Your Roots Are Showing

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I just saw a post about why a white person having a mohawk is offensive to First Nations. One of the reasons was that appropriating a traditional Iroquois haircut is another form of theft committed by white nations and can be considered racist. I think that’s a pretty reasonable argument.

But then I thought about white people sporting dreadlocks which is a traditional Rastafarian hairdo. Is that also a form of culture theft or racism? And what about white people sporting Afros, originally an African do? Some Jews have them too. We call them Jewfros. Are we racist? And what about white people braiding their hair in all the funky ways that African-Americans do? Is that also culture theft? And what about white people who clean shave their heads? Are they guilty of stealing the traditional Tibetan monk haircut? And what if one day, wearing sidelocks became the next haircut fad? Should I feel offended that white people have appropriated the haircut of my fellow religious Jewish people? Should I accuse them all of antisemitism?

What if the situation was reversed? What about African women who get a perm? Can they be blamed for stealing the traditional do of white people, straight hair?

And what about clothes? Can white people be guilty of culture theft if they wear a poncho? Or a kaftan? Or a kimono? Also, what about food? Are all my friends really anti-Japan because they all happen to love Sushi?

What about other cultural stuff? Musical styles, musical instruments, languages and dialects, body art and body modifications? Am I racist because I have tattoos, which originated among African tribes? Really?

Where do we draw the line for culture theft? Where do we draw the line for racism?

Peace, love and roots are made to be broken

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Give Me Back My Body

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I just read a blog post about rape culture and how the blame of rape is put on the victim if she was drunk or wearing provocative clothing. Throughout the post, I felt like ownership of my body slipped right from under me. It’s not like I never knew it before, but every time I read a story about this girl or that woman being raped, followed by statements by the others such as “She shouldn’t have been drinking,” “she shouldn’t have been wearing that skirt/shirt/shorts/hairdo/makeup,” I feel objectified and just plain disgusted by the entire world and this shitty fucking society.

Like is mentioned in the above linked post, I sometimes get responses such as “Until you go live in the Middle East, you have no right to speak about rape culture.”

Number one, rape culture exists in every corner, in every cave of this godforsaken world because patriarchy perpetuates it and makes it ok to demonize a rape victim.

Number two, dipshits should know I LIVE IN THE MIDDLE EAST. So there. We’ve just cleared me of any silencing statements and from any declaration that says I have no right to speak my mind.

In terms of my opinions regarding ownership of my body, I feel like I constantly need to prove myself and stand up for myself in that respect. I’ve mentioned it in countless earlier posts, but my family clearly feel like they have the right to tell me what to do or not do with my body, my style of clothing, my hair, and body art. This for me is a blunt expression of “I own your body and can therefore tell you what to do with it.” If I were to confront my family about it, they would dismiss my claim as an exaggeration and make me feel stupid and guilty by saying something offensive like “Gosh! We can’t even talk to you anymore!”

Just this past month, I’ve been made to suffer endless pleads from my mom to show up at the Passover table wearing something “festive.” She was simply following her usual banter whenever holiday season comes around and dreads the moment I would show up at my grandmother’s house wearing plaid pants and an Arch Enemy t-shirt. Now I won’t have any problem wearing a skirt (except that I do prefer plaid pants and a metal t-shirt), but why do I still need to justify my style and claim my right to individuality and self-expression at 30 years of age?

Under the law, I’ve been considered an adult for the past 12 years. Twelve motherfucking years! Why can’t my mom just accept that I’m an adult, an individual, a mature woman with a unique style and who, despite all of society’s claims to the contrary, owns her body?

I’ve had this conversation (read: fight) with my mom on countless occasions. And on all counts, she made some dismissive statement that ultimately made me feel guilty.

I am in the process of writing a book about my years of psychological therapy and how I learned to free myself from the chains of guilt imposed on me by my parents. And although this therapy took place over four years ago, I feel like I’m back to square one. I know for a fact that my mom would make me feel guilty if I showed up with an outfit she doesn’t consider festive, or with a new piercing or a new tattoo… And she could do it without saying anything. The disappointment on her face would be inflicting all the guilt in the world and reiterating the same “I gave birth to you. I own you,” statement she says without even speaking.

I am so upset right now, I could cry. There is absolutely nothing I can do to make my family understand that I don’t want to be treated as a doll. If I said anything, it would be dismissed as quickly and painfully as a slap to the face.

OK, now I really am crying. My inner child is in pain. This isn’t right. This isn’t right.

It’s not fair that none of my male cousins get this treatment. They own their body from day one, no questions asked, while I’m 30 years old and still have to keep insisting and fighting and kicking and screaming for my body, and still have no claims to it.

I don’t wanna go to my family’s house for the holiday. I don’t want to cave in to my mother’s pleas and take my inner child’s needs for granted once again. And I also don’t want to respond to my inner child’s needs and suffer the guilt inflicted on me by my mother’s expression, yet again.

Enough.

Not Funny

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Yesterday, a couple of women came over to see the offices we have for rent. One of them was rather on the curvy side and when my boss introduced me, all she could think of saying was “You’re so skinny, it’s so unfair!”

When I responded that it’s not exactly my fault with an offended tone, my boss says “Don’t worry, she was just joking.”

My boss then proceeded to walking them around the office. As they were walking away, I hear the plump lady saying “OK, so the reception is where Hadass the Skinny works.”

When they came back to the reception area, the same woman turns to me again and says “Tell me, do you ever eat anything?”

I got offended yet again, so I went on the defensive and reiterated the fact that I’m not responsible for the way I look. “It’s genetics,” I said. “My mom is like that too.”

Then, the woman responded with an even more offensive statement: “Such chutzpa!” Chutzpa in Hebrew generally means arrogance or disrespect. “Such chutzpa that you have good genes and I have shitty genes!”

This time, I knew that if I responded with how I actually felt, which was not only offence but humiliation, my boss would again dismiss me by saying she was only joking.

Yeah, a joke, sure. My sides are splitting.

So I boiled within, and was almost on the verge of tears.

I wonder how it is that some people can say such horrible things, such insulting and hurtful things, and then make them sound ok by adding “I’m just joking.”

Some members of my family have picked up the habit of telling the younger family members that they’re ugly, when they actually mean that they’re the cutest thing on the face of the earth.

My older cousins keep talking this way to the four or five-year-olds in my family:

“What an ugly face!” They say, and then throw a fit of laughter. The little ones take it lightly as well, and laugh along with everyone else.

So maybe I’m kinda touchy on that subject, but what I do know is that if I ever have a child one day, I would never let a comment like that pass. Nobody will call my child “ugly” and get away with it. Especially if my child is a girl, because growing up, she will no doubt have enough body issues drilled into her mind without having to deal with family members calling her ugly, even as a joke. In fact, being bombarded with so much beauty propaganda from society and the media, my future daughter will actually benefit from a kind word from her family.

“You’re so beautiful!” Doesn’t that sound so much better?

When I was little, my family used to make fun of me because I had a lisp. They thought it was cute and imitated me whenever I said something with a lisp. I was obviously offended by that and as a result spent hours in my room practicing talking without a lisp.

I lost my baby fat and my skinny genes kicked in at a very early age, so my family also used offensive language when they commented on my weight.

I never got over it, as proven by my reaction to the curvy woman’s comment. And I never will get over it. Joking about my appearance and saying I’m arrogant and disrespectful because I happen to be born this way is totally inappropriate.

And no, I’m not joking about that.

Peace, love and beautiful words go a long way.

Guide to Perfection

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So on the spur of the moment, just in time for the Jewish New Year, and for my impending 30th birthday, I decided to get a haircut.

I’ve had more or less the same long-curly-shedding-all-over-the-place mess on and off for like 14 years or something. So I was like “meh, time for a change.”

So I cut it off at about halfway down my neck, with longer locks in the front. I told my cousin “Now, I can no longer do the metal headbang, but I can totally rock the riot grrrl headbang.” It’s two different styles. The main difference is that the former goes up and down or in circles, and the latter goes from side to side.

In any case, when I showed up at my family’s place with this new do, they all reacted as I expected they would, “Well, it’s about freaking time!”

Though, some had the nerve to add what I’ve already complained about in former posts: “You should have also dyed your hair.”

Since getting pissed off about it was getting redundant, I decided to go for the annoyed, sarcastic humor and responded “Well, yeah, you know, I was considering the two longer locks as electric jet blue, but then I thought my boss wouldn’t like it too much.”

One of them even said “Had you dyed your hair, you would have looked perfect.”

Truth of the matter is, even if I would have dyed my hair, they would probably find other things that need to be changed: “Had you worn a dress, you would have looked perfect… had you shaved your arms, you would have looked perfect… had you bothered to powder your nose a bit, you would have looked perfect…”

“I’m already perfect, thank you very much,” I said with a frown.

It’s enough that girls get all this “perfect” poison from the media, they don’t need to get it from their families, too. And it really is poison, because although these comments are shallow, they reach a place deep down within women’s minds and destroy them from the inside out, telling them they’re never good enough, never pretty enough, never perfect enough. This awesome drawing by Diane Lindo illustrates this very point.

Seriously though, fucking piece of shit. I’ve had enough of people telling me what I “should have” done, or what I “should” do, or what would make me look “perfect.” Perfect in the eyes of who? Of you? Of them? Of a patriarchical society who never gave me a chance to be perfect as I am?

There are so many things, so many beings, and so many entities that I consider to be so much more important than all of those mentioned above, and whose opinion matters to me more. What about me? I rather be perfect in my eyes, in the eyes of the girl in the mirror, in the eyes of the inner child. And I’m already perfect in the eyes of my grrrlfriends.

Once, my friend Clementine, made a collage of the various offensive comments people make about her. One of them was “If you shaved, you’d be a 10. Right now, you stand at about 6.” I commented on her collage saying “If you shaved you’d be a 10. Right now, you stand at about a million!”

And that’s exactly what I say about myself every time I hear comments like “You’d be perfect if… You’d look so pretty if…” Well, IF I had balls, I’d be a dude, and nobody would tell me how perfect I would look if I would wear dresses and skirts and shave my arms and dye my hair. But the Mother Goddess, in Her infinite wisdom, decided to give me a big juicy pair of ovaries, hairy arms and messy hair with lots of grays. She also blessed me with this thing called free will. So I can choose whatever I want to do with my body, decorate it with tattoos, and not dye my hair.

Nobody can claim my body. I own it. It belongs to me. Get that through your skull. If one fateful day, I choose to dye my hair, it will be on my own terms, and it will be my choice. Just as I chose to cut my hair.

Peace, love and “We look so cute with our hairy legs and armpits.” – Mistress Distress.

Hairy Fairy

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Girl-hate and jealousy is something I am working very hard to overcome. Per the grrrlVIRUS ideology, I believe that many of the problems, traumas and violence that women experience today are not just a product of the modern patriarchal society, but also because women participate and perpetuate the roles and ideals set up for them (or rather against them) by the system. But it’s hard to fight girl-hate or animosity when society thinks that any woman or girl who does not abide by these societal rules should be doomed to a life of ridicule, humiliation, abuse, and outright hate not only by oppressive men, but also by oppressive women.

I’ve known such oppression from my peers and my family. I’ve also known it from the media and society in general, but since I stopped listening to popular radio, don’t watch TV as often as most people, and sure as hell don’t read magazines (unless they’re feminist, independently-produced, grrrl zines), I don’t keep up with any fashion rules whatsoever.

I was born to a beautician mother. So standards of beauty were established pretty early on for me. My mom never overtly forced me into shaving this and shaving that and tweezing here and zapping there. It was in school where I was taught to be ashamed of my body hair. When I was in grade six, 12-years-old, my best friend of the time was once called “moustachu” due to her slightly hairy upper lip. I was so scared that I would also be called names due to my facial hair, I came back home that day and asked my mom to wax my upper lip. It was so painful that I gave it up for some time, and bleached it instead.

During that same year, my friend and I went swimming. My underarm hair started to grow, and I hadn’t even noticed it until my friend came up to me and whispered in my ear: “You know, you have a lot of hair on your armpits.” Then gave me a grave look that meant she said it for my benefit.

That day, I came back home and looked in the mirror for a long time. I started noticing thick hair on my legs, my arms, my belly, my chest, my back, my neck and even on my chin, my cheeks and along the sides on my face.

I have sideburns! I thought with growing horror and disgust at my body. Other kids in class noticed it, too. By grade 7, I started waxing my legs, my underarms, my belly and my back. By grade 8, I started tweezing my eyebrows. My facial hair was still visible and I’ve been told by girls and guys alike that I need to shave my face. I was called names and ridiculed in the halls. Some guy in my class started calling me “Hadass Ben-Hairy,” and hit me on the back of the neck so hard I started seeing black stars and almost fainted.

I never told my parents about any of that. I was too ashamed to tell my dad because he’s a guy. And I was afraid that if I told my mom, she would simply say: “Come to the beauty room. It’s nothing that wax can’t fix.”

By grade 9, I stopped wearing my hair up in a ponytail and let it grow down to my midsection so that it would cover my face and my neck completely and shade it from the sun. On particularly sunny days, I would walk through alleyways and take long detours to avoid walking against the wind for fear that it would blow my hair back and my face would be exposed in all its hideousness. I would see girls on the bus or in the metro, wearing their hair up or tucking locks of their hair behind their ears without shame that their cheeks are showing, and I burned with jealousy.

Every time I travelled to Israel during that time, I knew that it would be sunny all the time and too hot to not pick up my hair. So I started waxing my face. The whole thing – cheeks, chin, neck, sideburns, upper lip – simply everything. Every pull felt like a violent slap to my face, and would leave me as red and puffy as a cartoon character on the verge of explosion.

At grade 10, I was well into my goth stage and started wearing all black. One guy in class once told me: “Why are you such a freak? You have black hair, black clothes, black shoes. I bet you got a big black bush, too.” Everybody laughed. I went back home and cried in silence. Again, my parents knew nothing. I didn’t even give them the benefit of the doubt. I had my reason. One that was so traumatic, I don’t wish to discuss it here. But one that made my body my ultimate arch-nemesis. My body became the embodiment of everything that hurt me in my life. It was a source of shame, pain, humiliation, disgust and repugnance. I hated everything about it.

At some point, I got laser treatment for my facial hair. Though it was no less painful than waxing, I was glad to be rid of my awful sideburns. Today, I have a bit of a duvet left on my cheeks, but it can only be seen from a close range and under fluorescent lights.

I still had, and still have hair on my arms. Since I’ve been doing such a good job of waxing, shaving, tweezing, zapping, epilating, bleaching and using hair removal creams on everything else, I’m happy I never touched my arms. I’ve been getting many negative comments about my arm hair from my peers and my family as well, but I was all waxed out and wasn’t about to attack my arms as well.

My female cousins and aunts keep harassing me about it. They keep saying how “nice and clean” my arms would look if I waxed them. As if having hairy arms somehow decreases my level of personal hygiene.

“Hadass, it’s not nice,” my cousin said one morning as we were sitting outside on the porch over a cup of tea. “At least wax the back of your hands and your fingers.”

“If I did that, then I would have to wax the rest of my arm, because it would look like I have a sleeve of hair,” I responded. Though I knew the real reason was because if I waxed my arms, I wouldn’t know where to stop because my arm hair stretches all the way to my upper arm to the back of my shoulders and all across my back. And also because I was already waxing half my body weight off, I wasn’t about to start being a slave to the hot, sticky goo and the strip of cloth on any other part of my body. My arms are just fine, thank you very much.

After discovering feminism and riot grrrl, then moving to Israel, going through three years of intensive psychological therapy, then joining the grrrlVIRUS movement, I slowly stripped away more and more issues of my defective body image. I’ve discussed in previous posts the many changes I made to improve my self-esteem and care for my body, but one of the major changes was the way I started viewing body hair.

I started seeing it as utterly beautiful and as an object of awe and inspiration. Though my family keeps saying how gross and ugly body hair is, I look at these girls with the hairy underarms and hairy legs and think how much I wish I was as brave as they are.

My issues with my body hair are far from over. I still remove hair from my legs and underarms, and women in my family keep tell me to shave my arms. They don’t say it in a condescending tone, but in a rather “caring” tone, like they’re trying to save me from getting any more shit about being hairy from guys who may not be as “gentle” about it as they are.

“It’s for your own good,” they say. But to me, it’s still offensive and hurtful. If they really wanted to provide me with a blanket of support and encouragement, they should say: “Don’t pay attention to these asshole men. What the fuck do they know? They got more hair than you. Your body hair is beautiful. You want to be strong, brave and pretty? Wear your hair long and proud – on your legs, arms, eyebrows, armpits, back, stomach, chest, shoulders, and pubes! Stop hurting yourself. Stop abusing your body. You don’t need to ‘discover the goddess you are’ by shaving. Love yourself the way you are – the way the Goddess made you.” What I wouldn’t give to hear these words coming from someone other than my inner child.

So, it was definitely refreshing to join grrrlVIRUS and meet so many grrrls who were not ashamed of their body hair and who were actually brave enough to let it grow, taking pictures of it and talking about it so openly. It was such a drastic change from the girls and the women I’ve known, who were always chasing after the growth of their body hair, trying to shave it before it emerged once again, and telling off any girl who wasn’t doing the same.

One of my male cousins recently posted a status that read: “Girls should know when to shave their arms.” This was followed by a long back and forth between me and him about why this statement was offensive to me and how it can affect the body image of girls in general (I was, of course, speaking from firsthand experience). My cousin’s girlfriend also intervened and wrote the following:

“Hadass, what is wrong with it? Just like women don’t want to go out with men who are hairy like gorillas or a carpet (unless it’s their fetish), the same goes for boys. I don’t understand your comment about if he views a woman as hairy as a wolf being at all related to women who starve themselves. Personal hygiene is not an obscene word. And feminism or not – a woman should not be a carpet.”

I was even more offended by that comment than all the other ones that my cousin made, especially because it came from a girl. From the time my cousin started dating this girl up until this point, I kept trying to work up the courage to talk to her. She seems like such a sweet girl and my family took a great liking into her. But with that comment, I was back to square one. On one hand, I wanted to talk to her in person about why that comment was offensive, and hope to move past it. But I was so afraid she would just hate me even more. So instead, I wrote a long spiel responding to what she wrote, and when I saw her during this past holiday, she ignored me completely.

How can I stand up for myself when girls tell me off? What can I say that will not be taken as a personal attack on them? I love girls. I don’t want to hurt them. But what if they hurt me first? What if they do it without even realizing it? How do I wake them up to the realization that they are perpetuating the oppressive beauty norms of the patriarchal order? How do I prove to them that they are buying into society’s plot to divide and conquer womankind?

I want to tell them so much. But I’m so afraid to be hated for that by members of my own gender. I’m open to suggestions as I am fresh out of ideas.

Peace, love and brush, comb, braid.

Weight Does Not Define Beauty

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Recently, I started seeing a lot of pictures on the internet, and especially on Facebook, about women’s bodies and their weight. Many of them showed pictures of plump women accompanied with texts such as “Bones are for the dog. Meat is for the man,” and such.

Now, I think that it’s great that society is slowly beginning to acknowledge that big women are beautiful. And I also think they’re beautiful and curvy and absolutely gorgeous in every sense of the word. And considering all the shit that curvy women have been taking and are still taking on a regular basis, it’s only right that society begins to view them as I do.

However, this is no reason to bash skinny women. It’s like society will see one thing as beautiful only if it will treat the exact opposite as completely fucking ugly. Why compare in the first place? What’s wrong with saying curvy women are gorgeous and skinny women are gorgeous and black women are dazzling and Middle-Eastern women are sizzling and European women are stunning and women who are pierced and tattooed up and down are so totally punk-rock? Is it really that hard to say ALL women are beautiful in their own unique way?

I am skinny. Very skinny. I am clinically underweight, and I’m aware of it. But I don’t appreciate being refered to as a bone, and that I should serve as dog food. I don’t appreciate being compared to ANYONE and being told that I’m ugly. I’ve been forced to listen to enough rude comments about my white hairs, my eyebrows, my nose, the hair on my arms and on my entire body, and my small or nonexistent breasts, without having to take any more shit about my weight.

Yes, I’ve gone through horrible experiences, too. Experiences that made me look in the mirror and gag at the figure that stared back. Experiences that made me unable to take off my clothes or take a shower for fear of seeing that figure yet again. Experiences that made me beat myself in the chest, pull at my hair, and starve myself for days at a time. I didn’t spend three years in therapy just to go back to my former self-hating, self-bashing, self-abusing state of mind.

So yes, fuck society indeed. BOTH these women are fucking gorgeous and so am I.

Peace, love and anger levels are off the charts.

Update (May 24, 2012): Here’s another picture I just saw.

But you know, my boyfriend doesn’t seem to have any problem finding where to put his hands. By the way, why is our weight equated with our sexual appeal? Oh right, because our bodies belong to men, right…

Two Tents on the Chest Level

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Well I’m in excruciating pain obviously. I also have some pretty hilarious stories when I was still under the effect of those funny tiny pills and the anestasia shot the doc gave me.
Apparently I was delirious and i had the worse dreams ever and I told them to my mom over and over like some mental patient. One was about some dude who had chocolate milk in one hand and a crown in another and when he ran past me, I wanted to grab one of those things from him and as I did that, I moved my mom’s hand aside as she was fixing my sheets.
There was also one with all my sisters (the non-existent ones, might I add/) and another one in some bathroom… It was so weirds because I don’t remember any of this and I don’t remember anything that happened right before or right after the operation.
One of the things I do remember is that the drugs were flowing like water. Every 2 hours I got a new shot for something else – pain killer, anti-inflammatory,sleeping pills, a Gravol suppository (which was the first suppository I ever took – not a fun experience). Another not fun experience is that my first shower in three days will be only tomorrow… gross.
On the brighter side, I got tits!! I’m almost 23 and I finally have a visible shade of hooters to call my own. They’re so fucking firm it’s hilarious and they’re pointy so they kinda give me the 20’s or the 50’s look or the Marilyn Manroe look (I wish) but it also kills but it’ll be fine I guess. Another good thing is that my nipple piercing didn’t close on my ass, it looks so hot on my new puffy pillows. What’s weird is that before, my left one was smaller than my right one and now it’s the opposite!
So now that I have a clevage, watch out:
She will cut you into threads
Fuck your ass up until you’re dead
With her six-Inch heels
Right between the eyes!
If looks could kill we’d all be dead
She’ll kill you with her hands instead
While you’re drooling at her clevage
Oops! Now you’re blind!
 
Peace, love and… I had a cool tity pic but forget it.