Big Women

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I just found out (by looking at the clothes that are being auctioned off at Clothes Off Our Back) that Meryl Streep wears a size 10. Now I would be thrilled if I wore a ten–I haven’t been that small since I was 15–but apparently that’s considered to be at the top of the acceptable size for women. (Think The Devil Wears Prada where Ann Hathaway is told that she’s too large at size 6!)

As further proof that size 10 is considered to be “large” see Scanner’s Top 10 Hottest Women Size 10 and Up. Apparently the people who made up this list had a hard time coming up with 10 women who are larger who are considered to be hot. Personally, I think there are a lot more out there (see the comments section for more candidates), but what really makes my blood boil is that some of the women are so thin, the compilers had to reassure us that they are indeed at least size 10s. If a woman looks slim, what difference does it make what size they wear?

I heard recently (I don’t know where) that designers have changed size designations so that women think that they are smaller than they really are. That would explain the explosion of 0s and 2s that have appeared on the scene in recent years. There is even a double zero! Such sizes didn’t even exist when I was younger. So either women have gotten a lot skinnier (which we know isn’t true) or the designers have indeed changed the sizes. The bad news is that if that’s true all across the board, I’m really wearing at least a size 18 instead of the 16 that I already haven’t been happy about.

American women are supposed to wear an average of size 14. I’m larger than that, but I’ve been told that I look good the way I am, even if I do need to lose some weight. The Learning Channel’s What Not to Wear has done a lot for heavier women by showing them that they can look great, too. The part I like best about the show is when the women who have been made over say how much this has changed their outlook about themselves. Just little things like the right makeup, hairstyle and clothes can make them feel more confident.

This is where I break ranks with some feminists who say that a woman shouldn’t be judged by the way she looks. Of course she shouldn’t be (neither should men) but that doesn’t mean that she has to devalue herself by not wearing makeup, never getting her hair done or wearing unflattering clothes. Externals do make a difference in how we feel about ourselves. This is a physical world, after all.

I think a woman’s personality should be what we base our opinions of her on, but sometimes we don’t have the opportunity to get to know her personality. So we go by what we see. If a woman is “big” but makes herself look as good as she can, she gives the impression that she feels good about herself. That makes us want to get to know her personally. Soon, the fact that she’s heavy is as unimportant as her shoe size. It’s just one thing about her.

I don’t mean to give the impression that a woman is valueless unless she becomes “eye candy.” It’s healthy to accept our imperfections, but it’s even healthier to see the good about ourselves. And anything we can do to emphasize our positive qualities–whether physical or psychological–is in our best interests. It sends a message to the world: if I think I’m worth it, you will, too.

Being big is not the problem. Not being good to yourself, not projecting the best image you can to the world–that’s the problem. We need to discover and display our strengths and the weaknesses will fade out of sight.

The Oscars

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Just a thought: the Oscars are presented in order of importance, right? At least once you get to supporting actors and actresses. Ever notice, then, how actors are above actresses? Just once I’d like to see them present to the best actress right before best picture. If I’m wrong, and they have done that before, let me know. I’m not an avid Oscar watcher and wouldn’t remember every year even if I was.

Also: is it a bad thing that actresses are on display more so than the actors are? Most of the talk the day after is about the women: who wore what, who was best- and worst-dressed, and so on. Part of me envies the women for being able to get all dolled up and seen by millions. But then I realize that’s a lot of pressure, too. God forbid that a woman would dress plainly–the critics would tear her apart.

Unlike animals (or should I say, other animals), human females are the ones who have to show off their plumage. What does that do to the self-esteem of women who don’t have the looks or the means to make themselves look stunning? I don’t mean that men are allowed to look unkempt or unattractive either. But they’re given more leeway than women are. (Did you see Mickey Rourke, for instance?)

Is it hotwired in women to want to be attractive, to show off their youth and beauty, to try to hold on to their looks as long as possible? What do you think?

The Femagination Book Store

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If you’re looking for books specifically by and for women, look no further! I’m in the process of building a Femagination Book Store. Topics (so far) include:

  1. DVDs
  2. Finances
  3. First Wave Literature
  4. Memoirs
  5. Motherhood
  6. Multicultural Feminism
  7. Politics
  8. Reproductive Rights
  9. Second Wave Literature
  10. Sexuality
  11. Spirituality
  12. Third Wave Literature
  13. Women Writers
  14. Women’s History
  15. Workplace

Click on the title of this post and it will take you there.

Poverty Is What Enslaves Us–And Causes Abortion

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The real problem in this country is poverty. By poverty I don’t just mean living below the poverty line. I mean not having enough money to function adequately. You could be middle class and living in what feels like poverty if you have no assets (no house, no car, no education), nothing to fall back on (no savings, no health insurance, no federal aid of any kind) and you’re barely making–or not always making–your monthly bills. You never buy new clothes, unless it’s at a thrift shop, you can’t afford new glasses or to go to the dentist. You certainly never go on vacation. And you eat the cheapest food possible.

You may decide that you can’t afford a child. But imagine living on less than $14,000 a year (for a family of two). How are you even existing? And then imagine that you get pregnant. How can you possibly support another person? Your income doesn’t automatically go up just because your family grows. Certainly you’d be getting some kind of federal aid, like food stamps, but even welfare barely supports one person, let alone a family, and besides, that’s only for a limited amount of time.

Most states’ welfare programs make you go to work after five years of receiving public assistance. (Source here.) That may seem adequate, but the problem is with the quality of jobs the recipients are able to get after going off welfare. A minimum wage ($6.55/hr.) job grosses less than $13,000 a year. If you’re supporting a family of two, you’re still at the poverty level. And let’s face it, in this economic climate, you’re lucky to get any job, let alone one paying more than the minimum wage.

Women are particularly vulnerable in this climate because of the fact that most jobs for women are lower-paying jobs and because they’re the ones who bear children. If a woman decides that she can’t afford another child, but accidentally becomes pregnant, what are her options? If the anti-abortionists had their way, she would be forced to have the child anyway, even if it means that she will go beneath the poverty level.

There is even a movement out there to make most forms of birth control illegal because they believe that they cause abortions. (See here.) So a woman is damned if she doesn’t use effective birth control (she has an unwanted pregnancy) and damned if she does (she causes abortions anyway.) What is a woman to do?

This open letter to anti-abortionists from The Feminine eZine, makes the case that it is poverty that causes most abortions. If women could afford their children, they wouldn’t choose to abort them. Therefore, if anti-abortionists want to cut down the number of abortions, they need to address the causes of poverty. That’s food for thought.

Beheading = Domestic Violence??

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Press Release
February 16th, 2009
Contact: Marcia Pappas, 518-452-3944

Woman Beheaded in New York State

National Organization for Women-NYS Questions Media Blackout

ALBANY, NY (02/16/2009; 1237)(readMedia)– On February 12, 2009, in Orchard Park, Buffalo, NY, forty-four year-old Muzzamil Hassan, a prominent Muslim businessman, was arrested for having allegedly beheaded his wife, thirty-seven year-old Aasiya Z. Hassan. What was Aasiya’s crime? Why, Aasiya was having Muzzamil served with divorce papers. And apparently, on February 6, Aasiya obtained an order of protection which had forced her violent husband out of their home.

NOW New York State is horrified that Erie County DA, Frank A. SeditaII, has referred to this ghastly crime as “the worst form of domestic violence possible.” The ridiculous juxtaposition of “domestic” and “beheading” in the same journalistic breath points up the inherent weakness of the whole “domestic violence” lexicon.

What is “domestic” about this violence? NOW NYS President Marcia Pappas says “it is high time we stop regarding assaults and murders as a lover’s quarrels gone bad. We further demand of lawmakers that punishments fit crimes. We of NOW decry the selective enforcement of assault laws and call for judicial enforcement of our mandatory arrest policy, even when the axe-wielder is known by his victim.”

And why is this horrendous story not all over the news? Is a Muslim woman’s life not worth a five-minute report? This was, apparently, a terroristic version of “honor killing,” a murder rooted in cultural notions about women’s subordination to men. Are we now so respectful of the Muslim’s religion that we soft-peddle atrocities committed in it’s name? Millions of women in this country are maimed and killed by their husbands or partners. Had this awful murder been perpetrated by a African American, a Latino, a Jew, or a Catholic, the story would be flooding the airwaves. What is this deafening silence?

And exactly what do orders of protection do? Was Aasiya desperately waving the order of protection in Muzzamil’s face when he slashed at her throat? Was it still clutched in her hand as her head hit the floor?

You of the press, please shine a light on this most dreadful of murders. In a bizarre twist of fate it comes out that Muzzamil Hassan is founder of a television network called Bridges TV, whose purpose it was to portray Muslims in a positive light. This a huge story. Please tell it!

Marcia A. Pappas, President
National Organization for Women-NYS
Phone: 518-452-3944
Presidents Email:
General Email:

Baby Time

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When is the best time for a woman to have a baby? I had all four of my children by the time I was 28 (I started at 22). I don’t regret having them, but if I’d waited a few years I could have gotten my education out of the way and possibly forged a career for myself. Then when their father and I divorced I wouldn’t have been so vulnerable economically.

I did finally get a fairly good job at the Post Office, which enabled me to support my children without having to have a husband. Before that, though, I had remarried, largely because I was afraid that I couldn’t raise my children by myself. Because of the job, I didn’t have to stay married when the marriage didn’t work out and I didn’t have to go back and live with my parents, as I’d done after my first divorce.

But the job wasn’t ideal. I had to work nights for several years and a lot of overtime. My children were on their own in the mornings and while I slept during the day. I routinely stayed up 24 hours straight twice a week, which turned me into a zombie mom. It seemed like anytime I had a chance to spend time with my children at home, I fell asleep.

I’m not saying that I would have found a perfect job if I hadn’t had children right away. There are very few perfect jobs for mothers, anywhere. But I would have had more options if I’d finished my education at an earlier age. As it is, I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree until I was 53, long after it would have helped me to raise my children.

But then again, my children were all out of high school by the time I was 46. I’ve had a lot of time to myself at this end of my life and I’m enjoying it thoroughly. Would I want to still have teens (or younger) at home at my advanced age of 57? I don’t think so, but I might be feeling this way because I had to give up so much when I was younger. I feel like it’s time for me now.

And yet I miss the opportunity I could have had to relive the promise of new life that a later-in-life baby brings. I’ve now lived as long with grown children as I lived with them while they were growing up. And even though I’m still a mother, it’s not the same as when your children are small. They need you less for one thing (which can be a good thing, no doubt, but also a somewhat lonely thing).

But what difference does it make in the end? If I’d waited to have children, would I have been more ready, more sure of myself? I somehow doubt that a woman is ever ready to have children. But I do think there’s something to be said for having had more experience as a full-grown adult.

I wasn’t that young when I had my children. At least I’d finished high school. Thanks to her mother’s high profile, Bristol Palin is the poster child (and yes, she’s still a child) of teen-age, unwed motherhood. Recently she had an interview on television with Greta Van Susteren where she said that she wished that her motherhood had happened ten years later. (For an article about that interview as well as the interview itself, go here.) She insisted that having the baby was her choice but that doesn’t erase the fact that she’s very, very young. She’s fortunate to have a large, supportive family. But the more she relies on them the longer her own childhood will last.

I don’t think it matters that much when you have children, but it would at least be nice if you’re out of childhood yourself.