pubs: Swimming Through Amber5, & Will Travel, and is a content writer for The Body Is Not an Apology. She also has a special relationship with Marmite.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Quote of the Week - Roop

"What if I told you there were sparks in your spine
and handed you a match to strike against your vertebrae?
Would you believe in your flicker then?" 
~Lacey Roop

I love this poet! This is an excerpt from "A Poem For When You Need To Be Reminded Of Your Own Electricity." (with permission) This is my go-to reminder poem when I'm in the dark.

And here's a writing prompt from the same poem:  

"Have you forgotten the blowtorch that is tongue?"

What aren't you saying?

What are you holding back?

What power are you refusing to unleash?

What happens to your fire when you don't use it?

Happy New Moon Monday! Now go ----

"Be so electric
that this world can't help but be
dazzled by you."

Above image found on the Electrotherapy Museum site.

p.s. Happy birthday Lacey Roop - turns out it's today!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Quote of the Week - Hiddleston

From Only Lovers Left Alive

"Be yourself above all else and trust yourself. Be kind, be brave, be on time!"

This came from an IMDB twitter interview with folks who made Crimson Peak.

Hiddleston was asked for advice for young actors. This is such great advice! Especially the second part - which is often overlooked in an industry governed by budget and speed. I'd add "be prepared and be flexible!"