What Femagination is All About

A comment left on this blog two days ago* got me thinking about the views I hold as a feminist. Although I’m well aware of the fact that feminism is not a universally loved ideology, I still tend to think that most women (and many men) hold at least some of the views that a feminist does.

What woman, for instance, thinks it’s okay for a man to make more for doing the same job that she does? Or that women shouldn’t have the same opportunities for education, employment or promotion? Or that it’s all right to objectify and abuse women sexually?

Often, when I try to tell people who agree that all these things are wrong that they hold feminist views, they still resist the label. This attitude keeps them away as readers as well. That’s why I recently changed my blog’s tag line to “the feminine imagination blog” from “the feminist imagination blog.” I haven’t stopped being a feminist, but I am tired of people assuming the worst just because I call myself one.

I’m also tired of people refusing to see that a feminist slant merely means that this blog is about women and the issues that affect them directly. It’s not about destroying the institutions of marriage and the family. It’s not about hating men or blaming them for everything that’s wrong in society. Nor is it about women being masculine or non-maternal.

What this blog is about is how to be the person you want to be, unhampered by rules and traditions that prevent you from reaching your potential. Whatever your goals are in life, this blog is here to help you achieve them.

For example, I’ve written several posts about obesity and I plan to write more in the future. I’ve written about everything from abortion to the workplace. (See the drop-down menu to the right for all the topics I’ve covered in the 600+ posts included here.) Sometimes I view these topics from a feminist stance but more often I just view them as a human.

I’m not trying to convert anyone to feminism. If you’re already a feminist, you’ll find plenty here for you. If you’re wondering what feminism is all about, you’ll find that, too. But if you dislike, even despise, the notion of feminism, you should still give this blog a try. You might be surprised by what you find here.

* See the comment on “Why More Mothers Aren’t Feminists.”

LEGO Friends: a Friend to Girls?

It’s too late for my daughters, or for me, for that matter, but not for my granddaughters. LEGO has come out with a series of kits created specifically for girls. After more than a decade of marketing to boys with themes like Star Wars, ninjas, monsters, dinosaurs and the like, LEGO has turned its attention to the market that is potentially just as lucrative; after all, females make up 51% of the population.

Not that LEGO hasn’t tried to reach out to girls before, but nothing really took off like the kits for boys. This time, LEGO devoted seven years of research to figuring out what kind of LEGO kits would appeal to girls. Last year, right after Christmas (go figure), the company debuted its LEGO Friends series. I’m only just now finding out about them because I was looking for a Christmas gift for my five-year-old grand-niece and I came across them at Target.

They caught my attention because they go beyond the rather limited role that dolls have in a little girl’s play. There are doll-like figures (5 centimeters taller than traditional LEGO minifigs) but LEGO has come up with an entire world that has to be built–with LEGOs, naturally–before the dolls can “live” in it. There are five main characters who each come with her own biography and personality and kits geared to her interests.

At first I was leery about gender-stereotyping, and rightfully so: The Friends’ world is called Heartlake City and the colors of the kits are all “girly” colors, mainly pastels. Not only that, but the environments the kits are designed to create are almost exclusively traditional female ones, like beauty parlors, cafés, performance studios, bedrooms, swimming pools and horse stables. The only kinds of occupations represented include actress/singer, beautician, baker, café owner and dog groomer; no doctors or police officers need apply. (I suppose a girl could borrow those figures from her brother’s kits.)

But there are also encouraging signs: one of the kits, a bedroom, includes a drum kit. There is a car, a speedboat and an airplane. The environments aren’t just places where the characters go; they own the businesses, perform on the stages, drive the cars, and so on.

If people are worried about making kids think that they can only play with “gender-appropriate” toys, then what about the LEGOs that are aimed at the male market? You’d think that boys are supposedto be all about fighting and destroying (and constructing and destroying again!–I’ve seen my grandson playing with LEGOs.) But maybe boys are simply more interested in action and girls in interaction. Who really knows? All I do know is that neither I nor my daughters were remotely interested in playing with LEGOs–I had my Ginny dolls, they had Strawberry Shortcake and later Barbie).

If LEGO Friends get more children interested in LEGOs, isn’t that a good thing? No one said that girls can’t play with Harry Potter (which is one of the few kits outside of LEGO Friends that has female characters in it) or Star Wars or any of the kits that are thought of as for boys. But now girls and boys who like things that are pretty, that involve role-playing and redecorating, or that aren’t all about wars and fighting, will have something that satisfies their needs as well.

Find out more about LEGO Friends here.

NOTE: I found this comment on the Internet which I found both amusing and disturbing: “my lil sis wants this set she has a the cafe but i use her minifigures as prisoners to my lex luthor minifugre from DC superheros and a slave to The Joker minifure.”

1958 Ginny Doll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Losing 160 Pounds in a Year Looks Like

When Julia Kozerski decided in 2009 to lose weight she started taking cell phone photos of herself trying on clothes in dressing rooms. After losing 160 pounds in a year, she published her photo series. You can see it here. (The first photo is to the right.)

This is an amazing feat, all the more so because she was a newlywed, a first-time homeowner, a full-time college student and a caretaker for her ill parents during the same period.

How did she lose the weight? She stopped eating junk food, started walking and biking daily, counted calories, and weighed and measured her food portions. (You can see a BodyBugg armband in many of the photos.)

It’s interesting to me that this article about her describes her motivation as wanting to “drastically change her lifestyle.” It was not specifically to lose weight, although I’m sure she was hoping that would be one of the results.

This is an important distinction. Losing any significant amount of weight requires a complete lifestyle change; anything less will not produce lasting results. The main reason that people regain weight after a weight loss is because they didn’t change their behaviors or they only changed them temporarily. Often the entire time they’re dieting, they’re dreaming of the day when they can go back to their “normal” way of eating. What they don’t realize is that they have to create a new normal.

One thing that surprised me about these photos was how good she looked even before she lost all the weight, especially when she wore the right clothes. The lesson I learned from that was that there is no such thing as “before” and “after,” with nothing good in between. We have a tendency to think that we won’t look good until we’ve reached our final goal.

We need to celebrate ourselves at any weight and not think of ourselves as incomplete or unfinished just because we still have weight to lose.

We also need to remember that losing the weight isn’t the ultimate goal. Changing our lives should be our primary motivation.

 

Why Should We Care About Shulamith Firestone?

Shulamith Firestone died sometime last week at the age of 67. She had been a recluse for years, which is one reason why no one found her body for several days. (Her sister confirmed that she died of natural causes.) The feminist community took notice, but the average person could have cared less. And that’s a pity.

Why should we care? What connection could she possibly have to our lives today?

Those of us who are Baby Boomers might remember her name in connection with the Women’s Liberation Movement. She helped to create several radical feminist groups in the late ’60s and was outspoken in her criticisms, not only of the patriarchy, but also of the political left, which she felt didn’t do enough (if anything) to liberate women.

But it was her book, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, published in 1970 when she was only 25, that earned her a primary place in feminist history. And it was also her book—or rather, the reception the book received—that drove her to withdraw from public life in the years following its publication.

To say that Dialectic created a firestorm is an understatement. Even many feminists felt that Firestorm had gone too far in her denunciation of family life and her assertion that women are enslaved by their biology. She felt that women should be released from the burden of reproduction by the use of artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and artificial wombs.

Besides being one of the first feminist theories of politics, Dialectic also set the tone for how the general public perceived the feminist movement. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it helped to make feminism the dirty word it is to many people today. The book calls for a complete obliteration of gender differences and traditional patriarchal society (what many would now call “family values”). She wrote that pregnancy was barbaric and that as long as the traditional family existed, women would never be liberated.

It was strong stuff then and is even more so now. Most people have forgotten the woman who put forth these ideas, but they haven’t forgotten that feminism appeared to approve of them. They fail to make the distinction between radical feminists, which Firestone most certainly was, and mainstream feminists (as typified by the National Organization for Feminists, or NOW).

I’m a pretty traditional woman. I believe in marriage (although I don’t think it has to be restricted to male-female unions) and families. I think there is such a thing as a maternal instinct and that mothers tend to occupy themselves more with the care of their offspring than fathers do (or perhaps just in a different way). But I also believe that women are penalized in this society merely because they can have children, let alone if they actually have them.

A lot of people still think that feminists are anti-family, that they put down stay-at-home moms, or moms period. (Not to mention are bitter, man-hating lesbians.) But the vast majority of feminists get married (or enter into committed, long-term relationships) and have babies, work in and out of the home, and struggle with the same issues as non-feminists.

The difference is, feminists are also aware of the wrongs that are done to females in this society and are willing to fight to right them. Firestone recognized the problem, and, even if we don’t agree with them, we would be remiss if we failed to recognize her sincere attempt to formulate solutions.

She saw what a lot of people are unwilling to see: This society is not woman-friendly, especially when it comes to reproductive issues. However, the answer is not to give up on having babies. The answer is to take charge of our own bodies. We don’t need artificial wombs; we just need for (male) law-makers to keep their hands off the ones we have.

 

Fasting as a Weight Loss Technique

Recently I heard about a new weight loss technique called intermittent fasting. The interesting thing about this technique is that the fast can be for as “little” as 16 hours. That leaves you eight hours a day when you can eat. You could fast, for instance, from 6 at night till 10 the next morning and then have a normal breakfast, lunch and dinner in the time between 10 AM and 6 PM. Of course, you’d still want to eat a healthy diet and not just pig out for eight hours. But you don’t have to starve yourself during your eating hours, because you’ve already done that during the night.

I hit upon a variation of this technique when I was making the rules for my new eating program. In my last post, I listed these rules as:

  1. Practice mini-fasting.
  2. Only eat at set meal and snack times.
  3. Cut down on portion sizes.
  4. Weigh-ins once a week only.

I had never heard of intermittent fasting. But I was familiar with the practice of fasting because as a Muslim I have fasted during Ramadan. The goal there is spiritual, but it occurred to me that I could use the same technique for those stretches of times between meals when I get especially hungry.

I’ve always failed at diets because I don’t handle hunger well. All I can think about is not being able to eat. But when I apply fasting techniques to a diet plan, I find that I can get through those periods relatively easily. All I do is remind myself that if I could fast for anywhere from 12-17 hours a day during Ramadan, then I can surely fast for four to six hours between meals, especially if I allow myself a very small snack somewhere in that period. That’s what I mean by “mini-fasting.”

Four to six hours may not seem like a “fast.” But when you’re eating 1200-1500 calories a day, the time between meals can seem like it will never end. Telling myself that I’ve gone longer—and asking God for strength to get through it—takes the edge off and makes the whole diet plan possible.

It works for me. I’m not saying that it would work for everyone. But I have found it relatively easy to implement and not as taxing as a 16-hour or longer fast would be. Combined with the other three rules above (and a few more refinements I’ve made along the way), I’ve been able to lose fourteen pounds in ten weeks without exercising.

My goal has never been to lose weight as quickly as possible. I just wanted an eating plan that was sustainable; that I could follow for the rest of my life even. Because my main goal has always been to get control of my eating so that it stops affecting other areas of my life. As long as the number on the scale keeps going downward, I’m happy. Because I know that I can keep doing this until I finally reach my goal weight.

For more about intermittent fasting, go here. This is an article geared toward men. Please be aware that there is some question about whether women should fast intermittently. I myself don’t see the necessity of extra-long fasts (like 16/8) since I’ve seen that “mini-fasting” as I practice it is effective enough for weight loss.

 

The Obesity Epidemic – How This Fat Person is Losing Weight

I am one of the statistics of the obesity epidemic. When I was younger I weighed around 125 and I’m only 5’3″, so I was never skinny. But as of last May 26th, my weight had topped out at 204.

Since then I’ve lost thirteen pounds.  I’m not following a specific diet and I rarely exercise (in fact my lifestyle is basically sedentary). But still I’ve been able to lose almost a pound a week. What changed? My attitude.

First, what made me fat in the first place? 1) I stopped working; 2) I started taking medications that can cause weight gain; and 3) I went through menopause. A triple whammy. But I had also been overweight as a child and my mother struggled with obesity all her life, so I had a predisposition to gain weight. I just never expected to gain so much.

I used to have nightmares that I became so fat I couldn’t hold my arms down to my sides. Even after I slimmed down in the 6th grade, I thought of myself as fat, especially once my body started to develop. (I have a “womanly” body, which means I have more curves than angles.)

Still, when I really started to gain weight, I barely noticed at first. My first inkling that something was up (my weight) was when I tried on my winter coat and it felt tight. I thought it had shrunk. I know it’s hard for thin people to believe, but weight can sneak up on you, especially if you haven’t been weighing yourself. It wasn’t until I went to the doctor’s that I was hit with the awful truth: I had gained a total of forty pounds. But at that point I wasn’t even as fat as I would eventually become.

A few months later, when I started taking courses at the local university and started doing a lot of walking, I lost thirty pounds. But after I graduated, my weight started inching up again, literally. Especially in my waist, which got as wide as 44 inches. (Yes, I have the infamous “apple” shape.)

It’s funny how once you start thinking of yourself as really fat, it almost doesn’t matter how fat you get. Fat is fat, you figure. What’s ten more pounds? I kept thinking that way until I hit 204 and my 40DD bras started getting too tight.

Around the same time, I started going to counseling about my eating problems. (I have a tendency toward bulemia.) And during the course of that therapy, I realized that I had the means to do something about my weight. In fact, I was the only one who could do it. My therapist helped me to see that I was putting the blame for all my faults everywhere but on myself.

This tied into my religious beliefs which emphasize personal responsibility. (I converted to Islam three years ago.) If God holds us accountable, then we, too, have to hold ourselves accountable. We have to face who we really are and assess our strengths and weaknesses. But that doesn’t mean putting ourselves down, which is what I’d been doing.

I had settled into the “fat person” mindset: No matter what I was when  I was younger, I’m a fat person now and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m old, my meds make me gain weight, and I’m post-menopausal. What’s the use of trying to change?

One day I was writing in my journal about how my parents’ deaths had affected me. It seemed as though once I made it through the grief experience, I wasn’t the same person anymore. It was as if I had died with them and been born again as a new person.

I realized then that I could use that process to reinvent myself. I could die to the self who was keeping me from attaining my goals. All I had to do was pinpoint the most negative things that person was doing, and resolve to turn them around.

And because my preoccupation with my weight and over-eating was the worst culprit, I decided to start killing off those attitudes and behaviors first.

I sat down and wrote a list of things I do that contribute to my eating and weight problems.

  1. I hated going hungry.
  2. I ate all day long (also known as “grazing.”)
  3. My portion sizes were out of control.
  4. I judged myself by what I weighed each day.

Then I made up some rules that would counteract those behaviors and attitudes.

  1. Practice mini-fasting.
  2. Only eat at set meal and snack times.
  3. Cut down on portion sizes.
  4. Weigh-ins once a week only.

I made up my mind that I would stick to those rules no matter what.

See my next post on “Fasting as a Weight Loss Technique.”