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What we read: December 6, 2019

Even though Contemporary Spinster launched this week so we hope you’re reading what we wrote, we also want to share what made us think from around the interwebs this week. And in this official start to the holiday shopping season, there was more than a little keeping us on our feminist and Nutcracker-loving toes. Read on, spinsters…

In this season of more, the danger-net loves to inundate us with “how to stay skinny” posts masked as “indulging responsibly during the holidays.” That’s gross, not the least because this is a neat way to package society’s continued monitoring of how women should self-surveil and control our eating behaviors in the persistent pursuit of an ideal body type. Not only is any ideal completely unrealistic and unattainable by definition, it’s also not necessary. We don’t need an additional layer of pressure added to an already stressful season.

Sometimes, in fact almost always, food is just food. Society tells us that food (really, eating) is so much more. Women often internalize this messaging so that our food choices become equivalent to our perceptions of self worth. But food choices have literally nothing to do with our intrinsic value or worth. We are so much more than what we eat, and messaging about what we should or could eat is about controlling our behaviors through self-surveillance. That surveillance keeps us from enjoying our family and friends as we gather around food, and the self-judgment means that we replace self-confidence with anxiety. Food is food, and you are not what you eat.

Of course, body image pressure comes from more than these blog posts and images of smiley skinny white women buying stuff, as Da’Shaun Harrison wrote in their review of Queen & Slim at Wear Your Voice. Sizism comes in every color, and fat-phobia is rooted in anti-blackness and racism. This piece is a must read. Additionally, I appreciated this piece from Health at Any Size that talks about celebrating weight gain. And, just in case you’re still feeling pressure to change your diet, read these tips from TriMarni.

Opinions have been split about news that Kamala Harris has withdrawn from the 2020 presidential race. I was disappointed, and I was not the only one, as Refinery29 reported in their conversations with some of the women of color voices on their reaction to Harris’s withdrawal. However, her record as a politician and DA raised questions for many about her past actions that reinforced dominant power structures and disproportionately harmed those with minoritized identities. Why can’t we have nice things? Like a woman of color president with a clear record of supporting social justice and equity (or heck, even a nominee).

Speaking of not having nice things, Rachel Ray ripped herself out of my Food Network DVR in her NPR interview the Sunday before last. Beyond her extremely problematic and whitewashed view of how to be successful (work hard, pull yourself up by your bootstrap, etc etc, and success will be yours), Ray also explained why she was still supporting Mario Batali despite allegations of sexual assault because this is just how men and women behave in the kitchen. Whoa, Rach. Just because women are forced to listen to and even participate in gendered and racist discourse in the kitchen doesn’t mean that behavior is okay or even that those women are okay with it. When not objecting to racist and misogynist behavior is a condition for participation and promotion in one’s career, it’s not a choice for women to participate or not. Therefore, one can’t say that women participate in this behavior too (or don’t vociferously object) and therefore it’s totes okay. But second, and more importantly, we certainly don’t need a woman saying publicly that we don’t need to believe women. Finally, a person (read: Batali) can both be someone who has behaved appropriately around you and someone who has assaulted women. Both can simultaneously be true, and one doesn’t nullify the other. Silence, in this case, is tacit support. Not so delish, hmmm?

Finally, speaking of white women making statements that hurt women, Paula Radcliffe, Jordan Hasay’s new faux-coach described why she thought fewer women coaches might be, in some cases, a woman’s choice (and not discrimination): “due to a multitude of reasons: traditional male domination (old boys’ network), opportunity and desire, and also the fact that many women who might move into coaching as a career first want to concentrate on family and children.” Actually, that’s exactly what structural discrimination looks like—a career with multiple layers of policy and practices that keep women from having both a family and a career. Women coaches should be able to do both. Full stop. 

Now, Contemporary Spinster is a space where we want to empower and validate women, not eviscerate them. But, it’s even more important to recognize how women, most often white women, can work to reinforce the marginalization and disempowerment of women, especially women of color. By identifying how these problematic statements are hurting women, I hope it helps us to recognize that these sentiments are reinforcing a deeply troubling and patriarchal system. And, in fact, that same system isn’t just hurting others, it likely has also hurt them too. Whether or not they can recognize or acknowledge it. They are subject to the same pressures that keep some silent and motivate others to support and even advocate for marginalizing and deeply troubling behaviors.

Perhaps they should be reading Ms. Magazine. Every month, Ms. Magazine posts their recommended reads written by women and non-binary folx of color. It has become my de-facto reading list for the month. There should be a book subscription service based on these recommendations, #amiright?

Finally, I love this piece from Kelly Roberts who responded to Runner’s World’s persistent focus on weight loss despite pleas from literally everyone everywhere to focus on performance not weight. Not only is the connection between health and weight in the general population largely debunked, there is not an ideal weight for runners. Every body is different, and every (wo)man reaches ideal performance through a multitude of factors.

Thoughts? What’d I miss this week?

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