S. Bear Bergman’s “Part-Time Fatso” really emphasizes the extreme standards society holds for gendered bodies. The drastic differences felt when strangers would react differently to seeing this person as a man versus a woman reveal the disgusting nature of our culture’s need to fat shame women. But can you really see someone’s health? How do you identify that a person is unhealthy solely based off of their weight? Bodies are meant to support us and carry us, not identify us.
So many people are unhappy with how they look because it does not fit society’s standards. Furthermore, these comparisons to “standards” are photoshopped pictures on social media or of women who are also unhappy and comparing themselves to others, while you compare yourself to them. Women go on diets not because they want to live a better, healthier life but because they feel the need to constrict in order to fit in. In addition, the external pressure, as proven in the reading, shows how distinct and upheld the standard is. How comfortable other people are with dictating or “suggesting” what a woman who does not fit into the mold should eat or not eat or wear or not wear.
From an early age women learn that their looks impact and matter. To be exact, other people’s assessments of their appearance influence the way they are treated on a day to day basis and how these interactions generate their opportunities personally and professionally. Bergman shows how while dressing like a man they run into little to no issues with their appearance, however, as a woman they are slandered and judged persistently. Placing such value on a woman’s physical appearance over their physical and mental health is extremely problematic and takes a toll on all women throughout their life. A woman’s identity should not be valued solely based on physical appearance because they have so much more to offer than that.
In the reading “How to have sex in an epidemic” it discusses the change in mindset about how and who to have sex with. It is crazy to think that the epidemic completely changed many people’s mindset about casual sex and partners/protection. Now it is more common for people to be concerned about STIs or diseases spread through sex. But back in the 70s it seemed to be of no concern who someone had sex with.
It makes me think about the pandemic we are living in now and how the precautions and new routines we have put in place might affect the way the world works in thirty years. Once again we have to examine our lifestyles and make changes in order to keep us and our friends and families healthy.
Furthermore, to consider the fact that now not only is protection needed during sex but breathing the same air as someone else is a threat to everyone’s safety. But the mindset is still similar to what the article depicted. A person can cut down how many people they have sex with but no matter what they are still at risk for contracting AIDS unless they abstain. Today, the only way to be 100% sure you will not get the virus is to isolate yourself completely. Additionally, in both cases, someone might not show any symptoms of either virus but still be infected.
The multiple similarities and anxieties about both viruses during their respective outbreaks opens up conversation about how we as human beings deal with fear and where our priorities are.
Jack and Ennis in “Brokeback Mountain” have homophobic conceptions about masculinity that they developed from their fathers and society. Societal norms tell Jack and Ennis that men are strong, dominant, and heterosexual. Especially as cowboys, these two men believe they can’t break from their facade. However they are masculine men in both their physical features as well as their mannerisms and likes, the only thing that sets them apart is their sexuality. Unfortunately they allow their sexuality to define them and control their lives when it really should only be one aspect of their identity as they should be allowed to be cowboys and gay.
Harry Styles recently pushed masculinity boundaries in a very public manner by appearing on the cover of Vogue. He is the first man to ever appear solo on Vogue, and to appear wearing a dress. Unfortunately testing societal gender norms is not taken well even today. Many people lashed out about the cover such as Candace Owens who took to Twitter saying “There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.” The restraining box society puts itself into leads some to believe that pushing boundaries is a form of sabotage and a threat. Styles could very well be just as strong as any other man, even in a dress.
The question is what is masculinity suppose to look like? While yes traditionally it is associated with men/boys and their rugged qualities that plays into fashion, profession, and personality. But not all people see themselves as that way, therefore each man should be able to define masculinity for themselves. A man should be able to live how Jack and Ennis wanted to, as cowboys, while also accepting their sexuality. Being gay does not feminize them just as wearing a dress does not feminize Harry Styles. Society shaming people for being who they want to be only puts limits on all of society. Breaking these century long holds on gender and allowing people to be who they are naturally and freely is not a threat. I wish Jack and Ennis could have lived in a world that would have allowed them that freedom just as I hope Harry Styles will be able to dress however he pleases without being ridiculed.
Harry Styles: https://www.vogue.com/article/harry-styles-cover-december-2020
Judy Grahn’s poem, “VI. Margaret, seen through a picture window” is from her series “The Common Woman” which describes multiple different women and their lives. Using the phrase “common Woman” in each poem emphasizes the fact that they are all similar based on the fact that they are all women and all have their own struggles. However, each woman is uniquely different in their struggles. By using a simile at the end of most of the poems to compare the common woman to something else shows the diversity that exists within every woman. Margaret, the woman from this specific poem, experiences life as a woman in a patriarchal society; being shamed for an abortion, fired for speaking up, and criticized and mocked by her husband. Grahn conveys the inner and outer pressures of her life that have worn her down so that now she is “a little blue around the edges” (line 16), a little numb and burnt out. The reader can feel the numbness from the description of Margaret “staring at the empty magazine pages” (lines 17-18) and “wander(ing) from room to room” (line 22). These actions enforce the desensitized role Margaret now plays. She seems to have succumbed to the overbearing pressures and “lusts for changes” (line 21) she no longer has the willpower to make.
Grahn compares a common woman in this poem to a new moon. A new moon cannot be seen from earth during its orbit, although just because it cannot be seen physically does not diminish its power and representation. Similarly, just because one does not necessarily see issues of the mind does not mean they are not there. Margaret’s behavior and thoughts reflect an eating disorder and/or depression, yet no one may notice them at a glance. After repeatedly being beat down as a woman she is forced to yield and her mind and body physically feel the affects of the harassment of daily life.
Another way of reading the new moon could be read as the woman being as common as a new moon, therefore not very common at all. Additionally, the comparison of “as solemn as a monkey” (line 23) is satirical and ironic as one does not think of a monkey as a serious animal thanks to cartoon stereotypes, however, monkeys do not typically look happy in real life. The conflicting attributes leave the reader questioning what the definition of a common woman truly is, similarly to the other poems.
Grahn uses these poems to express the individuality of women and how life has shaped them to be who they are rather than conforming to the expectations of their gender stereotypes. These woman hold power in who they are and the reader has to accept them for the good and the bad.
“Dialogue” by Adrienne Rich communicates confusion and contemplation about one’s sexuality and marital life. The speaker emits uncertainty to herself or to another as she reflects on her troubles. It is clearly something that has bothered her for a time considering the third to last line in the first stanza which states “and this is what I live through over and over” (Rich, lines 8-9). The line suggests that these thoughts have been either vocalized or dwelled on repeatedly/frequently. In addition, throughout the poem the speaker appears to be repressing her feelings about her sexuality and the unsettling sensation that something is wrong. Rich portrays the inner emotions and doubts of the speaker in order to reveal the difficulties and social pressure someone outside of the heterosexual norm might experience.
Examples of the repression can be found in the second stanza, specifically in lines 11-14; “I do not know/ who I was when I did those things/or who I said I was/or whether I willed to feel/what I had read about.” The second stanza is all in italics, conveying that perhaps the speaker is lost in her thoughts or reliving the moments she is referring to in the stanza. Additionally, the repetition of “I” frequents the lines so much so that the reader can feel the speaker getting caught up in her thoughts. The “I’s” can also be looked at as a search into her identity and what “I” can truly be defined as in terms of sexual orientation, pronouns, and even a sense of internalized homophobia. The subject of her concern seems to be referring to the popular happy heterosexual married couple fantasy she “read about” before her marriage. Now in the relationship she expresses doubt and confusion about the intimacy and/or general relationship. “I do not know/who I was when I did those things” focusing on “things” alludes to sex. However, in this case, not knowing who she was did not mean she was lost in the moment but rather conveys the confusion as to why she was suppose to enjoy it as she now looks upon it filled with doubt and/or regret. “Who I said I was” suggests her claim as heterosexual may be questionable. Lastly, “or whether I willed to feel/what I had read about” expresses her want to feel what society insisted, however, the use of the word “willed” strongly suggests that she was forcing herself to do something she did not like.
The speaker, while expressing her thoughts, is repressing her emotions and truthfully her understanding. She knows she is different from what is expected of her by society and her reaction reveals the uncertainty and confusion she feels about her changing identity. Rich’s poem speaks to those who feel similarly while also connecting other readers by using emotions of doubt and confusion.