The Limitations of Swagger

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Once upon a time, before there was a Fatosphere, I was addicted to Pandagon. And most especially, to the writings of one Amanda Marcotte. She was funny, sassy, irreverent, and most of all, she had the thing that I so desperately wished I had — swagger.

Ah, swagger, the deep down feeling that you’re so right about everything, that you really are fundamentally all that and a 20-pound box of Macadamia nuts, and that that swagger was based on real, genuine talent and artistry (and popularity for same), not just Being Young and Looking Hawwwt. (Mind you, I really have no idea if Amanda actually does or ever did feel that way about herself, but for the purposes of what I am exploring here, it’s largely irrelevant.) I wanted that so, so much. I thought that if I read enough Amanda, some of that swagger of hers would rub off on me. I would learn the “good” way to walk, talk, and carry myself. She believed all women should get to have that feeling of cockiness, even women who were fat and dorky and clumsy. Didn’t she?

Ah, the feeling of always being right, of not even needing to pray in order to feel that way. That feeling that even on those rare occasions that you’re wrong, it’s only about something really piddly like bouncing a check to Safeway and knowing that you’ll be able to make good on it with tomorrow’s paycheck. I have known I had Asperger syndrome only since October of last year. Before that, I spent most of the hours of my day wondering why I just couldn’t “get with the program,” i.e. experience life the way neurotypical (NT) people did. Why? Why did I get so flooded, so overwhelmed, so weird about things? Why did the tiniest flash of anger, the most mild argument with people, make me want to die? Why why why? Why weren’t the meds doing anything to stop that? All I could think was try harder try harder try harder, fit in fit in fit in fit in don’t be such a wuss, such a doof, such a big baby, grow up and get over yourself already, on more or less an endless repeating loop.

If only I could absorb enough Amanda-ness, I thought, I’d be just fine. If I could only be confident and hip and cool and on top of things. Maybe someday, if I studied her Friday Random Tens enough, I’d write a song she really liked. Maybe she’d come to Powell’s on a book tour and I could really sell fat acceptance to her — she was close, so close, there were just a few little bitty inaccurate assumptions standing in the way. Maybe someday I’d be inspired to purge all the artists from my iTunes playlist she thought were crap and add bunches of ultrahip new ones I’d never heard before. Maybe someday I’d even find it in me to give up the god stuff — even though my god concept was the sort of neopagan/polytheistic/collective-higher-mind stuff that fundies don’t care for any more than they care for atheism and I was a passionate defender of separation of church and state, maybe she was right and even saying the word “god” was a sop to the Bible-beaters and I should really find it in me to cut it out. I would. Really. Someday. When I had swagger.

(My face is burning, so embarrassed am I to admit all of this. I could crack an egg on my cheek right now and it would be done in seconds.)

Over the past year or so, though, the Fatosphere started spreading like some species of uncommonly delicious and crazyhealing wild mushroom, and I started reading a lot more Shakesville after Kate Harding started contributing there, and that started eating up a lot of the time I used to spend on Pandagon. So when the controversy about the cover of Amanda’s upcoming book, It’s a Jungle Out There, first arose on Pandagon late last summer, I didn’t really notice. I didn’t read the comments, and I certainly didn’t take in the original cover concept — a huge black gorilla carting off a white girl, King Kong style — and think, “ZOMGRACISM.” I thought it was ugly and I didn’t care for it, and as a collegiate movie dork of old I did remember some film-criticism analysis of the movie (which I have never seen) as racist, but there had been lots of gorilla imagery in popular culture since then, and…and…no, at first glance I didn’t see it. Had I wandered into the commentary I certainly would have gotten an education — not only about that, but also about how Amanda responded to the criticism she got. Joykillers, she called the people who objected. To her credit, she ultimately did lobby with her publisher to change the cover, a gutsy thing for a first-time author to do, but it took a lot of pressure and arm-twisting to get her to do it, and her attitude was a whole lot less, “I’m sorry,” than it was, “OK, I changed it, are all you jealous whiners happy now?”

I would have gotten an eyeful of the limitations of swagger — that is, the problem with thinking you’re always right is, there’s no room in your mind to see it from anyone else’s point of view. Maybe I would have started to understand that wanting to join the Cool Kids Club — at my age! — was ludicrous and that such a club’s very presence meant that ipso facto some people would need to feel left out and hurt. After all, the very idea of sneering hipsterism buys into the idea that there are “right” things to like and “wrong” things to like, and there is nothing to be learned from anyone whose tastes fall into the latter camp — and they will fall into the latter camp if they are different enough from you in color, in socioeconomic class, in 200 different flavors of unprivilege. Even if not everyone in that personal hall of mirrors looks exactly like you, they still behave in ways you have already conscripted them to behave, there is no way to really be surprised. I knew in my bones that there was something dreadfully limited about this kind of thinking, but I wasn’t prepared to accept the fact that my lack of hipness was not the problem here.

My lack of readiness was. I simply did not want to know that Amanda Marcotte was not who I thought she was — someone who was as compassionate and deep and open-minded as she was slick and clever — and that I was not inferior to her. It was a set of data that would not compute.

I carried that sense of inferiority-to-Amanda-ness right up through the Brownfemipower appropriations controversy and the second set of blowups about the artwork for Amanda’s book after it was released. That is what it took to finally break the spell. (Amanda’s apology for the latter was a good start, but I’m still waiting to see what she and Seal Press do next.) And even there, I had to admit that until those hideous caricatures of Dark-Skinned Savages were shoved into my face pictorially I would have missed them entirely. They were from chapter inserts, not text, so chances are pretty good I would not ever have seen them otherwise because, like Feministe Jill, I haven’t tended to look at inserts very carefully. And I certainly was not looking for racist pictures under every single rock. Not, mind you, because I don’t care about such things, but because I absorb other people’s pain and suffering and anger like wooooaaah and there is only so much atrocity and hate my Aspie brain can absorb all at once without having a total, hard-object-throwing, suicidal meltdown.

(I would like it noted here that I have contracted with multiple people that I love not to harm myself under any circumstances, and I fully intend to honor that agreement and have very competent professional mental-health care. Please do not worry about me.)

Being a blogger means you have to learn to process things with lightning speed, and I can do that when the subject is fat and people being total shitbags about fat. Hell, I can even do it in most cases when the subject is sexism or racism. I’ve spent a pretty good chunk of my life being the only one in the office or in the classroom or on the bus or at the party sitting there stonefaced, or darkly mumbling, “That’s NOT funny, you should be ashamed of yourself,” when “ist” jokes and japes of all kinds are going around. (Earned me LOTS of jobs and friends and promotions…NAAAHT.)

But this was different, somehow. I had to ask myself just how much more immune I was to making an error that huge, and whether my own behavior under a condition of 24/7 flaming would have been materially any better than Amanda’s. I don’t mean that I would have been sneering and dismissive the way she was (particularly about the appropriations debate); I mean that my tendency would have been to go completely to the opposite extreme and tell everyone I AM THE WORST PERSON EVER I SUCK I WILL ALWAYS SUCK I DESERVE TO DIE IN A FIRE, which also would not have been particularly constructive. I keep thinking my reaction would have been not unlike the restaurant workers’ in the Dirty Fork Sketch, only not funny at all. Although I commented here and there, mostly on smaller, lower-traffic blogs, I could not bring myself to wag my finger too hard, because I knew it wouldn’t take very long for that finger, with longer and pointier nails than I customarily allow myself, to reach back around into my own mote-filled eye.

I believe Kate and Jill and other white people when they say they often don’t notice or try to avenge “subtle” racism because it doesn’t apply directly to them. But while I think that’s true of me to some degree, I don’t think that’s all of it. I will, after all, often ignore, or brush off, or dismiss evidence of bigotry — anti-fat, anti-Semitic, anti-Aspie — when it does apply to me, because I can only handle so much. Like my coworker last year who said, “I bet YOU want a really BIG slice of that birthday cake.” My response was, “Ehh.” I just didn’t want to get into it with him, to be honest with you. When Booker T. and the MGs guitarist Steve Cropper talked about the “cold Jewish eyes” of record producer/executive Jerry Wexler in a recent movie about Stax Records, it bugged me, but at the same time, I dissociated: “Oh, he didn’t really mean it, Steve Cropper can’t be an anti-Semite, he played guitar for one of my five favorite bands EVER, and besides, Jerry Wexler really is kind of creepy.”

And at the same time, I have a pretty fine radar for mistreatment of people who aren’t exactly like me, too. Since this is a fat-acceptance blog, I’ll give a fat-acceptance example: Back in February, when Wyclef Jean announced from the stage that girls could come up on stage and dance only if they were under 200 pounds, my reaction was NOT, “Oh good, I’m just under 200 pounds, I have the green light.” Or, “I’m under 200 pounds, but do I look it, would he kick me off?” No, my reaction was: “Goddess, what a festering cheesedick.” And my reaction would have been identical if the “weight limit” had been 300 or 400 pounds. I don’t care. These are my sisters he’s talking about. They do not deserve this.

So why would Amanda Marcotte intimidate me in a way Wyclef Jean — who is far more wealthy and famous — does not? Maybe because Amanda seemed more accessible, seemed more like someone I could be like and whose success I could actually attain if I really tried, neuroatypicality be damned. It’s funny to me to hear all the “they’re just jealous” talk, because I actually was jealous of Amanda, and while I’m not going to claim that absolutely nobody who attacked her on political grounds was influenced by jealousy or success-resentment in any way, in most cases there’s probably a world of difference between how I felt and how they felt. They knew something I did not — that the Cool Kids Treehouse was something best left behind in childhood, that swagger meant nothing in and of itself, because all swagger really says is, “I’m number one, and you’re not.” Both that and “I suck I deserve to die” are opposite sides of the same worthless coin, really. I did not ignore or brush off that artwork because I was so busy enjoying my warm bubble bath of social acceptance and respect that I forgot to watch other people’s backs; quite the opposite. Had I thought better of myself, I might have had more capacity to take in what I could not, to see people clearly for who and what they were and what they could and could not do, determine where my real shortcomings were instead of just seeing myself as one big shortcoming that could never be redeemed. I would have read those goddamned insert pages and not glossed over them, and I would not have needed anyone else to tell me how I “should” have felt about them. If I really believe feminism means women are not inferior, then that HAS to include me, or I can’t help anybody, ever.

Can you relate? In a way, I really hope not, because I’d hate to think huge numbers of people are running around being mentally tormented the same way I have been. But I tend to think I’m probably not a freak exception when it comes to this stuff. You don’t have to be Aspie — or particularly young — to be cowed by the notions of hipness and swagger, it’s pretty much a national disease if not an international one among white people. But seriously, if the worst thing that ever happens to us is that we don’t get invited up into the treehouse, we still don’t get half the shit most of the world’s people of color (especially women) have to endure. So let’s build our own treehouse, where there are no standards for “hipness” other than not being a hatebag, and we can invite as many POC/WOC as would like to to to come by and tell their stories, and go to their treehouses too if they’ll let us in, and we can listen to them and learn stuff we’d never learn otherwise, and realize that the learning curve is steep and lasts at least for an earthly lifetime and no cookies or gold stars or ponies will be given for staying with it. Then we will dance (or chair-dance) to Booker T. and the MGs.

Or…to whatever anyone likes.

30 Responses to “The Limitations of Swagger”

  1. Buttercup Says:

    That was a courageous and wonderful post. Thank you.

  2. thegirlfrommarz Says:

    This is a really great post, Meowser. Amen.

  3. bookwyrm Says:

    See, this is why I don’t blog. Other people say it better. I don’t do well through indirect media, I do better person-to-person.

    No, you aren’t alone in wanting in the cool treehouse, no, you aren’t alone in ignoring what you just can’t deal with right now, yes, fear and insecurity paralyzes me, too.

    But you keep going, keep doing, and don’t stop, even though you can’t do everything. And that is what gets it done.

  4. sparklepants Says:

    This is a v. good post. As far as being intimidated by bloggers, the moment I disagreed with you and Kate last week on something in a comment, I thought I should just go home and stab myself in the face because…well, I felt kind of like I had punched a baby in the face or something. I used to be big into Pandagon…and then things…changed. I’m not sure when or how but I started feeling less like it was authoritative and more like it was…I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. I think that’s a problem in any “movement”. There will always be an “elite” crowd who gets listened to first, who has the most influence. As much as we want it to be so, ze blogsphere just isn’t Utopian. I doubt it ever will be. Unfortunately, many white people (including women) don’t see their privilege and how it affects POC/WOC. I mean, I fall short there. I won’t lie.

    Look! All that rambling and no point. :) Great post, meowser!

  5. sparklepants Says:

    D’oh. I meant *I* was rambling, not you!

  6. BigLiberty Says:

    I get the mental torment. Maybe it has something to do with me being an Aspie too, but regardless I have inner intellectual conflicts which are constantly running, stream-of-conscious-style, whenever I read/write something controversial. I feel this tight ball of horror/anger/sadness overtake me (depending on what I’m reading), and it can become really difficult to respond. Sometimes I have to take long breaks after particularly controversial events, and I often feel like, no matter how much I might explain my perspective or try to say things in a way that are all-inclusive and don’t group people based on how I might perceive they may group themselves (and this is such a difficult calculation for an Aspie), I’m usually the odd man out.

    That being said, I do try to see things from other people’s perspectives out of respect for their history and experiences. And I think it’s very, very important to learn from others—but I think (with all due respect) it’s fallacious to characterize the human race as a series of treehouses or clubs, naturally assuming special knowledge and membership based on club characteristics, which are usually what I would consider characteristics important to the individual’s personal experience of life but harmful when assumed they share some kind of special groupthink that is superior, inferior, etc to another club’s. While individuals can share experiences and histories because the prevailing culture has a tendency to lump them into a group and assign characteristics to that group, the answer to that is not to further group oneself, but to use shared experience to answer individual conflicts, and to at all costs protect against valuations of superior or inferior knowledge to some other group, or to make assumptions about someone’s experience based on some group characteristic.

    So here I find myself yoinked between two worlds: I’m staunchly against “isms,” and I myth-bust them whenever they’re encountered. However, I also believe that “isms” are perpetuated by both negative (hateful) and positive (prideful) discriminations. So while I think it’s wrong to discriminate against me because I’m fat, I’m not proud of being fat. I’m not ashamed of it, either. I do accede my fat has shaped a good deal of my history and experience, and that others could learn from that experience if they wanted to listen, but I don’t think my body is more attractive than a thinner person’s, etc. And I would never assume a thinner person hasn’t shared some of my experience with poor body image. I also would never assume that just because someone was fat, they accept their fatness, or don’t judge other people based on their weight.

    Fat has made us what we are, but fat doesn’t make us who we are. Does that make sense? And here is the raging dichotomy that has seemingly thrust me out of the community, because I applied it to race. And perhaps it is the Aspie which cannot grasp that it is a good analogy when applied to fat, but not a good one when applied to race, etc. And that sort of thing does kind of make me want to turn tail and run, but it also makes me want to learn. Whether or not I agree with it, it is very important that I understand why others think like this, and keep an open mind. Even though I balk against seeming contradictions with every fiber, it is important for me to understand that others don’t see it as a contradiction, and even more important for me to understand why.

    Learning goes both ways, I think. If the prevailing voices believe X, I think it’s important to try to understand why they believe X. And when the minority of voices respond to X with Y, just because they’re in the minority doesn’t mean their perspective isn’t important to understand. Especially considering what a diverse group “fat” is — all ethnicities, religions, geographies, and philosophies. We are also all on different places on the path towards acceptance of our bodies, and we interpret acceptance differently, at times, with some practicing HAES, some not, some vegetarian and vegan, some not, and so forth. But we must stand together if we’re to get anywhere, and that means suffering the minority voices, the inner conflicts, the brief bouts of righteous anger, the pacifist acceptance, the growing and changing of the movement.

    Meowzer, I don’t think your inner conflicts are ever going to go away. But I don’t think they should. They make you who you are, and your unique perspective, though you might believe difficult at times for an NT to parse, is vital to the movement. Do not question the validity of your voice, just keep learning, questioning, and writing. That’s all any of us can ever do.

  7. AnnaAnastasia Says:

    I can identify with this so much. Thanks for saying it so well, meowser.

  8. Jen Smith Says:

    Thank you meowser – I am having a really really rough week after a chat by my boss that I am just not ‘fitting in’ around here. Here is this totally awesome company full of smart people where I LOVE my job and the work. But I am so socially awkward that I put my foot in my mouth on a regular basis and in the words of my boss ‘they are getting tired of it’. I’ve never been a team player – never been on a team in my life (pick me pick me) and not fitting in in a place I love is about as crushing as any words I can think of. The thing is – the guy isnt being a jerk – I am my own worst enemy sabbotaging success at every turn. Argggh – thanks for letting me vent
    jen

  9. Conflict, Voices, and One’s Place in the Movement — a response « Big Liberty Says:

    [...] this, but I thought it important to quote a comment I made on Meowzer’s latest post, “The Limitations of Swagger.” Please click on that link to get the context of the [...]

  10. Becky Says:

    That’s a beautiful post.

  11. Piffle Says:

    What a great post. I’m not Aspie, but I also hate arguments that are in any way personal (I do like discussions about non-personal topics, such as the economy.). Like Jen, I’m socially awkward; one reason I like the net is that I think I come across better than I do in person. In your situation Jen, I would simply curl up in a corner and be “vewy, vewy quiet”. Which is probably neither useful nor practical. People have so often told me that I’m rude or abrupt, that I shy away from interactions now, cause I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

    Racism just baffles me. I am perfectly happy to fight for equality and be outraged against obvious discrimination; but I am so clueless even when it comes to interpreting people from my own subculture, that I don’t have the tools for noticing the more subtle forms of discrimination. So I sit quietly until someone more perceptive points it out to me.

    Umm. I like to be happy, so I’ll end this with a bit of data that made me pleased the other day:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080502094232.htm

    The National Science Foundation has created a science and math program that raises the level of knowledge among all students in elementary and middle school; and which also helps close the gap between minority and white students. Yippee!

    This may be more important to me than to some others, because I really like science.

    I also read Leonard Pitt’s columns and particularly like his “What Works” columns that deal with programs that successfully help black people. I need optimism or I curl up and that’s not useful.

  12. meegs Says:

    Hey Meowser. I know I’ve never commented before but I have been reading your blog for a few months now, and I just wanted to de-lurk and tell you that you’re wonderful.

  13. shinobi42 Says:

    I am glad that I never really wanted in to Amanda’s Treehouse. Growing up no one wanted me in their treehouse at all, so I just tend to build my own. (To run with the metaphor.) And I can’t tell you how much I hate the Friday Random Ten.

    But it is hard to see someone you believed in and admired make massive mistakes. We all believe in our own judgement and when it is suddenly called into question we have to resolve that dissonance. “I have good judgment” vs. “This person I thought was good is an asshole.” And it is much easier to pretend that statement 2 is the wrong one. Rather than admit that we were wrong and acknowledge flaws in ourselves it is easier to rationalize away the things that would make us question ourselves. That is certainly what Amanda has been doing. Pretending that she’s not wrong so she can continue to swagger.

    You should be proud of yourself for doing the hard thing, and acknowledging that your judgment was flawed. In the end, everyone is flawed, and people will respect and like you more for acknowledging it in yourself.
    (These ideas are all taken from the book Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). Everyone on earth should read it. Seriously. )

    Jen,
    I’m sorry you’re having a hard time fitting in. I have a hard time fitting in business situations as well, I am loud and boisterous and funny and businessmen hate this. Unfortunately not everyone gets to be themselves at work. Sometimes we have to wear masks. We have to be quieter than we would usually be, and more polite. We have to not make the jokes or offhand comments that we would normally make. And we have to carefully observe the people around us and emulate their behavior somewhat. Frankly, It totally sucks. I hate not being me and I hate feeling like I’m always on a job interview.

    But that’s what I get paid for. I get paid to do my job and to NOT tell everyone around me what complete idiots they are. I get paid to not use the F-word in every sentence. and I get paid to be polite to people who in real life I would be as mean as possible to so that they would never speak to me again. Work Sucks.

  14. Marste Says:

    Great post. I can totally relate to wanting to be part of the “cool treehouse” (and kudos to you for writing a whole POST about it – I’m even emarrassed to admit it in a comment!). In my late teens I went so far as to undertake a deliberate personality overhaul in order to be “cool.” (Um, I was not a very nice person for several years there – although I WAS popular. It was not worth it in the long run.)

    In my head, I am still that nerdy, dorky, socially awkward kid. The irony is that I was having a similar conversation with a friend a while back, and she was astonished. She said something to the effect of, “But now you’re the person everyone ELSE wants to be like,” and went on to tell me how I appear to others. The thing is though, I don’t FEEL like that perception: confident, funny, friendly, kind, blah, blah, blah. I feel like someone who fakes my way through life. Does that make sense? I feel like I learned how to fake it so well in my late teens that now I’m just faking a nicer version of that cool kid. But it still doesn’t feel like me, and I still have “cool-kid-envy,” even though I KNOW it’s stupid and juvenile. ::::sigh::::

  15. meowser Says:

    This is a v. good post. As far as being intimidated by bloggers, the moment I disagreed with you and Kate last week on something in a comment, I thought I should just go home and stab myself in the face because…well, I felt kind of like I had punched a baby in the face or something.

    Aw, Sparklepants, I’m sorry! For whatever it’s worth, though, I don’t even remember what I disagreed with you about.

  16. La di Da Says:

    Meowswer, a wonderful post. I identify with a lot of it – I seem to have a selection of the traits of both ADD and Asperger’s, but not enough to be either, as far as these things go. Among others, the social awkwardness – either blurting out something inappropriate or being very reserved (in which I ‘ve learned some “passing” skills so it’s not quite so painful these days), and especially the overly empathetic brain. I often start having an anxiety attack when people start arguing even if it’s nothing to do with me; I sink into a funk of depression, far beyond normal concern, if someone I love is troubled. And I sometimes get accused of being ‘cold’ because I hide any of these reactions (in person), and usually have no idea how to respond to someone trying to talk to me about their troubles. But it’s not being cold, it’s because if I actually let myself *really* think about these things in much detail I’d have the kind of meltdown you described. I need to spend most of my energy keeping sane in a world that states I’m a worthless piece of crap for being a fat woman.

  17. AnnieMcPhee Says:

    Sigh. I first came across Marcotte’s stuff about ten years ago. If someone had deliberately set out to be as odious to me in both beliefs and expression as they possibly could, they couldn’t have done a better job. That people think it’s cool is kind of annoying. But I try not to pay much attention to it. Or her.

    I still don’t think a gorilla is racist (I mean what are g-you saying there??? Implying?? Holy crap.) But those pictures inside – it was simultaneous *CRINGE* and laughing like hell – how did that possibly get by? I thought maybe it’d skate because it’s retro, but…nah. Not where offense and outrage are par for the course.

    See, I won’t even be allowed into the new treehouse, because my beliefs aren’t “cool” even among the un-hipsters. But that’s ok too. I still gotta be me – and me is a libertarian, fat, not-feminist, objectivist sort. But I enjoy reading you folks’ stuff, and it beats the hell out of Pandagon any day. (Even if I only look there maybe twice a year and say “Yep. Still odoriferocious.” But for totally different reasons.)

  18. Meowser Says:

    Annie, I think it goes something like this:

    A naturalistic/realistic image of a gorilla by itself or with other gorillas or other animals or with a human handler = not racist.

    A stylized photo of a HUGE BLACK GORILLA carrying off a shrieking, tiny white woman, King Kong-style = racist.

    And as for “my” treehouse, FWIW, nobody has to agree with me about everything. They’re not gonna, anyway, because I’m pretty damn peculiar. :-P

  19. Cyn Says:

    This post is awesome.

    I don’t find anything racist in the use of monkeys, gorillas and simians in general. And I’m a latina. Sometimes I laugh at the whole depiction of latinos as wetback taco bell eaters who live in shiny orange houses and say “ay dios mio” all the time, because I know it’s not true. I have relatives in the USA, I’ve visited them and they are not like this at all. Tho they live in their own ghetto and never make business with white people. I don’t get it. I don’t get the whole races division. I have friends who are caucasian. My boyfriend is causasian. I don’t get all the fuss they make when they see me with them. I don’t get it. I couldn’t give a million shits about race and colour. I like people for who they are and I don’t bother checking if they’re raza or not before considering them friends and loved ones.

    I also want to be a part of a treehouse too, but not blogwise. Every time I hear about young prodigies making it big in music, I get very jealous. Sometimes it ruins my enjoyment of their music. The guy from Beirut is my age and he has already released two of the most beautiful albums ever. Patrick Wolf was 20 when he released Lycanthropy, now he’s 23-4 and he’s been thinking about RETIREMENT. I’m almost his age, 22, and I haven’t even started. A friend of mine is 20 and she has her own band, probably the most creative band in my city. I remember introducing her to music when she was 16, and now she is making her own as I sit here and can’t do shit.
    Among this, I know they were advantaged from the very beginning. I don’t live in a first-world country and I’m not from an upper-class family. My mum is not a producer and my daddy/grampa/whatever wasn’t in a band. I was listening to shitty 80s mexican music in my house when I was a baby, not to The Clash or Frank Zappa like these prodigy kids. I don’t have the easy route to do things, and what I do is already an effort (the first art student in the family, I write for a bimonthly newspaper, have done it for a few uni publications, had solo shows, prestige at my uni even if nobody knows my parents, etc.) and I know I don’t owe it to anyone. On the other hand, I’ve been quite emotionally priviledged above these prodigy kids. They may be younger than me and in bands/doing solo, but they’re the kind of people with “it’s complicated” in their Facebook status (many people swear I’ve already found a soulmate, I tend to agree), they had sexual incidents (bad ones, rumour has it) when they were 15 and lived on the streets when they were 16. I don’t want to party on their disgraces, but I recognise sometimes they wish they had my life in certain aspects. This girl in a band does, she has told me. I still want to make music, and I still have plenty of time. Stuart Murdoch made Belle and Sebastian when he was 27. Before that, he wasn’t exactly “too busy” with uni (the excuse I always make), but locked in his room, requiring aid from his parents because of ME. For seven years.
    The grass is always greener on the other side. People will always want to be like you, and you will always want to be like people. I personally wish I could write blog entries like you, like all the bloggers who have loads of time to post loads of entries/have a job/watch tv/read loads/have a life at the same time. It looks so easy to you, girls and guys. But it’s impossible to me to be Elizabeth my friend, or you Meowser, or the kid from Beirut. It’s only possible to be me, Cyn. Possible, and already happening. Like it’s possible to you to be Meowser. And we shall really enjoy being ourselves, because being ourselves is already a priviledge.
    Like another friend in her Facebook profile (haha, enough with Facebook!) says: “be yourself: everyone else is taken”.

  20. littlem Says:

    Heh. I had what was, for me, a defining interaction with La Marcotte waaaay before Bookgate.

    When Rush Limbaugh called Congresswoman McKinney a “pickaninny” on the air based on her hairstyle, I emailed her (Amanda, not the Congresswoman) to find out whether she’d be filing a citizen’s request with the FCC calling for censure.

    (We can do that, you know, as private citizens, kind of like when all those people complained to the FCC about Justin pulling down Janet’s top during “family TV time” to exposed her (covered) nipple and the FCC ended up fining Janet.)

    She bluntly informed me in a return communique that she “didn’t believe in doing that” because it was a “First Amendment issue” and that was “tantamount to censorship.”

    Well.

    All righty, then.

    Now never mind how completely misinformed you are about the mechanics of political processes, because the ones related to the federal administrative agencies can be a little complicated (although the snarky girl in me also wonders how you can style yourself a “leader” of any American activist movement if you don’t have a grip on the basic differences between legislative or judicial branch action and filing a citizen’s complaint. But, whatevs).

    That was the first episode. Subsequent interactions between that incident and Bookgate(s) just reinforced the acidity of the first impression.

    Now my basic position on activism alliances tends to be this: If your (universal “your”) basic message to me is ever “I expect you to unconditionally support my issues even though I don’t and won’t give a crap about yours” — not even begging the intersectional analysis question — then I’m sure you’ll understand when I don’t lift a single manicured finger to help you rebuild when I see the nails rusting and the planks starting to rot and fall out of the bottom of your formerly fabulous treehouse.

    And to you, Meowser, in the meantime?

    “Welcome to the dollhouse, baby.”

    http://spacedcowgirl.wordpress.com/2008/04/13/in-which-i-give-my-totally-unqualified-and-unsolicited-opinion/
    http://spacedcowgirl.wordpress.com/2008/05/01/im-a-day-late-and-a-dollar-short/#comment-76
    http://dearwhitefeminists.wordpress.com/2008/04/17/an-open-letter-to-the-white-feminist-community/
    http://dearwhitefeminists.wordpress.com/update/
    http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/2008/04/borrowing-and-appropriating_09.html
    http://www.deannazandt.com/2008/04/14/higher-learning-being-an-uncomfortable-feminist-in-2008/#comment-3145

  21. littlem Says:

    One more thing to add (to my last comment, which I’m not sure got through):

    At the end of the day, La Marcotte is a patriarchal apologist. If you follow her career, and read her writing closely, it’s exceedingly clear that she figures out those whom she dubs “the good guys” and lives to please them.

    Now, if you are a patriarchal apologist, that’s all well and good as one survival strategy in this society. We are who we are, and we do what we have to do.

    But to do that and simultaneously pretend you’re the New Head Headdress of the New Archetype of Feminism?

    *insert derisive eyeroll here*

  22. meowser Says:

    Littlem, I de-spammed your comment. Comments automatically wind up in the spamtrap if they contain more than one hyperlink. Sometimes Fu and I are a little slow to empty out the spamtrap, so feel free to nudge one of us if that happens to you.

    And thanks for the support, everyone, I really do appreciate it!

  23. Lenneth Says:

    Gods, you’re brilliant. I’ve spent most of my life wishing I could be more like other people. Thinner, smarter, funnier, cooler, and sometimes I even feel like I’m “not feminist enough”.

    Alright, so it might be a little late to comment on this, but it’s never too late to tell you you’re fabulous.

  24. Medea Says:

    Sorry, I’m just delurking because I had to ask littlem–

    Why are you obsessed with Amanda Marcotte? I’ve never seen you comment except to bring up Amanda. I don’t like her writing, and I certainly don’t look up to her, so I’m not defending her–but why did you email her, of all people, about Rush Limbaugh’s slur? Did you email every feminist blogger?

    I like your blog, Meowser. And your adorable cat, who looks a lot like my own.

  25. Arwen Says:

    WOW, Meowser, I missed this one until today, and wow. I relate. I’m not Aspie’s, but I have a similar emotional reaction.
    I left Pandagon some time ago. One of the things I suggested in my last months there was that we are often each other’s in-grouping, and so we had more power with each other than sometimes we gave ourselves credit. The way you’ve said it touches all those things I was reaching to say but didn’t.

  26. Sniper Says:

    Amanda is so undeservedly certain of herself that she doesn’t bother doing basic research, whether about fat acceptance or Women of Colour. It’s a common “cool kids” mistake, which is why the “cool kids” are the least interesting.

  27. April Says:

    I’m kind of confused about how to get involved with fatosphere. Is there a place to submit your blog? Thanks.

  28. Meowser Says:

    April, send a link to Fu at fatfu9 at yahoo dot com.

  29. jazzy Says:

    I know this is old, but I came here from SP and happened to see this in your sidebar. And… wow. Thank you so, so much for this post. I’m Aspie too (at least I *think* so; I’ve yet to find a psychologist around here who’s heard of it) and I relate so much to wishing I could have swagger, and be one of the “cool” kids. I always envied people who naturally know what to say without thinking about it, and who carry themselves in a way that no one questions them, and all that. And I never understood why I never could do that. Eventually I realized that I am just way more inside my own head than other people, and that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes I still want to seem awesome and shiny and magnetic, though. But ultimately I’d rather seem geeky and be able to see things from others’ point of view, than think I’m right all the time. (Not that there aren’t magnetic extraverts who can see things from others’ point of view, but I mean, given the choice between one or the other, I’d pick being me.)

    And, I totally relate about being sent spiralling by tiny things. I always wonder why I can’t just get over it. But this is the sympathetic nervous system I was given, and I just have to accept it. (Getting people who don’t have similar ones to understand it, on the other hand, is a lot trickier. Sometimes I wish there was a handy pamphlet I could hand out for that sort of thing.)

  30. a different amanda Says:

    Someone sent me a link to this when I was talking to them about what I called ‘highlighted people’, a similar but not identical concept — not charisma, not swagger, but something closer to the swagger thing (I called them ‘highlighted’ because they stick out in a way that at first glance appears positive). I’m also autistic and… even that community seems to have such people believe it or not.

    Another thing besides the ‘swagger’, I found, is that some people seem like their lives neatly fit together in language. I used to wish I could be like that, but every time I tried to summarize my life that way I fell short, there were all these messy and jagged corners that poked out from the reality behind the words. I was not glossy and shiny like them.

    I eventually realized that their lives don’t fit that way either, they just act like they do. It was a huge relief. I also eventually found myself not getting dazzled by them anymore.

    Another concept I often relate it to is glamour, the kind in some forms of mythology. It lets supernatural creatures living in, say, a dank cave eating moldy bread, fool mortals into thinking they’re living in a palace with a huge table with gourmet food on it. In some stories there’s an ointment you can put on your eyes to see through it, and the creatures will try to blind you in whatever eye you can see reality through.

    I’ve found that to be true in real life, too, in its own way. People who put a lot of glitz into their lives on purpose end up being hostile to people who can ignore or see through the glitz at least some of the time. And sometimes they don’t even need to be hostile, other people do it for them.


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