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May 16, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

Real life

A while ago, I talked to a friend soon after she had been sexually assaulted. I sat with her, on her couch, while she cried and talked about feeling violated and scared and hurt. And amongst all that, amongst the pain of what she was going through, she kept saying that she was a bad feminist.

Because a good feminist wouldn’t feel like it was her fault. Like she’d invited it, like she should have been able to stop it.

And all I could do was tell her she had done nothing wrong, and it wasn’t her fault. And that she wasn’t a bad feminist.

Because, self-identifying as a feminist doesn’t automatically turn you into a perfect person. You don’t suddenly grow a halo, and become able to fight every battle with ease and grace. Particularly when a lot of the work you do is online. I can interview my typewriter about this stuff ’til the end of the world. It doesn’t make the real world any easier.

I’ve been writing about SlutWalk, and the word Slut, over at TLG, and I am still conflicted about it. I absolutely support the walk, and I will be there with bells on. (You won’t be able to see them.) I support the right of women to reclaim “slut” for themselves. I even support “the movement” adopting it. I understand the arguments. I get that reclaiming it is to dilute the negative power of the word, and not being ashamed.

I am a sex-positive feminist. I think I have demonstrated that pretty clearly. I am not ashamed by my sexuality, although it is something I like to talk about on my own terms, and not have broadcast for me. But hey, ask me, and I will likely tell you. Drink with me and Emma, and it will be pretty fucking obvious. I believe in a woman’s right to autonomy over her body and her image, without the intervention of anyone else. I will, within reason and my own moral code, fuck who I like, thanks very much.

And yet. I just can’t get entirely on board with Slut. Because I’m not a perfect feminist. I still, on occasion, judge a woman on her clothing. I still laugh at a perfectly timed sexist joke. I still like rugby. (I’m given to believe I can’t enjoy rugby and be a member of the sisterhood.) I am aware of my privilege, and I try to take it into account where I can. But I am not an angel.

And even given what I proclaim, what I believe, there is a teeny-tiny traitorous voice in my head that says “Tallulah, you are a slut. And that’s a bad thing”. It’s only in my…darker…moments that that voice holds any sway, that I listen to it at all. I fundamentally don’t believe it. Why do you think I drink so much? It’s to shut that voice up.

But it’s still there, and it still hurts. It means when someone calls me a slut, in anger, it takes me a second to recover and fight back. It means it’s not a word I can take lightly. It hurts. I wish, when people suggest that I’m a prude (hah!) for not wanting to reclaim it, they’d remember that.

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May 12, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

[Cross-posted at TLG, but here if you want an even safer place to call me a slut.]

The first time I was ever called a slut, it was by my brother. I was 14, and a virgin. He objected to the shirt I was wearing, which I was accessorising with jeans and sneakers. It was my boyfriend’s shirt, and I guess it was too see-through, or I had too many buttons unbuttoned, or something, hence the epithet posh slut.

The next time was my boyfriend. He like to throw it around quite liberally. “You can’t go out dressed like that, you look like a slut.” “Why are you five minutes late? I bet you’ve been out slutting it up” “Why do you bother flirting like that, no one would want a stupid slut like you.” The last time he called me a slut was while he hurled a vase at my head.

After that, it was another boyfriend. He used it….differently. I didn’t hate it quite so much. But still, the first time he said it, I stiffened, upset. Wondering if it meant that on some level, he hated me. It didn’t of course, and he meant it in an entirely different way.

I’ve been called it a thousand times. I’ve asked over, and over again, how many people I have to have slept with to deserve the title. 100? 1000? 10? In the past year? 1, 3, 5? Does it make a difference if I’ve been in a relationship? No one has ever been able to answer. Shouldn’t something as important as this have a definitive number? If all women are either Madonnas or Whores, shouldn’t you be able to tell us which we are?

I’ve been called slut by a group of old men, by other women, once, fantastically, by a toddler. I have been repeatedly harrassed with phone calls and emails reminding me I am nothing but a worthless slut.

And you know what? None of that had anything to do with my clothes. None of it really had to do with me, except maybe that third example. It has everything to do with the fact that I (mostly) project myself as a woman comfortable with myself and my sexuality. That I am not scared to flirt, or ask for what I want.

And I am not putting up with it anymore. What I wear does not belong to you, anymore than who I sleep with. It wouldn’t matter if I was wearing these. Because it doesn’t matter. Assault isn’t about how we look, and calling me a slut is all about you, not me. It’s about you being intimidated by women who like sex. I can like sex how I like it, and I will put what I want on my body, from assless chaps to a nun’s habit, and you know what? None of that is any of your business. Stop policing women’s bodies, and stop making excuses for rapists.

I’ll be marching. Join me:

June 25 – Slutwalk Aotearoa protest, Auckland Chapter. More info.

June 25 – Slutwalk Aotearoa protest, Wellington Chapter. More info.

May 11, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

The Lady Garden

So, yeah, you can find me at a new place. I will still be here on occasion, just checking in, saying hi, whining about how the fucking patriarchy has done me wrong, but really, it’ll be more fun over at The Lady Garden.

The ladies over there are splendid, and will be writing awesome things. I will be chirping in with posts liberally sprinkled with the word “slut”, for a start. (Seriously, I have two already drafted.) I will cross posts things here, and may update them as I go.

In other news, I was thinking an advice column might be a plan – based on some commentary I have seen around. Would you like to see it over there, with all of us, or here? Do you even want my advice? Have you questions? Hit me, in the comments.

May 10, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

Roundup

Because my debauched lifestyle has caught up on me in the past few days*, I offer today a round up of things to either make you smile, or shake with rage, whatever your preference.

The smiles:

“The mother of American feminist identity, Louise Bourgeois, considered the spider the ultimate mother figure. In turn, Lady Gaga is considered the ultimate mother to her ‘little monsters.’?”

  • With a phrase to rival “internal chastity orb” as my favourite of all time, Pamie chats about her magical vulva of opportunity.
  • XKCD on women in the sciences
  • A little bit of (the real) Tallulah fabulousness


The rages: (Assume trigger warnings all over the shop, probably)

  • Erasing Hillary. Yes, I bet there’s any number of people who wish it were that easy. It just reminded me of this.
  • I wanted to put this in the smiles, because of Holly’s excellent argument, but ultimately, reading the comments made me tired. I don’t understand why we’re still having to have this conversation. Why are still having to say IT’S NOT OUR FUCKING CLOTHES. (via WYFC)
  • Hey sluts, stop having babies to steal taxpayers’ money, and stop letting men smack you round. Or so says Kerre Woodham.
  • Can women ever stop feeling fat? Yes, maybe if we didn’t constantly use the word as a pejorative, and stopped writing pointless articles about celebrities’ body image.
  • Having a baby is a “life choice” and one men don’t make, don’t you know. Also, women are out to make sport wussy. What are we gonna do, change ice hockey pucks for cupcakes?

* To quote my namesake: “Nobody can be exactly me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”

May 4, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

Oh, right, we can’t be funny.

Only in comedy,” she writes, about interviewing for a writing job on “Saturday Night Live” in 1997, “does an obedient white girl from the suburbs count as diversity.

I had a whinge on Twitter the other night, that there were no female comedians in the televised Gala from the Comedy Festival*.

Aside from all the replies I got from funny, funny women, I was told that actually, no, there are no female comedians in New Zealand.

This whole “women can’t be funny**” thing is old. Well, I mean we can be funny when we talk about periods, I guess, but eeeew, who wants to hear that? I googled “funny women” to see if I could find an image for this post, and darlings, that shit is offensive.

So, I took a look at the Comedy Festival programme. There’s a bunch of shows that feature women. The so-called Comedy Convoy, with five “world class comedians” , includes a girl. And then there’s ladies headlining their own shows, including Irene Pink, who I love, and who has been in the “Gala” before. And these were the ones I just identified off the main pages.

So why, I ask,  in 2 1/2 hours of comedy, could they not throw a bone to one of the chicks? Am I over-reacting? Probably, I do that. But it seems strange, no? You bring a bunch of comedians from all over the world for a festival, and in your flagship show, televised to a large audience, completely ignore half your audience. Diversity Schmiversity.

* Let’s not get me started that the only women featured on that front page, at time of writing, were the queen picking her nose, and a burlesque artist winking. Not that burlesque is not awesome, and close to my Tallulah-ish heart, but come on, it’s not likely to have one rolling in the aisles, is it? Especially as the show it is advertising (“Who knew comedy could be so sexy?” Um, anyone who has had sex, ever?) is hosted by “France’s premiere misogynist & lover Marcel Lucont” . Wait. Why are we using misogynist as something to celebrate? Why would anyone want to go to that show? Ugh. (First person to call “irony” gets a pony.)

** I read that column years ago, and remember being pissed off. I just re-read it with my years more-advanced-pissed-off-humourless-lesbian hat on. “There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three. When Roseanne stands up and tells biker jokes and invites people who don’t dig her shtick to suck her dick—know what I am saying? And the Sapphic faction may have its own reasons for wanting what I want—the sweet surrender of female laughter”. Mate, just fuck off, OK?

May 1, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

Someone Like Me

You’ve heard of Adele, right? She’s amazing. She has this incredible voice, and is number one all over the world. I’ve been trying to get over a man, recently (I know, I know, my namesake would have said ‘fuck him’ and find another, but what can you do?) and I have played this video over and over.

But there’s something you might not know about Adele. Did you know she’s fat? Or “fuller figured”*? The funny thing is, she doesn’t even look that big to me. But apparently I am wrong. No, really:

So what else is interesting about this British-born pop singer? Let me see. She has lovely auburn hair. She has a beautiful, pouty mouth. She has skin like a porcelain doll. She works a liquid eyeliner even better than Amy Winehouse. Anything else? Hmm, oh yes, she’s a little large-boned, isn’t she?

Aside from the liquid eyeliner part (too much drinking in the morning for those kinds of cosmetic shenanigans) , that could describe me, so I should be flattered, right? Like fuck.

Because, you see, if, as per the article, her size and shape are the least interesting things about her, why am I having to write a ranty, expletive-filled blog post about the body-policing of her? Why is she being treated like a nice armchair?

That’s fitted, not as in tight, mind you, but as in tailored to fit, describing the shape truthfully, but not making it bulge anywhere. It’s like good upholstery.

And why does the authour feel the need to give her the nicest backhanded compliment I have seen in weeks?

The one word that would define her approach is unapologetic. She doesn’t look great despite being big – it’s an essential part of it.

Look, lady, I don’t know anything about you. But let me give you some advice. We “bigger ladies” don’t need to be patronised to. We can dress ourselves perfectly well. We don’t need your “standard rules for larger-sized women”. Because I have lived in this body for a while now, and I can tell you what the rules are.

  1. Don’t be hot while fat
  2. Don’t look happy while fat.
  3. Don’t be badly-dressed while fat.

You see, the first two break all of society’s perceptions of what fat people are like. The third reinforces them. We can’t win, no matter how we dress.
All my life, I have heard an addendum to every compliment I have been given. “You’re beautiful”. For a fat girl. “Gosh, you get around the netball court well.” For a fat girl. “You’re quite good at that “. For a fat girl. “I love you”. Which is surprising, because you’re a fat girl.

And so, I did what fat people everywhere are taught to do. I hid. Usually with potato chips and diet coke. And when I went out, I hid behind acres of fabric, dark colours, and unflattering cuts. I didn’t talk about it. Two years ago, I couldn’t have written the paragraph above.

It’s been a long process, but that’s not who I am anymore. I wear clothes that fit, that flatter me. And even when they don’t, I say “fuck it. This is my body. It’s not changing anytime soon, so I may as well enjoy it for what it is.” I wear bright colours and red lipstick, high heels and short skirts. I am not ashamed of my body, so why are you ashamed on my behalf? I don’t know Adele, but I like to think maybe that’s how she is. “Mate, I am fucking awesome. Have you seen my record sales? Can I show you my Grammys? Why the fuck are we talking about my body?”

You’re right, Maggie Alderson, “Precious things come in big packages too. ” And small ones, and medium sized ones. And brown ones and white ones, and ones with big hands and hairy legs and grey hair. It’d be really nice, if just once, we could celebrate who a woman is, rather than what she weighs, and what she puts on her body.

* Just out of interest, does this mean slimmer women don’t have the full quota of figure? Are they half full, or half empty? Are you a body policing optimist?

April 29, 2011 / tallulahspankhead

Dear Mr Smythe, how about you go fuck yourself

A kind friend alerted me to this letter to the editor in The Wellingtonian a couple of weeks ago. He made sure to stand well clear while I read it. Because, the person who wrote it is a douchecanoe.

Is Rollerball a sport?

In the past few editions of your newspaper “roller derby” has been referred to as a sport. I find this laughable.

Too often hobbies and pastimes are lifted to the status of a sport for no apparent reason.

These faux sports are littered everywhere you look – synchronised swimming, table tennis, walking- the list goes on. Even more disturbing is the willingness of the Olympic organisers to allow some of these weekend fancies to compete for medals on the world stage.

True sport involves physical prowess and stamina, skill and finesse, history and tradition. Rugby (union) and cricket embody the beauty of a sport – not a time-filling fad which involves chasing people around while wearing shoes with wheels.

Leave roller skating to children in the park, and waitresses at crass American diners in the 1950s, and let the real sportsmen (and sportswomen in those few sports suitable for the fairer sex) get on with the job of competing in the real sports.

Ronald Smythe

Mt Cook.

To repeat. Dear Mr Smythe, how about you go fuck yourself? Let’s start with Roller Derby. I am lucky enough to know some of the skaters in Richter City Roller Derby. My name, Tallulah Spankhead, owes quite a lot to the tradition of derby names, and would be a great one. I have been lucky enough to attend several bouts. Dude. These chicks are athletes. You want physical prowess and stamina? They train four times a week, sometimes more. Skating is hard. It’s not a kid in a playground skating around in circles. They learn how to fall, how to block opposing skaters, how to turn and plough and whip. They are fast. Seriously fast. And I don’t know if you have ever been on skates, but even staying upright and not falling on your ass every thirty seconds is hard work. It is a cardio-intense activity, my friend.

You want skills? Before anyone is allowed to play in a game, they have to pass a skills test that has a shedload of requirements. Not to mention knowing a number of rules, most of which are designed to keep people safe, because this shit is hardcore.I have seen skaters break arms, tear ligaments, and get concussions. Finesse? Oh, honey. You have no idea. Watch some video. You’ll see finesse aplenty. And it isn’t just in the fishnets. It is in the skating, the ability and the fucking skill.

You want history and tradition? How about you do some research? Derby has been around in some form or another, since the early 1900s. It has a rich history. Yes, contemporary roller derby is different, but it pays homage to the past, intensely.

If you can’t see skill, grace, strength, teamwork and competitiveness in this, then I don’t know where you can see it:

Photo courtesy of Mike Roseingrave

But you see, none of that means anything, because that’s not really the point, is it? We chicks, the “fairer sex”, should just fuck off back to the kitchen and stop encroaching on the male domain, right? God, it must gall you that the Black Ferns have a better record at world cups than the All Blacks. And just what sports are suitable for the fairer sex? Competitive knitting? Extreme needlecraft? Team cupcake icing? I bet you long for the days when women played netball in long skirts and buttoned up blouses.

I like rugby (union. HAH!) and cricket as much as the next girl. Significantly more so. I like them more than many men. I apologise for the misogyny and rape culture and hyper-masculinity of those sports on a pretty regular basis. And I do it because what athletes can do astounds and enthralls me. In fact, I like most sports, though I will agree with you on not understanding synchronised swimming. However, I wouldn’t dismiss it as not a sport, because you know what? I couldn’t do that shit, and it looks pretty hard to me.

If roller derby is just “chasing people around while wearing shoes with wheels”, surely rugby is just “chasing around an oddly-shaped ball while beating other people up”? Where’s the skill, the passion, the physical prowess? You know what I would love? To get you along to a derby training, strap you into some skates, and see how you do.

Is ‘rollerball’ a sport? Of course it fucking is, my friend. And even were it not, that still wouldn’t give you the right to dismiss an activity as “unsuitable to the fairer sex”. We’re not playthings for you to enjoy. You don’t get to dictate what activities are suitable for us. WE get to do that, individually. For ourselves.

===

[ In the meantime, if unlike Mr Smythe, you think roller derby is the biz, get along to the next bout. In wellington, it is May 7: Brutal Pageant vs. Smash Malice]. Come along. I will be the one in black, rocking the red lipstick. Information on the other leagues in New Zealand is here.]