things to think about

today i am thinking about: I QUIT GENDER
August 7, 2009, 10:47 pm
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I realized today how much I anticipate scorn. I am constantly preparing for someone to bash me — to call me a fag, to call me a dyke, to call me both, to stop me in the street, to yell at me about eating pussy, to yell at me for sucking dick. People who harass me can’t even decide HOW they are going to harass me most of the time. I get more shit for being a faggot than for being a dyke. I wonder what they think when I yell at them in my voice, my voice which definitely sounds female.

I am ready for the fight, you know. I feel like in some ways I want it. I want to have to fight for the right to be myself. I want to actually carry bruises around and I want to throw punches and I want to fight dirty, like a crazy person. I want to fight someone else for the right to be myself. I want it to just happen to me already, like I know it will someday, like I know it has to so many of my friends. I am tired of anticipating violence. I know that’s fucked up but it is how it is.

When I used to present in a femme way, I was dramatic. I took up space, like I do now, but in a different way. Skirts. Lots of curls. Red lips. My breasts and hips have never been pronounced but I looked like a girl, and a hot girl at that. I was loud and I used my hands and I took up space. I got a lot of street harassment then, too, mostly people telling me they liked what they saw. Just as fucked up, right? But the thing was, it felt safer.

Even when people got dirty, it felt safer. In some fucked up way, it was an affirmation. It was an affirmation I was doing it right. It meant I was hot, I was desireable. I was a successful woman. The harassment I get now — “hey faggot, where do I go to suck a dick?” “What is it, a he or a she” — the harassment I get now has everything to do with my failure to conform and be read. Who would want to fuck me now? Who would I want to have sex with? No one has any idea out there in the world, and even if before they were wrong — I was not really looking to sleep with cis men — the idea was that the sex I was having was at least normal.

Oh, fucking normal. I was shopping with my sweetheart — femme, small but solidly built — and I was wishing for someone, anyone, to come remind me about normal. I am too big for women’s normal sizes. I am, in fact, an XL in men’s sizes, sometimes a L — around my hips but around my shoulders, too. I do not fit in a lot of “normal” sizes, even if I wanted to. Even if I did fit, I probably wouldn’t want to wear it, for some combination of gender and style. I can’t just wear men’s clothes, right — I have to wear some perfect thing, it has to fit right, it has to drape just so, and it has to wink.

Yes, it has to wink. It has to be a little ridiculous. It has to acknowledge how implausible that here I am, sweet babyfaced me, sweet soft skinned me, sweet motherfucking sweet me, in this body I do not understand, this hairy lez fag body so few other people understand either. It has to acknowledge that yes, I take up all this space, and with my sunglasses on you think I’m a boy, and with my sunglasses off you know – think? – know? – think? – that I am a girl. It has to suit my body, it has to look like me, and yet somehow it has to look ridiculous for me. I know it’s ridiculous that I look like I look, even as I sort of want to believe it’s not. I looked different earlier in my life, and I felt ridiculous then too. I got home today and I thought maybe I should shave my head — aside from my payess and top curls — and shave my legs and wear lipstick and eyeliner and motorcycle boots for a while. Just to remind myself this is all ridiculous, it’s all window dressing, it’s all just advertising anyways. Is this all about body hair? Is it all about being fat? Is this honest or just more drag? I told myself I would stop questioning myself but at this point nothing makes sense any more. I don’t even know if it has anything to dow ith me.

I want to believe that this — what I am doing right now — is true. That this is me, or closer to me, or at least I am making progress. I just added all these old Seattle kids on Facebook and one of them had a comment from my mean ex on his wall — and I was overcome. What would he think if he saw me now, with a moustache, with the same chin hairs he said scared him? What would any of them think? Would they even care? Would they dismiss it out of hand? I want somebody to fight with me about this because I want to see how I stand up for myself. I want to earn a bruise or two fighting for myself because that feels like a choice. A choice to say yes, even like this, I am worth it.

I don’t know if I really believe that I am. I don’t know if this is really where I’ll land and I don’t know if I believe this is worth fighting for. If I didn’t have to make a professional go of things, remain stable, remain predictable, I’d probably change things up again, just to see if I liked it or not. Just to see what it’s like to wear a dress again, shave my legs, look like a girl. But the idea I am doing that out of fatigue, out of not being able to take it like this — that makes me ashamed of myself for a hundred reasons. I really don’t know where this is going, and I think I am going to end this for now, unfinished, because the fact of the matter is that it IS unfinished. It is, and I am, just a work in progress.

today i am thinking about: FAT PEOPLE DANCING II.
July 6, 2009, 11:26 pm
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It’s Disco Week at Dance Your Ass Off! And Ariel Croce and Nina Kisselgoff are here again for YOU.

This week Oxygen is really editing heavily! We have dove right into the DRAMA. We jumped right into Alicia’s meltdown: she is frustrated, she is tired, she is MAD AT JUNK FOOD. So she throws it all out and ALL THE OTHER FAT PEOPLE ARE VERY ANGRY. Luckily, this is all we have to hear about everyone’s issues before we get to the good part: ALL THE DANCING. NO PLOT. JUST DANCING.

Except, oh wait. This show is BORING. The choreography is BORING. The dancing is largely BORING. The judging is BORING. There’s a boring British man judge who pretends to be super artistic. There’s a boring blond lady who is irrelevant. There is a boring brown-haired lady who is trying to be Mary Murphy/Paula Abdul. Why are we watching this show? Why are fat people dancing with such shoddy choreography?

We were going to do fun reviews for you and we were going to draw the choreography and instead it’s just so…blah. We don’t care about the characters. We don’t really care about this useless and unnecessary choreography. We care about why they are draping these fat people in all this fucking FRINGE, that’s true. Nina Kisselgoff, guest critic, says “they are teaching them how to do bad drag queen choreography.”

So accurate.

What we predicted last week came true: the weight loss scores narrowed considerably this week, ranging from 2.66% of someone’s body weight down to 0.66% of someone’s body weight. The dance scores had to open up as a result: 7.7 down to 5.3. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Nothing interesting enough happened to tally. Seriously. Aside from egregious uses of fringe, which I assure you are plentiful.

Fat people tricks:

  • Karla did a somersault.
  • Miles did a split leap.
  • Brandon’s cartwheel and his naughty! naughty! splits.

Racism issues:
Vociferous fat black woman wearing inexplicable fringe and devouring her skinny male partner: check.

Here are our top 5 recommendations for this show:
1) They need to clarify what “the dream” is that may or may not end if you go home. Is their dream really just to lose weight on national television? To be a dancer? Why are we upset they might leave?

2) The judges need to say smarter things. It’s half-baked dance criticism. Any random with no dance experience could say more intelligent things than these people are saying. It feels clear they are not taking the dancing seriously.

3) We need a little bit more — there are basic things about dance technique that can be taught in a week that are not that hard, like pointing your toes. Make it about the quality of the dance! Give us choreography that isn’t just waving your arms around and shaking your ass! Give us something interesting! Anything! Come on! This is like bad step aerobics.

4) We have no idea who these people are! Who are the choreographers? Why are they being so easy on the dancers? They’re another benevolent thin person helping out the fatties but we have no idea how each pair works together, specifically. It’s week two and we still can’t tell the dancers apart.

5) If it is going to be a weight loss show, it should be showing them struggling more with that. There wasn’t any of that. People are saying they wish they lose weight, but we don’t know how hard they’re trying because we only get generic little clips. We’re not invested in their weight loss.

In sum: we don’t know enough to care about the people, we don’t know enough to care about their weight loss, we’re not learning anything, and the dancing is BORING. Ergo, why watch this show?

Oh right. There aren’t any other fat people dancing on television. We both want more fat people dancing. We want to see a diversity of bodies moving. We want to see people reminding us how fierce fat bodies can be. We want someone to take fat people moving seriously, not like some kind of drill team for bored six-year-olds. Give us style. Give us grace. Give us something, anything, some kind of fat people dancing bone.

Next week, just to prove this show has already jumped the shark, it’s STRIPPER POLE WEEK. Yes, all of the fat people will be dancing with a stripper pole. Dear God almighty.

We’ll see you then.

today i am thinking about: FAT PEOPLE DANCING
July 1, 2009, 12:56 am
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There is a new television show. It is called “Dance Your Ass Off.” It is about fat people dancing and/or losing weight. This is the pilot episode! As charter members of the National Institute for Fat People Dancing, I am honored to have invited an expert, Nina Kisselgoff, to join in our review.

1. The premise: fat people. Who want to lose weight. By DANCING THEIR ASSES OFF. They’re dancing for their lives! They’re dancing to change their lives! They have a thin person dance coach to guide them. Charlie Brown it out: woh woh woh woh woh.

2. Stupid fat-related episode name: Shake and Rattle Those Rolls

3. Most flabbergasting outfit, and take “flabbergasting” however you want: Ruben’s dance outfit: gray velour loose pants, sheer glitter chiffon multi-layer caftan, waist chain, pompadour, rhinestone “r” on the back of shirt, gold chain with another glitter “r”, and gold jazz shoes.

4. But HOW WAS THE DANCING? For that, I — Ariel Croce — will be joined by Nina Kisselgoff, a guest critic. We are working out our shared criticism, as we are sure you can see from the style of these reviews.

Alicia: Where are her arms?! Where is her range?! Why is fat girl dancing all about putting your ass in the air?! She has spunk. HOLY SPLITS BATMAN.

Ruben: Where are his arms?! Very simple. His biggest talent is lifting his partner, which he does beautifully. He believes in the dance and he has chemistry with his partner. Sometimes he finds a good line and it’s beautiful.

Shayla: HOLY SHIT WE LOVE THIS ONE. SHE JUMPS. SHE CARTWHEELS. SHE DOES THE SPLITS. SHE CAN FUCKING DANCE. She also has good lines and is clearly nailing the choreography. Also, her outfit — silver lame with silver lame fringe, lots of skin. HOT.

Warren: Croce says: Holy crap, that was so compelling and charming. He did the steps, he did them fully, and that’s pretty good. He was charming! Kisselgoff says: I enjoyed it, and the choreography was basic but played to his strengths. I love the fact that he’s not afraid of looking slightly foolish and thus gives 100%. I wish that he had connected to his partner more.

Trice: Croce: This choreography is not that exciting. Her dancing is ok. It is not that exciting to me. She’s just throwing herself around. The fast part was compelling. Kisselgoff : She was committed, she had energy, but it was all over the place.

Angela: Croce says: Oh dear. She is so lost! She is so very lost. Cartwheel is great! No rhythm. Kisselgoff : She had more personality than the other contestants, but personality doesn’t make up for a lack of rhythm and confidence.

Mara: Croce says: Nice kick! She’s really crisp! Kisselgoff says: She’s definitely crisp but she could use more movement in her core. Mara is the first to get an 8 from a judge! She broke through the 8 wall!

Tara: Croce: She is a boring performer. She is just flailing around. Kisselgoff: I am so bored watching this. I feel like I am watching someone’s middle school talent routine in very inappropriate for middle school clothing. These costume designers are not afraid to show fatty stomach and that’s great.

Karla: Croce: she is kind of just jumping around, but she is cute about it at least. The worm! The worm! Kisselgoff : I love that the choreography took advantage of her sense of humor – she did the robot, the roger rabbit, and did the worm from standing!

Miles: Croce: That was so cute! that was so fun! He was actually a REALLY GOOD mover! Kisselgoff : HOW WAS THAT NOT AN 8?

Brandon: Croce: the choreography is good! He is ridiculous in his mouth but he is a good dancer. He is a likable dancer. Kisselgoff : He can move his core more than the other people can, but he clearly feels awkward.

Pinky: Croce: This is bad choreography. It does not make her look good. HANDSTAND! She is pretty tough and she can get it just right. When she is on she is on but she just isn’t quite there and I want her to be so badly. Kisselgoff: She’s tough. She’s crisp and finishes her movements with a pop, but she doesn’t quite know how to place her arms rather than flailing. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t know how to get her arms around her whole body. But she’s definitely got tons of potential.

5. But how about the SCORES? How did our fat people do?

Name Dance Score Weight Loss % Overall
1. Karla 7.0 5.43 12.43
2. Ruben 6.0 4.42 10.42
3. Trice 6.0 4.15 10.15
4. Miles 7.3 2.65 9.95
5. Mara 7.3 2.52 9.82
6. Shayla 7.0 2.37 9.37
7. Alicia 6.3 2.91 9.21
8. Pinky 7.3 1.28 8.58
9. Warren 5.3 3.24 8.54
10. Brandon 6.6 1.56 8.16
11. Tara 5.7 1.90 7.60
12. Angela 5.3 1.88 7.18

6. Let’s talk about the scoring. The judges kept the dance scores very tight — a range of only 5.3 to 7.3.  Some of the most boring dancers are scoring fairly high and some of the good dancers are scoring relatively low. We hope they let the dance scores differentiate further as the scores change because the weight lost is really boring. Across a total of 36 scores, there were 3 8s given, nothing higher, and nothing lower than a 5. Pretty much everyone got 6s and 7s, as you can tell. Also, they are giving credit for panache and selling it, not good technique or skill or difficulty; that’s nice and all, but it means this isn’t much of a dance show.

So then we have the weight scores, where the differentiation really happens. The weight loss spread was much larger — a range of 1.28% to 5.43% . Since all the dancers are scoring so narrowly, the weight loss is where someone can really differentiate themselves. However, this creates an issue: the Pinky Problem.

Pinky is already a dancer — a b-girl — and lost the least weight of anyone. She was critiqued by the British scornful judge as follows (not quite verbatim): “How are you in the bottom two? Rehearsing like that, all that cardio, you should’ve burned more.” But of COURSE Pinky didn’t lose a ton of weight. It sounds like she is already pretty active. If she is already active, her body isn’t going to go into shock and start shedding pounds like some of the people who have been less active. Despite tying for first in her dancing (in a 3-way tie that should have illustrated the need for a bigger point spread), she was in the bottom two — even BEFORE SHE DANCED — because she had lost the least weight. This, more than anything else, makes this a weight loss show whose gimmick is dancing, rather than a dance show whose gimmick is losing weight.

7. Things we love so far:

  1. Ruben the 43 year old gay ex-vegas dancer who has been with his partner for 17 years.
  2. Ruben and his partner John’s snow globe X-mas photo. The snow globe is larger than either of them.
  3. Alicia’s SLIDE TO THE SPLITS.
  5. Karla can do the worm. From standing.
  6. Everything Miles does!
  7. Pinky’s handstand freeze.
  8. Brandon is precious. And totally proud about being a virgin.
  9. Costume designers who are really really excited at the chance to show fat girl stomachs.

8. Things we do not love so far:

  1. This show is trying very hard to say that exercise and eating right will make you healthy, not make you “lose weight” — at least that is the language they use explicitly. However, given the general milieu, some of the marketing, and the weekly weigh in, we are going to consider any reference to “this show will make me healthy” equivalent to “losing weight = make me healthy.” This is still pretty fatphobic, even if it is dressed up nicely. It’s complicated because, well, exercise and eating right WILL make you healthier. But not because of your weight loss or lack thereof; just because it’s good for you.
  2. The scoring issue above. Basically more dance less whatever.
  3. Are there no fat dance professional partners they could find?!

9. Important tallies:

  • Crying occasions: 10
  • Fat = death: 9, with two special shout-outs to type 2 diabetes.
  • “All i need to be happy is lose weight:” 3
  • “Being thin = dates”/being fat = no dates”/If only I were thin, I’d be pretty/handsome: 5.
  • Losing weight/this competition will CHANGE YOUR LIFE: 7
  • Fat people eating uncontrollably: 6
  • I am not NEARLY as fat as these other fat people: 2
  • Choreographically unnecessary open mouths: 15 from Warren, 1 from Mara but it was open for the whole dance, 16 miscellaneous.
  • Instances of choreography calling for fat people jumping: 13
  • Fatty splits: 5

10. Questions for discussion.:

  1. Pinky is already a dancer. She enters competitions. Somehow, she is still fat. Clearly, she has not been dancing her ASS OFF. Or something. Are you at a disadvantage if you are already active when you get on this show, meaning you are less likely to experience a big initial loss once you start exercising?
  2. Ruben’s partner of 17 years is in the ICU fighting cancer. Ruben is on a second-rate cable network’s television dance/weight-loss competition. Is his partner really that supportive? Is all not well in gay snow-globe paradise? INQUIRING MINDS NEED TO KNOW.
  3. Because the judges know who is in the bottom two weight-wise — the last two dancers — they could change their scores to either eliminate someone or keep them around. SKETCHY.
  4. Are they REALLY putting each person up in their very own loft?! Privately?! With their own kitchen and dance studio?! So they are not forced to interact constantly in a grating formula guaranteed to cause drama?! The “next week’s episode” makes this seem like it will not impede the drama, but still: curious!

11. Issues we’ll be watching for:

  1. Are people of color being portrayed as fat because they eat poorly vs. white people are portrayed as just happening to be fat? Do white people get all the “trying to lose weight for noble health reasons” plot lines?
  2. Are there instances of fat positivity that we’re not noticing because they are surrounded by inherent and implicit fatphobia?
  3. When is it bad dancing, and when is it boring choreography?
  4. Will the score ranges get better? As the show continues, will dance score be the deciding factor, or weight loss?