Cinderella shoes: Why I, in my oversized body, said FUCK IT to the world

I’m a big woman. Not fat, not wobbly (which would be an entirely different sin of its own).

Just big.

I’m nearly six feet tall. I’m broad-shouldered, big-boned, and long-limbed.

There was absolutely no point in my life that I was not going to be large. Genetics decided that for me.

I take up space, which apparently in our society is a crime worthy of punishment if you’re a woman.

Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, we women are supposed to be small. Underweight, taking up no space, not making any noise or having any opinions. We’re supposed to be pretty, according to a very narrow definition of pretty.

Women are not supposed to eat.
Women are not supposed to eat.

The first time I was told I was too tall I was about 12. A guy I liked said I would be pretty if I wasn’t so huge. I was about an inch taller than him. We got on well as friends but he told me he couldn’t be seen with a girl who was taller than him.

Two years later my father started calling me “buffalo butt” and laughing at the “joke” because he thought he was a wit. I was medically underweight at the time. I started my first diet about then.

When you’re meant to be big, and your frame and your bones are big, and your feet are fast getting up to size 11, there is no diet in the world that will make you smaller.

My best friend said she was embarrassed when we went shoe shopping and the shop had nothing to fit me. My mother kept saying I should be more ladylike – whatever that meant.

I think it meant “less like me”. I think it meant less everything to do with me. Less of me.

I started to realise that’s what the world wants. It wasn’t just me either, with all my size. It wasn’t personal, even though it hurt like hell.

Women were supposed to be less than men. Not just less in our achievements and our abilities, but in our size, our space that we control, our earnings, our ideas, our voices. Everything.

We were supposed to be “assistants”, not the person being assisted.
We were nurses, not doctors.
We were teachers, not Principals – unless of a primary school or kindergarten.
We were secretaries, not the boss.
We were the scenery – the eye candy – in the movies.

Not the hero.

Nothing seems to have changed. We're still the "eye candy" and the "romatic interest".
Nothing seems to have changed. We’re still the “eye candy” and the “romatic interest”.

At school I remember asking about being an engineer, and being told, “Oh, you don’t want to do that! and being steered towards a career as a nurse or a teacher. I didn’t fancy cleaning, so I opted for teaching.

There weren’t many “acceptable” options for girls to choose from, after all.

Women live in a smaller world, and we’re supposed to be smaller to fit into it. But as I grew older, something clicked. I guess I started wondering what happens when a person demands a bigger world? What happens when we’re too big for the boundaries others set for us?

I sometimes wonder if I would be the same person today if I hadn’t been born too big to fit the role society wanted me to fit?

If I’d been born the “right” size, looked the “right” way, would I have challenged the role that I couldn’t fill?

Those Cinderella shoes were never going to fit me. So I created a new fairytale with myself as its champion. Would I have done so had the glass slipper fit?

cinderella

I don’t know. I don’t have answers. But I know one thing: I, in my oversized body, said Fuck It to the world.

The world as it was didn’t fit me, so I created a new world that suits me better. That I liked better.

And, as I look around, the Ugly Sisters – all of us who never, ever could fit the shoes we were told to wear – we are all creating our own worlds, side by side.

    They told me I was too big, so I used my height and strength as an asset and began to think of myself as an amazon, proud and strong, with a heritage that goes back thousands of years.

    They told me boys were smarter than girls, so I got myself a few degrees at University.

    They told me computers were for boys (I wasn’t allowed to touch my brother’s computer when it was bought for him, in case I – less than two years his junior and a teen at the time – “broke it”). So I created the largest online community for Pagans in Australia at the time of its creation, became a WebMistress, ran webpages and online forums, and learned my way around the internet, before taking on a Software Engineering degree.

    They told me I couldn’t fight because I was a girl, so I joined the Army.

    They told me sport was for boys and that I sucked at it, so I went to the State Championships in rowing.

    They told me girls were weak, so I became a bodybuilder and weightlifter.

    They told me girls couldn’t be Leaders, so I became a Leader of several communities, transforming them and removing previous corrupt leaderships.

    They told me I couldn’t write music, so I became a choral composer whose works have been performed worldwide.

    They told me girls couldn’t change the world, so I wrote stories with new worlds in them.

Be the change you want to see in the world

I’m just an ordinary woman, with no special abilities. Except I don’t believe in boundaries and rules, and I don’t believe in Impossible.

Maybe that’s what has made my world so amazing? Because only by believing in the impossible can we make it happen.

Women can do anything.
Too long we’ve been told to keep our horizons near, and our world small.
Too often we’ve believed it when we’ve been told what we supposedly can’t do.
The combination of being told to keep ourselves small and being told to appease others is deadly.

It’s time we all said Fuck It to the world, and made some noise. Because, by doing so, we might just discover who we truly are.

I’m not a partial human! Sidelined and disappeared…

I’ve always felt like a complete human. No matter whether you’re male or female, or what race or culture you’re from, I’m guessing you have too. Not a partial human.

So today I want to talk about this.

I'm sure there was *ANOTHER* Avenger...
I’m sure there was *ANOTHER* Avenger…

And this.

I seem to recall there being *FIVE* "Guardians"...
I seem to recall there being *FIVE* “Guardians”…

And this.

Something strange is going on here...ummm...do I remember an Avender in a black outfit called "Black" something...Black, black..it's clearly slipped everyone's mind...
Something strange is going on here…ummm…do I remember an Avenger in a black outfit called “Black” something…Black, black..it’s clearly slipped everyone’s mind…

And this.

Here's what to do. If you need to sideline or "disappear" a character, simply double over with more socially palatable characters.
Here’s what to do. If you need to sideline or “disappear” a character, simply double over with another white male character.

And this.

Looks like a bizarre racoon creature is more palatable than some genders of human...
Looks like a bizarre racoon creature is more palatable than some genders of human…

And I won’t even comment on this, which is so awful it just makes me furious.

The t-shirt in Disney girlswear on the left, and boyswear on the right.
The t-shirt in girlswear on the left, and boyswear on the right. This sucks.

Very occasionally, we won’t be “disappeared” but we’ll very definitely be sidelined…

Who is that character with the red hair in the far right? They couldn't possibly be a REAL Avenger! It's clear from their lack of space in the pic that they're a "helper", and "assistant" character, possibly only "eye candy" for the real stars, the males...
Who is that character with the red hair in the far right? They couldn’t possibly be a REAL Avenger! It’s clear from their lack of space in the pic that they’re a “helper”, and “assistant” character, possibly only “eye candy” for the real stars, the white males…(notice the other sidelined character on the extreme left)

Sidelined and disappeared…

I want to point out a few facts now.

We’re nearly 50% of the tickets. Women make up nearly 50% of movie sales at comic book movies (one recent survey suggested the figure of 44%). We’re a BIG market, not a tiny percentage of viewers and attendees and fans.

Women are attending ComicCons in large numbers. This year’s San Diego Comic-Con had 40% female attendance. These events aren’t all white male antisocial geeks from basements. The crowds have changed, if they ever were that stereotype to start with.

Women buy stuff. We want to buy merchandise, and we want that merchandise to feature our favourite characters. Not some of them. ALL of them.

We want fairness. Women are increasingly pissed at the way we’re being sidelined in comics. We want our female characters, and we’re pissed that they’re not appearing as the STARS of movies.

We want to be seen as real people. Women are also pissed at the way we’re being overly sexualized in comics and the movies that spring from them. We want accurate, diverse representation. We want to be seen as real, whole people, with real strengths and weaknesses, and real stories to tell. Because that is what we are.

Most of all, we don’t want to be seen as things. We want to be seen as people.

Speaking for myself and my daughter…and my daughter’s generation

It’s not hard to write real, strong women. Just write us as people, because that’s what we are. We screw up, we have frailties. We’re not governed by our relationships all the time. We are goal driven a lot of the time, especially if you’re writing a hero character.

Women can be heroes. Often we are.
Women can be leaders of men. Often we are.
Women can be strong, yet still completely feminine and powerful and amazing and uniquely beautiful. Often we are.

Even in real life, when I look at some of the strongest people I know, my mind often travels to the women I know rather than the men. We don’t typically hold higher career positions, because of the boundaries and limits that society has set us, but heck, we can be powerful.

So don’t sideline us. Don’t “disappear” us. It’s offensive and nasty and cheap and hurtful. It’s degrading and demeaning to some of the most incredible people I know.

Sure, these are superheroes I’m giving as examples, and you could claim it doesn’t matter. But it does. We all need our role models. We all need to believe we could be that hero on the screen. We all need to believe that we too can be the “chosen one”, the hero with a destiny greater than we thought possible.

We all need to dare to dream. Give us our dreams. We deserve them.

Awkward Aphrodite: Stripping beauty bare

I came across a presentation on TedX the other day, where Australian Journalist Tracey Spicer stripped off her makeup, frizzed up her meticulously coiffed hair, and took off her sleek blue dress in front of a live audience.

She did all this – and I admire her courage – to discuss the huge amount of daily effort we women undertake (27 minutes every day it is estimated) to get ready to face the world.

It was a striking way to make a point.

I’m surprised it’s not longer than 27 minutes a day. I know that my “regime” is pretty convoluted, especially on days when I wash and then have to straighten my hair. My “beauty bag” when I travel literally takes up half my suitcase. I’m not kidding. I try to pack light, and fit everything into a carry-on sized case (which I do), but half the space is cosmetics and toiletries.

My travel list of cosmetics and toiletries and medicines includes:

toothbrush, toothpaste,
hairbrush, shampoo, conditioner, hair styling treatment, hair straightening tongs,
contact lenses, contact lens case, contact lens fluid, spare contact lenses, glasses,
disposable razors, tweezers, mirror,
face cleansing wipes, AHA 7% lotion, retinol treatment, sunblock-moisturiser, body moisturiser, tinted face moisturiser,
eyeliner, eyeshadow, mascara, blusher, lipstick, lipbalm, eye drops,
body wash, body washing mitt
cortisone cream, anticonvulsant medication (I have epilepsy), antihistamines (I have hayfever), tampons

And I don’t consider myself to be a “high maintenance” kind of woman. LOL.

What my husband takes, for comparison?

toothbrush, toothpaste,
shampoo,
glasses,
razor,
body wash,
antihistamines (he gets hayfever)

The difference in lengths between the lists is a stark reminder of the inequality of the sexes.

Putting on my “armour”

Ironically, I don’t actually mind some of it. I consider the sunblock part of my health care against cancer, for example, and think my husband should put it on too (he doesn’t and won’t). But I hate having to straighten my hair. I hate the whole makeup thing.

Yes, I could stop doing all of it. But what would it cost me? I’m going back to work this year, and I want to present a professional image.

For women, that means a certain “uniform”, and that uniform includes makeup, a certain dress level, a certain fat level (yes, it’s true – fat women are discriminated against, didn’t you know?), and makeup and hair done a certain way.

Women without makeup and hair styled are less employable, and earn lower wages. I’m a professional woman – or I was before I took time off to have kids – and I want to regain that and earn well.

Hence, I’ll be wearing what Tracey Spicer, in the video above, aptly calls the armour.

Daily life

Some women argue that we don’t have to wear the armour in our daily, non-working life.

Yes, that’s true – but have you noticed how differently you’re treated when you’re dressed up as opposed to when you’re not?

I first noticed it when I was a lowly secretary. I had to wear a suit (skirt and jacket) and look very flash because I worked in the legal field. But even though I was earning a crappy salary and had no power at all, every single time I walked through a department store in town the sales assistants would fawn over me.

Did madam want to try some perfume? Did madam want to try this makeup? Did madam need some assistance?

“Madam” was earning a basic wage at the time and couldn’t afford any of it, but she learned a really important lesson.

Clothes really do make the man – or the woman. If you want to shop without being bothered, wear jeans. If you want to be assisted every step of the way, dress up. I don’t like it, but it’s a system and if you want to work the system, be smart about it, know it, and use it.

There are very very few people who can remove the status clothes of society and make a point doing so – Gandhi springs to mind here as an immediate example, but these people tend to be so instantly recognisable that their face is a thing of power. They have built so much personal power that the rules no longer apply.

Lord_Pethic-Lawrence_and_Gandhi

People judge the rest of us on what we wear, and that includes makeup and hair and weight. It’s not a fair system, and it’s not the least bit sensible, but it’s the way things are.

Beauty is a system. Beauty isn’t what we’re born with. It’s a look. It’s a style of presentation. Ever seen Tori Spelling? She’s naturally very plain, but she’s styled correctly. She has her armour on.

An armoured woman.
An armoured woman.

Isn’t refusing makeup a feminist act?

Theoretically, refusing to wear makeup is a feminist act. It’s refusing to play by the rules. But armour – and makeup is armour – can give you strength. I think makeup-refusing feminists forget that. Good looks – even society-sanctioned good looks – provide a person with power. And as women, we need all the power we can get.

So I think the sensible approach is to take that power and fight the system from the inside. Become powerful, and pull the patriarchy apart from within.

Yes, makeup is a drag. Doing our hair is a drag. But when there are issues such as abortion and rape and pay equality to be dealt with, and young girls are still being pushed into lower paying careers and encouraged to be Disney princesses waiting for their princes to save them, I think there are more important fights to fight.

Let’s fight them first, and win them.

cinderella

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