Na, An - The Fold

Fri, Jun. 19th, 2009 05:50 pm
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
Joyce is dying to catch the eye of cute multiracial kid John Ford Kang, though he can't even tell her apart from her lab partner. Then Joyce's aunt sweeps into their family's life and offers to pay for eyelid surgery for her. Her older sister Helen disapproves, but what does she know? Helen's always been smarter and prettier and cooler. Her best friend Gina thinks she should totally go with it.

I read this right after I read Good Enough, which was an interesting comparison. Both stories about Korean-American girls, but Joyce's family owns a Korean restaurant and she's not much concerned with academic achievement. Clearly the theme here is about beauty, which I theoretically find more interesting than Yoo's book. However, Na's prose is extremely flat, and I felt her characters never came to life. Although she explains Joyce's dilemma, as well as problems going on with her family, they felt like explanations, not explorations.

I am also far more radical than Na when it comes to beauty myths. Na compares eyelid surgery with braces or dieting I think to kill the particular stigma eyelid surgery has in the eyes of well-meaning white people and to normalize it as a modifying-appearance thing, but she doesn't tackle the larger question of the beauty myth, societal pressure to be beautiful, and the ever-changing definitions of beauty, much less how that myth perpetrates racism and sexism for Asian women. I'd much rather have a more in-depth examination of the problems of eyelid surgery coupled with a takedown of the extremely problematic way white people use eyelid surgery as a means to reinforce their impression of the need to "save" Asian women from their patriarchal society, as well as proof of Asians being less politically forward.

So... the book tackles some interesting questions, and I especially liked what Na did with Joyce's sister Helen, but overall, not a very fun read.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This was a spontaneous panel attended by [ profile] coffeeandink (Mely), [ profile] akycha, [ profile] heavenscalyx (HC), [ profile] mystickeeper (MK), [ profile] takumashii (T), [ profile] fourthage (Nienna), and Alaya Dawn Johnson (ADJ). Names I'll be referring to them by in parentheses.

I don't remember the description that I wrote up for the panel suggestions, but here's the one I posted to the Wiscon community:

Most bodies in shoujo manga are thin and wispy, with an emphasis on androgyny. Many of the men tend to lack muscle definition (think Yuu Watase), while the women are much less curvy than their shounen manga counterparts. What does this mean to us? What other body types are there in shoujo manga? We will hopefully talk about gender-bending, cross-dressing, body image, and the fashion industry. Suggested series to discuss: After School Nightmare, Paradise Kiss, Walkin' Butterfly, Angel Sanctuary, Fruits Basket, W Juliet, Rose of Versailles, and Princess Knight.

I also took no notes, so all this is based purely off of my very faulty memory. Also, I am writing it up grouped by topic, as opposed to following the flow of the conversation, as a) I don't remember the flow and b) I think it will make for an easier-to-read post.

I freaked out a little at having to lead the discussion, but after an awkward beginning for me, people seemed to jump in on their own fairly quickly. Yay participation! I will blame my completely not remembering how the discussion started on nerves. I mentioned that we were mostly going to focus on shoujo manga and manhwa, with some possible delving into shounen manga representations of female bodies, but more as a comparison than an exploration of shounen manga.

Gender-bending and cross-dressing )

Constructs of femininity and masculinity )

Biology and constructions of gender )

Devaluing the female POV )

Historical gender constructs )

More that I am too lazy to categorize )


Overall, this was one of my favorite panels from Wiscon, probably because a) I suggested it, b) the spontaneous programming meant mostly people who knew about shoujo manga came, and c) I felt I finally got to go as in depth as I wanted to in a panel. The last bit is largely influenced by the second bit; thought not everyone was familiar with every series discussed, it seemed like most people had read a fair amount of shoujo manga and manga overall, and that most people were fairly familiar with Japan, so there was very little 101 to do. I loved being able to talk about so many works and to connect them all, and am only sad that we couldn't keep going for the entire night.

(no subject)

Sun, Jun. 11th, 2006 05:33 pm
oyceter: (corset)

Have dreadfully overslept for two days in a row. Missed the farmers' market and as such, have no peas =(. At least I still have fruit and veggies leftover from last week and am planning on making massive leftover veggie stew and just chuck in onions, carrots, canned tomatoes, beans, string beans, leeks, and whatever else I can find in the fridge. Too tired for recipes. Maybe if I randomly throw in cumin and cinnamon, it will miraculously become delicious Moroccan soup.

Also broke yarn-buying moratorium with a vengeance and splurged on yarn for pattern in Vogue Knitting, despite already having ten other patterns in line. Feel guilty. Have not recalculated budget yet and am rather frightened of it.

Also, (to put pronouns back in) I started Weight Watchers on last Monday. I've never dieted before. I do realize that I look ok. On the other hand, according to BMI and whatnot, I am just shy of overweight, and my cholestreol levels are also just shy of being in need of preventative measures. And, more importantly, my eating habits are completely whacked, especially given the move and not cooking and thereby randomly eating whatever passes my way. And I just feel heavier, less active, less able to do things with my body, more out of shape, and I don't like it.

Anyhow, I don't like it so far -- too many things to keep track of and too many things I can't eat as much as I used to. Of course, this may be a good thing, considering what I would eat a lot of. So hopefully Week 2 will work better once I have vegetable soup and other, healthier options available.

2005 book round up

Fri, Jan. 6th, 2006 07:03 pm
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
I read less than last year by a bit, probably by a lot volume-wise, because so much of this year was manga, which I read much faster. I am too lazy to separate out my manga read, and so I just count a volume as a book. I also still haven't figured out how to do LJ entries on manga -- sometimes I do entries on a chunk of volumes, sometimes I do overviews after I finish a series, sometimes I just hold off on writing anything until I've completed the whole thing. I dunno. I'll figure something out, I guess.

I didn't get quite as excited over what I read this year as well, which makes doing this difficult. I don't know if it's because I was concentrating on other things, like re-picking up knitting or having a better social life, or if it's just what I read. Last year it was tough just picking ten books out of all the good stuff I had read; this year, I'm sort of struggling to fill it. It's not that what I read wasn't good, it's that not as much hit quite as hard.

Anyhow, here are my ten favorite books of the year, alphabetically by author. I don't pick books written this year, but books read this year. And my definition of favorite is very fuzzy. Basically, it's anything that left a lasting impression on me, or anything that I smile at when I go over the list of books read. While I generally don't include rereads on the list, I also reserve the right to cheat horribly.

I've blogged all of these except some of the manga, for reasons explained above. You can find everything in my books memories. I am too lazy to link all 149 books.

  1. Loretta Chase, Lord of the Scoundrels

    This is a sort of placeholder for all the Loretta Chase books I read this year (Miss Wonderful, Mr. Impossible, and The Last Hellion). I loved all of them, though Lord of the Scoundrels is hands down my favorite. Loretta Chase is very good at taking some fairly boring and standard romance tropes, most of which I dislike, and inserting a proactive heroine, a hero who is completely ok with falling in love, and a plot that generally ends up enabling the heroine. LotS also subverts one of the romance tropes that I most dislike, that of the alpha bastard hero who treats everyone, particularly women, abominably because he had a rotten childhood. Chase writes about people who like each other while they're falling in love, which is all too rare in romance.

  2. Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

    This is a small, unambitious book that nonetheless made me happier than Gaiman's latest books. While the comedy relies on the awkwardness of the protagonist, there's a sense that Gaiman loves and identifies with Fat Nancy; the awkwardness isn't embarrassing, but rather, endearing. And in the end, it is, like Sandman, a story about the stories we tell ourselves and how stories shape our lives.

  3. Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia

    Hornbacher's memoir is a stark, no-holds-barred look at the damage that eating disorders can wreak on a life; her descriptions of her ordeal are visceral and stunning. It's a painful read of someone who has dedicated her formidable intellect and willpower to destroying her own body.

  4. Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle

    Technically, this is a reread, but I remember vaguely not getting the book the first time I read it. This time, I loved it to pieces, from the decidedly imperfect characters to the wry narrative voice. The best part is that despite the moving castle and attempts to foil the Witch of the Waste's plans, the book is about the characters growing up and growing into themselves, while remaining crotchety and flawed. Jones never tries to make anyone in the book a straight-up hero, and that's why it works so well for me.

  5. Rosemary Kirstein, Steerswoman series

    Kirstein's Steerswoman series made me realize how much I missed traditional science fiction; her books are about knowledge and the scientific method, discovery and logic. She also does this without making the characters mere talking heads; rather, the process and not the results of uncovering knowledge and analyzing drives the main character. There's also a wonderfully rendered friendship between two women who are very different and yet respect each other.

    The series is yet unfinished and consists of The Steerswoman, The Outskirter's Secret, The Lost Steersman, and The Language of Power.

  6. Caroline Knapp, Appetites: Why Women Want

    Knapp's book is also somewhat biographical, like Marya Hornbacher's, but rather than describing the experience of eating disorders, Knapp attempts to analyze the whys and hows of them. She talks of deprivation of both the body and the mind, of the complex factors that feed into eating disorders and problems with body image. Sympathetic and compassionate, Knapp never loses sight of the human in search of the universal.

  7. Peter D. Kramer, Against Depression

    A deeply compassionate and very compelling argument on the destructiveness of depression. Kramer looks at how depression affects the people who suffer from it and the people in their lives; he gathers data on how much depression costs in terms of physical health and lost productivity. I would give this book to anyone who argued that depression wasn't a serious disease or wasn't a disease at all, as well as to anyone who argues that getting rid of depression would somehow tampers with the human condition.

  8. Minekura Kazuya, Saiyuki (spoilers in second half)

    Minekura's gorgeous art, sharp and sinewy, and the snarky, angsty, fallible characters are hard to resist. Sanzo, Goku, Hakkai and Gojyo are all wonderful, well-rounded characters in their own right; but I love them best as a group. They're all broken people who have found each other; they're all trying to recover from their pasts, and I love how they help each other even while they snark and bitch and moan and look incredibly sexy.

  9. Simon Singh, The Code Book

    One of the fun pieces of non-fiction I read this year. The book is deceptively simple until you realize how difficult some of the concepts that Singh is explaining. The invisible prose and effortless explanation make it an educational experience, but it isn't just a book on hows and whys. Singh never fails to show the reader how exciting he finds cryptography and code-breaking.

  10. Scott Westerfeld, Peeps

  11. This book made me go on a giant Scott Westerfeld binge that has yet to stop. Like the Steerswoman series, Peeps reminds me of why I love science fiction. Much of it lies in how enthusiastic Westerfeld is about parasites and the way they work, so much so that I didn't mind reading about gory deaths and biological details at all. Peeps takes the vampire novel, which I was getting bored of, and turns it into something else all together.

Also recommended: Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses; Rachel Manija Brown, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost; Joan Jacobs Brumberg, The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls; Sarah Dessen, This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever; Teresa Edgerton, Goblin Moon; Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; Laura Kinsale, Seize the Fire; J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; and Tsuda Masami, Kare Kano.

Hrm, looks like there was a lot of non-fiction this year, particularly in the realm of eating disorders and depression. Why is this not a surprise to me? ;)

2004 book round up

Total read: 149 (6 rereads)

All books read )
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
I tend to think of this as a companion book to Brumberg's Fasting Girls, which is a history of the development of anorexia nervosa as a disease and a look at societal factors that contributed to that as well. The Body Project is a closer and more specific look at American girls in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Brumberg mostly investigates how girls' body images have changed from the Victorian period to the present day, emphasizing that while the Victorians shaped the body with corsets and constrained it sexually, people of today shape the body via diets and put pressure on it sexually.

Brumberg looks at several factors involved with girls going through puberty and how they've changed, including attitudes about menstruation, acne, tampons, virginity, and training bras. I had some vague knowledge about some of the things that Brumberg writes about, but it's still interesting to see what Victorian gynecologists did when they had to conduct exams. Apparently many of them had never conducted an exam of a girl's genitals until she was married, sometimes only after she was a mother. The acne bit also amused me, as acne was apparently a sign of sexual thoughts.

This is rather sloppy generalizing on my part, but her conclusions largely seem to be that while girls' knowledge about their bodies and reproductive systems increases through the century, their acceptance of themselves may not. Brumberg also notes the increasing influence of business and advertising on these supposed rites of puberty (I'm not much of a fan of the whole "Oh you're becoming a woman, how sweet!" thing myself); tampon and pad manufacturers putting out pamphlets to explain menstruation, as opposed to girls learning from home, advertisements for the necessity of training bras to develop the "proper" figure, advertisements for pimple creams intended to make people feel bad about their acne.

I do partly sympathize with Brumberg's point; there is a giant industry out there that wouldn't be making quite as much money if suddenly everyone decided that they looked just fine and didn't need whitening creams, Clearasil, push-up bras, etc. On the other hand, Brumberg seems to advocate the involvement of mothers in their daughters' lives. Part of this does seem good, especially in the chapters where Brumberg is emphasizing the increased pressure on girls to act sexually mature at younger and younger ages. On the other hand... I would have died before telling my mom anything. I'm not saying that parents don't have lots of influence, since they obviously do, but I think it shouldn't just be limited to the parents, especially during adolescence.

In the final chapters of the book, Brumberg sort of summarizes the constrictions upon girls in the Victorian era and how they loosened through the century, while newer, different rules were made. Luckily, she never quite falls into the trap of blindly longing for a golden age of the past; she's smart enough to realize that it's not optimal to keep all knowledge about sex and the like from girls. She does think that a culture that encourages and pressures girls to have sex earlier and dress sexily is harmful, not because of the modesty factor or that no one should, but because she feels that many girls are doing so because of peer pressure and not because they're making informed choices. Mostly, she advocates protecting girls by educating them rather than shielding them from knowledge, by helping them feel comfortable and confident about their bodies and their minds, which is something I very much agree with.
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
Marya Hornbacher has had an eating disorder for most of her life. I think she wrote this memoir when she was 21 or something like that, and her earliest memories of bulimia reach back to her pre-teens, which is frightening.

She writes about her experiences with both anorexia and bulimia with lovely prose and switches often between first-person and second-person; there's an immediacy about this book that is both gripping and horrifying.

I am guessing that pretty much everyone who has read this LJ knows that my roommate [ profile] fannishly has bulimia and that I adore food, though I think anyone would be shocked by this book. I went through it quickly, often with my hand over my mouth because it was so difficult reading about someone hurting herself so very badly.

There's one point in the book where Hornbacher is accepted into a prestigious art school, and there, she starts running 25 miles a day and weighs around .. I can't remember, but some horrifically small number, and I was sitting there, thinking, "Oh my God, how could someone do this to herself?" Except, it's not even halfway through the book, and things get much worse.

Hornbacher writes without pity and with brutal honesty about herself, her family dynamics and her subsequent attitudes toward food and her body, and culture as well. She frequently slipped into somewhat manic states, especially later on, when she was only eating about 100 calories a day.

It's a terrifying book about one woman's battle with her body and very, very highly recommended.

(no subject)

Mon, Aug. 29th, 2005 11:42 pm
oyceter: (corset)
I spam LJ to make up for the past few days of not posting!

Wow. I thought that my rats just shredded food-smelling paper towels for fun. I have just observed them eating the paper towels. I repeat: my rats eat paper towels that smell like food. My rats can't figure out the different between paper towels that smell like food and actual food.

I think my rats have reached a new level of un-dignity. Uh, not that they had much ratty dignity to begin with anyway, given the shameless begging.

I really hope paper towels are digestible by rats!

And now for something completely different!

Taking belly dancing classes and watching some dancing performances has been absolutely awesome lately; dancing has always been something I've been interested but never had the opportunity or time to do or learn. All dancing. Line dancing, country dancing, square dancing, club dancing, ballroom dancing, swing dancing, anything where people move in rhythm to music. I used to like dances with steps more, just because I felt so awkward with myself that even though I wanted to move to music, I didn't know where to put all my flailing limbs or what to do with them.

I don't know what it is about moving with music, but it's fun. And I adore my belly dancing teacher, because she emphasizes things like having fun and says that belly dancing comes from celebration and joy. Not, er, that it has no other interpretation, but I do like that she emphasizes moving naturally and that you're not dancing if you're not looking silly, because dancing is silly, in the best of senses.

I also like that it makes me think about my body in a different way, because it makes me move in ways I'm not really used to! Same with the exercise videos I'm doing with [ profile] fannishly (hip hop, belly dancing warm up, and er... Carmen Electra's Aerobic Striptease. Uh. Yes. It's fun! I swear! And non-strippy!). And while the third one is about sex, ostensibly, it's also about feeling confident and attractive enough to do the moves, which isn't about sex, about feeling in control of one's body. Of course, this is just me, and I get where there is the very grey area of arguments saying that women expressing sexuality is in no way influenced by the sexualization of the female body in the media. Because I do think that media and pop culture and all that play a part, especially when one is watching Carmen Electra ;). But on the other hand, I can't let myself believe that all forms and expressions of sexuality are owned by something that isn't me, because then, what do I have left? I refuse to be an asexual being, because that's just the flip side of the madonna/whore complex.

I mean, I should be able to feel sexy just for myself, in a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops or in a low-cut lacy top, no matter what weight I am.

Anyhow, back to dancing, which makes me feel sexy and aggressive and graceful and athletic and energetic and good about my body and what it can do. And it's so cool learning different ways of dancing, because they're all so different and yet similar, and each one is something else that I can learn to do. I like that.

I used to be so uncomfortable dancing without steps (we shall just call this club dancing, for short), because I felt like I looked stupid and I didn't know how to move or anything. I did it more and more in college, thanks to the eating clubs and DJ nights, and lo and behold, it became something that I really loved. I still felt stupid about half the time, but it was getting better! Now I don't even have to be slightly tipsy to just get out and dance, which is really cool. Of course, for all I know, I could still look stupid, but you know, I like moving around and it's fun, damnit.

Uh, I also jump up and down and fling my arms around in the air at home and look like a total dork (it was my "I am getting off work before sunset!!" dance of excitement after nine weeks of investment banking and going home at 2 am and finally switching to private client).

On the flip side, (I now do the previously unthinkable and confess my weight publically) I completely freaked out when I found out I weighed 136, which is more than I can ever remember weighing. I am trying very hard these days not to do the occasional freak out or count calories or anything and to just eat. I am, however, trying to limit what I eat. I'm rather worried that this will lead to a dieting mentality, which would be bad. Mostly I'm just trying not to eat because I feel sad or lonely or bored, because then I end up feeling way too full, which is not pleasant. However, all bets are off if there is chocolate souffle cake or funnel cake or such things in reach. Feeling not too full is good, but really good food is better. So right now I'm mostly just grazing about and not really eating set meals after lunch, because I seem to like munching on things constantly, so eating full meals just makes me feel too stuffed and then hungry again later.

[ profile] fannishly always says I am quite in tune with my body... I'm not so sure about that, but it is rather vocal about some things, like wanting chocolate or heavy, creamy foods at certain times, and only wanting fruits and veggies and some starch at others. I think right now I'm eating heavier things mostly out of habit, because the second I eat them, I don't feel like actually finishing them. I'm just so used to craving them that I sort of do it automatically. Fruit and veggies, on the other hand, I get really, really bad cravings for, especially after too much heavy food. When I was still dating the boy, his family would always have to stock up on a few juice drinks and fruit and veggies just for me to munch on, because after a few hours, the appetizer spread of cheeses and smoked salmon and chocolate and the like was too much for me.

Of course, having the farmer's market nearby just intensifies said cravings!

Also, constantly grazing means that the perfect restaurant for me would be one where they served a billion bite-sized portions of different things. Mmmm.

Actually, I once went to a Brazilian restaurant in HK (random!) that did something like that, and it was of the good.

And now, I am being totally random, so I shall go to bed.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Calvin and Hobbes comics)
Knapp was anorexic for a good chunk of her life, and she uses that experience as a leaping off point into the more theoretical frame. I was very sad to learn that she died of lung cancer in 2002; I liked this memoir very much.

I had less qualms with this book than I did with Kim Chernin's The Obsession. I'm not exactly sure why; it may be that going from a memoir to more feminist theory and theory about body image is more satisfying to me than a book that jumps straight into the theoretical. Either that, or I'm growing more interested in the theoretical aspect of anorexia and bulimia and other body image problems for purely personal reasons.

I tend to have more qualms about this type of theory claiming that anorexics or bulimics as a group do such-and-such because of one overriding factor. But I felt that while Knapp did somewhat get into the theory behind it, she always tried to ground it in her own experience and the experiences of others she talked to. In the end, Appetites remains a deeply personal book, which is why, strangely, it feels more universal to me.

Sometimes I have doubts as to the cultural standards of beauty influencing eating disorders, but Knapp confirms this better for me. Either that, or thinking about it much more from my end has changed my mind. I do think that the fact that anorexia seems to be a largely upper middle class and white female disease does say something. I wish there were a more comprehensive study of eating disorders in other cultures and nations as well, because I would personally be very interested in seeing something like this set in Asia.

Anyhow, I digress. I liked how Knapp connected the desire to eat with other appetites, with the desire for love or warmth. I personally connect the desire to eat with the same fuzzy feelings, as well as assorted cultural issues, so I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. That is, until people try to deny themselves said fuzzy feelings by denying themselves basic sustenance. I wonder how much of anorexia is actually a mental disorder, as opposed to an eating disorder, how much of it is rooted in self-hatred and impossible standards.

Also, even though I'm talking about many larger issues here, the thing that struck me most about this book was the neediness Knapp was feeling, the utter control she had to express over her body. Just reading about what she was doing to herself was so incredibly painful on a very visceral level. She writes that a common perception is that anorexics suppress their hunger, but in her reality, hunger consumed her. She lived and breathed food; her entire life was about controlling what she ate and how she ate it. No brain space left for the bigger, more frightening things in life that she maybe couldn't control -- she was so strictly controlling her reality via food that that was how she avoided thinking about a life path, about relationship problems or personal issues.

It just struck me so hard how she was using food and her control over food and over her body as a way out, almost. For some reason, it reminds me a bit of self-injury as a coping mechanism. Both are ways of dealing with things, externalizing pain or control, writing them on the body, making them physical and visible. They both seem to be a sort of last-ditch coping mechanism, and a malfunctioning one at that. I am not sure at all how accurate this is, given that I've had not that much experience with either. But it does seem like they could possibly get in the way of actually dealing with the underlying issue because of how they externalize the issue. Now I'm really just rambling.

I hesitate to make (even more) generalizations about eating disorders and mental illnesses, but the book is a very worthwhile and rather wrenching read.

(no subject)

Tue, Jul. 5th, 2005 10:59 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
Ha! Organized Living is going out of business, so I picked up some stuff to get me organized. Well, ostensibly. Alas, organized != clean, especially for me. Mostly organized is essential just because of the sheer amount of stuff I have. *clings to stuff*

I woke up feeling a bit fat today, mostly because I could not wear a skirt I wanted to wear. This is vaguely troubling because I only bought said skirt last year, during a skirt-buying spree that started precisley because I had outgrown my shorts. Ugh. I ended up switching outfits but still feeling vaguely fat all day and feeling guilt about not exercising or anything.

And then I tried very hard to shake myself out of it. It's strange, but a large part of that is due to having a bulimic roommate. I feel like I could so easily fall into that pattern of thought, though I suspect I don't think I would get to the point of acting on that pattern of thought. It's not difficult at all, that's the frightening thing. Back at home, I am a size L and most of the time I can't even find a pair of pants that fits me. My sister and my mother both talk about weight a LOT, and my mom and every other auntie will comment first on someone's weight the second they see them after a while. I mean, it does give me a bit of an ego-boost to hear thta I've lost weight, but just the fact that that does, just the fact that it is pointed out and discussed by every single person... urgh. And it's not just that. It's that when I talk about meeting old friends, one of the first questions my mom will ask is how they look (aka have they gained or lost weight), particularly for people my mom thinks of as overweight.

And right now she is stressing that her emphasis on exercise is for health, but it is hard to have that just in my mind when the weight issue is brought up all the time. Also, just to give people an idea of how it is, my mom has been taking my sister to some sort of weight-loss specialist person who using some suction thing on your skin (hurts like hell) for years now. This is, btw, fairly normal among the people I hang out with back at home.

Having [ profile] fannisly here constantly talking about the need to be thin and the desire to be thin and the absolute beauty of thinness I think could have easily pushed me toward that end. It wouldn't have been that difficult, given that I tend to start griping about my weight and my size and who is fatter than who whenever I go back home or go shopping. But instead, hearing her talk about these things, and just looking at her -- my gosh. It really scares me. Because here is this really quite beautiful, nice, smart girl who is by no definition of the word fat continually watching what she eats and counting calories and prior to that, doing some pretty unhealthy things to her body just to be thin. And so, in ironic contrast, I think I have been thinking less about weight and thinness than I ever have before, albeit in a very conscious manner.

So I have been very consciously trying not to talk about who is thinner or not as thin as who, or complain about sizes when shopping (a la, I am so fat I cannot wear this, woe!), or to calculate how fatty or non-fatty foods are. And sometimes I have to keep myself from feeling envious when [ profile] fannishly mentions that she has lost weight, she doesn't fit some of her clothes, would I like them? Because I don't ever want to be in that space of mind where I am calculating things to lose weight, when that's all I can see of myself in the mirror.

It is actually rather difficult, probably because I have had these ways of thinking about my body reinforced for a decade or so by family and close friends and society. But every time I don't fit something when I go shopping, I try to lay the blame at the designers' feet instead of mine; the clothes aren't cut for someone with my body shape. It's not that my body shape is wrong, it's that I just have to find the right clothes that are cut with someone with my body shape. Similarly, if I don't look good in something, the trick isn't to go about and make myself feel bad in the dressing room (all too easy), but to muster up the energy to find something that does look good. Because there are things that look good on me, and so, it can't be my body that is entirely wrong. And when I eat, I try very hard to just think about if the food is healthy or not, not how fat it is or how many calories it has. I do try to eat healthy. Well, I'm not actually sure if it is healthy or not, but I try not to eat overly processed foods, just because I don't think they taste as good. And you know, I refuse to give up desserts and chocolate and yummy things to eat. I am trying much more to eat when I feel like eating, to make sure that I eat regularly, because my stomach complains loudly if I don't. I also try to eat what I feel like eating, so that I don't just munch on things because they're sitting there. I am of two minds about exercise. I know it's good, but if I put pressure on myself to exercise, I tend to start on the whole "OMG I am too fat, look at how much my stomach sticks out and my thighs are too wide and my arms are flabby and why am I not skinnier," which is not a nice place to be.

I think I am writing this all down here not to get reassurances as to not being fat -- objectively, I know I am not fat. Ok, maybe I don't fit some of my clothes from earlier, but you know what, it happens. I refuse to angst over that (well, with the exception of having to buy new clothes, which is honestly annoying, but the same would have to happen if I lost weight too). But "objectively" doesn't really cover that little voice in my head that tells me I am fat, that I look awful, etc. So I am trying instead to change aforementioned pattern of thinking so that I don't think of things in terms of "thin," and so that I don't think in terms that equate thin with beauty or with happiness. And part of it is watching [ profile] fannishly gain and lose weight; just the very process of actually deciding on a weight to be and working toward it is not quite understandable to me, nor do I particularly want it to be. I think it does tend to make me not such a great listener sometimes (or often), because I can't sympathize with it, and I am rather afraid to let myself sympathize it. I know how easily I could fall into that mindset, and that's somewhere I really, really don't want to go. And so, while I can admire the way Angelina Jolie looks on screen, I am trying to do so without comparing her to me -- she has a different lifestyle than me, possibly a different body type. Also, I probably look cuter in fifties clothes than she does because I have hips, so there! Neener ;).

(no subject)

Tue, Jun. 7th, 2005 10:29 pm
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[ profile] mrissa's got a good meme going. Er, I feel a bit like this LJ is turning into some sort of feel-good, new-age, PSA type thing, but I guess that's what I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Anyhow, watching people be so cruel to their bodies in the name of thinness or beauty or whatever seems to be something that's really going on around me lately. My mom and my sister are here, which means I am thinking more in the Taiwan mindset, which means I have to make a conscious effort not to feel bad about eating or having a tummy or not being a certain size. I just... well, I just really strongly dislike watching people deny themselves food and the like to fit into clothes or to look better. Of course, a great deal of this is probably because I connect food with a whole bunch of good things in life; food is my friend, food is a comfort, food is one of the basic joys of living.

It's sort of odd, because [ profile] fannishly has mentioned several times that I am much more seasonal or connected with nature, or whatever that means, but I suppose that just means paying attention to certain things. Or else I just have a strange system. I know the way my appetite will respond throughout the month, I know what kinds of food I'll crave throughout the year when the seasons change. Right now is the season for fresh fruits and vegetables, for the light, for vinaigrettes and cold tea and watermelon and did I mention the fruit? Later on, when it gets colder, I'll start craving the starchy and the meaty, but right now, I feel like eating mostly fruits and salads. I feel like going out and walking all the time; I want to be out in this weather, with the sun on my face and the blue sky above me. In the winter I'll be a couch potato who never ventures outside of my blankets, but this weather, this is crying out for being out with the grass and the trees and the flowers.

I don't quite understand denying your body food. I do understand stuffing myself full of good food when I shouldn't because I don't know when I'll get it again, but in general, I try very hard to eat only when I'm hungry, to sort of listen to myself and test out what I'm craving at a certain time. I don't know if I actually eat healthily or not, and I do know that free snacks out in the DMZ at work (the free-for-all table for food)) I definitely grab stuff, but if I don't listen to my stomach and end up missing a meal, my stomach really makes me regret it later. I figure it is better to let it be and not fight it. I can always tell when something has hit me very, very emotionally in a bad sense when my appetite disappears.

So, I guess things that I like about my body: I like that it is very good at telling me when something is wrong with it. I like that it knows what season it is. I like that I am not at war with it most of the time (though sometimes I still feel I am too fat, particularly when trying on clothes I can't fit, and I am irritated with my nose right now for being stuffed up). I like that my feet go where I want them to go. I like the way my skin feels in the air. I like the way I taste things. I appreciate the fact that my knees work. I like that my fingers can knit without much thought from me, allowing me to watch TV. There. Usually I do not think that many good things about my body, so this is good. I suppose it's like one of those things that you don't appreciate until it doesn't work anymore, because really, who thinks about walking or seeing 20-20 (that's theoretical for me, since I have really bad eyes) or unplugged ears or unitchy skin most of the time?
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Calvin and Hobbes comics)
I am not quite sure what to think of this book, particularly after I've read The Obsession. While I agree about things like not marketing fast food in school and making healthier foods more accessible to people with lower incomes, there are some arguments of the authors that bother me a little, except I can't quite figure out why.

The subtitle of the book pretty much summarizes what Critser is looking to convince the reader of, and in one of the chapters, he writes of loosening dietary restrictions, with the increasing trend of dieting books that say "it's ok to be fat" and argue that there are ways to lose weight without giving up high fat foods (Atkins!). He also includes bits like how clothing companies change sizes around so that size 8 gets larger and larger to make people feel better, as well as diet books that claim less exercise can be done to lose weight. This is the part that I was touchiest about. I don't enough about the science and the trends to know about what levels of obesity are dangerous to one's health, and it does seem to be a rather contentious topic these days. And Critser writes with a tone of voice that seems to condemn people for not just wanting to eat everything they want without exercising, but also with the viewpoint that people should really watch their weight.

Hrm. I mean, I agree... to an extent. I'm 130 lb. and 5'4". I say this because sometimes I have no idea if that's fat or not. This is because for pretty much as long as I can remember, my mom has been telling me to exercise and watch what I eat and lose some weight, with the exception of freshmen year, when I dropped to 115 lb., looked (according to my sister) slightly skeletal. I am really sick of being told to watch my weight and to watch what I eat. I know all the health reasons, etc. etc. etc., but for once, I would like to go home and have the first thing people say to me NOT be about my weight! Every single time I go home and meet people, invariably one of the first comments will be whether I have gained weight or lost weight. Not just with my family -- with almost every single family friend or person who has seen me the previous year. It drives me crazy. The culture of sitting around at the table and pretending that you have to watch what you eat when there's perfectly tasty food in front of you drives me crazy too. I like food. I hate it when people watch me scarf down a giant sandwich and say "wow, I can't believe you eat that much." I don't know anyone who is happy with their weight and doesn't want to lose some.

I mean, I can't say about everyone, but for me, Critser's argument that people just want to eat all they want with no guilt and no need to exercise feels like the flip side of this constant barrage of messages saying you must be skinny, you must be skinny, if you are not skinny, you are lazy and ugly and worthless, which is a horrid message.

On the other hand, I do agree with other points that he makes about the cheapness of fast food and the easy accessability of it and other not-so-nutritionally-wonderful foods to kids, especially in schools. I don't know enough about his entire chapter on the evils of obesity on the health to comment. But in general I figure it's usually better to eat stuff fresh. I don't know. I'm not really a nutritionist. I just eat stuff that tastes good, and I've found that for some reason I can start tasting this chemical aftertaste with some food, and so I've been avoiding those. And I do agree about the portions, because compared to Taiwan portions, portions here are huge! Of course, I won't complain that much because it means I can take home half of my lunch and eat it for dinner because I'm cheap.

Not much of a conclusion from me, except that I wish I knew more so that I comment more in depth on the issues that Critser raises.
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Precisely what the title says. I thought it was an interesting read, although it didn't quite go in directions that I wanted. The book is a great deal of reflection, and while I find Chernin's thoughts interesting, there was definitely a little part of my brain that kept yelling for statistics! citations! anecdotes, for heaven's sake! I think this is my problem with works that focus more on the theory than on the application -- I always want something to back it up, and I'm not quite sure if that is within the realm of literary type theory or not. This seems to be a more theory-oriented book, in which Chernin posits that our culture's obsession with thinness and losing weight is equated with a fear of strong women.

I did like how she compares the vocabulary of dieters to that of feminsits -- the dieters are always seeking to reduce, to slim down, to silence the appetite, basically. And I can see how she draws that to the thought that starving the body is much like starving the mind, starving the will, paring away anything that is socially unacceptable, like loudness and bitchiness. Being not-thin makes one visible; being thin means blending in with cultural expectations, means not standing out. Then she goes down a line of thought about a fear of the feminine being connected to a fear of the female-only power of giving birth to new life, of the roundness of breasts and belly being equated to the mother, and then the book started edging way to close to the ideology of the sacred feminine for me. While I like that women's work is respected and such, I think giving such reverence and power to motherhood can ignore the other areas in which females can be capable. I mean, I am more than my womb, or so I would hope.

I also got frustrated because Chernin was posing this as a sort of universal assumption, and I wanted more of a chance to hear the viewpoint of anorexics and dieters and the like. I mean, it is a bit like the slash argument. One can't just accuse one's opponents of universally disliking females. There's an entire layer of subtley and various voices that I wanted to hear from and didn't get to.

I think I was approaching the book more like a history, when it is a much more personal book.
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Unfortunately, this isn't so much the history of anorexia nervosa so much as the history of how it came to be thought of as a specific disease with its own specific pathology. That is possibly the only unfortunate part about the book, and it's mainly unfortunate because the author was very good, and in the end, I was wishing that the book were about twice as long (or three times) with the same sort of analysis and coverage that she directs toward the Victorian era.

Because she wants to understand why anorexia nervosa has taken on the form it has today, Brumberg traces back the origins of the disease and the cultural phenomenon of the fasting girl, starting a little with the female saints who claimed to live on nothing. The book really begins to hit its stride when Brumberg reaches the Victorian era and begins to talk about the many interstices of culture, disease, and the practice of medicine. I really liked how she doesn't claim to have the one single answer to why anorexia nervosa has become more and more prevalent. Instead, she is very careful to say that while a disease may be the same disease through history, and while even the symptoms may be the same, the manner in which the symptoms manifest themselves and are treated are very culturally specific. Anyhow. I was quite fascinated reading the gradual change from the view of fasting women as a kind of holy figure and fasting as a sign of their holiness to a society increasingly preoccupied with body image and with food as a symbol for parental care and for sexuality.

The whole thing was very good, but the postscript (added for the 1999 edition) is particularly interesting. Brumberg says in order to prevent the rise of anorexia, everyone must somehow fight it. Stop worrying about weight, about body image, etc. And while I think that's perfectly sound advice intellectually, I know I'm not going to give up wearing my pretty clothes or ogling at models. Or even watching my weight. Sigh. Thinking about my weight and the fit of my clothes and etc. has been too deeply engraved in my mind to not do it. And it also doesn't help having my mom telling me every single time how much fatter I've gotten, etc. Part of me doesn't quite understand anorexics. I like food far too much to ever not eat, and I have too little self-control. I suspect if I did develop an eating disorder, it would be bulimia. The other part understands too well the pressure of society and family and everyone to be thin and fit in certain size clothes.
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
It took me absolutely forever to read this, mostly because I was constantly distracted by shiny fiction. As a result, I've sort of forgotten some of the essays in the book, which is a shame, because the book was really very interesting.

Disorderly Conduct is a collection of Carroll Smith-Rosenberg's assorted essays on women's history spanning from roughly the 1840s to the 1930s. There are essays on female friendship in the nineteenth century, the place of women's history or a feminist reading of history in the academic world, medical discourse on sexuality and menses during the Victorian era, and etc. I personally found all of the essays fascinating, particularly the one on female friendship and the one tracing the development of the anti-abortion movement in America.

I don't have much background in the subjects, but I think the essays are in general well-written and thought-provoking, although occasionally Smith-Rosenberg will draw some conclusions that I haven't necessarily come to. As a whole though, I like the scholarship and how the author is very careful to delineate the strictures of her research so that there aren't too many sweeping generalizations made, which is often my problem with what I've read in the sort of women's studies area. Mostly I just regret that she very often uses primary sources from the men's point of view, especially in the sections on medical discourse on sexuality. Also, there's a scarcity of primary sources from non-bourgeois women, but most of that is probably the lack of resources in that area rather than the author ignoring that aspect.

What I really wish the book had were some brief author's notes on each essay. Smith-Rosenberg mentions in the preface that seeing twelve years' worth of essays in one book is rather strange because of constantly changing philosophies and thoughts, and I was curious as to how she viewed each essay in light of her positions now. The author commentary on essays was probably one of my favorite parts about Ursula K. LeGuin's Dancing at the Edge of the World

The book definitely sparked many interesting thoughts, which I have mostly now forgotten. I vaguely remember some of them -- I was curious as to the strength of friendship between women back then and how that's held up now. Wanted to think more about the change from lesbian as symbol of non-reproductive relationships and thus as a threat to fertility to the lesbian as symbol of man-hating/man-replacement and thus a threat to manhood in general. Really wanted to know more about the history of abortion after this. And much more.

Table of contents listed out for anyone interested: here )

(no subject)

Tue, Apr. 27th, 2004 11:08 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (jack)
Currently very irked because I was shopping for suits. Apparently there are no good suits to be found when one needs them. I feel this is the First Law of shopping -- things that you actually need now (as opposed to: will be practical eventually) can never be found. This holds true even if said thing should be something easy to find, like black pants.

Actually, it's not that I couldn't find any. It's that I couldn't find any that fit! Grrr. Much less find anything on sale... There'd be a suit jacket my size, but no bottom, or the perfect bottom, but a jacket cut that was totally wrong, and after going to three different stores, I was about to tear my hair out.

Shopping is only fun when done in leisure, during sales so one can pick up stuff for later in the season. This is why I buy my winter coats at the end of January and summer stuff during late August. Plus, suits are really boring. I kept wanting to drift off to look at happy bright summer colored clothes with all sorts of frills and whatnot. They look like such cheerful clothes!

Also, despite my Dress for Success rant, I find I am drawn more to skirt suits because it is absolutely impossible to find pants that fit. The waist is too big and the hips are too small, it makes my butt look big, it makes my thighs look big, they assume my waist is somewhere where it is not naturally located, they assume my legs are a lot longer than they actually are, etc. Impossible. At least with skirts, if the hips and waist fit, you're about ready to go.

ETA: also insanely jealous of everyone going to WisCon. Argh! It looks so interesting!


Sun, Feb. 2nd, 2003 06:52 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
Still trying to figure out how to use this thing. And am now annoyed because I couldn't go buy my books because apparently all stores close at 5 on Sunday. Why did I not know this? You'd think that after all the shopping I've done, I would have figured this out sometime. And then my prox somehow demagnetized itself or something so I couldn't get in my dorm. Stupid prox.

So I took this survey for someone's senior thesis on ads in women's magazines and how they affect body image, stuff like that. I don't know. It seems kind of silly to me. Not that I don't think body image isn't an important issue. Er. I mean. I think body image is an important issue. But I feel like these kinds of surveys and studies kind of trivializes it somehow? I don't know how much looking at skinny models affects me. I think looking at skinny people in malls wearing clothes I want to wear affects me a lot more. Because, models, not so much like real people to me. And I just like looking at ads because I like looking at pretty things. Yes, I'm superficial.

Second semester officially starts tomorrow, and I'm not excited at all. I feel like I should be, since this is my last semester of college and all, and I have interesting classes, but I'm just not. Maybe it's because I don't have any books to buy. I think mostly though it's my thesis. The closer to graduation, the closer the thesis deadline, and the more behind I get. I hate my thesis. I don't know why I can't just sit down and write some crap. The boy says I care so much about it and stress out so much about it being perfect that I can't even start outlining it. I think he's right, but I still don't know what to do about that. Well, I'm procrastinating more and watching Buffy. Almost up to Surprise! I think [ profile] kita0610 is right. I'm highly influenced by the fact that I started watching around seasons 5/6.

Charting Buffy obsession, slightly spoilery for Buffy S7 and Angel S5 )

And now perhaps I will watch more Buffy. Yay! I feel better and less depressed about school starting now.


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