Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
BY KAT SMITH
My mom has recently gotten on a health kick in an effort to get fitter, so I’ve been accompanying her to gym sessions and meetings with nutrition specialists (aka phony herbal supplement salespeople). They’ve asked us both what our health-related goals are. My mom cites a numbers of pounds she’d like to lose but when they ask me, I always say, “I just want to live a long and healthy life. I’m not really concerned with weight, I just want to stay healthy.”
I thought that’d be a reasonable answer, but yet, every time they pause as if they are waiting for me to add to my statement before they ask “So… how much weight are you looking to lose?” And I respond, dumbfounded, “I don’t know… I’m not really looking to lose any. I mean if it happens, fine. I’m just trying to stay active.”
Now, I’m an average height, and know for a fact that I’m well within the healthy BMI range. I have no chronic health problems and eat my fruits and veggies on the regular. My nutritional habits might not be perfect (as my penchant for peanut butter can attest to) but all in all, I think I’m doing pretty alright at this point.
So I’m kind of wondering why everyone— from my family, to the media, to so-called “health professionals”— seem to equate diet and exercise strictly with losing weight. Maybe I’m on the treadmill because, well, I like to run? Or maybe I’m eating carrots because I haven’t had my daily dose of Vitamins C? I’m trying very hard to understand this obsession with size, but seeing as my brain doesn’t really get fatter or skinnier depending on what’s on my plate, I’m finding it a little difficult to care at this point.
Yet, no matter how confident I try to stay in my own body, other women are always there to keep me in check. “She’s really gained some weight”, my mom comments on a friend’s Facebook photo before turning to me to say, “You might think about losing a few pounds too.” Why do we feel the need to police each other? If Kim Kardashian gains 10 pounds, it’s an instant headline. But what difference does her or anyone else's weight make to your own life? We are conditioned not only to hate ourselves, but also to take issue with any other woman who doesn't have the picture-perfect bodies we're so constantly shown.
We can't entirely put the blame on each other, but it still feels like everyone wants me to be concerned about the number on the scale? I’ve been actively trying to work against an idea that has been beat into me for several years now by pretty much every ‘Women’s Magazine’ on sale today, but it’s starting to feel like people actually want me to hate my body and equate waist size with self-worth. Has self-hatred really become the expectation for women everywhere?
Fortunately, I stopped putting up with that a long time ago when I went on the feminist diet, which means I eat whatever I want, guilt-free. It must be working so far because I feel better than ever. No self-loathing required.
Monday, July 11, 2011
BY ERIN CARHART
If you’ve been keeping up with your movie media recently you’d know that Pixar released their newest trailer for a film called Brave. Now, this isn’t the typical hero tale of a toy that saves the day or about an older man who finally learns to let love in again. No, no, this movie is about a young woman, Merida.
In Pixar’s Brave, Merida plays the first female lead in their animation history. Her character is a young woman who defies the tradition of her country and instead of following suit, Merida takes a strong interest in archery. She isn’t the classical Disney princess nor is she the damsel in distress. Merida is simply asking for a chance to decide for herself. However, this narrative does seem to ring the classical fairy tale bells. A young girl defying tradition, eventually seeking help from an elder, and then forced to face the ultimate challenge…so wait, is there a happy ending?
Could it be a fairy tale that will end with a woman not happily married to a man? Though the challenge is left for Merida to face and she takes on quite a burden because of her “mistakes”, leaving some feminists to ask: Has the movie industry finally got it? Will Merida be the breaking point in which fairy tales no longer predictably end with companionship or that the female role must sacrifice for others? This movie has an opportunity to bring stronger and empowering messages to younger generations, but now we wait until opening day to see what exactly Merida’s bravery will bring to our conversation.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
BY KAT SMITH
Why is the urban world made to feel so perilous for women? In the half an hour it takes me to take the LRT and the KTM to my internship every morning, my mother worries, my father worries and even I worry for my safety more than any other time of the day. What frightening train-riding perverts or robbers might I incur today?! It’s frustrating to feel like I need to be escorted everywhere I go, and equally infuriating that everyone is so concerned with my safety simply because I am a woman. If I were a man, would the big bad world be so big and bad in their eyes?
Until I was 10 (and even then, very reluctantly) I was never allowed to walk to school without my older brother by my side. When I was 15 I fought my mother for the privilege of walking the less than a mile walk to the high street where I volunteered. Mind you, I lived in a small, sleepy English town full of elderly people and school children. Hardly the cesspool it had been made out to be.
Now having gained my independence for the first time, I stretched it as far as I possibly could by going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the summer. Everyone keeps telling me how “brave” I am to have come here “all my myself.” I’m not quite sure if I should take all this as a compliment or re-enforcement of my perceived limitations as a woman.
But I hate to admit that this constant fear mongering has gotten to me. I find myself picking up the pace when I’m alone, clutching my bag tighter and looking over my shoulder on a regular basis. Now, I know that not everyone is out to get me, but I’ve been conditioned from the point I was born until now to believe that “it only takes one time.”
However, the thing that puts me most at ease during my daily commute is knowing that in Malaysia the KTM has a section dedicated solely for women. These pink train cars, plastered with “Women Only” icons were introduced in 2010 not out of religious sensitivities as I had assumed, but as a deterrent for sexual harassment in the country. The segregated cars also have the added benefit of being less crowded during the intense KL rush hours. The gender segregation is not mandatory, and women are allowed to use the other cars as well, although men receive intense stare-downs if they ever unintentionally board the pink carriages. Women-only train cars also exist in Tokyo, although some men are petitioning for men-only carriages as a measure of gender equality, and to avoid false accusations of groping.
So then what is the Feminist stance on women-only carriages? Is it a good safety measure as a deterrent of sexual harassment? Other women like me who are travelling alone at night may feel sense of security from the measure, but is it reinforcing the idea that women need to be protected and setting back gender equality at the same time? How would women in the U.S. react to the introduction of women-only cars? Is the pink necessary? Hit up the comment box or tweet at @medusamagazine to let us know your thoughts on segregated travel.