This blog is a part of a campaign by the University of York’s LGBTQ Network to explore and expose the sorts of invalidation and erasure queer people experience, not only from cishet people but also from other members of the LGBTQA+ community
(Just putting this around again, as term just started and we’re going to use the stories collected here soon as part of a campaign)
75 years ago, on this date, Billie Holiday recorded a song that Time Magazine would call song of the century: Strange Fruit, a song written about a lynching in the South.
Holiday first performed the song at Cafe Society in 1939. She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece making it a regular part of her live performances. Because of the poignancy of the song, Josephson drew up some rules: Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday’s face; and there would be no encore. During the musical introduction, Holiday would stand with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer.
i have cried so much in the last 24 hours i am dehydrated
also first time today i drove into town on my own and didnt freeze to death from anxiety, i was actually pretty cool throughout.
but then i turned down a shift for tonight, like 4 hours notice for a 12 hour night shift (which would also be my first) when i have been awake since 6 am and my mom goes all “i am disappointed, you will never make anything of yourself this way, you have to try harder, what is wrong with you, i really worry about you” on me like wtf
While Johansson’s first Marvel appearance in Iron Man 2 may have relied somewhat upon sex appeal, this was quickly nixed in favor of characterizing her as the most cerebral Avenger. Her most important scenes in The Avengers relied upon her intelligence and skills as a spy, to the extent that she even managed to outwit Loki, the God of Lies. At the end of the movie, she’s the one who closes the portal that let all the aliens into New York. Then in Winter Soldier she’s given second billing to Captain America, a meaty role that showcases a wide-ranging skillset that stretches far beyond just “kicking ass.” At no point during any of these movies does she seduce anyone, by the way.
Sadly, there’s very little sign of this character in the most easily accessible reviews of both The Avengers and Winter Soldier. Judging by the Guardian, WSJ, or New Yorker, Black Widow is more like a blow-up doll with a black belt. By their logic, if she’s wearing a tight outfit, then she must be a sexy ass-kicker, meaning that she must be the token female character, and therefore is little more than eye candy.
With that thought process in mind, it must make perfect sense to relegate Black Widow to a single sniggering comment about her catsuit, because obviously Scarlett Johansson is just there for decoration. And if you’ve read in the New York Times that Black Widow is a token female character, then chances are you’ll have internalized that opinion before you even buy a ticket. The feedback loop of misogynist preconceptions continues on, and in the end, we all lose out.
“Women are told it is unfeminine and gross to have muscles and to cultivate strength, which in turn leads them to actively avoid doing things that will build muscles and strength, which then makes them even less capable of doing things that require strength, which the critics then use as proof of women’s inherent physical frailty. And so the cycle continues…”—
And I always want to point out here: women, on average, possess more lower-body strength, while men, on average, possess more upper-body strength. There’s a lot of overlap and it isn’t always individually applicable, but that’s the generalization, averaging across the population.
But we SOCIALLY value upper-body strength, and upper-body muscles. So we construct women as weaker, because we refuse to measure them on the body parts where they may be stronger, we devalue those.
Lifting is mostly done with the legs. So women may be as good or better at heavy lifting as men. But we socially construct lifting as having to do with large, muscular arms and chests. You don’t really need powerful arms and chests to lift—you need powerful thighs, otherwise you’re gonna throw your back out. We actually lie about what makes a person strong and capable to favor men.
Push-up and pull-ups are upper-body strength exercises. So they’re socially valued. The military doesn’t tell you to do 20 squats as penance. No one is fucking impressed by all the squats you can do. Squats just sound stupid, hah, squats. We laugh at them because women might be better at them than men, on average. They’re worthless.
This stuff plays into all sorts of other body image problems, too. The body weight that’s regarded as ideal for women, for example, is really only achievable for individuals suffering from mild to moderate muscular atrophy. You literally can’t get there just by shedding fat - you also have to let your muscles waste away. We actually regard it as “normal” for a woman to be suffering from muscular atrophy.
In addition to having more natural lower body strength, women have a higher natural tolerance for pain and discomfort, and actually have more natural endurance because of this. As a matter of fact, women are optimally built for many types of strenuous physical activity, especially activities that require endurance like hiking or long-distance running. (Think about it—women have more natural fat reserves, lower centers of gravity, strong, short legs, and are also usually used to managing pain because of periods and other female-specific occurrences.)