The flat stomach and other expectations that bring us down

Words by Nicole Froio.

[TRIGGER WARNING: eating disorders and vaginal cosmetic surgery]

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I’ve been working out a lot lately and I’m proud of it. Unfortunately I still have a belly with which I have a strained hate-love relationship. Sometimes I love it because it’s kind of curvy and nice and makes me look real. Other times I really hate it and wish it would go away so that I can look like Britney Spears. I am not overweight (and there is nothing wrong with being overweight as long as you are healthy about it!) but somehow I am still subject of fat shaming. Some people often point out my belly (how is that even allowed?) and make me feel insecure about it.

Which leads me to ask – does any woman have privilege when it comes to their bodies?

When women have muffin tops they are told they are fat. When men have a…

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On Social Media; or, Put Your Damn Phone Away Already

If you ever happen to be spending time with me and find yourself thinking, “Hmmm, I wonder what the quickest way to piss Elizabeth off would be?”, allow me to answer your burning query in advance. Without a doubt, one of the fastest ways to ensure I think of you as disrespectful and discourteous is to be on your phone.

As social media platforms gain steam and become more and more ubiquitous, we believe ourselves to be better connected to the people we care about. However, I’m finding more and more that the pervasiveness of social media does anything but increase our connectivity.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are laboring under the false delusion that we are closer to our friends and our family, when in reality, we are becoming disconnected. I can tell you what my friends and family post on Facebook or text to me every once in awhile, but I find myself having fewer and fewer meaningful exchanges.

Trust me, social media is useful and can be a great tool for keeping in loose touch with a wide range of friends, family, and acquaintances. I love that I can use it to occasionally have a quick chat with former coworkers or friends who live across the country or on a different continent. It can be really useful in getting a group together to go out to drinks, or to invite people to an event. I love being able to blog here on wordpress, read other blogs, and interact with these communities.

AND YET. This false sense of connectivity means I spend less actual time with the people who matter. Phone calls are quickly becoming a thing of the past, unless you’re one of my parents or we’re in an LDR. And even if we spend actual time together, there’s a good chance you might pull out your phone and absentmindedly play Angry Birds, send a snapchat, or continuously text someone else. UM. HELLO? WHEN YOU ARE SPENDING TIME IN PERSON WITH ANOTHER BEING, THAT BEING SHOULD BE THE FOCUS OF YOUR ATTENTION. Out at dinner with your significant other? Put your phone away. Watching a movie with your family? Put your phone away. Grabbing coffee, going ice skating, hanging out at your favorite watering hole, working out together at the gym, sitting around watching tv, I don’t care what you’re doing- if you are doing something with another person for the purpose of spending meaningful time with that person, then PUT. YOUR. DAMN. PHONE. AWAY.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Maybe it’s because I’m one of three people in modern American society without a smartphone, but I really, really hate when I’m trying to enjoy myself hanging out with a friend and they won’t get off Snapchat/Facebook/reddit/gmail and won’t stop texting/dicking around with an app/Instagraming their overpriced Starbucks latte. If I’m making the effort to see you, then I want to see you, not your social media. For example, I was recently spending time with someone I had not seen in several weeks. We went out to a local bar to hear a couple bands play, and this person was continuously on their phone. We were watching a movie later, and this person spent half the movie on their phone. We were in the middle of a damn conversation, and they were on their effing phone. Do you see the point I’m trying to make? We had made plans in order to spend time enjoying each other’s company, and the whole time I felt like I was competing with a 3.5-inch hunk of plastic, metal, and microchips. It drove me crazy. It made me feel disrespected and unimportant, and I also had to wonder if my companion was bored, angry, or annoyed with me to keep “checking out” of reality and “checking in” to social media.

When you’re spending time with someone, and you divide your attention between them and your smartphone, you are ignoring a real-life person under the guise of maintaining connections with other people. If you want to maintain a connection, start with the person in front of your face. Put your phone away. That text can wait until you aren’t in a situation where you should be focusing on the person next to you.

On Attracting Attention; or, Understanding Some Key Differences

Today, I’ve been thinking about the difference between attention and unwanted attention. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about these things in relation to appearance, and what happens to everyone any time they enter a public space. That is, whenever an individual goes outside of their own private space, they are going to notice other people and other people are going to notice them, for a wide range of reasons. This “noticing” is neither inherently good no inherently bad. It’s good if someone notices you in time to avoid hitting you with their vehicle. It’s bad if someone notices you with the intent to steal your vehicle. However, the act of noticing in and of itself is neither good nor bad unless or until it serves a purpose.

For example, today I have been specifically considering a pair of galaxy-print leggings I own. I love these leggings. They are one of my favorite things to wear- comfortable, cute, and relatively unique. I wear them because I like them, and that’s all. However, while I do not wear these leggings with the intention of attracting attention, I am aware of the fact that these leggings are attention-attracting. OF COURSE THEY ARE THEY’RE AWESOME. I would pay a little attention if I saw them out somewhere, too, because they’re something I like. I know when I wear them somewhere, it wouldn’t be unusual for at least one person to look at them or say something about them to me.

Normally, the noticing is relatively harmless, or even nice. “Hey, cool pants!” or something similar is pretty common, from both men and women, strangers and friends alike. That’s usually totally fine; there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m the type of person where if I see someone wearing something I think is cool, or walking a dog I think is adorable, or something similar, I will probably give them a similar compliment: “Hey I like your shoes/coat/scarf/adorable pug puppy.” I say these things not because I think the other individual owns or wears these things for anybody else but themselves, and not because I think I have the right to validate them or anything like that. I say them because I want to genuinely pay someone a compliment, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Therefore, when someone pays me a similar, genuine compliment, I can take it as such. Were I to assume every comment that came to me because of someone noticing something about me was malicious, I would drive myself crazy. Not every compliment has an ulterior motive- no, not even if that person is male! Unfortunately, one of the repercussions of living in a rape culture means that men are usually looked at as threats, and just like women shouldn’t have to feel threatened everywhere they go, men should not be seen as threatening everywhere they go.

BUT. Of course there’s a great big BUT. Sometimes, comments, compliments, or noticing can be unwelcome, can be threatening. Let’s return to the example of my exceedingly awesome space pants. I have worn these out with friends several times. Most recently, I wore them at my favorite pub when we were out for my roommate’s birthday. We were playing billiards and having a lovely time celebrating. At some point in the evening, a passing individual remarked on my leggings. I was neither super surprised (as discussed, I am aware that they tend to attract attention. I wear them anyway because I like wearing them for myself) nor offended, because it did seem like a genuine compliment, and that was all. No further comments or dialogue with this individual. They said “nice pants,” I said, “hey, thanks,” end of conversation. BUT.

Like I said earlier, there’s a difference between attention and unwanted attention. The above example of noticing was not threatening, appeared genuine, and was therefore not unwelcome. However, I also have examples of unwanted attention; attention that is inappropriate, lewd, or threatening, and therefore unwelcome. On a different occasion, I wore these leggings while I was downtown with some friends. I left the establishment we were at to step outside and take a rather serious, important phone call. While I was outside on the phone, a man walked past, whistled, and shouted over his shoulder, “Hey those pants are hot!” When I didn’t respond, both because I was on the phone and because his attention was offensive, I heard him call out to me again, “Hey, bitch, I was just complimenting you!”

SIGH. Hopefully, you can see the differences I’m getting at. The above example was unwelcome and inappropriate because it was not genuine, respectful, or nonthreatening. It was crude and offensive. This is the type of attention you hear people complain about. Particularly, you probably hear women complain about this, because we receive more of this harassment than men. And yes, this qualifies as harassment. Again, there is a difference between a genuine compliment (attention) and sexual harassment (unwanted, inappropriate, threatening attention).

Now, there are a lot of people out there who would say something to me like, “Well if you didn’t want the attention you shouldn’t wear attention-attracting clothing” and to this I say: Anytime I wear anything- space leggings included- I see dozens and sometimes hundreds of people who don’t do or say anything. Sometimes people are genuinely nice to me. Sometimes, an individual will harass me. Since the majority of people don’t say or do anything, how is it  then my fault that one (or even multiple) individual(s) said or did something inappropriate or threatening? Answer: It’s not. It is not my fault if someone else cannot control their behavior.

And this is what I’ve been thinking about lately. My space pants are not to blame. I am not to blame. Individuals are responsible for their own behavior, period full stop.

On Having a Psychological Disorder, Part 2; or, I Shouldn’t Have to Justify Being Sick

I’m going to be really honest,  you guys. Things suck right now. I am not in a good place. You know that old MCR song “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”? That’s me in a song right now.

Everything hurts. I feel confined in my own skin. I’ve been getting overwhelmed really easily by things that shouldn’t be overwhelming. I picked up a few groceries today and I felt overwhelmed by the lady at the checkout counter asking me if I had a Kroger card. I felt suffocated. Everything was/is too close. Too loud. I can’t sleep. Eating makes me feel nauseated. Everything makes me want to cry. I hate crying. I was looking out the window earlier today and for the briefest moment considered sitting on the ledge, just to see how I would feel then. I hurt everywhere. Everything aches. It’s hard to breathe. I feel desolate and isolated and ignored and horribly insignificant and unextraordinary and I suppose that’s because I am.

I can’t decide how I feel. One second I’m irritated and angry at someone or another and the next I want everything to be okay and I don’t want them to be angry at me for having been angry at them. I don’t trust anyone. I feel really paranoid. I’ve been second-guessing and doubting everything anyone has said to me.

I’m scared. I’m really scared. And the couple people who I interact with on a regular basis are getting impatient and annoyed with me and I can tell and I want to tell them “Fine, I just won’t come to you anymore. I would hate to inconvenience you” but on the other hand I know I need help but I don’t know how to ask for it without being a burden. And I am tired of trying to justify the way I feel or what I’m going through to everyone else. I’m sick. That’s all there is to it. I have a disorder, an illness, and I shouldn’t have to justify it to anyone. If this were anything else- food poisoning, the flu, mono, MRSA, cancer- I wouldn’t have to saying anything other than, “I’m sick.” But with a mental illness, so much time and energy is spent trying to explain or defend the legitimacy of the illness. I shouldn’t have to do that. It makes me feel even worse, even smaller, even more worthless, useless, inconveniencing.

I need something I don’t have a name for. I don’t know.

Things aren’t going well right now. That’s really all I have to say.

On HJR-6; or I’m Ashamed of My State

I was born and raised in Indiana. I love my state. I love the humid August air, the cornfields teeming with lightning bugs in the summer, the smell of smoking leaves in autumn, and yes, sometimes I even love the silence that accompanies snowfall.

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(Indiana University in the winter)

I do not love what my state legislature is currently trying to do.

Indiana is trying to alter the constitution to define marriage as being between (1) man and (1) woman, effectively outlawing any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender marriage.

I. Do. Not. Understand.

I’ve talked about this before, but it really just doesn’t make sense to me. How is it okay to deny someone the right to marry someone they love? Even if it is against your religious, moral, intellectual, hell even grammatical beliefs, why should that matter?? How would someone else’s gay marriage negatively impact your straight marriage? The only people who have a problem with gay marriage are straight people, despite the fact that most straight marriages end in divorce! If you’re going to oppose gay marriage because you don’t believe being gay is right or whatever, really the only argument that you have is that you think it’s wrong, that you don’t like it.
You know what else people used to think was wrong, that people used to dislike? Interracial marriage. That used to be illegal as well. Think about that for a second. Your opposition to gay marriage is the same thing. You shouldn’t have the right to take away someone else’s chance for happiness, marriage, and the legal benefits of that marriage.

Here’s another analogy I’ve used before: I’m a vegetarian. I disagree with eating meat- but you don’t see me trying to make eating meat illegal, just because I don’t like it. Somebody else eating a cheeseburger in no way impacts my life, just as my decision to eat a veggie burger doesn’t impact anyone else’s life, either.

If I ever choose to get married, it’s going to be because I’ve found someone I love, who supports, encourages, and loves me, and I can do the same for them. It shouldn’t matter what that person’s anatomical sex or gender identity is, just as it shouldn’t matter what race they are, what food preferences they have, if they’re a lefty or a righty, or how they identify in terms of sexuality.

It’s ridiculous that I even have to say this. Indiana, you have no right to oppress someone’s freedom of marriage. I want to be able to continue to love and take pride in my state, but if HJR-6 passes, I won’t be able to do that anymore.

Be better, Indiana. Be better.

***If you’re interested in speaking out against HJR-6, or for more information, you can click here.

To the Drunk Guy Who Harassed Me

Excuse me, sir. Would you like to explain to me why you decided it was acceptable to touch me without my permission? I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before. In fact, we are total strangers who just happen to be walking in opposite directions on the same sidewalk. Your existence occupying a space my existence also occupies does not give you any right to touch me, in any way, under any circumstance.

As it so happens, all I was trying to do was get back to my car so my friends and I could go home. I was in no way encroaching on your space, so why did you have to violate mine?

You see, had you asked me if I wanted to receive a fleeting but firm smack on my rear, you would have received an equally firm “FUCK NO” in response (quite similar to the “HEY FUCK YOU, I HOPE YOU DROWN” that you received instead, after I had recovered from the shock of your harassment) . What you demonstrated in that moment was A) your sense of entitlement B) your male privilege and C) that you are an asshole. Since it seems that perhaps your mind doesn’t function quite as well as it could, allow me to further explain what I mean.

A) By reaching out and touching me without my consent, you proved that you believe you are, in some way, entitled to my body, that you have a right to touch and handle it. If we were speaking, this is the part where I would speak very slowly and clearly, so I could make sure you understood. YOU DO NOT. You have absolutely zero right to touch my body, because it is MINE and NOT YOURS. In case you were not aware, sir, women’s bodies DO NOT exist for men and are not your property to do with whatever you so wish. My body is MINE, and MINE ALONE, and you touching me without consent is a violation of my body, my space, and my privacy.

B) I’m guessing you have never been sexually harassed. I am also guessing that you believe your harassment of me was “no big deal.” In fact, were I to run into you tomorrow and mention it, you might not even remember it. This is because you exist in a space of male privilege, wherein you may believe yourself superior, or at least may believe me inferior. Even if you wouldn’t say that you believe these things, your actions showed that you did. In any case, your actions towards me came from a place of entitlement and privilege, and only proved to me once more the plethora of ways in which I am not privileged, and in which I am forced to fight to be seen 1) as a person 2) as more than an object for any and all men’s use and pleasure and 3) as an equal.

C) I wondered, as I often do when these sorts of things happen (and, oh, they happen FAR TOO OFTEN) whether you have a sister, or a female cousin, or female friends. I wonder what you would think if they told you about a similar incident happening to them. Would you be angry on their behalf, or would you shrug and think “no big deal?” Your response to that question will tell you a great deal about the kind of person you are. If you would feel anger on their behalf, I would say there is hope for you to NOT be an asshole, and I would challenge you to consider the consequences of sexual harassment. If your response would be more along the lines of the latter, well, then, you sir, are an unbelievable asshole. Please refer to sections A and B above for further explication as to why this makes you an asshole.

In closing, Drunk Guy Who Harassed Me, your brief moment of “no big deal” or “joking around” or “having fun” was none of those things for me. It was a violation of my body, my safety, my privacy, and my personal space. It was a threat. It was demeaning. It made me viciously angry but it also frightened me. What if I hadn’t had two friends with me? How could I know whether or not your intentions are to harm me, to assault me, to rape me? Because I live in a society that teaches women not to get raped instead of teaching men not to rape, any time I go anywhere I am forced to shoulder the blame for what happens to me, despite not having any control over your actions. NOBODY DESERVES TO BE HARASSED, ASSAULTED, OR VIOLATED. PERIOD FULL STOP.

I hope, Drunk Guy Who Harassed Me, that you learn to see women not as objects you can use for whatever purpose you see fit, but as human beings, equally worthy of respect. I hope no other woman has to deal with your drunk, idiotic, entitled self slapping her ass because you were drunk or bored or trying to impress your buddies when she happened to be walking by.

As per my response the other night, it still stands. Fuck you, dude. Fuck. You.

High Tech Panties Won’t Stop Rape

So, so, so well said.

The Belle Jar

There is currently an Indiegogo campaign created by AR Wear for a line that they call Anti-Rape Clothing. These garments, which include a pair of boy-cut brief-style panties, running shorts, leggings and “travelling shorts,” are allegedly designed and built to be unremovable except by the owner, who has some sort of key to release the locking mechanism on the waistband. Basically they act as a chastity belt, although of course we are not supposed to think of them as chastity belts. AR Wear wants us to believe that this is some sort of modern innovation, and not just a contemporary twist on an outdated garment meant to oppress and subjugate women. In fact, AR Wear wants us to believe that the opposite is true – that their anti-rape wear will actually empower women and offer them some sort of freedom that they might have been lacking.

Let’s get a few…

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