The title of my blog, and the blog itself, contains several inflammatory and non-politically correct words that I feel I need to explain my use of. The intent of this page is to shed some light on my identities and the words I use to express those identities.
I should begin by saying that I don’t give a damn about political correctness. I find it to be nothing more than a manner for people to speak of us “others” with sugar coated degradation that allows the privileged to feel guiltless while retaining anonymity from their discriminatory feelings. For example, consider two non-bisexual people speaking to each another; one might say “Those fence sitters are just sluts,” while the other responds in the politically correct fashion: “You can’t say that! They’re bi and promiscuous.” Using the terms bisexual and promiscuous rather than fence sitter and slut does not make this statement any less fucked up. Political correctness did not point out the glaring biphobic stereotypes and how that prejudice harms bisexual people, nor does it point the spotlight on the oppressive mindset of these individuals. The use of bisexual and promiscuous in place of fence sitter and slut simply allows the oppressors of the world to feel comfortable with their privilege, while keeping society in harmonious dichotomies: man & woman, white & everyone else, straight & the rest of us, able bodied & disabled, rich & poor, Western/First World & so called second/third world. You get the idea.
When I am referred to as an American Indian I am no less offended than when I am referred to as simply an Indian. I’ll occasionally call myself an Indian with close friends, but always in a sarcastic manner. I am not Indian. My family is not from India. I am a proud Cherokee woman. I am specifically a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. I am not Indian and I am not American Indian.
The “Indian” label was forced upon indigenous people by the lovely mass raping, enslaving – because yes, us indigenous people were slaves too – colonizing, genocidal “hero,” Christopher Columbus. Because he got lost on his merry way to India he decided to name the Indigenous people of what the white folks of power in Europe called the “New World,” Indian. Eventually we had the identity of “American” forced upon us as well. We chose to be neither Indian nor American.
I choose to use the word “Injun” in my blog because it is a more honest and accurate description of America’s opinion of me as a Cherokee person. However, this is my word to use for myself, not yours. Call me an Injun and this Redskin will feel a scalpin’ coming on.
I also employed the use of the racial term “white” preceding my injun status. I am mixed with both Cherokee and a host of European ethnic groups, predominately German, Swedish, and Dutch. Until hearing my last name most people assume that I am white. I don’t meet their ideas of what an “Indian” woman should look like. I seem to look so non-Indian that I’ve had people (men, of course) ask me if my husband was Indian. Those men were met with an etiquette lesson on sexism, heterosexism, and racism.
Due to my white looks, but Cherokee identity and background I straddle a particularly unclear racial line. I don’t doubt that I receive day-to-day privilege as I walk through the world simply because I look white, but once my racial otherness has come to light said privilege has flown the coup. My family and my people have suffered generations of colonialism that has a long standing impact on our quality of life to this day. Simply put, to the world’s eyes I am a white Injun woman.
All Those Other Words
Gimp/ries, bi, feminist, fat, crazy, and grrrl.
Let us start with Gimp/ries, shall we? The primary theme of this blog are the overwhelming challenges that I am facing due to my health issues. The low mobility I experience has tossed me over the cliff and turned me into a disabled person, and a litany of new health issues are thrown at me with every turn. I am struggling against the physical and emotional pain of my bad health and how it has turned my life into a shattered bottle in a dirty alley outside a bar on a desolate street on a still dark, early Sunday morning.
Perhaps that last sentence was a bit of a morose image. I’m not all doom and gloom, but I don’t fart sunshine and belch unicorns. Once upon a time I could, and was willing to, hide my pain and power through, but it’s just too bad now. My sarcastic, dark sense of humor is part of what keeps me going. Jokingly referring to myself as a gimp is a hell of a lot easier for me than saying that I’m disabled. Given my circumstances disabled feels too real, too permanent, too hopeless.
I certainly don’t believe for one second that a disability means the end of one’s life or that it makes one hopeless, but I’m struggling against chronic pain that keeps me held hostage to medical appointments and often to my home. I may be alive, but I’m not living much of a life, certainly not the one I wanted. So I’ll call myself a gimp until I no longer feel it’s appropriate. Once again though, gimp is my word to use for myself, not yours.
As for Gimpries, it felt more clever than the use of the word “stories.” I have to fit my wit in here somewhere.
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On to the big, bad Bi bit.
Bisexual, just like hetero and homosexual, only refers to attraction to a sex. It doesn’t refer to behavior, community, gender, and identity. I don’t much care for that as a marker for myself. I also don’t believe in the idea of only two genders so the word bisexual isn’t exactly an accurate fit for me. Queer is ideal, but I rarely use it.
I also happen to be a Femme which adds another dimension. In the simplest of dyke terms a femme is a queer woman whom dresses and behaves in a girly manner-whatever the hell that means. Far too often though, femme is interpreted as weaker than the more masculine of the spectrum dyke simply for being more “feminine.” The more masculine dykes have an array of identities and corresponding theories to choose from to give further identity to themselves: boi, butch, stud, agg, top, and so on. We femmes are slowly getting there, but for now we are simply the pretty girls in need of a big strong butch to take care of us. Internalized misogyny anyone?
I feel most powerful and comfortable when I embrace my feminine form. I happen to enjoy cooking, playing with makeup (it’s finger paint for grownups!), and can strut my stuff in stilettos. Well, maybe I’m not as great as I once was on that last one due to my pain, but I’ll bet my rent I own more heels than you. However, this does not mean I can’t wipe the floor with you while engaging in an intellectual debate, gut a fish, or change the oil in a car. Despite my versatility and depth I am often overlooked as one-dimensional by many of the Sapphic tribe.
Being femme also comes with the price of invisibility. Because we “pass” as breeders, uh hum I meant hetero, we are often not recognized as queer and then questioned with suspension and curiosity by many in both the hetero and “gay” worlds. It is as if dressing the part of a “woman” means that I can’t possibly enjoy being with women in a sexual and romantic sense. I do not wear dresses and heels for men nor will I wear the misogynisticly referred to “beater” and buzz my head to appease a few of the dyke conformity police in queer lady land.
The above is similar to, but not as too harsh a degree, what I’ve experienced as a bisexual. Consistently having to defend my relationships, my attractions, and myself to the world is exhausting. I’ve had lesbians claim that I must be diseased and not really interested in dating a woman because I’ve been with men. Far too many men have asked me for threesomes simply because I’m bi because of course this equates porn star for a night. I’ve had to repeatedly proclaim that I am capable of monogamy if I so choose to commit to someone on that level. As we all know all those straight folks, gay men, and lesbians out there never, ever, EVER cheat on their partners. No sir-ee Bob! It’s just us dirty bisexuals that do that. Then there are the lovely assholes that say that we bis (I just love being called a “bi.”) are so depraved that we’ll fuck anything, including an animal. I recall many years ago hearing a straight “ally” say this at the home of a gay guy friend of mine. I was all of 21, new to Los Angeles and USC, and not yet sure of my own orientation. I remember being shocked at her blatant ignorance and cruelty while in the home of two gay men. It was just too ironic, not to mention damn dumb, considering this is the sort of verbiage that has been used against gay people by the religious right wing nut jobs of the world. Why on Earth would anyone think something so absurd about bisexuals? Oh to be bisexual in a biphobic world.
Bi erasure, discrimination, and hatred are such consistent problems in both the straight world and lesbian, gay, and even the trans world that I simply cannot drop the use of the word “Bi” as my identity marker in favor for “queer.” Until my attraction, behavior, and identity as a woman who has and will continue to fuck, date, and love women, men, and everyone else who falls in between is recognized, respected, and protected by law then I will continue to refer to myself as a bisexual, femme woman. Suck on that pride, bitches!
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So where are we now? Oh this is taking so much longer than I wanted. It’d be so much simpler if I were just a white, straight, rich, healthy, man. Then again if I were one of those things then I’d be too busy swimming in my pool of gold coins a la Scrooge McDuck to write a blog. Anyone else remember Ducktails? Such a great after-school cartoon.
Ahem. Moving along…
We’re onto the F word: Feminist. There are so many meanings, thoughts, perceptions, slang words (most of which aren’t positive), theories, and so forth about the dirty F. Being a feminist is not shameful. It is a source of strength, pride, and a healing process from the wounds created by the oppression we suffer.
I am a radical feminist. This sounds redundant to most people seeing as they think all feminists are radical, but we are not all created equal. We are no more the same than all women are the same. Needless to say I’ll spare you the feminist theory lesson (I can hook you up with some great book references if you’re interested though), but I do not see the end of sexism, patriarchy, and all other oppressive -isms unless we women take control and rebuild the system in our own best interests. We cannot sit idly by and hope that the system that was created by and for white, land owning, straight men will be the answer to the problems it has created for us. Women, more so than any other oppressed group, cannot afford to passively hope for change or to attempt change by negotiating with hostile forces, such as the ones that are running our world. Men in Congress who think it is their right to debate the definition of rape and worth of our bodies and lives are not men we can work alongside. We must find our inner strength and love of self to fight for our lives as feminists and as women. When women are lifted from the shackles of oppression then we are all unburdened from the markings scoured into our backs.
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Alright we’re left with fat, crazy, and grrrl. Good Goddess why didn’t I make my title shorter and have a less complicated life?
FAT: the other dirty F word.
Chubby. Curvy. BBW. Plump. Big boned. Chunky. Broad. Pudgy. Heavy. Voluptuous. Zaftig. Roly-Poly. Overweight. She has such a pretty face, too bad she’s….
These are just a few of the words that we use in our society to keep from saying “FAT.” Fat means lazy and gross. It means unhealthy, unworthy of love and respect, disgusting, uneducated, asexual, and indicates a lack of will power. Being FAT means one will face oppression and discrimination in every turn of their life: through the health care system, media, educational system, government, transportation, insurance companies, jobs, and people they encounter in life.
If you’re a FAT woman it means that you will constantly be told you are worthless. In the patriarchal society of America we women are still primarily valued for our ability to produce children. Under our social mores we must be married to do so. This means capturing a man. We must then conform to Western notions of beauty which happens to include being thin. We are told at every turn to use this diet product, get this surgery, take this pill, drink this shake, starve ourselves, slather this lotion on our cellulite, but be sure to be healthy and love ourselves all while doing this. Because remember ladies, confidence is sexy. Girl power!
One of the other tantalizing options as a FAT woman is to not do the above. FAT women can now be fetishized by men that call themselves “chubby chasers.” They are creepy, devaluing, and disrespectful. They treat FAT women as commodities to own and use just as men who chase skinny women do. Our bodies, not our entire beings, only are wanted, just our floating FAT bodies.
There are also the men that want to land themselves a “whale” so they can have the one time experience of a FAT woman. Then there are the delightful men that believe FAT women have low self-esteem so we must be so grateful to have them that we’ll do anything and everything to keep them, including taking their abuse. Many of these men will often say that FAT women give better head than skinny women. I suppose it’s because we have to work harder to keep a man than skinny women do or maybe it’s because we’re FAT so we must be shoving anything into our gaping mouths to eat at all times.
Sadly, the idiocy, hatred, and discrimination of FAT does not stop there. I have had doctors take one look at me and decide that my only health issue is my weight. They have had MRIs in front of them showing the various issues that are wrong with my knees, back, and neck and yet they refuse to acknowledge them because they simply do not like what they see. If they looked at my charts they would also see that for the last several years I have been on high doses of steroids and that my weight has gone up with each year in correlation to the steroid doses. I suppose if I had “will power” my body would just fight off the effects of steroids. If I weren’t fat then my herniated discs would magically pop into place, nerve pain and arthritis would disappear, and all the cartilage in my knees would grow back like fungus on a sweaty gym sock.
So who is the body that regulates doctors and health boards to look out for my best interests? The government, you say? The government launches campaign after campaign to end obesity. Their campaigns are never about ending improper nutrition in poor communities, strong subsidies to small farms, providing healthy breakfasts and lunches to all school children (did you know that many of our Republican politicians have tried to get such absurd foods as mustard and tomato sauce declared vegetables in order to appease the hot dog and pizza manufacturers for school lunch programs?), providing more funds to the WIC program, raising the pathetic monthly food stamps allotment to a payment that can actually purchase healthy food for a month, or bringing fresh and affordable produce into poorer urban neighborhoods (known as “food deserts”) or healthy food onto reservations. No, they’d rather hate on us FATTIES. It’s a national crisis that we have FAT people in the US. It’s not poverty, racism, sexism, colonialism, ableism, capitalism, free market, or classism that has led to the pathetic social welfare state that keeps the poor enslaved to the system and burdened with poor health, nor is it the continued growth of processed and factory farmed foods over natural and locally sourced and farmed foods. Nope, it’s none of that.
Despite all of this there has not been a single study that has found that weight is an indicator of health, with the exception of being under weight. It is simply prejudice that keeps people and institutions of power causing grave harm to us FAT folks. It’s all because they don’t like the way we look. How pathetic is that?
I could go on for days and days about this topic. I do not hate nor do I dislike my body or myself because I’m FAT. Due to my eating disorder I was once pretty skinny. I didn’t realize it at the time, because when I looked in the mirror I saw a very different woman looking back at me than I actually was. I look at pictures of me at my skinniest and I don’t exactly like what I see. I don’t like what I see of me at my heaviest either, but that’s because it’s related to my health issues. As my pain and illnesses became worse I had to be less active and had to take steroids and other drugs that happened to cause weight gain. The weight gain itself is not the issue. The weight gain is a visual symptom of the continual loss of my life due to my health problems.
FAT itself isn’t bad. We need FAT to live. While my current circumstances suck I’ll take my fuller breasts, round ass, and Santa gut any day over my bird neck, bony hips, and skinny face of my early 20s.
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Crazy. Well hell, crazy just sounds lyrically better in the title than Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder that was misdiagnosed for years as depression, general anxiety, then major depression, and then major anxiety with mild agoraphobia, and then bipolar disorder.
Part of me wishes like hell that I didn’t suffer from mental illness. The anguish I’ve gone through has been excruciating, but I’ve also suffered a great deal of trauma so I would have been in pain regardless. The mental illness simply made it more difficult to manage. On the other hand though I believe my illness has made more aware of and sensitive to people’s suffering. The deep levels of anguish that I have survived allow me to connect with others who suffer in ways that someone without mental illness may not be able to, or at least, less willing to. It’s almost as if I can sense what someone is feeling inside and I am able to feel with them. Knowing the wretchedness of sorrow, and how oppression often plays a large role in others’ torment, has shaped my morals and ethics and has driven me to fight for reproductive and social justice. I can’t fathom waking up tomorrow without my ability to emotionally sync with others. I would no longer feel human. I would no longer be me.
I believe my illness has had made me more observant, creative, intelligent, curious, and passionate. I would never want to lose these qualities.
As far as the world is concerned despite the diagnosis, condition, my treatment, and my well-being I’ll always be crazy. I might as well embrace it.
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Ahhh finally we’re at grrrl. We’re almost done. I’m amazed if you’ve hung in there with me, readers. Kudos to you if you have. I don’t know if I would have.
Grrrl is fabulous word from the Riot Grrrl movement and created by Bikini Kill. This very word corresponds with Postmodern Feminist Theory, but once again I’ll spare you the lesson. Instead I’ll give you a link to the manifesto that inspired the movement and this kick ass word: http://onewarart.org/riot_grrrl_manifesto.htm
When I’m angry and feeling the injustice of the world is crushing me I put on some Riot Grrrl music (love Rebel Girl and White Boy!), rage out, and remember that being a Grrrl is a source of raw, radical power. It means taking a battering ram to a rapist’s door when the law didn’t do its job. It means collectively blocking doors and picketing a business known for sexual harassment after a class action lawsuit was deemed unworthy of trial-I’m looking at you Wal-Mart. It means standing up for myself in every turn of the system to receive the care we need and deserve regardless of how exhausted, beaten down, and in pain we are, because WE fucking matter!
What All This =
These words are only part of who I am, but they represent a great deal to me, to individuals, and to society at large. I am cautious in how and where I use them and who with. This is my first public display of Injun, Fat, and Gimp.
I had no plans to create a tab and write an explanation of my word choices until I attended an event at the Fenway Community Health Center a few months ago. The event was a talk about the power of words and how they impact women. We were a rather diverse group of queer women which led to a great conversation.
It was during this event that I realized I used words in my blog that, dependent upon the circumstances, if used in reference to me, would send me into an unbridled rage. I knew at that moment that I had to sit down and write an explanation behind my use of words and my identities themselves.
I hope this has created more awareness around issues, shined more light into the cavernous depths that your authoress contains, and entertained you during your work day or other such work that you may be putting off.
Jen, the crazy, bi, fat, femme, white Injun feminist, gimpy grrrl
Love you like a sister always
Soul sister, Rebel girl
Come and be my best friend
Will you Rebel girl?
I really like you
I really wanna be your best friend
Be my Rebel girl
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”