Skinny shaming is a thing. Sincerely, a not skinny girl

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© Steph Jael

 

This one has been on my mind a lot lately. As a person that publicly promotes body positivity, I often get asked… “Can you skinny shame?”

In my opinion, yes. Yes, you absolutely can. And to be honest, two or three years ago I would have said something very different.

As Facebook feels the need to show me “memories” from the past (please stop), I’m reminded of many unpleasant things. I’m reminded of how bad my use of punctuation was, some of my humour, and even some of my beliefs. Most recently, one of the reminders was the whole “real women have curves” meme. As I looked over at my precious Hannah, long and slender, I felt immediate shame on behalf of my old self.

I often feel like I am teetering the line of being a “chubby” and “not chubby” person. By no means am I thin, and in some contexts, I may not even be average. I have fat deposits, a soft stomach and a broad frame… and I’m just not little. Thinking back to it, I shared the post because I finally saw something that validated my body as it was. After a lifetime of media and public opinion contributing to my shame, I finally felt empowered and represented. I was allowed to love my curvy body. But at what cost? At the cost of shaming someone else’s body?

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© Steph Jael

“Real women… eat a cheeseburger… get on a treadmill” … It’s all the same thing.

To be honest, I have heard more commentary on my (thin) partners’ body than I have my own. She is stared at in public when she eats, she is greeted by people about how skinny she is, and she (like many) feel unable to vocally promote “body positivity” because of her thin frame. And why is that?

Why is it that if someone calls me fat it’s socially unacceptable, but in the same breath can tell a thin girl to eat a cheeseburger?

Why do my self-love posts have more weight (pun intended) than hers?

“Real women have curves/eat a cheeseburger” is the same as “get on a treadmill”. Which is the same idea as attaching sexual orientation to hair length, or gender to body parts, or any concept onto any physical attribute. The point is, this kind of verbiage inadvertently sends the message that you’re worth and experiences are only as good as your body parts. That you are your body, and that your (very real) emotions aren’t valid.

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© @hhannahht

The pendulum swings

I believe it was Mark Twain that said something along the lines of, “whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” Historically (unlike racism, or sexism), privileging of certain body types varied. During times of Famish, to be “thicker” implied wealth. Whereas in the early 90’s, “heroin-chic” became the coveted thing. Fads have always changed. That’s kind of the point. I think it’s our way of anchoring our self-worth throughout these changes that we ought to address.

I find when people become aware of an error on their part, they often feel so much shame that they go running in the opposite direction with their new opinions. They feel so much guilt and shame that they go out of their way to be “extra aware”. We then adopt the notion that to “give privilege” we need to take it away from someone else.  To empower one, we must shame the other.

But what we often forget is, oppressing one group to uplift another will never – and I mean never – create sustainable empowerment. Taking from one to give to another will only ever lead to a continuous pattern of imbalance. And how long until the pendulum shifts again?

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© @hhannahht

Attack the societal belief, not the person.

I think it’s important that just because societal structures are designed to endorse some people and not others that it doesn’t mean that we should forget the human component. I think we should remember that people of privilege (and in this context, thin people) still feel. And often, these feelings are similar to our own.

Many of my thin friends feel just as insecure about their bodies as anyone else. They struggle to find pants their size, they are dismissed as body-positive representatives and are often made to feel as if their beauty is contingent on their body… just like, anyone else. To tell a person that their feelings are invalid (for any reason) only serves to take the same pain you feel and project it onto another. Why not let the pain end with you? Why not do something magical by empowering everyone to love the skin they’re in?

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She’s thin. I’m not. We are both beautiful.

In a world that is designed to pit women against each other, people against each other, it’s important to buy into those hopeful notions of empowering one another. At the end of the day, we’re all people, and we’re here for a short time. We’re all trying to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, and get as much out of this life as we can. Why not help someone along that journey a little faster by sharing your light?

In short, as a not skinny person, there is such a thing as skinny shaming. And really, it’s not necessary. There is no shame in loving the body you are in. And there certainly is no shame in the thin, fat, short, tall, red, blue person beside you loving theirs either.

Thin is beautiful.

Curves are beautiful.

Self-acceptance and love are beautiful.

 

All of my love,

-Steph Jael

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Just another preachy vegetarian post

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I don’t know about you, but, every time someone “finds out” I’m a vegetarian, I am met with some sort of reaction. Either a high-five in solidarity, a congratulatory “good on you”, or more often than not a reaction of shame. Either projected shame that I “don’t appreciate real meat” or “inner shame” that they do. Many times, people will launch into an explanation as to why they eat meat, ending with a “but I intend to stop one day”, in hopes that I stop there.
And sure, I could go on to tell you about all of the horrible conditions in which animals are being treated, en mass, every single day. This knowledge is not new to most of us. I could explain what producing meat at the rate we are is doing to the environment, or how it may even influence your own health.

But quite frankly, when was the last time a photo of a tortured animal instilled meaningful change in someone? Further to this, when was the last time deterrent of any kind inspired sustainable motivation in anyone, for any reason?

In First Nation history, the belief surrounding meat consumption was one of gratitude and mindfulness. Before going out to hunt, individuals would perform ceremony, honouring the creator, the earth, and the animal to which they would seek. Through this ceremony, it was believed that an animal would willingly sacrifice itself in order to sustain the people. After hunting, the people would go on to use every part of the animal, and would not go out to hunt again until there was need.

It is with this that I approach the discussion surrounding meat consumption from one of abstinence to one of perception and awareness.

Regardless of your preference, we can be mindful of the animal we are consuming. Whether through conscious abstinence, or grateful consumption.

All my love,

Steph Jael

Depression is a gift reserved for the resilient

At the end of last year, a beloved high school principal within our city took her life. The news made headlines, and we all wondered how someone so happy could have been in that much pain. The news of her death stayed with me for weeks. Not because I wondered why… but because of the fear that one day that could be the fate of someone I know – someone like me.
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© Steph Jael

Few people know this about me: I have depression. When I was 15 I was officially diagnosed, but the effects of it started long before. I was in denial for quite a while, and I can’t really say when it began, or what brought it on. However, I can say depression has been a passenger on my journey for well over a decade now, and it still rides back seat as of today. I would go on to have many sleepless nights, lose many days from my life, and drive a wedge between myself and anyone who cared for me. And during those moments, I can’t say that I cared. Depression has a funny (or very unfunny) way of distorting reality. I would often convince myself that my absence would go unnoticed, or worse, improve my loved ones lives. I would feel extreme guilt for not being able to pull myself out of it. And then I would feel infinite sadness watching my partners face as she realized this illness would take another day of ours together. More guilt ensues as you wonder how or why someone would ever choose to love a person that can go that far down… But she does. And many people do. Just as many people love you. More than any of us could ever realize.
You, my friend, are worth being loved. And to get you started, here are 3 things that I would like to share with those who are also suffering:
 
1. You may always have depression. This isn’t something you need to change.
Growing up, when I would overcome a depressive episode I would exclaim that I was healed. I was finally free. Then another one would come sometime later, and it would feel worse than before. I felt extreme guilt, I failed. I failed at being happy. But know this… You did not fail! You, my friend, managed to find your way out of the darkness for even just a little, and you will find your way out again. Accepting the high’s and low’s can be comforting. You know it’ll pass. Just as your happiness will pass. I have found that accepting depression as part of my makeup has made it easier to identify and cope during darker periods. Suddenly, in the midst of those moments they don’t seem so monumental.
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© Steph Jael

2. Seek help while you’re happy. Or at the very least, not depressed.
Many people love you. They’re (understandably) worried. And when they see just how much you’re hurting it’s easy for them to internally panic. They become quick to offer solutions, most which seem to be “talk to someone” or “find help”. They mean well, and they aren’t “wrong” to suggest these things. However, for me seeking help during an episode is entirely futile. I have zero energy and it takes everything in me to not be self-destructive. Seeking help requires clarity and stamina – and in these moments, you are on life support. During a depressive episode, I view it as “my job” to keep myself comfortable. To find a reason not to go further down. And if I do go further down, to wait until I have it in me to come back up. I will treat the burn as soon as I put the fire out. Please don’t feel bad if you have to do the same. 
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© Steph Jael

3. Depression is a gift for the resilient. 
Not long ago I read the following quote:
“Grief never ends… but it changes. It’s a passage. Not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness. Nor a lack of faith… it is the price of love.”  Let that sink in. Grief… your grief is the price of love. Your sadness has a purpose. Whether it is to allow for beautiful art or in connecting with another human being hurting as much as you are – your suffering is not in vain. Your pain has the opportunity to be a catalyst for something bigger.
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© Steph Jael

I know it hurts… your pain is valid. But, if nothing else please know this; you hurt as deeply as you do because you love equally as deeply. Your depression is a gift because you brave soul, are resilient.
All of my love,
– Steph Jael

You’re still homophobic, Felicia

Many people think homophobia is out the door. For what it’s worth, I think in North America its no longer as trendy to be physically violent and directly aggressive about someones orientation. I will be the first to admit we have come a long way in a short amount of time. However, I will also be first to say that homophobic attitudes are still very much alive and well in our society. This often rears its ugly head through subtle and not so subtle commentary. While many people no longer feel the need to physically kick our asses they do however feel the need to make sure we understand they mean “no homo” in public and “let’s experiment” in private.

Inspired by all the women that think we “want to bang them”, here are 10 things that kinda suck to continue saying to gay people (and what we really think):

1.My cousins-sisters-brothers-cats-nephews-pastors-wives-aunts-birds-dentists-dog is gay. Do you know him?”

….

2. “Which one of you is the man?”

Well gee, according to my hair length…

 

3. “But a woman can’t “fuck like a man”.

Exactly.

 

4. “You shouldn’t be able to use dildos, you made your choice”

And you shouldn’t be able to do anal. You made yours.

 

5.”You’ve never been with a man?! So you’re a virgin?!”

Sure. I’ll be whatever you want me to be baby.

 

6. “I love Ellen…. You look like Ellen… WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T LIKE ELLEN?!”

…..

 

7. “I would never show you my boobs. You’re a lesbian.”

Please don’t. I have my own.

 

8. “Is it sex if there’s no dick?” 

My orgasm sure thinks it is.

 

9. “Do you find me attractive?”

Please don’t make me hurt your feelings.

 

10. “So like how do you know you’re gay? Like how do you ACTUALLY know because I’m trying to get my daughter to be a lesbian.” 

Just let her near one. Apparently being near us is more than enough to shatter your orientation.

 

Shirts are for Boys – Your body offends me

Offensive Nipple

The above image is responsible for how I found feminism – which in turn lead me to the idea for Shirts are for Boys. This photo is one I took this past summer of my partner Hannah, while we were at a Manitoban nude beach. To be honest, at the time it was taken there were no real convictions or preconceived meanings behind it. The landscape was vibrant, the weather was warm, and after a lifetime of struggling with my own body issues I felt incredibly free being naked. Quite simply, I wanted to remember that moment, and so I took a picture. Not for a minute were there any thoughts about what the implications of taking this photo could be, or how it would completely change everything I thought I knew.

Let me back up a little bit. I was never fond of the idea of feminism. For one, I had no real idea of what the term actually meant and absolutely no intention of finding out. Like many, my idea of a feminist was an angry, man-hating lesbian with short hair, plaid shirts, and body hair. Given that I was already a short-haired, plaid-wearing lesbian I set out to make sure I conveyed an image that made it clear I was a humanitarian – NOT a feminist. I didn’t hate men and quite frankly didn’t really believe women were having that much of a different experience from them. It’s the 21st century, in North America nonetheless. Women have the right to vote, are allowed to wear pants, and sometimes we even get away with bad behavior because we are “non-threatening”. For women in the LGBTQ community, we were now able to legally get married, hold pride parades (in Canada) without much interference and for the first time in a long time had a growing amount of community support. Truthfully, I didn’t see the point in feminism or the true value of its efforts. I had never really felt connected to my gender until I received this response on my sharing of the photo of Hannah from a reputable social media platform:

“We removed your post because it doesn’t follow our Community Guideline. Please read our Community Guidelines to learn how you can help keep our site safe.”

Censorship?! My photo was reported for nudity and taken down because it was offensive?! I was in shock.

I had heard of censorship and the “free the nipple” movement. I had read articles on public breast feeding and knew the female body was offending people far and wide. But the actual implications of it were so far removed from anything I had experienced personally – I was outraged.

I have been an artist my entire life and am constantly striving to create controversial work. One photo I had success with entitled “She” depicted violence against a person identified as a woman. The photo gained some attention, shocked a few, and got some commercial and artistic recognition – but not once did it seem to offend anyone, least of all social media platforms. Now here I was… offending not only the individual who felt compelled to report my photo as inappropriate (which is actually quite petty in my opinion) but an entire social media guideline! I couldn’t wrap my head around how something that was meant to be a beautiful moment was being exploited and taken entirely out of context. It was then that I got angry. How dare a widely accepted and used social media site, one that should be responsible in encouraging ethical treatment and equal rights of all peoples, try to censor something that was very clearly artistic?

In response to my photo being removed I shared a call to action for all of my viewers, supporters, and fans to share the photo of Hannah. To my surprise people responded with an overwhelming amount of love and support by not only sharing my photo but adding commentary and encouragement to continue pushing back against my censorship. All of a sudden my inbox and media pages were being flooded with touching emails, words of encouragement, and stories of individuals who wanted this story shared – most of these people being women. Women who were vocalizing and sharing their stories that did in fact prove our experiences are different from men. That even though we can vote, wear pants, secure employment, that we are still very much existing in a binary and oppressive structure. That femininity, regardless of gender, was not socially acceptable and therefore something to be censored. That by accepting a part of yourself and owning your existence you can challenge social constructs – without being an angry lezzie.

It is this realization that lead me here, to this blog, Shirts are for Boys. Think about that phrase for a moment. I mean really let it sink in. How ridiculous is the notion that a shirt is for a boy… or a girl? That bare chests are only acceptable for one gender, while dresses and the colour pink for another? That any object or expression is reserved for a specific characteristic? That it is offensive for someone to be anything they want to be?

Shirts are for Boys is a creative response to inequality in our current culture. The focus is on creatively informing and discussing relevant issues surrounding gender. It is a blog dedicated to encourage readers to live authentically, find self love, and be what ever you want to be. It is about empowering others, exploring non-binary concepts, and liberation.

This is my response to censorship. It comes with love, compassion, and a real desire to affect change. Shirts are not just for boys, they are for whoever the hell want to wear them.

– Steph Jael

P.S. I’m sorry your body is offensive Hannah