Laurie Toby Edison


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Laurie Toby Edison by Carol Squires

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Photomicrography: Beauty We Never See

Laurie says:

I’ve always loved photomicrography images. The best of them are exquisite images of an unseen world that surrounds us.

Nikon has a Small World contest every year for the best of these images.  Celebrating its 40th year, the contest invites photographers and scientists to submit images of all things visible under a microscope.

There are 100 amazing images on the site. The five below are an almost random choice.




Dr. Marco Dal Maschio
Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology
Munich, Germany
Subject Matter:
Sagittal brain slice showing cell nuclei (cyan) and Purkinje cells (red) expressing EGFP



José R. Almodóvar
University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Mayaguez Campus
Biology Department
Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, USA
Subject Matter:



Dr. Igor Robert Siwanowicz
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
Janelia Farm Research Campus
Ashburn, Virginia, USA
Subject Matter:
Appendages of a common brine shrimp



Dr. Margaret Oechsli
Nature, Interrupted
Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Subject Matter:



Magdalena Turzańska
University of Wroclaw
Institute of Experimental Biology
 Wroclaw, Poland
Subject Matter:
Nowellia curvifolia (leafy liverwort) gametophyte


These are just a taste of the exhibition.  It’s worth taking some time to contemplate a kind of beauty that is rarely seen.

Racecraft: A Must-Read Book

Laurie and Debbie say:

Laurie found the book Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life (by Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields) through an interview with Barbara Fields conducted by Ta-Nehisi Coates. When she read it, she started exhorting everyone around her to read it, including Debbie. Now, we are both exhorting you to read it. The news is yet again so horrifyingly full of the tragic and unforgivable effects of racism and racecraft: in Ferguson, in New York, in your communities and ours.

racecraft-max_221-f1c6c1580d34a0cbcd634ae9bb25b434Karen and Barbara Fields are sisters. Karen Fields is a sociologist working as an independent scholar and Barbara Fields is a professor of history at Columbia University. They are, to use their preferred term, Afro-American. Their joint analysis of racism and inequality is fresh, compelling, challenging, and paradigm-changing.

The book relies on two underlying premises: first, that although it is commonly agreed that “race” is a social construct, almost none of us take this concept to heart. If we did, we would not use the word “race.” “If the scientific logic is indeed non-racial, the folk classification ought to wither under its influence. To adhere to both old and new is to pick up and put down modern science with shameless promiscuity.”

The second premise is that the concept of “race,” however fictional, is a pillar of American thought. The title word “racecraft” was chosen for its relationship to “witchcraft,” specifically because witchcraft was something scientifically unreal and untrue which nonetheless saturated every aspect of life for many centuries, in many cultures … and then effectively went away in much of the world, forcing an entire rethinking of language, thought, and everyday assumptions. Once you accept a concept such as witchcraft, it becomes part of the unexamined structure of your culture. Africanist scholars habitually “grant the rationality of witchcraft despite its dependence on presuppositions that are demonstrably false according to modern science.” The Fields argue that the same must be done to examine racecraft.

The term race stands for the conception or the doctrine that nature produced humankind in distinct groups, each defined by inborn traits that its members share and that differentiate them from members of other distinct groups of the same kind but of unequal rank. … Fitting actual humans to any such grid inevitably calls forth the busy repertoire of strange maneuvering that is part of what we call racecraft. The nineteenth-century bio-racists’ ultimately vain search for traits with which to demarcate human groups regularly exhibited such maneuvering. Race is the principal unit and core concept of racism.

Racism refers to the theory and the practice of applying a social, civic, or legal double standard based on ancestry, and to the ideology surrounding such a double standard. … Racism is not an emotion or state of mind, such as intolerance, bigotry, hatred, or malevolence. If it were that, it would easily be overwhelmed; most people mean well, most of the time, and in any case are usually busy pursuing other purposes. Racism is first and foremost a social practice, which means that it is an action and a rationale for action, or both at once. Racism always takes for granted the objective reality of race, as just defined, so it is important to register their distinctness. The shorthand transforms racism, something an aggressor does, into race, something the target is, in a sleight of hand that is easy to miss. …

Distinct from race and racism, racecraft does not refer to groups or to ideas about groups’ traits, however odd both may appear in close-up. It refers instead to mental terrain and to pervasive belief. Like physical terrain, racecraft exists objectively; it has topographical features that Americans regularly navigate, and we cannot readily stop traversing it. … Do not look for racecraft, therefore, only where it might be said to “belong.” Finally, racecraft is not a euphemistic substitute for racism. It is a kind of fingerprint evidence that racism has been on the scene.

Before this work, the argument “there is no such thing as race” was an argument for “color-blindness,” for using “equality” as a reason to refuse to recognize racism. The Fields, however, reject the concept of race while completely believing in the devastating power of racism. Looking at the concept of “post-racial America,” they say, “Whatever the ‘post’ may mean in ‘post-racial,’ it cannot mean that racism belongs to the past. Post-racial turns out to be — simply — racial, which is to say, racist.” To carry this one step further, simply using the word “race” in daily life is a way of reinforcing and supporting racecraft.

To believe in race, we must believe in racial differences in blood: their kind of blood, our kind of blood.

Understood as kin and as kind, blood inhabits the profoundest layer of mystique that humanity has carried with it from time immemorial. As a natural substance, blood is far older than the mystique, and entirely independent of it. … “The scientifically established universal truth,” declared the anthropologist Ashley Montagu, fuming over the Nazis’ efforts to read the evidence otherwise, “is that all human beings, no matter of what creed or complexion they may be, are of one and the same blood.”

By contrast, metaphorical blood and dispense with the moving parts of natural blood and has always had everything to do with human groups. When nature made room for human society, human beings made room for nature in society. And blood made in society by human beings has properties that nature knows nothing about. It can consecrate and purify: it can also profane and pollute. It can define a community and police the borders thereof. Natural blood never does that sort of thing: it only sustains biological functioning. If it is to perform metaphorical tasks, human beings must carry out those tasks on its behalf.

Barbara Fields, talking about the relationship between racecraft and witchcraft, says:

I have been struck over and over again by such intellectual commonalities … as circular reasoning, prevalence of confirming rituals, barriers to disconfirming factual evidence, self-fulfilling prophecies, multiple and inconsistent causal ideas, and colorfully inventive folk genetics. And to these must be added varieties of more or less legitimized collective action such as gossip, exclusion, scapegoating, and so on, up to and including various forms of coercion (which is to say that the logical and methodological byways of racecraft, like those of witchcraft, are rife with dangers to body as well as to mind). Taken together, such traits constitute a social world whose inhabitants experience (and act on) a marrow-deep certainty that racial differences are real and consequential, whether scientifically demonstrable or not. Obviousness is the hallmark of such a world.

Writing less than two weeks after the acquittal of police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Mike Brown, and the same day as the acquittal of police officer Daniel Pantaleo for killing Eric Garner was completely captured on video, one can hardly deny that racecraft is “rife with dangers to body,” dangers which people who are not the victims of racism do not face.

The Fields are, as you can see, remarkable writers in the realm of theory, but they are also eloquently specific: about details of racism in recent American history, about their grandmother’s experiences, and about how witchcraft and racecraft play out in various everyday lives. Here’s an account they took from sociologist Emile Durkheim about members of the Kangaroo clan in Africa:

A Kangaroo, shown a photograph of himself by anthropological investigators, uses his relationship to his own photograph to illustrate for them his relationship to the kangaroo. “Look who is exactly the same thing as I,” he tells them. “Well! It is the same with the kangaroo.” Durkheim adds that “the Kangaroo was his totem,” which is to say that he traced his descent through membership in a clan with the name “Kangaroo” and was as much like his fellow clansmen as he was like the kangaroo. Such statements must not be taken, Durkheim warns, in their “everyday empirical” sense. The Kangaroos do not resemble the kangaroo, nor do they necessarily resemble one another. Moreover, they do not resemble one another (or differ from White Cockatoos, for instance) in ways that would give both groups internally unifying and mutually exclusive common traits. What makes them alike is the abstract notion of common essence.”

And it is that “abstract notion of common essence,” not in Kangaroo and White Cockatoo clan members, but in you and me and our neighbors, which the Fields are examining, challenging, and destroying. The book is vastly more nuanced, layered, and rich that we can convey here. Even when you find yourself disagreeing with something they say, you will still find it illuminating and find yourself examining the complexities.

Read Racecraft.

Body: My Photograph Juror’s Choice in Budapest Exhibition

Laurie says:

I was delighted when I heard that my photograph Debbie Notkin and Tracy Blackstone from Women En Large was the juror’s choice in Body, an international photography exhibition at the PH1 Gallery in Budapest, curated by Zsolt Bátori.  One of the reasons in that the overall quality of the exhibition is thoughtful and excellent.

From PH21:

It is always inspiring to see how photographers approach an exhibition theme from different creative angles. Photographic depictions of the human body range from the aesthetic through the documentary to mystic uncertainty, renewing, commenting on or criticizing received modes of expression…

The human body has been the central subject of various photographic genres. From documentary, event and street photography to fashion photography and the nude, photographers have always found ways of constructing images in which the specific portrayal of the human body gains significance. That significance may stem from the rich layers of meanings emerging from specific socio-cultural contexts, the visual interaction of the human body with the surrounding physical space, or the intriguing compositional possibilities offered by the body itself. Some explore movements, study expressive gestures and postures, some concentrate on the anatomical beauty, some narrate whole lives through the depiction of the human body. Others may offer stern visual criticism of our normative conceptions of the human body and the ways it is portrayed in mainstream Western media.

I read the juror’s critique of my photograph this evening and it’s one of the most sensitive and perceptive commentaries I’ve received on a photograph.

Laurie Toby Edison’s Debbie Notkin & Tracy Blackstone is the juror’s choice of this exhibition. This complex image incorporates several layers of photographic meaning. Our initial reaction to the calm composition might be to contemplate the symmetry of the image and the captivating texture of the curtain that takes up a significant portion of the photograph, providing an excellent nonfigurative background for the shapes of the two women on the couch. The lighter inner part of the two sides of the curtain lead our eyes down to the two figures emerging from the darker shades of the blanket on the couch. As we are drawn to the faces, it might even take some time to realize that the two bodies are in the nude. Indeed, it is one of the most powerful aspects of this image that nudity is portrayed in such a “natural” and subdued manner that it goes without saying – almost even without registering on our perception. It may take some extra effort to understand why the nudity of the figures is not more salient, despite also being an identifying thematic and visual feature of the photograph. The secret might lie in the bright serenity in the look of the two women. Their expressions are filled with such joy and peacefulness that the image simply washes all received – and often oppressively reinforced – social conceptions of the human body light years away. Social criticism is delivered in a serious, beautifully composed but at the same time effortlessly cheerful photograph.

Thanksgiving 2014

Debbie says:

It’s a hard day to write a Thanksgiving post. Our hearts and our thoughts are with the Brown family, the people of Ferguson, and dark-skinned people throughout the United States. Thomas Jefferson said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”  I’m not a religious person, but that quotation always resonates with me, and rarely more strongly than now.

And, at the same time, there are things to be thankful for, in the world, in the United States, and in each of our lives. Here are a few that caught our eyes in the course of the year.

Alison Bechdel, who made her splash with the brilliant long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and went on to write graphic memoirs about her father (Fun Home) and her mother (Are You My Mother?) won a Macarthur “genius” grant.

In October, Germany made college tuition free for everyone–including people from other countries.

In the U.S., gay marriage is legal in 35 states, pending in nine more, legal-with-court-challenges-pending in six more, and recognized from other states in Missouri. Sixty-four percent of Americans live in states where they can marry a person of the gender they prefer. More than 25 states which accept gay marriage now did not allow it in 2013.

Even in such a bad election year for progressives, the minimum wage made huge strides, being raised in four states and many municipalities, including my own city of Oakland.

Polio is very much on the decline, with only parts of three countries throughout the world being at significant risk, another strain seems to have been eradicated. Wild poliovirus type 2 was officially declared gone in 1999 and no cases of wild poliovirus type 3 have been reported since November 2012 from Nigeria. What’s more, the evidence is mounting that the global polio eradication effort is making it easier to tackle other infectious diseases, including Ebola.

We are finally getting some traction in getting antibiotics out of the American food chain, particularly with this news from the country’s largest chicken producer.

He didn’t start it this year, but 2014 is the year that people began really noticing and celebrating Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man who figured out how to bring affordable sanitary pads to the women of India, starting with his wife, and has consistently maintained his commitment to having women produce the pads themselves and keep the profits at home, rather than selling out to big corporations.

And where but the Netherlands would people start using ocean thermal to heat their town, and especially the town’s poorest residents?

As always, we’ll take Thanksgiving weekend off to eat good food and relax with our families (blood and chosen). We hope you are doing the same.

Leslie Feinberg: Art in the Teeth of All

Laurie says:

I have tremendous admiration for someone who creates art in spite of everything. And as an artist, especially if they must change their art to adapt to the confines of physical limitations. These photographs from the Screened-In Series were made by Leslie Feinberg, the transgender warrior who died last week.

We posted about Feinberg’s work and life here.

This post is about the art ze created in her serious illness. Ze wrote about it in Casualty of an Undeclared War.

She wrote about the work on the Flicker Series page.

These are the first in a series of photographs, many of which are from my vantage point from behind the screen and windows of my apartment in the Hawley-Green neighborhood of Syracuse, where I live with my spouse Minnie Bruce Pratt. [Syracuse is in New York State, northeast United States].

Illness keeps me home, much of the time in a darkened room. Dawn, dusk and dark are the least painful times for me to make photographs.

Winter Scene

I first made photos when I became more disabled. See my flickr profile for my statement about when and why I began making photo art.

I decided right away that I wasn’t going to “take” pictures, I was going to make them. When I could get outside, I would ask permission before making a photo–from loved ones and strangers–and then show them the photo and delete it if they didn’t like it for any reason.

But I have become increasingly confined by illness to home. I can’t ask permission.

So I decided not to use what photographers call “good glass” or to use a telescopic lens. I’ve only used a palm size digital camera for this series.

feinberg 3
Orange Porch

And I’ve paid conscious attention to distance, angle, composition, time of day, shadow, blur, manipulation of pixels and other techniques to protect the anonymity of my neighbors.

Alone and with help I have begun posting photos daily, or weekly, to this series. These photographs are my gifts to you for your personal use. All of my photographs are under Creative Commons copyright: attribution/source location, no derivative use, no commercial use.

–Leslie Feinberg
Aug. 26, 2011
Snow Scene

There are many ways to tell a story against the odds.

Mourning a Transgender Warrior on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Laurie and Debbie say:

Leslie Feinberg died five days ago, of complications of Lyme disease and related tick-borne illnesses. November 20 (still today on the West Coast of the U.S.) is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. While this somber day is about remembering trans people who have been murdered for being trans, it is also a most fitting day to remember Leslie Feinberg, who died not by murder but by the medical establishment’s bigotry .

Feinberg was a tireless fighter for revolutionary justice for all people, and identified as an “anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist.”


Hir obituary describes hir autobiographical novel, Stone Butch Blues as “a groundbreaking work about the complexities of gender,” a near-perfect description. Both of us remember reading Stone Butch Blues when it was relatively new, and being struck by … so many things. How ze was not only a good writer, but also a clear thinker. How clearly ze delineates the working-class Buffalo gay culture where ze grew up, and how class is a central part of the story. How — in a time where being gay was more dangerous than it is now, being butch was flaunting the refusal to pass, and being trans or genderqueer was rarely acknowledged and given very little space even in queer culture — ze managed to examine the complexities of being butch and trans, being working class and queer, being stone and loving.

Shauna Miller, writing at The Atlantic, talks about the importance of Stone Butch Blues, and what she learned from it.

… the depth and beauty of Stone Butch Blues comes from the way Feinberg takes the reader down the path of realizing what butch identity means—and what safety and self-acceptance inside that identity means—with her. Jess’s identity is so much more than her appearance. It’s more than her choice to work in a male-dominated factory world. It’s more than those simple and severely punished offenses against both womanhood and manhood. It’s more than the fistfights with other butches as a desperate attempt at intimacy, more than disappointing her great love, Theresa, with her emotional and intimate distance. By the end of this book, butch identity comes from letting love’s light trickle through a crack in the armor. But first the reader needs to understand where all the armor came from. “I felt as though I was rushing into a burning building to discover the ideas I needed for my own life,” Jess writes. That’s heavy gear to carry.

Feinberg believed that her death was directly attributable to “bigotry, prejudice and lack of science,” both because of the extra difficulties transgender people face in receiving good care, and the absolute failure of contemporary medicine to acknowledge and treat chronic Lyme disease and its related co-infections. Her multi-part essay, “Casualty of an Undeclared War” goes into substantial detail about this.

Feinberg was never one to let someone else have the last word. From hir obituary:

In a statement at the end of her life, she said she had “never been in search of a common umbrella identity, or even an umbrella term, that brings together people of oppressed sexes, gender expressions, and sexualities” and added that she believed in the right of self-determination of oppressed individuals, communities, groups, and nations.

Swan Lake, Music, Dance and Love

Lynne Murray says:

My old friend, B, who is fighting to keep pursuing her photography work through many obstacles, has recently found that classical music helps calm her during a stretch of depression. We have been friends for over 40 years, and I share some of her challenges: illness, severe income loss, and mourning the absence of a nearby family support network. Poverty being what it is, for her to get a radio strong enough to receive the local classical radio station is not so simple. She asked if I had an antenna that would help, but I don’t have the right kind. I do have one classical CD, which I will lend her until radio access is established. I played it one more time before lending it to her and it reminded my why, I, one of the most musically challenged people in the world, bought it to begin with.

It’s The Essential Tchaikovsky and I bought it for this track.

It has a special meaning for me. My parents grew up in small Midwestern towns in the 1930s where music lessons were a rite of childhood and a badge of middle-class upward mobility. Also, I suspect, a rudimentary form of daycare. As long as the kid was practicing a musical instrument, you had ongoing feedback that she/he was home and not getting into mischief.

I grew up “spoiled,” as they would call it in the 1950s. I was an only child till age 12, and my parents would have made some sacrifice to get lessons if I had ever demonstrated the tiniest aptitude for music or dance.

I enjoyed music in small doses, but words and stories captivated me. When I could count, although not yet read, I had some records of Disney stories. My parents pasted stars on the label to indicate sequence, so I could play them on my own. Another form of low-cost daycare! I know some writers who can (and do) offer a play list of music they listen to while writing. But I can’t write with music on as a background. It’s as if I can immerse myself in words or music, not both at once.

I’m self-educated in music, though I never developed the overwhelming passion for it that I did for literature. When I turned 14, I sought out, for example, a Time-Life Records boxed set of classical musical masterpieces–the kind with one vinyl LP per composer. That same summer (1963) I persuaded my long-suffering mother to drive me in to Los Angeles (about an hour’s drive each way) to see the Royal Ballet at the Shrine Auditorium. It was pretty cool. We saw Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dance in Giselle and later in Swan Lake.

I think my very modest, Iowa-born mother was a little distressed by the men in tights with dance belts. That part of it piqued my interest–which probably added to her discomfort. We had very good seats, close enough to see the sweat and greasepaint. What I liked best might have been what bothered her most.

My father later told me he was surprised that she didn’t like it, as she loved music and other kinds of dance. It was characteristic that my mother would tell my father if she didn’t like something and he would let me know. She really, really didn’t want me to be angry with her, and I often was–possibly because I knew she would tolerate it.

Anyway, soon after we saw Swan Lake, my mother woke me up one morning by playing the track above–blasting out of the stereo, on the other side of a very large house. It’s one of the most vivid memories of my life–her love, and wanting to share music, even when it meant something different to her than it did to me, even though we could never experience it the same way.

Whenever I hear that music I remember waking up in the brilliant light of a Southern California morning, in that house on an acre of fruit trees and roses that my mother loved so much and later lost to foreclosure.

When everything was new, and everything was possible.

Preston Gannaway: Out in the ‘Hood: Teddy Ebony As Young Gay Man

Laurie says:

I first met Preston Gannaway at the National Queer Arts Festival when we both had work in the Bodies, body, bodies exhibition. Then I saw her again when we both had work in LGBT Art: Our Common Wealth at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

I very much admired her photographs in both shows. They were from her Out in the ‘Hood: Teddy Ebony As Young Gay Man.

gannaway 1

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Preston Gannaway began documenting the life of Tavaris “Teddy Ebony” Edwards when they met during Pride week at Norfolk State University last year. Teddy is a young gay man living in Chesapeake, Virginia, who came out at 16 years old and dropped out of school. Today he’s attending college part-time and hoping to better his life.

“I’m the first openly gay person in my family. As a young boy, I was always feminine. I always liked boys. I had to hide it, because people expected me to be who I wasn’t. Before I came out, I was the captain of the football team. I was living a dream that everybody wanted me to live. I came out when I was sixteen. I guess I got tired of hiding who I really wanted to be.

gannaway 2

School was always tough on me. I was always teased about being gay. I didn’t wanna be around that. So I just left. [In my family] nobody’s got their high school diploma. But me and my mom got our GEDs.

My mom was both my parents. … My dad died when I was two years old and my stepfather was sent to prison when I was seven so my mom did her best at raising me. Growing up gay and without a father was very hard for me. Because there’s nothing like the support of  your dad.

When I turned 16 I accepted myself as being gay. It was very hard because I didn’t know if I would be accepted by my family, how friends would feel. But I couldn’t keep hiding who I was anymore. It was becoming too stressful. When people called me names like gay or faggie, I used to be so sad. Because I was more than just gay or a faggie. It really bothered me, though, because before I came out I was cool  with everyone. I had gay tendencies but I was a funny, so I always had everyone laughing. … But the hardest thing about coming out was telling my mom. I knew it was gonna crush her. But she took it better than I thought. She still loved me as her son. So once I had her approval, being gay became easier because I didn’t care what others thought anymore. My mom knew, and that’s all that mattered.

I believe in God. I go to church. God had been blessing me so much. I want a baby. I may be gay, but I want a baby. I plan to get married one day. Hopefully I can get married to a man.

Being gay, that’s the easy part. I’m happy being gay. You have no choice but to accept being gay, baby, because if you stress about it, you’re gonna hurt yourself.

I’ve been in the ballroom scene for almost six years now and I can honestly say the ballroom scene made me who I am today. Six years ago I was a 17-year-old high school drop-out, always fighting, doing things I wasn’t supposed to be doing, trying to fit in and be somebody I wasn’t. As the years went past and I started to get older I realized there is so much out there in life. Like school, dancing, traveling, marching band. I started off by getting my GED in 2012 and joining my church, Enoch Baptist church, where I’m accepted for who I am.

One thing I can say [is that] over the years, being gay has changed completely. It’s more accepted and respected by some. Nowadays I see gays wear short shorts, girl shirts, tights, girl shoes and they walk around comfortable. Back in ’06, ’07, you would have been jumped or joked. Yes, that’s still around, but I don’t see to much of it anymore. I think that within the next five years being gay will be even more accepted. And I can’t wait to see it!

gannaway 3


It’s gotten so much better over the years. It’s comfortable now. I walk through the hood like it’s nothing. Everybody knows me now. This is me. I’m gay and I accept that.”

(Quotations are from Lightbox at

She does superb work and he’s an important voice.

HAES, Intersectionality, Inclusion, and Bravery

Debbie says:

Jessica Wilson is the most exciting HAES (health at every size) blogger I have come across in a long time. Blogging at My Kitchen Dietitian from my home town of Oakland, California, she identifies herself as a thin woman of color, not the most common description of a size-acceptance-friendly dietitian.

She doesn’t mince words and she doesn’t cut corners. Browsing through her blog, I find:

There is no limit to the number of people willing to tell us what our bodies need to be “healthier”. They are screaming it from daytime and prime time television, from books, from home shopping networks, from newspapers and magazines. They are offering up these shoulds and shouldn’ts, in a way that seems like they’re doing us a favor. As long as we follow their rules we’ll be so much better off!

Upon examination these people tend to have a few things in common. They are usually 1. White, 2. Cis gendered and heterosexual, 3. Higher SES [socio-economic status], 4. Have often self-appointed themselves the expert of everyone’s needs on the planet (Dr. Oz anyone?). 5. Have never met me.

Let me tell you, as a queer person of color, I am totally over straight white folks in self-appointed power telling me what I need to do in order to live my life, and be “healthy” as defined by the aforementioned stranger.

I think that this paternalism is just one aspect of the bigger issue here; as a nation our health literacy is in the toilet. With the constant barrage of “right” and “wrong” ways to do things—each of which contradict each other—we are completely without the knowledge to know that our body has individual needs and how to clue into them.

She also addresses the question how HAES intersects with racism. Responding to a list from Dr. Linda Bacon of the advantages of thin privileges (you can see the list at the link), she says:

I … wondered if there was another thin person of color, like me, in the room and how they felt about that list. Was there anyone in the room at the NAAFA conference who, like myself, has walked into a clothing store and been asked to leave their bag at the door only to find other white shoppers with their bags? Was there anyone in the room who has been followed around a store to ensure payment for desired items, as I have? I wondered how it would have felt to listen to that speech as a fat person of color, and reflect on the ability to find a loving and supportive partner in a culture of thin privilege and white supremacy. Was there anyone in the room who needed to buy two airplane tickets to travel and experience a public hair pat-down by TSA, as I have, because they wore their hair naturally? Did anyone in the room wonder about the way that thin privilege intersects with other identities? Thin privilege definitely makes life easier for me, for Dr. Bacon, and many others, I am not questioning that. To fully address fat oppression in our society, though, I believe the conversation needs be broadened from the one-dimensional topic I have found it to be.

She says she has been told by others that bringing in race is “muddying the waters.” On the contrary, any conversation about privilege that doesn’t bring in other kinds of privilege (such as a conversation about gender privilege that doesn’t address ability) is an incomplete conversation. Wilson is not muddying the waters, she is opening the floodgates in ways they need to be open. Without a commitment to intersectionality, we can’t even look at the real problems we face.

In November and December, she plans a series of blogs about the intersection between HAES policies and weight-loss surgery patients, and she is being very clear (while also being perfectly polite) that she doesn’t intend to sugarcoat or ignore any misuse or dismissal of these patients by the HAES community.

She’s the best resource I’ve come across in a long time, and a welcome addition to my blog reading. Watch for more links to her blog and posts about her in the months to come.

Thanks to Marcia for the pointer!

Some November Links

Debbie says:

I have a really rich collection of links from the end of October:

If you were living under a rock somewhere, you might have missed the (shocking! horrible!) news that Renée Zellweger had work done on her face.


Jessica Goldstein at Think Progress sums up a sensible feminist reaction, with links to various news stories.

If we’re going to perpetuate an entertainment industry that fetishes female youth and rejects everything else, we don’t get to trash talk women who choose to alter their looks through whatever means are at their disposal. We’re the ones who created a social and professional environment that is inhospitable to any other path.

We built that world, and now we also have to live in it.

You can find a related feminist analysis from Sarah Kliff at Vox.


In a stunning medical breakthrough, “after 19 months of treatment in which cells from his brain were transplanted into his spinal column,” Darek Fidyka (who had sustained severe spinal cord injuries) “has recovered some voluntary movement and some sensation in his legs. He’s continuing to improve more than predicted, and he’s now able to drive and live more independently.”

Undeniably exciting, and many folks who are immobile after spinal cord injuries are undoubtedly trying right now to figure out how to get into the trials. At the same time, it raises the question of the value of walking, as we discussed here in July.


I want to see Skin Deep, Carleton College’s new body-positive nude magazine. What a great idea! Sabrina Kenelly at TC Daily Planet has the scoop:

The student publication has three requirements for submission. First, they must have no clothing in the picture. Second, the picture must be submitted with the consent of everyone photographed. And third, the photographer cannot be oppressive; in order to combat and draw both racial and gender lines that are seen as problematic. …

Co-editor-in-chief Kyle Schiller said he hopes that the publication will raise awareness to issues such as fat and slut shaming. “I’ve spent too much time worrying about the food I eat and the clothes I wear,” he said. “I want to wear what feels good and I want to eat what I love.”

Schiller said he wants the publication to shock people, but in a way that’s body and sex positive. Body image issues and sexuality issues are taken for granted, he said, and things like fat-shaming and slut-shaming promote “a very real system of abuse.”

Apparently, Beloit students are also publishing a sex-positive erotic magazine. Is this a trend?


And what happens to nude models 40-60 years later? Noreen Malone and Nadav Kander did an in-depth set of current photographs, with interviews and a related article for New York Magazine with former Playboy centerfold models, from 1954 through 1979.


Here is Laura Aldridge, Miss February 1976, now 59 years old.

I was surprised by the commonalities they found among the women:

All the women in these pages—who went on to become journalists, entre­­­preneurs, real-estate agents, and sexagenarian nude models; who married, divorced, and, in one case, gave birth to a Victoria’s Secret supermodel — say the Playmate title imbued them with a sense of confidence that seems more of a precursor to the sexual freedom of third-wave feminists than related to the objectification and degradation that their contemporaries saw in the magazine. “I think everyone who walked in that door to be a bunny girl or Playmate knew what they had,” says Cole Lownes. “They may not want to admit it, but I think they knew [their power].”

Presumably, not all Playmates would agree, but it’s still interesting that ten of them share this feeling so strongly.


The ever-insightful Annalee Newitz rants about the question of whether or not insurance coverage for frozen ovum is a feminist victory.

Why are we freezing women’s eggs, but not investing in the technologies that would take us beyond this primitive and unsatisfying solution to the underlying problem? And by “underlying problem,” I mean the way we still demand that women choose between work and children….

I think women should be demanding something more than frozen eggs and artificial wombs. We should be demanding that our workplaces provide childcare during working hours. I’m not talking about Google’s super-elite, super-expensive on-site preschool bullshit. I’m talking about CHILD CARE FOR EVERY WOMAN AT EVERY COMPANY. Sorry to go caps lock on you, but this solution to the work/child problem is so simple and so effective that I’d like to see it emblazoned across the sky.

If you look at it from this perspective, Apple and Facebook’s egg-freezing policy starts to sound a lot like a guy who just wants to get laid at a party. It’s weirdly focused on the fertilization part, and not the part that matters.


Lesley at xojane offers a good, clear article on fat jokes, sparked by Andy Richter’s quick comeback to  Chelsea Handler, when she asked him (but not her thin guest) if he floats a lot in the ocean, and he said,

“Why, do you sink?” Waits a beat. “Might be that cast-iron heart.”

Most of my links are found through Feministing, Feministe, io9, Shakesville, and Sociological Images. For this group, Lynn Kendall found both the Playmates feature and the fat jokes piece, and Kerry Ellis found the Vox take on Renée Zellweger.

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