Pen Strokes

Our nakedness is suspect
It is secret
It is sold
Our physical exposure is commoditized
And airbrushed clean
And slid from left to right
Pores abolished
Scars expunged
Our nature is covered in pen strokes
Until there is no naked left
But only the art of men

Our passions, they are suspect
They are secret
They are sold
Our conceptual exposure is commoditized
And edited clean
And slid from left to right
Forthrightness abolished
Hurt expunged
Our spirit is covered in pen strokes
Until there is no passion left
But only the words of men

by Heather Emme

I’m still in surgical recovery, so poems are keeping my blog alive. To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

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Audition

Seeking Actor

Prominent role in “Own Life”, a Not Depressed Production
Female, mid-to-late thirties

This role can be accomplished predominantly with wardrobe and make-up.

Wardrobe tips: Do not wear the same clothes for three days. If you must, certainly do not be seen. Bright colours will distract from a sour expression. Clothes should be comfortable, but sophisticated. Wear a bra.

Make-up tips: Shower. Wash hair. Moisturize. Foundation and lip-gloss are considered the minimum. Hair products show initiative.

Your performance will consist of smiling and feigning interest. Getting out of bed will be required and is non-negotiable. Making lists is an asset. Planning for the future is preferred, but not expected.

Those chosen will be expected to work 40 hours and attend at least one social function a week.

No fatties.

by Heather Emme

To read all the #verseday poems, click here. To read my twitter poems, click here.

Beautiful, Average or Real

Beauty brand Dove has mastered the shifty art of the pandering marketing scheme. Since the launch of their Campaign For Real Beauty, Dove has seen word of mouth exposure worth an estimated thirty times their paid-for ad space. Simply put, their ads go viral.

Their most recent ad is no exception:

In this ad, you see women (and, of course, only women) given a choice of two doors to enter – one labelled Beautiful and one labelled Average. First, a few items of note about myself. My beauty brand, as far as shampoo and body wash is concerned, is an organic dish soap. I also use it as hand soap and, not shockingly, to clean my dishes. To say I am neither brand nor beauty obsessed is fair. Secondly, I play RPGs and, when given the choice between two doors, I take it very seriously. One of them may have a Beholder behind it.

Do NOT choose that door.

Do NOT choose that door.

While I am generally cynical of self-esteem targeted marketing, this ad in particular frustrates me. Women, probably on their way to somewhere they have to be, are required to make a public statement about their self worth. To add to this problematic scenario, women are presented with a predetermined binary of self-reflection, both of which focus solely on physical appearance. One is either Average, or one is Beautiful. Putting aside that Average means norm and that there is no reason one should feel ashamed for defining themselves as commonly attractive, how many women (or men) would freely choose either of these words to describe themselves?

I asked my friends and online aquaintences to describe themselves using just one word. I received 36 responses. Not a single person, when given a whole world of adjectives, chose either Average or Beautiful. The words people used to describe themselves were as diverse as the people. In fact, only the words smart, survivor and passionate came up more than once. For the record, my friends are brass, broken, chameleon, contradictory, defective, discombobulated, driven, emotional, fanfreakintastic, flange, goony, happy, hopeful, kooky, lexophilic, logical, loud, ludic, magical, mercurial, muppet-like, passionate, problematic, quirky, real, smart, striking, surviving, trepidacious, unapologetic, vanilla and weird. It’s pretty clear I have amazingly cool friends.

It seems to me that the only way to have the conversation Dove is trying so desperately to have is to manufacture it.

Literally.

Literally.

And even their manufactured conversation only has one right answer. The name of the video is Dove Choose Beautiful (because just choosing beautiful without Dove wouldn’t cost $4.77 a bottle.) The implication is that there is a right answer and that answer is Beautiful. Heaven forfend one should view oneself as Average. Note: not ugly, cruel or evil. Nope. Just Average. Those poor women. Why don’t they see themselves as Beautiful? After all, when defining oneself, it’s clearly more important than smart or passionate, right?

Which leads to the final problem with this ad. Women have to play. When I asked people to define themselves using one word, a few people refused. One person sent the word “no” as their response. People could choose not to answer. Every visual in the ad seems to suggest that these women could not reach their destination unless they picked a door.

And there was no "Fuck you, I'm busy" door.

And there was no “Fuck you, I’m busy” door.

I’m not implying that there isn’t a conversation to be had around beauty. That conversation is already happening. What I’m saying is that Dove’s condescending and manipulative ad has no place in this conversation. I, for one, choose door #3 (That’s the door where I ignore input on beauty from the company that also brings us Axe Body Spray and ads like this:)

But why don't the wimminz feel Beautiful, dammit!!

But why don’t the wimminz feel Beautiful, dammit!?

About Face

This will not be yet another blog about Renée Zellweger’s face. Mainly because it’s ALL been said and done. It really, really has. I mean, look at this:

And I used quotes. There are 4,710,000 results for this shit.

And I used quotes. There are 4,710,000 results for this shit.

I’m actually going to micro-focus on one phrase that keeps popping up, no matter where one reads about this – That phrase is, “It’s like she’s not even the same person.”

As a short, round human, this phrase set off a high speed train of thought. This is the track it took:

  • As a human who is female and North American and a performer, Ms. Z. is defined by her looks.
  • BUT, no matter what is going on, she’s still the same human, because one is not defined by one’s eyes. One is defined by one’s experience, genetics, mental capacities, circumstance and whatever the magical sky folks are defining as a soul these days. When these things cease to be, then the person can be said to be gone.
  • Yet we are often broken down into our elements. For instance, folks will say that a person is fat. Fat is a part of a person, but that one part is used to define a whole being. Still, if my fat were removed or reduced, I would still be me, therefor I cannot “be” fat, since fat is impermanent.
  • Put another way, when I die, my fat will still be around, yet I will not be. So I cannot be fat, since fat cannot be me.
  • Ms. Z cannot be her eyes, since her eyes will outlast her. The essence of what makes her distinct is in the mind, not in the flesh over her ocular balls.
  • Therefor changes to the outer self cannot make one a new or different person. That’s just silly.

Conclusion? We are a silly species. And I’ve gone cross-eyed.

I feel like a whole new woman.

Effing Hair! (Written February, 2007)

I’ve reposted this one because I’m slightly amused by how very offended I was, but also because it’s surprisingly still topical. My friend’s daughter wanted a funky, short hair cut and several hair-dressers refused to do it. They tried to talk her out of it. I remember when I was in hospital and I decided to shave my hair short (being sick meant it was mostly just greasy and unkempt.) The doctor declared that cutting off my long hair was an act of self-injury. Self injury! As a woman, for some reason, my hair is not just my hair. I don’t shave my legs. I get stares and comments. My husband doesn’t shave his, he gets nothing. Nada. No one has ever called my husband a dyke (only half true for me, BTW) because he doesn’t choose to remove hair from his legs. I’m away at camp and you know what I worried about before hand? How would the kids react to a woman who wears a swimsuit but doesn’t remove her leg hair first. Why should I have to worry about that? Okay, enough pre-amble. Here’s the original from 2007 (when Brit-Brit shaved her head YEARS after I did. Just saying.)

I get very frustrated when people start talking about folks they’ve never met. Especially when it’s about something so stupid as hair! Hair for chrissakes! I mean, it’s hair. Long, short, whatever. A few years back, a she-celeb chose not to shave her armpits, and it was mother fucking front-page news! How is this possible?

What really eats my eyeballs is that a woman can pay a man to cut into her body and add silicone or suck out fat and no one says anything, unless it’s botched or extra big. Women can starve themselves to death. They can cut and stretch the flesh on their faces. They can change the structure of their noses. They do all this and we say “my, ain’t she sweet?” but cut their hair off and we all think they’re crazy? Are we on some sort of mind-altering drug here? We think normal, average looking people are grotesque and that people who’ve had themselves butchered are beautiful? Ew, so many kinds of gross. We are sick.

Stop talking about hair. It grows back. Real boobs don’t.

This PSA brought to you by pissed off females everywhere and viewers like you.

Oh, I also reposted this because I love that I used the phrase “What really eats my eyeballs.”

Does Oprah’s O Magazine Need To Go On A Diet Diet?

I have a confession to make: I love Oprah. Seriously.

This love started in the 90s when Oprah had a talk show. It’s easy to be dismissive of television daytime talk shows from this era (“Am I the father, Maury??”)  but Oprah broke major ground in her time. The first time I heard the word bisexual was on Oprah. She discussed her sexual abuse and its aftermath in an accessible way long before almost anyone else. Just that fact that she was a women – a Black woman – a plus-sized, intelligent, well-read, inspiring Black woman on TV – broke new ground. Sure she went in for fluff in the later years, but damn if she didn’t rebuild the landscape at a time when any one of her intersections would have presented a massive challenge to her.

Yep, I love Oprah. I love book club Oprah. I love major corporation Oprah. I love controversial Oprah. I love flawed Oprah.

I’m a bit miffed with her magazine, though.

I don’t usually buy magazines, but I found the January issue of O Magazine at the Value Village and it was still January! I thought that was pretty cool. Plus, as I mentioned before, I love Oprah. I generally dislike magazines aimed at women (the lipstick, weightloss, sexy-time ones, not the other kind.) But Oprah! She would balance it all out right? Um, no.

Take a look at these pics from covers of O Magazine, all from the last year:

I'm spotting a theme here...

I’m spotting a theme here…

  • Can the Right Breakfast Make You Thin?
  • Take Our Diet Quiz!
  • Diet Or Exercise?
  • The 6 Desserts You Meet In Heaven (And Not a Grain of Sugar in Sight!)
  • The Guilt-Free Snack
  • Decoding your food labels

and my favourite:

  • Love + Kindness = Thinner Thighs

Love + Kindness = Thinner Thighs?? Really?

There is nowhere that article could go that would make me happy. Nowhere.

It’s pretty clear that O Magazine is obsessed with what I put in my mouth. Of 12 issues, 9 had diet or “healthy eating” articles (code for diet, trust me) right on the cover. The rest had at least one article inside. I get that this is a typical “women’s magazine” and will include a cooking feature and probably some make-up tips or whatever, but does every issue of this magazine have to have the word diet in it?

Here’s my challenge to O Magazine and Oprah Winfrey (who will never, ever see this, but I forbear):

Do an entire issue without talking about diet. One issue out of twelve that doesn’t tell me how to get thinner thighs through kindness or teach me (yet again) how to read food labels so I don’t accidently eat something tasty. If this seems impossible, maybe it’s time to re-examine the messages you are sending. After all, 20 years ago you were breaking ground for bisexuals. You were bringing Black history and current issues to a clueless audience. You were changing the way women work in your industry. That’s your legacy. Not advising women on what breakfast can make them thin (I’ll bet it’s quinoa. Is it quinoa?)

One issue. No fat-talk. No body shame. No “healthy” tricks. Nada.

I know you can do it. You’re Oprah (and affiliated corporations) and I have faith in you.

Son of a Fitch or How to #FitchTheHomeless Without Being a Douche

I get it. There’s a movement. A big, old, silly and easily doable movement. It’s a movement with a sense of humour, even! It’s fun.

I'm not going to insult his looks, because I don't value people based on their looks. But I'll bet his soul is all shriveled up and smells like that mouse that died in my walls.

Mr. Mike Jeffries, A&F CEO. I’m not going to insult his looks, because I don’t value people based on their looks. But I’ll bet his soul is all shriveled up and smells like that mouse that died in my walls.

A big, old, silly guy, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries, insulted almost everyone last week (well, he insulted you seven years ago, but you just found out about it last week.) He implied that you weren’t cool because the scale shows you three digits or because the first number in your age is not a one or a two. He said he only wanted the cool kids at his table and the truth is that even if you are/were one of the cool kids in school, there are/were probably days when you weren’t and folks picked on your hair or your clothes or your choice of boy band.

And this same jerk who said this also declared that he would rather burn clothes than dilute his brand by giving to charity. You like charity! Charity is that thing that you’re supposed to like! Oh, and his company also uses sweat shop labour, but that’s much less important and we wont talk about it, because that might lead to a discussion on our practice of bargain buying cheap clothes, regardless of the ethics behind it, and we can’t have that. That’s just depressing and this movement is FUN! Super FUN!

Was I just ranting?

Right. Enough ranting. Yesterday I wrote about what this movement implies about the homeless, including myself, so I’m not going to rehash that here. What I am going to do is break down ways this momentum, which is pretty neat, can be used for good. I’ll even include ways you can give your A&F clothes to homeless folks, because I don’t want to poop on your parade.

#fitchthehomeless, Level One
Okay, so you really dig the whole idea of grabbing your A&F clothes and giving them away to homeless people. You want to keep this as simple as possible. You just want to do what the guy in video told you to do. Here’s how to do it without being a douche.

  • Step One: Sort through your clothes and pull out anything that is stained, holey, smelly or in any way icky. If it has fallen out of your wardrobe and into your Saturday or sleep-only pile, pull it out. I wont say nobody wants those clothes, but…nope, nobody wants them. Upcycle them, recycle them or use them as rags and send a picture to A&F, just don’t give them to homeless people.
  • Step Two: Wash the clothes. Please don’t donate dirty clothes. Homeless people don’t know what kind of foot fungus or scabies you may have. Many shelters don’t have the facilities to wash large donations, so wash them and bag them nicely.
  • Step Three: Ask. Before you hand a homeless person a piece of clothing, make sure they want it. Make sure the sizes match. Make sure they aren’t allergic to rayon. Have a conversation. Not everyone needs clothing. Clothing takes up a lot of space and is cumbersome to carry around. When I was homeless, I had three outfits I carried around, because any more would have been pointless. If you are donating to a shelter or charity, make sure they take clothing. Many don’t. Some charities have been posting that they are very willing to take your A&F clothes. Look for those guys. If they do pick-ups, get a few friends together and make a bundle to make it worth the cost and labour of coming around to your house. ASK FIRST. Inform yourself.
  • Step Four: Donate and feel good about yourself.

If you are not willing to do these steps, ask yourself why you’re doing this at all. If your just doing it as a middle finger to A&F, then there are other ways to do it. Get all your normal bodied friends together and do a fashion show in front of their store. Send a letter. Post a video. Return your clothes en masse. Don’t give your clothes to the homeless unless you’re willing to do it in a way that benefits them.

#fitchthehomeless, Level Two
You’re really committed to the idea of both helping the homeless and sticking it to A&F. Heck, this has inspired you to make a difference in the lives of homeless people and, when you’re done donating your clothes, you want to keep going. What can you do to really help? Here are a few suggestions. They are from my own experiences in the group home system and as a homeless teen, so they aren’t universal and the above mentioned ASK rule still applies.

  • Find out what a local group home, shelter or organization really, really needs and throw a F*ck You Fitch, We Love The Homeless party. When I was in care, what we really needed wasn’t clothes, it was consumables – things that got used up quickly with five teenaged girls in the house. Tampons. Shampoo. Soap. Detergent. Toothpaste. Those were the donations that saw the most use. Ask your local shelter what they need and have everyone at your party bring some. Have a glass of wine and toast to yourself because, hey, you did something nice. Then have your designated driver drop it all off. Make sure you know the shelter’s drop off policy because a lot of shelters have really specific security designed to keep abused clients safe from their abusers.
  • Have a Fitch yard sale. Get all your friends together and hold a yard sale of all your A&F clothes. Heck, throw in all the other crap you don’t need too. Sell, sell, sell and then cut a cheque to a help-the-homeless organization. Take all your leftovers to a charity. Money lets an organization buy what they really need. It also lets them buy it in bulk or at a discount, which helps them even more. Yay you!

#fitchthehomeless, Level Awesome
You’re inspired. You want to make lasting change. This little video has motivated you to go beyond Fitching The Homeless (does that sound dirty to anyone else?) and really have an impact. What can you do?

  • Volunteer. Your time is more valuable than you could possibly know. Your old t-shirt might help someone, but actually getting in there and making change? That’s amazing!
  • Buy Fair Trade. If you buy fair trade, you are making sure that the clothes you buy are not made by sweatshop labour. You are making sure that workers make a living wage. A living wage means less homeless people the whole world over. Pay a bit more now and get clothes made ethically.
  • Hire a homeless person. You may not realize it, but most homeless people are invisible. I don’t mean they have super powers, I mean they don’t look homeless. They kinda look just like us, only they’ve lost their job, their home or their way and they need a leg up. It can be really hard to find a job when you don’t have a phone, an address or access to the internet. It’s a problem I faced when I was homeless. A lot of organizations exist that try to help these people find jobs. When I was homeless, I used St. Stephen’s in Toronto. They gave me a voice mail box and helped me connect with employers. If you are an employer, consider contacting a place like St. Stephen’s and letting them know that you are willing to meet with their clients. A job is the best way to help a homeless person.

So there you go. A whole bunch of ways you can #fitchthehomeless without being a douche. Enjoy. Share. Give. Do good. Grab this momentum and make change.

Thanks,
Heather