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Taking up space

I wrote this on Tumblr yesterday and I needed to put it somewhere I'd be able to find again, since Tumblr is shit for that.

OK so today we kayaked again, and friends, it was MAGICAL. I’ve said all of this on twitter so skip to the next paragraph if you’ve seen it but on the way there we saw a woodchuck, just chilling out on the side of the road nomming some plants. Then on the river we saw about a million turtles sunning themselves, the usual shit-tons of geese and ducks, lots of ducklings and goslings too, loons, blue herons, night herons, herons sitting on a floaty thing making patterns with their wings (every other one had their wings out), and a guy on the banks playing saxophone as we paddled past.

Anyway the important thing is that this is actually only my second time kayaking, but I did WAY better than last time. We were out there for about 2.5 hours, and we went 7.28 miles, which is a LOT and my shoulders will probably hate me tomorrow. So right now I’m pretty damn pleased with myself, and it got me thinking about body acceptance and exercise and stuff. I’ve been lifting weights semi-seriously for a couple of months now too, and I’m starting to see actual definition in my arms? That’s rad. Here’s the thing, is that doing this stuff is making me appreciate my body in ways I don’t think I have before. Like, I’m still fat guys, I’m not going to shy away from that. I hover around 200 pounds right now and I’m kinda short, and I’m fat. Whatevs, right?

I’ve seen Fat Acceptance people talk about not “punishing” their body with exercise, and I get that. The thing that’s changed is that exercise is now a way for me to revel in my body and be proud of what it can do. There’s probably a lot more there to think about, and I might come back to it, but the other thing this got me onto was healthy and unhealthy behaviors and how sometimes those can be the same behaviors but with different mindsets, which is not a terribly earth-shattering thought, but there it is. I used to exercise because I thought I had to because obviously I should want to be thin. Sidenote: it may or may not be important to the understanding of this post that my mom is/was/is again IDK anorexic. Which explains a lot about my thought processes and what I heard growing up. Anyway. I always hated exercise, and I hated sports, and nothing about any of it was ever fun once it became about losing weight. Exercise was a means to an end and that end came out of self-hatred and all of the ways society told me to hate myself because my body was unacceptable. So no wonder I never really stuck with it, right?

My goals have changed completely now. I’m pretty cool with my muscles bulking up if that’s what ends up happening with my body, I’m cool if my stomach’s never flat, whatever. I really loved the way I felt at the end of our paddle today, even if my arms were a little shaky trying to get out of the dang kayak (if you have never done this it is an obnoxious way to do things), and I know my shoulders will probably hate me tomorrow. There’s a lot tied up in this, and part of it is this whole thing where being a vocal (even mildly vocal, which is where I put myself) feminist on the internet means accusations of misandry, and how so many of us have basically decided to just run with that for now. I mean hey, if you’re going to accuse me of hating men and wanting them all dead, well, you convinced me! So there’s a bunch of us who’ve been weightlifting and talking about this and rejecting this thing of wanting to be stronger but “you know, not bulking up.” Screw it man, I’m fine with my body bulking up. I want to look like I can punch ALL the dicks.

So then the flipside of this is how the same behavior can be healthy or unhealthy even in the same person. In high school my best friend was anorexic. Which I was super in denial about because I saw her eat every day, so how could this be? She was a health nut, right? And that was the thing. She exercised to the point of obsession, and she’d internalized the idea that *any* fat on her body was bad. Part of this was because she got into bodybuilding. It got bad enough with her that she stopped having her period and her parents were thinking of sending her to an institution instead of having her senior year at school with me. This was the point where together, she and I finally faced the extent of her problem, and she started getting better.

A few years later when we were in college in different states, she sent me an email after completing her first half-marathon. She talked about standing in the shower after the race and being exhausted, but so proud of her body and what it had accomplished. She knew she never would have had the staying power for a race like that when she was still sick.

So I don’t really have a grand conclusion here, and obviously this is really just about me and I’m not going to try to generalize out to anyone else or start acting like I know what everyone should do, but this was some important stuff for me to think through. It’s kind of a big deal for me to be able to look in the mirror and see my belly fat and still be proud of how far I got in the kayak today, and know that tomorrow I’m going to completely rock my gym session, and even if no one but me can *look* at me and see all that, well, fuck those people anyway.

So the part I forgot when I wrote this (because my brain was actually pretty fried, which is why this may seem a *bit* all over the place) is that there's also this thing where women aren't supposed to take up space. Diet yourself into literally disappearing dammit why do you think you deserve any space here? I hear the same thing when people tell women not to bulk up, not to use heavy weights because muscles on girls are gross, on and on and on. And that's part of where I'm coming from here, as a women trying to learn how to be comfortable with taking up space. I am allowed to fill the space I am in.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 11th, 2012 10:20 pm (UTC)
I read this whole thing, and I'm super-happy for you that you are doing awesome things and feeling strong and accomplished in your own skin! That's fantastic. :)
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
Kayaking is such stupid amounts of fun.
Jun. 11th, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
Right back atcha!
Jun. 12th, 2012 12:14 am (UTC)
Screw it man, I’m fine with my body bulking up. I want to look like I can punch ALL the dicks.

Same here, and I'm with you on the weightlifting lately! And people who tell women not to use heavy weights because muscle mass is just for dudes get punched twice.
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
Have you seen this site? I've only read a little of it so far because a friend recced it last night, but it looks pretty great for women and lifting and everything.
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:20 am (UTC)
Of course then I did not actually include the link. It looks like the site is down right now but go look later.
Jun. 12th, 2012 01:51 am (UTC)
Ooooo! Will have a looksee!
Jun. 13th, 2012 01:33 am (UTC)
Hee. I knew even without the link which site you must be pointing to. Krista (the woman behind Stumptuous) is an old, old friend of mine - the wife of my best friend since forever. As soon as I read, "Screw it, I'm fine with my body bulking up," (and good for you, that rocks) I thought: she should be reading Krista.
Jun. 13th, 2012 01:35 am (UTC)
Oh for real? That's awesome! Yeah, the other night one of my friends pointed me there, and what I've read so far I've really liked.
Jun. 12th, 2012 04:09 am (UTC)
Yay! Go you with the feeling empowered!
Jun. 12th, 2012 06:10 am (UTC)
This is so terrific, all of it. I'm delighted for you. (I originally wrote "Good for you!" but that never sounds sincere even when it is.)

I've been working really hard lately, and my arms hurt for a bit and then got better, and I'm pretty sure that means that once Readercon is over and the workload drops, I could start very carefully exercising my upper body again. I noticed a few weeks ago that I have little stretch marks on my upper arms where my muscles have ebbed and the skin is starting to sag, and that makes me sad. I miss being strong. I never quite looked like this userpic, but I was strong. I want to find a way back there without injuring myself again. There is no feeling better than being in one's body and thrilling to what it's doing and can do.
Jun. 12th, 2012 10:25 am (UTC)
There is no feeling better than being in one's body and thrilling to what it's doing and can do.

So, so, so agreed. Be assured that if you decide to blog that progress, you will be guaranteed a very loud cheering section! (I am a very loud person most of the time. Also if you do not blog it I will be cheering for you all the same. Basically I am always cheering for you.)
Jun. 13th, 2012 02:03 pm (UTC)
Good luck with your journey Rose!
Jun. 12th, 2012 10:30 am (UTC)
Lately whenever I learn another woman is going for ALL THE STRONGS I get good-teary and want to WHOOP.

In a relatively short period of time this has come to really mean a huge deal to me, and finding a community within my community who share this interest that I have felt weirdly shy about (I AM ALREADY SO VOLUBLE MUST I BE OBNOXIOUS ABOUT GYM STUFF ALSO WHAT IF IT BORES OR HURTS PEOPLE AUGH MUST SQUISH) is just tremendously heartening.

So GO YOU! YAY KAYAKING! TAKE UP THAT SPACE! I will tell you here that last night I was FLEXING MY BICEPS AND SQUEEZING THEM and goddammit they are FIRM AS FUCK and I am PROUD OF THAT.

(My triceps sadly are not. BUT THEY WILL BE.)

Also I love you and you are best.
Jun. 13th, 2012 02:02 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. Are you coming to Readercon this year? I can't remember what you said. I just really want you to come kayak with us. The river is very cool.

I love you too!
Jun. 13th, 2012 06:51 pm (UTC)
No, alas. The only potential con for me this year is WFC in Toronto. But I would dearly love to go kayaking with you! Next summer.
Jun. 13th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
*big crocodile tears* Ok, next summer I am holding you to this. :)
Jun. 13th, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
This is so awesome!!

Jun. 13th, 2012 02:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks V!
Jun. 13th, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
I was trying to be more eloquent or say something meaningful, but that's all I could come up with. I've been going through a similar exercise-and-what-it-means-to-me-and-my-body thing. I'm so glad it's been rewarding for you!

Also, I never thought of the concept that women shouldn't take up space, but that is so true. I see it every day when a man on the T spreads his legs wide and pushes mine against the side of the train, when a large man walks by and brushes against my shoulder because I should have dodged, apparently. yeah.
Jun. 13th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC)
Dude no worries I know exactly what you mean. I've seen in your journal some of when you talk about this, and I think we are coming from very similar places.

Right? Or that time a dude literally sat on Kate and then acted confused when she objected? It's something all women get and it's hugely tied into the shaming that fat women hear. Even worse if that women is visibly disabled or non-white. God how dare they take up space someone could be using?
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )


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