The Dark Side of Self-Improvement

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Literal perfection from Inspirobot

Self-improvement (or personal development or self-help) seems, on the face of it, like a good thing. Who doesn’t want to be better? We should all be better, right? (This should not be confused with “be best”, something that will never not make me laugh.)

The personal development industry is a $9.9 billion industry predicated on two simple messages: 1. You are not good enough. 2. You should always strive to be better. Continue reading “The Dark Side of Self-Improvement”

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A Star is Born, Authenticity, and Misogyny

asibI don’t generally do many reviews, because I feel like that isn’t my beat (whatever beat a perhaps-monthly niche blogger can have), but at heart, cultural critique is what I love, and I think we can find so much truth by analyzing the art that we make and consume.

Which is a fancy way of saying “I can’t stop thinking about A Star is Born so here we go.”

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but will talk about the general arc, so if that’s not your jam, here’s your warning.

Like many seemed to, I went through this emotional journey: BRADLEY COOPER(??!) and Lady Gaga are remaking  A Star is Born?? Pass…Hmm, that trailer looks pretty good…Oh damn it, Shallow is such a good song…Guess I’m excited to see it now? Continue reading “A Star is Born, Authenticity, and Misogyny”

A History of Violence

[content: rape culture, descriptions of sexualized violence]

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I remember being sexualized when I was 9. Seemingly harmless, for the uninitiated observer. But it was my first realization that my body wasn’t my own. That grown men laid claim to it. I remember my first kiss–a boy I barely knew but knew enough to know I didn’t like. I remember the second: A next door neighbour. A friend who would go on to grab my tits as I stood talking to my brother, both of us rendered speechless and frozen. A friend who would go on to, in the eloquent words of a powerful monster, “grab [me] by the pussy.” In public. In front of 40 classmates. If anyone cared, no one said a word.

Continue reading “A History of Violence”

What it Really Means for Millennials to Kill Something

mayo (1)Maybe you’ve seen the latest in my favourite internet genre, Industries the Millennials are Killing, a frankly bananas screed about mayonnaise, political correctness, the greatest generation, and the “Taylor Swift of condiments” all sprinkled with anachronistic young people speak from a Baby Boomer refusing to go gentle into that good night. Instead she is raging, raging against the dying of the light (of mayo-based salads).  Continue reading “What it Really Means for Millennials to Kill Something”

Why #notall_____ is a Derailing Tactic

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Attribution is unclear, let me know if you know!

When marginalized people say [insert privileged group] do/don’t do x, they aren’t saying “every single member of that privileged group.” They are saying, as a political bloc, that (for example) straight white men don’t care about women’s rights or queer rights or people of colour, etc.. Not that you, [specific person], don’t. And we know that, again as a bloc, straight white men don’t care about women’s rights or queer rights, etc. because we know how straight white men en masse vote. And how much power they wield. And how they wield it. Continue reading “Why #notall_____ is a Derailing Tactic”

Hollywood is filled with rapists and abusers who create the content that normalizes and reinforces rape culture

[content: sexual assault, #metoo, Harvey Weinstein, etc]

For most of my adult life I worked in the anti-violence movement, doing support work and consent education. And much of my work, both one-on-one with clients and in workshops and lectures of 10-200 (mostly) young people, involved undoing toxic messages learnt from the media and terrible Hollywood movies that normalize and reinforce rape culture.

From rape being used as a plot point (how else will we know that this literal dictator is the bad guy?!) or for titillation to the ubiquitous romantic comedy and action movie trope of the woman saying no in a thousand different ways and the man pushing through physically only to have her melt into his arms because that was what she really wanted, she just needed to be told that her desires and boundaries mean nothing, we are inundated from an early age with self-serving myths about consent, sexual assault, and rape culture more broadly.

Why self-serving? Because, as we see every single brutal day, so much of Hollywood and the media is filled with rapists and abusers who create the content that normalizes and reinforces rape culture. Continue reading “Hollywood is filled with rapists and abusers who create the content that normalizes and reinforces rape culture”

There is no such thing as fit-shaming (see also: reverse racism, misandry)

There are few things on the internet that I find more tiresome than privileged people “taking down” a movement for marginalized people because they haven’t been given enough deference.

We see it all the time. Black Lives Matter is bad because it doesn’t cater to white people’s fragility. Feminism is bad because it doesn’t centre men and give them cookies for being non-awful human beings. Queer liberation movements are mean because they don’t praise straight people for not being homophobes. And on and on ad infinitum. If these movements would just be nicer they would have allies galore!

Because, of course, your commitment to justice is predicated on how nicely you’re asked and whether your bullshit is called out or not.  Continue reading “There is no such thing as fit-shaming (see also: reverse racism, misandry)”

Selling Wellness

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Photo by Crew on Unsplash

If you’ve spent any time on the internet you’ve encountered “wellness.” You can probably list off the things that “wellness” is a euphemism for: whiteness, thinness, able-bodiedness, middle/upper classness, performative consumption.

Wellness, rather than the state of being well, is an ongoing project by which certain (mostly? exclusively?) women either signal their inclusion in an exclusive strata or strive to gain entry.

As the president of Saks Fifth Avenue said,

“The wellness thing is big”…”We’re calling it ‘the new luxury.’ It used to be about fur and leather. But people just want to feel better.”

Wellness, if you were to only examine it through the lens of Instagram and lifestyle bloggers, is about $12 cold-pressed juices, yoga poses that photograph well, $50 water bottles (no, I will never get over how expensive those god damn water bottles are), and something else. What is that other thing? Oh, yes, being young, thin, white, and conventionally attractive.  Continue reading “Selling Wellness”

How Do You Evaluate Health Claims?

pom_wonderful_ad_540It seems like every day there is a new health fad people are talking about on Facebook, mentioning in the office, or being made into a documentary of questionable truth value. Many, if not all, of these play on our deep wish to be in control of bodies that simply refuse to do as we say. And in a society that is deeply unjust, that is facing increasing anxiety about climate change, fears of nuclear war due to a certain orange monster, and unreasonable capitalistic expectations when it comes to labour and work/life boundaries (or lack there of) these fads gain traction quickly. We all want that magic bullet that will insulate us from disease, pain, and suffering. And most of us are not trained in evidence-based medicine. Very few of us, unfortunately, are given the tools to properly evaluate health claims. So I’m offering a crash course in evaluating health (or other scientific, but I’ll focus on health) claims. Continue reading “How Do You Evaluate Health Claims?”

“He’s crazy”–Mental Illness, Power, and Transgressions

[CN: Discussion of violence against women, racism]

There are a few courses I took in undergrad and grad school that have especially stuck with me through the years. One that I think about often was an upper-level Women’s Studies course called Monstrous Women which looked at the ways we frame women who transgress the bounds that society places before them. And how women who fail to perform “womanhood” adequately (whether through eschewing motherhood, being overtly aggressive, responding to male violence with violence) are transformed into “monsters”–both as a control mechanism and because we don’t know how to reconcile women who don’t perform mainstream womanhood in our brains.

Continue reading ““He’s crazy”–Mental Illness, Power, and Transgressions”