the bitch diaries: i was a manic pixie dream girl

I was supposed to be that girl. You know, quirky, kind of really weird, friends with boys, playful and childish, a little bit crazy.

He never quite fit in. He spent his days see-sawing between brooding and life-of-the-party loud, trying too hard to reach people’s attention, but never knowing if he had reached his goal.

We were best friends. He talked, and for once I would listen. Though a year older, he seemed to be so much wiser, like a big brother to protect me- all I had ever wanted.

Time passed, and it became more and more obvious that our relationship meant different things to us. I wanted a friend to depend on. He wanted an object in the shape of a girl, the prize at the end of the nerd’s story.

I was never going to be that girl.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is more than just a TV and movie trope. It’s an idea that has seeped into our culture and our high schools, creating an unsafe environment for our girls- especially the nerdy ones. Here’s an image that pops up on my Facebook newsfeed at least once a month:

photo (2)

 

At first glance, that boy sounds amazing. How caring, how forgiving and loving this boy must be, right? And what an ungrateful, frigid bitch the girl is for refusing his repeated advances. She only likes douchebags and assholes, so she gets what she deserves. She had a Good Guy all along, and she put him in the Friendzone.

If only I could describe how hard I’m rolling my eyes.

The idea of the Friendzone, the ungrateful bitch who had the most amazing guy just waiting for her if she would just give him the chance is based on one very simple premise: women are not independent human beings with opinions, tastes, and attractions. Women are machines in which you put in nice coins and sex falls out.

Some of the guys I hung around with in high school had that mindset. Though they would never admit out loud that they believed they deserved women just by virtue of being alive, secretly they thought it. Girls who dared be friends with them were teases who led them on just by being around them. They thought that they deserved to have their quirky, cute girlfriend to end their story.

I was rejected more than a few times in high school, and the Friendzone never occurred to me. Every time I was rejected I blamed myself; I was not pretty enough. I was too loud, too weird. I was bad. There is no female equivalent for the Friendzone because we learn from a young age that we are to blame for having been rejected. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl and similar tropes teach the opposite: be there for her, be her friend, and you automatically deserve her.

The Friendzone isn’t some harmless idea that we can roll our eyes at and shrug that “boys will be boys,” then move on from. Male entitlement to women’s bodies doesn’t end at the Friendzone. More than 1 in 10 Canadian women have reported being stalked. More than half of Canada’s female murder victims were killed by a past or current intimate partner. 82% of sexual assault victims under the age of 18 are female.* We see time and time again- including just last month with Elliot Rodger’s** mass shooting when he felt rejected by women- that women are too often portrayed as objects of affection and that the message is internalized and believed.

These are not coincidences. The media we consume and the ideas they reinforce can be dangerous to the point of violence. I personally know too many women and girls who have been threatened and stalked after refusing the romantic advances of men and boys who could not take no for an answer.

I was never going to be that girl. I am a woman, opinions, personality, choices, flesh and bone. I am so lucky my situation was at worst a dehumanizing inconvenience. I lost a friendship, but I was in no way danger of losing my life. Many, many women were not as lucky as I was.

*http://www.canadianwomen.org/facts-about-violence

** More on Elliot http://bellejar.ca/2014/05/24/elliot-rodger-and-men-who-hate-women/

Case study of school shootings:  http://www15.uta.fi/arkisto/aktk/projects/sta/Leary_Kowalski_Smith_Phillips_2003_Teasing-Rejection-and-Violence.pdf

the bitch diaries: i’ll eat what i want

“Euh, Rachie?” 

His French accent hangs off of his words, searching for the right way to say what he means in a language he barely knows. He raises one eyebrow and seems to cringe in my general direction. 

“Do not you think that you are maybe eating too much today?”

I look down at the burger and fries drenched in malt vinegar on my plate. I hadn’t been eating this unapologetically in months, but I feel my progress start to dwindle. My eyes narrow. I pick up my burger and take as large a bite as I can while staring him straight in the eyes. It feels like cement in my mouth, but I chew as normally as I can and swallow. 

“I like food.”

“Mais Rachie, I am just worry about you!”

I pause. I take another bite, and though I can barely chew, I swallow hard.

We’ve all seen the poster that we think defines eating disorders: a girl, young and gorgeous, usually light skinned, standing in her bra and underwear in front of a mirror, with a horribly fat girl, a form made of stretch marks and lard peering back. This, we’ve collectively decided, is what eating disorders look like. Someone who is young, white, and beautiful thinks that they are fat, but they’re not. They’re delusional. They just want to be skinny, and they are starving themselves to be pretty. Their ribs protruding from their chest, eyes sunken and limbs mere bones, the thousands of versions of this image have created a very clear poster girl for eating disorders: skinny enough to be sick, and pretty enough to save.

I look back at the pictures I took of myself in January, thirty pounds lighter than I had been four months before, and I don’t see myself. I don’t see my squishy cheeks or rounded shoulders. I see a girl with a fake smile, eyes too round and too big, cheekbones overly defined and protruding.

No one was worried about me. 

I can still feel the hunger of the first day I stopped eating, having brought no money or lunch to school, just a bag of vegetables and a diagnosis I would do anything to change.

No one was worried about me. 

Showers are a nightmare- raw and open, hair falling out in chunks, body crying out in hunger under the sting of warm water.

No one was worried about me.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t look sick. There was still fat on my thighs, my tummy was still a bit rounded, and my breasts hadn’t gone down very much. While my collarbones had started to protrude, and it wasn’t a feature I had ever shown before, it was taken as a normal sign of weight loss. I didn’t look sick. I wasn’t eating, but I wasn’t sick enough to save. 

With the help of the amazing online feminist community and this blog (many thanks to my wonderful supporters), I’ve been able to gain back ten pounds since January and work back to loving myself, but there are so many people- not just young and beautiful teen girls- who suffer in silence because they feel they do not fit the criteria for being “sick enough” to get help. Not only are we denying these people the love and support they deserve, we are risking their health and their lives. By perpetuating this idea of the teenage girl who does not see that her insecurity is rooted in her vanity, madness and stupidity we not only dehumanize them and their inability to cope with the conflicting messages about food that are constantly being thrown at them, we erase the experiences of the sufferers of eating disorders that don’t fit the mold.

No more encouraging bad eating habits and starvation in exchange for thinness. It’s time to prioritize the person instead of the image they see in the mirror.

I’ll eat whatever the fuck I want, and no one can stop me.

i’m sorry, are you finding my ankles too distracting?

When I was in high school, I thought I was a rebel. I wore my uniform blouse wide open, non-uniform colored tank top showing, tie (that no one else in the school wore- some questioned if it was even allowed at all) undone and strung around my neck, skirt hiked up with knee socks and whatever awful patterned converse I thought, usually very wrongly, looked cute. As the years went by, my skirt covered less and less, material disappearing in folds under my polos and blouses, or whatever shirt I decided I was breaking the code with that morning. In all honesty, my teenage rebellion pretty much ended there- save for maybe the tests and assignments I failed on a regular basis, but that was more out of laziness, if anything.

In the eleventh grade, senior year here in Montreal, we came back from winter break to find our administration armed with rulers, waving them in our faces as we entered the front doors. As the boys, in proper uniform or not, got to skip along to class, we got weeded out with the threat that if our skirts didn’t measure up to the no-shorter-than-three-inches-above-the-knee rule, we’d be sent home. While there was the odd visit from whoever was vice principal that year, an ever-changing position, disrupting class to make each girl stand next to their desk so the skirts we were desperately trying to pull down could meet whatever standard the school had decided was modest in past years, we had never experienced this much shame for our uniform.

Girls started getting sent down to the principal’s office, and having the hem of their skirt destroyed to that the skirt could gain an inch or two more of fabric. There were certain teachers you knew you’d have to unroll your skirt before walking by. They even started policing our socks- knee length or tights. Nothing covering less.  Cover up those ankles!

Dress codes seem pretty innocent. In my high school, as many others in Montreal, our uniform was supposedly to protect us from being jealous of each other and being hypersexualized. While those intentions are cute, at best, in practice, dress codes are nothing more than a way to police our girls.

Here’s what we need to understand about the way underage girls dress:

  • Girls’ bodies in leggings are not sexual
  • Girls’ bodies in shorts are not sexual
  • Girls’ bodies in spaghetti-strap tank tops are not sexual
  • Girls’ bodies in any type of clothing are not sexual because the female form is not inherently sexual and if you think it is you’re projecting your sexuality on underage children.

Girls’ bodies are not a playground or a piece of art to study, so why do we tell them that if they don’t cover up, they’re becoming a distraction? Why do we cite our boys as a reason to show less skin, not only putting the blame on girls when their peers objectify them, but assuming that boys have no respect for women, and encouraging that behavior? Are we so lazy that raising our boys to understand that women and girls are not alive for male consumption is too hard a task, too unwilling to make grown-ass men who prey on our girls take responsibility for their own disgusting gaze, that we just tell our girls to cover up?

Wearing my uniform didn’t stop hands from creeping up my skirt in the back of math class, or from having my bra undone without consequence in bible study. It didn’t stop the sexual harassment I endured when my body developed, and it didn’t make me feel safe. As my body grew and changed, it made me feel dirty. It made me feel ashamed.

My body is mine, and mine alone. It is not a source of honor to be desecrated by a look or touch from some boy, or an object to be appreciated. Our girls are so much more than the bodies they’ve been given, and the attention they get from them. We can no longer allow our girls to be sexualized. We must recognize that their bodies are natural and perfect and not perverse. Our ankles are not, and have never been, too distracting.

 

the bitch diaries: help! get me off this pedestal!

“Yeah, there aren’t really any rules in my house… I kind of do what I want and boys aren’t really an issue. My parents trust me.” My French is broken, but good enough for the boy who’s come to stay at my house from France for the next two months to piece together.

“See, if you were my daughter,” he stops laughing and looks me straight in the eyes, “you would never talk like this. Girls are sacred. Girls stay at home until they get married. Boys are boys, of course, but girls… Girls are pure.”

I feel my eye twitch. My French is absolutely awful. I search for words.

“You do realize girls are humans, who experience sexuality and have human emotions, right?” I raise my eyebrows and hope that he understands what I am going for.

“Yes,” he assures me, “and that’s why we have to keep them protected.”

I give up on this one. My language isn’t good enough and I can’t seem to get him to grasp even very simple feminist concepts.

I’ve gotten this idea of the Sacred Woman a lot since I was a kid. I remember one of my male camp staff talking to a group of us one day, assuring us fourteen year olds that the root of the word “slut” is the idea that women are inherently better than men. More pure, more likely to make the right decisions. Men, he told us, were pigs. Men were not supposed to make the right decisions, so when they didn’t, people moved on and didn’t care nearly as much.

Women, I’ve learned- though not directly, but through discreet language- are born on a pedestal. All it takes is one fuck up to knock us off. One party, one drink, one kiss too many, and we get downgraded. Women, I’ve learned, are pure. We are sacred, and lovely, and perfect, until we don’t fit the mold.

Here’s some news for you, if you haven’t picked up on it yet:

Women are human beings.

Let’s be real; idealizing women isn’t doing us any favours. Making us into these perfect madonnas is dehumanizing and manipulative, and controls the limits of what choices we are allowed to make. The cliche of a father or older brother being overprotective of a young girl and not allowing her the same freedom- sexual or not- allowed to her brother isn’t cute. It’s creepy and it puts imaginary concepts of virginity and purity before the humanity of girls and women. It makes us out to be objects that can be bought and won, not active protagonists in our stories.

I am a woman, not an angel. I strive to be kind and generous, but never perfect. I am not a source of honour or pride, not a prize or an object. I have thoughts, and emotions, and they are not always pretty or nice. Sometimes I am cruel, and sometimes I am pure. I am a hurricane of contradictions and I decide who I want to be.

It is time to step off the pedestal. We are not sacred. We are not pure. We are women, and we will be whoever the fuck we want to be.

the bitch diaries: time magazine, women do not wear makeup for you.

There are plenty of reasons not to wear makeup. It can cause bad reactions in your skin, it can be full of chemicals you really can’t pronounce, it’s time consuming, it’s hella expensive, you might be against the widespread animal testing, or you might not like makeup, and any and all of these reasons are totally cool.  Maybe you believe that traditional gender roles push makeup onto women and girls and you don’t think it’s right. Maybe you think that wearing makeup hides who you really are. These are all personal reasons not to wear makeup, and that’s completely right of you. These are all completely legit criticisms of makeup, and I won’t deny them.

I’ll admit that I do have a cosmetics addiction. I could spend upwards of a thousand dollars a year on them and feel no guilt. Caking on makeup, or as my friend Ashlea would say, “putting face on my face,” can take from five to twenty minutes, and is a ritual I treat myself to at least once a day. I own over forty lip products, fifteen of them being red lipsticks that are barely different, and I wear them as often as I feel like it… Meaning every day.  Even on sweatpants days.

There’s this ridiculous fallacy that women spend all their time thinking about how they can be aesthetically pleasant to look at for men’s consumption. I get that attitude a lot, and I get a lot of reactions to my ridiculous obsession with cosmetics that can pretty much be summed up by “But men don’t like that!” Time Magazine came out with an article today graciously letting us man-crazy women know that science has proven that men don’t like it when we wearing makeup. According to them, men preferred women at only 40% of their makeup routines, so lovingly telling us that we should “cool it with the eyeliner.”

Finally! The men have spoken! We can be free from our makeup routines now, am I right ladies?

Uh. Not quite.

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Newsflash: THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN.

See, I don’t put this on for you, Time Magazine. I don’t spend hours every week perfecting eyeliner so sharp it could kill for you to pat me on the head and tell me I’m pretty. I don’t spend a ridiculous amount of money finding the perfect shade of red for my tan so that I can kiss it off later. I don’t care that you like your girls “natural;” subtle makeup, baby-shaved, not overly in your face. Not only is this disgustingly heteronormative and encouraging of the erasure of LGBT* people and people on all parts of the gender spectrum that wear makeup, it’s gross and it gives men control of us and our bodies.

Don’t tell me that you like your girls “natural.” I feel no need to hear your opinion on the shade of my lipstick, or the shape or intensity of my eyeliner. I don’t care about your aversion to bright colors painted on the canvas I have created on my face, or the too-long lashes I have stuck onto my eyes. I refuse to crave your gaze as you claim I do. I am not chasing your affection. I will wear my lipstick as war paint, and hold my femininity as a sword before me. There is nothing shameful about painting myself into a work of art.

Face it: women do not wear makeup for you.

 

Here’s Time’s article: http://time.com/79584/science-women-less-makeup/

 

an faq: on what consent means

When I was in high school, the age of consent in Canada was 14. I remember turning to my friend on her fourteenth birthday and congratulating her on reaching the age of consent, joking that now she could truly have sex with anyone she wanted. Back then, I thought it was pretty funny (note: I am the least funny person on the planet). Now, not so much.

That’s what consent was to me back then: an age when you were legally allowed to have sex with whoever you wanted. My school had no sex ed- nothing on protection, health, or consent- and my sex talks at home were pretty much “Don’t ever go out with someone you don’t know” and “If someone tells you that you have to prove to them that you love them, leave.” The second one was on the right track, but still not the consent talk I didn’t know I needed.

Growing into adulthood (young adulthood? Am I an adult?), and becoming really involved in online feminism, I started to understand more about sexual assault and rape. I started to really grasp what consent means. Last month, I had the chance to run a workshop on consent with four amazing classes of ninth graders, and here’s what we discussed consent means:

 

  1. Consent is a very vocal yes.
    Getting someone’s consent is pretty easy- all you have to do is ask! Consent isn’t “Well, I don’t know…” or “I guess.”  If you say “Are you okay?” or “Are you enjoying this?” to your partner and you get a smile, a “Yes!” or other positive vocal or body language, your partner is consenting. If they are backing off, seem reluctant, or seem scared, you probably want to ask them how they’re doing.
  2. Just because your partner has consented to certain acts in the past, it does not mean that they are always consenting.
    You aren’t entitled to anything just because you’ve done it before. Neither is your partner. Never feel pressured into doing something you didn’t like, and don’t ever assume that your partner is willing to do something unless they’ve expressed- through words or body language- that they want to!
  3. A child cannot give consent.
    Age does matter. A child that has hit puberty is still a child. Their body might have developed, yes, but they do not have the life experiences or autonomy to make serious decisions, and consent ages are a thing for a reason. Boys who are underage are not “getting lucky” if an older woman is preying on them. Girls are not “jailbait.” Children, pubescent or not, are children. If you’re late to the game, here’s my own experience as a child experimenting with sexuality: http://wp.me/p4hkpW-d
  4. A person who is under the influence of alcohol cannot give consent.
    Slightly tipsy? Not a problem. Blacked out on the couch? This shouldn’t even have to be said. Drunk and stumbling is not consenting.
  5. You have the right to say no.
    You always, always have the right to take back your consent. Your body is yours alone, and no one can take it away from you. If you are in a situation where you were originally consenting, and halfway through you are not comfortable anymore, do not feel bad saying no. It is completely your right.

Consent shouldn’t have to be “sexy” for us to understand its importance. Consent will affect every single person on this planet in some way. Let’s make our spaces safer and take back our right to consent!

shake that ass, baby: men, you’re better than street harassers

You are walking a few minutes from your home with your friend. The silence turns into heavy stomps and deep laughter behind you. Your friend reaches for your hair, pulling it out of its ponytail, and tucks it into your cardigan.

“Stop being so bait,” she says, confidently striding down the street as you feel your palms become moist. You can tell that she’s nervous too- she tucks her key between her left middle and index fingers, her right hand firmly on your forearm as the laughter turns to howls.

“What?” you hear the voices say. “You shy? Come on sexy, keep shaking that ass!”

More laughter. You aren’t finding this very funny at all. You want to bolt, but you know that will only feed them. Your strides do not reflect the fear in your eyes that you refuse to move from a point straight ahead of you.

Minutes pass, but it feels like hours. The voices fade. Your heartbeat slows. You don’t know if they were a real threat, but you couldn’t be more relieved that they didn’t do anything to you. You are safe.

For now.

My catcalling experiences have been particularly petrifying. Maybe it’s because I’m not very bright and follow my wild best friend wherever she decides to take me at crazy times at night, maybe I’ve just ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time a bit too often. Maybe I’m more sensitive to the world around me, maybe I wear the wrong clothes in the wrong side of town.

These are all reasons for male behaviour I’ve heard when I describe my street harassment stories. With an overwhelming boys-will-be-boys attitude, I’ve heard every excuse possible for the cheers, the comments, the suggestive gestures, and applause (not my own story, but a strange one) that my friends and I have experienced over the years. My clothes are too revealing, I’m told, how could I not expect it? My friend’s legs are long and gorgeous, she should take it as a compliment.

Men, feminists are your biggest supporters. We believe in your intelligence and your humanity. Feminists know that you can do better than street harassment. We know that you are not wild beasts set on hunt- you can see a woman wearing revealing clothes and not attack. We know that you can tell the difference between a “You’re gorgeous” and a “Hey sexy, suck my dick!” This behaviour is completely learned, and you have the power to end it. You have the power in your hands to choose not to objectify women, and to call out your friends if they do. Change can very well start with you.

Men, we believe in you and your ability to be decent human beings. You are our brothers, our fathers, our teachers, our friends. No more “boys will be boys.” It is time to destroy street harassment, and I invite you to lead the way.