Words

I am a feminist in the sense that I believe that females are entitled to the same rights as males. My identification with the term ends there. I do not consider myself a victim of the patriarchy. While I feel sometimes that less has been expected of me as a woman, my experience has been that other women have been at least as guilty as men of expecting less of me and other females. It can be argued that this is due to the pervasive nature of the patriarchy - that women are conditioned to expect less of other women because our society perceives them as less-than by default - but the degree to which this trickles down into individual interactions suggests that this is less imposed from outside than internalized, willful behavior.

 

To put things more clearly - when in a position of power, women are more likely to fuck over other women than men are. In my interactions with authority figures, I have been “oppressed” much more egregiously by women than men. Women seem to take special pride in crushing the hopes and ambitions of their fellow women - I do not know why this is, but it has been my experience time and time again. 

 

When I was growing up, teachers and professors of both sexes mostly treated me fairly - until I got to college. There were several administrators - always female - and a few meddlesome teachers - also female - who made a special point of either interfering in the pursuit of my studies or actively making it impossible to continue. Administrators at Columbia University contrived to have me placed on medical leave under false circumstances (a baldly sexist, stereotypical “eating disorder”-based narrative that fell apart under medical scrutiny but which they still were able to use to strong-arm me out of campus). This abuse of power makes more sense in light of my later discovery that college administrators are actually paid fees by eating disorder and other “recovery” clinics for the referral of patients, but does not explain why I was singled out. I used to joke that it was a bitter fat woman who saw me eating a donut and wanted vengeance, but my humor may not be so far from the truth. Middle-management types, who have some power yet are insecure in their positions, seek to cement their positions or grasp for more power through the oppression of others; since their power is limited, however, they cannot oppress everyone in their purview. I will admit I stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb at Columbia with my flamboyant outfits and then-skinny ass. My confidence and the joy I visibly experienced living life on my own for the first time may have rubbed certain administrators the wrong way. Was this a witch hunt born of jealousy? Looking back on the character of the two women who orchestrated my removal from the school, I’d be inclined to say yes. Both were dour-faced, aging, irrelevant professionals who served no real purpose in a functioning student body - they were only called upon if students were having ‘problems.’ Too often there is an incentive to create such ‘problems,’ thus reassuring these professionals that they are needed, even valued. If the student body is mentally and physically healthy, they may experience an existential crisis and tag certain students who don’t blend in well enough as victims.

 

After an all too brief respite from institutional persecution at the New School, I attended and was summarily chased out of graduate school at New York University. Admittedly, I was not adjusting to my return to academia very well and was missing a lot of classes. I approached two of my professors to talk about the assignments I had missed and how I might catch up and they (helpfully, I thought at the time) referred me to a guidance counselor who would help me to better manage my time, balancing schoolwork with my part-time job and the rest of my life. These duplicitous (female) creeps (I might add that none of my male professors ever tried something like this when i approached them to ask about catching up on work) had actually referred me to the medical arm of student services, where two women proceeded to whip out a bunch of medical equipment and try to stall for time while they rustled up a psychiatrist. I left, for obvious reasons, and they had 8 EMTs and 2 cops break down my apartment door and drag me to the nearest psych ward as an “emotionally disturbed person.” How these women-in-power (again, middle management types who serve no function if students are mentally and physically healthy) made the logical leap from moderate absenteeism to inpatient hospitalization is a mystery, but my refusal to submit to a medical examination - calling their expertise into question - must have enraged them. Acting as if I knew better than they regarding my own medical condition brought down the wrath of their pettiness and motivated them to turn the full force of their university-sanctioned power on me so I’d know never to step out of line again. I was fortunate enough to be able to convince the (male) doctor of the psych ward that I was not in fact suicidal or otherwise disturbed, but only after spending the night on the ward, where among other horrors, I witnessed 5 hospital orderlies hold down a screaming man and stab him in the neck with a giant syringe. That night, still somewhat hysterical from the trauma of having my door ripped off its hinges and being bodily manhandled into an ambulance by 10 EMTs (men, in this case - it’s not all so cut and dried - but at least the male cop was willing to stand guard over my violated apartment until the door could be replaced and nothing was stolen upon my return), the female doctor had decided I was definitely a risk to myself and had to be kept overnight for observation. The next morning, somehow, I was all better. One would think a female doctor would recognize that tears are a natural emotional response to trauma in women and that any normal person would feel traumatized having their living space violated by a bunch of strange men, but perhaps she felt the need to appear less sensitive in order to impress someone - perhaps she felt her power threatened, or would otherwise lose status if she let a prospective patient go. I am also certain that at least one of those professors and school nurses received a monetary kickback from the hospital for referring me - I later received a bill for over $1300 which I forwarded to NYU and never heard anything about again. Thanks to these dictatorial bitches, I was unable to finish the semester at NYU and never returned. It was 6 months before I could hear an ambulance slow down outside my apartment without having a panic attack.

 

I do not think that male administrators would have reacted in the same way to my existence. In my experience, they have been less willing to interfere in the personal lives of their charges. My (male) faculty and thesis advisors at the New School were very supportive and encouraging. I do not feel they expected anything less of me because I was female, and even my occasional class absences were never cause for alarm. At Columbia, a male professor gave me a B in his class even though I never wrote my final paper because I had already received the news I was being kicked out - this was the height of empathy as far as I’m concerned - it would have been obvious to any observer that I was utterly crushed at being ejected for illegitimate reasons from the school I’d looked forward to attending for so long. Of course, neither of the women responsible for that ejection could see (or admitted they could see) why returning to my parents’ home and receiving a year-long course of treatment for a problem I did not have was utterly repugnant to me. I think certain women (women in power, at least) purposefully stop themselves from feeling or expressing empathy for other women because they do not want to appear weak.

 

As part of a legal case when I was young and stupid, I was enrolled in a six-month course of day rehab in order to avoid jail time. The woman in charge of my case allowed me to make it almost completely through the course, flunking me on a drug test halfway through the fifth month and accusing me of having drank alcohol. The accusation was laughable given the amount of time alcohol remains in the body - I would have had to have imbibed that morning for it to show up in the afternoon’s piss test - but logic had nothing on this woman. She knew I was there basically against my will and resented me for not going to 12-step groups on my own time in addition to the three sessions I already had to attend every week on top of my classes at college. My scorn for the recovery “program” was obvious - I didn’t have a drug problem, and had I had one, this lackluster form of ‘therapy’ would have been completely ineffective. People recover from addictions because they want to recover, not because they’ve turned over control of their lives to a ‘higher power’ or submitted to the regurgitated psychobabble of unskilled “therapists” whose training consists of an 18-month certification program. Clearly, I was the uppity nail here that had to be hammered down. It doesn’t hurt that these recovery facilitators are (again) paid per patient they refer to residential programs. I was told I would be taken to one program, which was bad enough as I did not want to be locked up for 4 weeks for an addiction I did not have, but then taken to another place entirely - kidnapped, essentially. I believe the only reason I was able to return home that day is that the program did not take my insurance and when informed of the amount it would cost for me to stay there I simply said I did not have the money and that my parents would not pay for it as they didn’t know where I was. Unable to milk any cash out of me, they sent me home and told me to go to a hospital because clearly my “symptoms,” consisting of an increasingly rapid heartbeat, were due to drug withdrawal (when I hadn’t even smoked a joint for the last six months due to constant drug testing and my desire not to go to jail). In reality, I had been experiencing mounting panic since realizing I had been taken to a mysterious facility and was wondering if I’d even make it out alive. The (female) nurse who allowed me to leave was utterly unlike the other women in these episodes & I am grateful to her for at least somewhat saving my life. I later saw my original case manager on the subway and she looked at me as if she had seen a ghost. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to walk out of that inpatient center at all.

 

Writ large, the phenomenon of female oppression can be seen in the person of Hillary Clinton. Observe her willingness to bomb the living shit out of the Middle East, reducing one of the region’s most progressive countries (Libya, which had the highest standard of living in Africa, a high literacy rate, and a well-educated female populace) to a failed state where women no longer have rights. Or Madeline Albright, when asked if the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was “worth it” in order to topple the secular “dictator” Saddam Hussein, answering in the affirmative. Any human being with the slightest shred of empathy would feel remorse or repulsion having committed these acts. These women and others like them (Victoria Nuland, Samantha Power, Condoleezza Rice and so on) I believe are overcompensating for their gender, trying to be more male than the men and in the process suppressing normal human emotion and behavior. I have no desire to feel solidarity with these dysfunctional creatures and they should not be held up as examples for other women to follow.

 

This is not to say I feel no solidarity with the average woman. I have plenty of friends who are female. But I also have plenty of ex-friends who are female, united in their tendency to stab me in the back with dishonesty, pettiness, passive-aggression and other underhanded betrayals. I value my friends who are honest women that much more because they are so tragically rare. This idea that all women must compete and take each other down if we want to come out ahead has set us against each other in a way that will require a lot of deprogramming to overcome. 

 

 

The Crab Claw Mentality references the behavior of crabs in a boiling pot of water. A crab will reach the rim of the pot, trying to escape, and the other crabs will pull him back into the water rather than let him escape. Jealousy is seemingly ingrained even into these supposedly simple creatures. This is not a trait imposed by the patriarchy - this is a fundamental characteristic of humanity, and women are taught to nurture it - that it is somehow necessary in their rise to power or necessary for them to keep their power. Men seem more aware that power is not a finite resource - none of this is a zero sum game. Women are distracted into backbiting and passive aggression while men go on to run companies and countries. The truly great women in history are those who have avoided petty rivalries and power-for-power’s-sake and focused on their dreams and ambitions, collaborating and cooperating when it helps their ends but otherwise avoiding the typical pitfalls of what society defines as femininity. I am ashamed to be part of a crab-claw subset of humanity. Let’s not be.

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Political correctness sprang from a noble desire to avoid offending women, minorities and other typically marginalized groups through language. Sexist, racist and other pejorative terms referencing minorities from homosexuals to the handicapped were frowned upon, first in academic circles and gradually within the general population. 

 

Unfortunately, what began as a laudable initiative has gone too far. Merely uttering the wrong word in classroom discourse can spark protests and the loss of a professor’s job or tenure. Offending a well-connected student with an online platform to vent their offense can mobilize vast segments of the liberal blogosphere against a hapless teacher, school newspaper, or administration. Entire websites have sprung up explaining the rainbow of politically correct terms for slivers of gender identity that didn’t even exist ten years ago. Internet commenters engage in episodes of “oppression olympics,” trading barbs about the other’s privilege - he grew up black and rich, while she was white and poor and also a queer woman, so who has it worse? Great works of literature with potentially distressing themes - rape, for example, or slavery - now are written into lesson plans encased in “trigger warnings,” lest students respond emotionally to the material in a way they find distressing (a process that might once have been called “making them think”).

 

When did the emotional maturity of a five-year-old scared of monsters under the bed become a prerequisite for college admission? Like the parents of the child in kindergarten with a peanut allergy, the hyper-politically-correct have come out to demand “safe spaces” on college campuses where students can avoid any potentially hurtful terms, discrimination, or the nebulous “micro aggressions,” these difficult-to-define encounters which seem innocent on the surface but theoretically build up to cause great psychological harm in those on the receiving end, perpetuating discriminatory structures and creating an atmosphere of oppression on campus. 

 

The proponents of “safe spaces” who decry the rampant micro aggressions of the typical college environment are looking to create padded rooms for the next generation, bubbles in which students’ ideas, preconceived notions and identities cannot be challenged - with the result that they will are in suspended animation, incapable of growing and learning as people. Universities are traditionally places to argue over ideas, and arguments require confrontation. Terming any such confrontations “micro aggressions” defangs the intellectual battlefield in the name of emotional well-being. Moreover, the vicious backlash against anyone accused of impinging on these “safe spaces” is hardly tolerant or considerate of THEIR emotional well-being. The micro aggression police are nothing if not hypocritical.

 

How well, psychologically and emotionally, will these students be when they graduate and are thrust into the real world, replete as it is not only with legions of “micro aggressions” but also REAL racism, sexism, “able-ism” and other forms of discrimination? The safe-space bubble cannot protect them outside the rarified university environment, while those years they should have spent shoring up their identities and gaining confidence in themselves and their ideas were instead spent being coddled by administrations treating the students more like a glass menagerie than a human zoo. Unsurprisingly, rates of depression and anxiety have been on the rise in recent years - a 2014 survey by the American College Health Association notes a 5% increase in just one year of students reporting they had “felt overwhelming anxiety” in the last 12 months, and the same organization cited a survey of campus mental health directors reporting an increase in students displaying “severe psychological problems.” So much for psychological and emotional well-being.

 

 

For a culture that trumpets free speech as one of its defining values, we are systematically dismantling it in the name of political correctness, and this has to stop where it began - in the universities.

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(in a world of whales, we might have something to learn from hardcore calorie restricters)

(please read the article before commenting)

 

Anorexia nervosa has been a favored movie-of-the-week topic for decades. What’s more photogenic than stick-thin teenage girls pouting their way into early graves? Their anguish on the path to recovery is the stuff of which award-winning documentaries are made, be they crafted with Barbie dolls (who said plastic isn’t fantastic?) or real humans. These films highlight the egregious mistakes that have been enshrined in the pantheon of eating disorder treatment and shine a light on the regrettable hysteria surrounding the disease.

 

In one documentary about preteen anorexics, a woman who runs an eating disorder clinic explains that while her clinic only keeps girls for three months, full recovery from the disease takes anywhere from one to three years and requires constant supervision by a team of doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and nutritionists. This is wrong on so many levels and is an affront to these girls’ autonomy. The only way they will recover from their problems is to move on - find something productive and positive to do with their lives, rather than focus on their eating disorders for the next three years. Centering their lives on their disease strains family relationships - often forcing already-overprotective parents into an even more intrusive role in their daughter’s life and generating resentment from siblings who feel neglected as a result of all the attention paid to the anorexic - and minimizes other, healthier aspects of their lives.

 

Eating disorder “therapy” at these clinics generally consists of force-feeding and unproductive group therapy sessions- unproductive because anorexics are by nature not social creatures and the last thing they want to do is air their problems before the judging eyes of their peers. Throwing a bunch of anorexics into a group-living situation is guaranteed to create a competitive atmosphere, so the girls who genuinely want to get better will be discouraged from doing so when they see others attempt to beat the system by cheating at weigh-ins or meal times. Obviously if a person is experiencing acute health problems and their weight is dangerously low, hospitalization is the only route, but once they have regained their health they should return home immediately and get back on track with their lives rather than dwell on their eating disorder.

 

The stated goal of these clinics is to take thin girls and produce heavier girls. “Curing” them comes later - years later, according to the aforementioned clinic owner. Girls are rewarded for cleaning their plates, plates stacked with 2500+ calories of food - 500 more than a normal person eats in a day - and punished if they fail to stuff themselves to the bursting point on muffins, burgers and fries. Rather than fixing the anorexic’s unhealthy relationship with food, this regime pushes it to the opposite extreme - one girl in the documentary is terrified that if she does not finish the massive dessert she is served during a restaurant visit with her family she will not be allowed to go home from the clinic on time. “Eating oneself out of the clinic” - obeying food rules in the hope of being discharged early while failing to address the underlying psychological causes of one’s eating disorder - is frowned upon, yet meaningful therapeutic intervention is utterly absent from the clinical setting. No attention is paid to the permanent damage the girls are doing to their metabolisms by vacillating between feast and famine.

 

Some clinics don’t stop at overfeeding in their goal to fatten up their patients. Boston Children’s Hospital notoriously used antipsychotic drugs like Zyprexa and Risperdal known for their potential to induce weight gain as off-label treatment for anorexics who they believed weren’t gaining weight fast enough on the meal plan. Never mind that Eli Lilly, Zyprexa’s manufacturer, was the subject of a class-action lawsuit by patients who developed type-2 diabetes after taking the drug, in addition to other metabolic side effects. Get some weight on those girls fast.

 

This cavalier disregard for patients’ welfare at the expense of their weight cuts to the core of what is wrong with eating disorder treatment in this country. The hysteria surrounding anorexia, which affects approximately 1-4% of young females, is utterly disproportionate to the harm it causes. Complications from anorexia are responsible for death in .5% of patients - too many, to be sure, but nothing compared to the damage caused by obesity. In the US, 36% of women AND men are considered obese. Complications from obesity, such as heart disease and stroke, are among the top killers in the world. Yet with more than two-thirds of American adults classified as overweight, the obese blend in more easily and are even considered normal.

 

It’s somehow OK to shout “eat a sandwich!” at a skinny girl walking down the street, but yelling “go on a diet, fatty!” is tantamount to holocaust denial. When did this become the status quo? Were all the sane social critics eaten by this encroaching onslaught of fatties? They have infiltrated American cultural institutions, taking up positions as cultural editor of Salon and GQ, pushing their pro-fat agenda at the expense of health and common sense. Thin girls are banned from the runways of Paris, despite the obvious benefits to designers of using less fabric and not having to work around the unpredictable curves of fuller-figured women. The “Health At Every Size” movement is clearly a joke, as they are the ones most vociferously calling for the crucifixion of the petite. Merely existing as a thin person in meatspace is considered to be oppressing the large.

 

 

After all that, is it really a surprise that the rate of eating disorders is on the rise along with the rate of obesity? Any reasonable girl growing up in a society where overweight is the norm is going to be repulsed by the swamp of gluttony in which she resides and will want to rise above it. Whether she does it in a healthy manner - by eating well and exercising - or whether she starves herself is immaterial. Eating disorders are a reaction to the rising tide of fat engulfing the western world. Sure, every anorexic has her own reasons for her behavior, but skinny fashion models have nothing to do with the matter. No one ever starved herself because she saw too many pictures of Kate Moss in the 90s, despite the misguided cries of “fat-positive” “feminists.” Obesity is a society-wide problem; anorexia is a reaction. Both are dysfunctional coping mechanisms. We are a society of over-consumers taught to find satisfaction outside ourselves instead of cultivating our intellects and imaginations. Body fascism is not the answer.

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