so many of us are reaching out, hoping someone out there will grab our hands and remind us we are not as alone as we fear. (gay, bad feminist, "feel me. see me. hear me. reach me.", 3)
it’s saturday now, you say, where is the thursday post? as it goes, i am in san francisco this week, and, last weekend, i was hit with some bad health news, so i, again, fell prey to poor planning. which is a long-winded way to say that there is no thursday post this week.
that said, though — on tuesday, i landed in san francisco, and my cousin and i went to hear roxane gay speak. it’s always a huge pleasure to hear her; she’s funny, well-spoken, and gracious; and she doesn’t take shit, which was well-demonstrated when a white man brought up milo whatever-his-name-is and asked in that male privilege way how simon & schuster [finally] pulling his book wasn’t an act of censorship.
(for more of gay’s thoughts on that, read her tumblr post here.)
she said many things that were wise and hilarious and thoughtful, and one thing that stuck with me was something she said about symbols. she was asked specifically about pussy hats (the asker of the question had hated them), and gay responded first by saying that she didn’t get them, had thought they meant pussy like vagina and just did not see how the hats looked like vaginas until she was standing in line and saw one from behind and was like, ohhhh, pussy like cat!
she went on to say that symbols are fine, and symbols can be good in that, sometimes, we need them, but it’s important to move past them. it is not enough to wear a symbol, to embrace it without moving into action, into awareness and knowledge. symbols are not inherently bad, but neither are they good, and they are not enough.
that made me think how one of the things to do post election was to wear a safety pin on your clothing to show that you were an ally to marginalized people, and, at the time, i remember thinking that, okay, yeah, fine, maybe the gesture is nice but huh, what, why? (also, who has safety pins just sitting around? can you buy individual safety pins? or do you buy them in a pack and distribute them to friends? and, again, huh, what, why?)
i don’t disregard the meaning behind a gesture, and i appreciated the attempt post-election to make some kind of visible show of support to help mitigate some of the fear that had, overnight, taken over us in new, heightened ways. i appreciated that there was a gesture being made to show us that they, these safety pin-wearers, didn’t need to be feared, but, at the same time, i did wonder if the gesture was more for them than for us, for them to show the world what side they were on.
maybe that’s cynical of me, but maybe here is where my personal experience intersects with all this because the truth is that i don’t give anyone a whole lot of credit for embracing a symbol. in the end, it doesn’t mean that much, and it doesn’t reduce the threats being made on our bodies, our rights, our lives. also, i might be conflating things too much here, but i don’t give anyone credit for his/her intentions. i’m not interested in the intentions behind someone’s actions; i’m interested in those actions and their consequences because the truth is that it doesn’t really matter what anyone’s intentions were when her/his actions cause or contribute to tremendous damage.
we all have history. you can think you're over your history. you can think the past is the past. and then something happens, often innocuous, that shows you how far you are from over it. the past is always with you. some people want to be protected from this truth. ("the illusion of safety/the safety of illusion," 150)
i often wonder where i’d be today had i not suffered over ten years of intentional, routine body shaming.
i wonder if i might have fallen in love and gotten married. (i wonder if i’d have trapped myself in that heteronormative world, having assumed straightness for three decades.) i wonder if i might have graduated college the first time around, gone on to a doctorate program, have an established career. i wonder if i might have had the boldness to take my writing seriously and been published by now. i wonder if i’d be skinny or if i’d look the same or if i’d still have gone on to hate my body and hate myself.
i wonder most about where i’d be in regards to food — would i have gone to culinary school like i wanted once? would i have pursued photography and bought a camera and made a space for myself in food photography or food styling? would i have ventured into food writing? how much time would i have saved had i not felt so ashamed and uncomfortable for so many fucking years for loving food and wanting to know how to cook it and to photograph it and to share it?
i’m not one to spend a lot of time on the what ifs; i think it’s a waste of time to indulge in hypotheticals because it doesn’t matter what could have been when life has progressed the way it has. however, we do have to engage in a fair amount of reflection on past actions, whether as committed by ourselves or by others in our lives, in order to look into the future and change accordingly, to better ourselves and to be better people to those around us.
sometimes, that takes us to uncomfortable places. sometimes, it takes us to places of anger, and i admit that this is something that continues to make me angry: that we will tear down the people we are supposed to love, that we will defend it as being something we did because of love, and that we will never fully understand the extent of the damage we have caused and live, oblivious, to the lives that we have wrecked.
there’s a lot more i want to say about food, about bodies, about shame, and there’s also a lot more i want to say about anger and rage and resentment. there’s a lot i want to say about hopelessness and this general sense of futility, that it doesn’t matter how hard i try to heal or piece myself back together because there is always rock bottom beneath rock bottom, and there is always another blow waiting to fall.
i’m not quite ready to get into it right now, though, this most recent blow that struck me where it just really fucking hurts. i’ve been having a hard time processing it, which means i’ve been at a loss for words, because i’m currently dealing with a whole lot of fury and bitterness slithering constantly just under my skin. i admit that i’m pissed off these days, that i think that none of this is fair, and i admit that i’m letting myself have these little mental temper tantrums because it’s the only way i know how to cope in the immediate present.
one of the things i’ve been learning is not to be afraid of my feelings or of expressing my feelings. saying this is how i feel is not a confession of weakness; it’s a statement of humanity; and it’s a way of saying that here is something that is informing how i am approaching something or someone or some shitty situation. it is a way of saying that i am just a person, and i hurt and flail and cry and laugh and feel because that is what we do as human beings — we feel, we process, we act.
and, so, maybe, here is a story of a sandwich: that tartine is a bakery that i have been wanting to visit for years, that they’ve recently opened a new location with food options, that this is their fried egg and porchetta sandwich. i first saw it on instagram, and i’ve thought about it since because i love food and i live to eat and this sandwich was something for me to look forward to, for me to hope for as i adjusted, poorly, to being back in california.
this sandwich fits into the greater story of me because i have survived this far because of food, because i deal with stress and anxiety and help manage my depression through food. i make pasta; i bake bread; i make pastries. i eat. i lose myself in food, melt inside in happiness at the way a croissant shatters in that perfect way when your fingers press into it to tear it apart, the way an egg yolk bursts open and oozes down a sandwich. i smile from the bliss of a mouthful of juicy porchetta, crispy skin, egg yolk, and arugula. i love the way my fingers are buttery and smeared with chocolate after a croissant has been eaten, so much so that my fingers leave track marks on napkins, faint grease stains on everything i touch.
and it makes me furious that, now that i have finally reached a point where i don’t feel guilty or ashamed of this love, now that i have finally embraced my love for food and banished any self-consciousness in expressing it, the bomb hidden in my genetics has detonated, and my body is taking all this love, turning it into poison, and using it to destroy itself.
bad feminism seems like the only way i can both embrace myself as a feminist and be myself, and so i write. i chatter away on twitter about everything that makes me angry and all the small things that bring me joy. i write blog posts about the meals i cook as i try to take better care of myself, and with each new entry, i realize that i’m undestroying myself after years of allowing myself to stay damaged. the more i write, the more i put myself out into the world as a bad feminist but, i hope, a good woman — i am being open about who i am and who i was and where i have faltered and who i would like to become.
no matter what issues i have with feminism, i am a feminist. i cannot and will not deny the importance and absolute necessity of feminism. like most people, i’m full of contradictions, but i also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman.
i am a bad feminist. i would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all. (“bad feminist: take two,” 318)