Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A letter to myself as I embark on another Whole30

Dear Thu,

This is a letter to the future you.

There will come a time... and we're not sure when that time will be - it could be in two weeks or even merely two days from your starting date... when you will feel like you can't do this. There will come a time when you've had a particularly bad day or you didn't get enough sleep or you forgot to prep your vegetables ahead of time, and you will feel like throwing up a YOLO sign and buying a dollar cheeseburger.

Before you do that, come back and read this letter. Read this letter and REMEMBER.

Remember the horrific stomach pains.

Remember the heaviness in your limbs, the feeling like you can't even make it to the end of the hallway.

Remember waking up dizzy and nauseous from whatever junk you ate the night before.

Remember eating too much gluten and having really annoying allergy symptoms hours later.

Remember the disappointment you feel every time you get tired after running at a really slow pace for only a minute and a half. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, but you HAVE done better.)

But also... remember how great you felt that time you ran a mile in under 11 minutes for the first time because your body was functioning efficiently and the weight loss meant that your body could move faster?

Remember feeling like you could attack the day and nothing could bring you down?

Remember all those cute clothes you bought that are now unworn in your closet because you put the weight back on?

Remember how good strawberries tasted after you adjusted to not eating excess sugar, and it was like being REBORN?

Remember what it felt like to be proud of yourself, instead of ashamed (and not just because of how you look, but because you were able to DO more)? Remember when people used to call you a badass?

Remember what it felt like NOT to be sick all the time?

Remember all these things. And then don't buy the cheeseburger. Go make some eggs and spinach instead. You can't go wrong with eggs and spinach.

Past and Present Thu

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Whitewashing in Hollywood

I was reading an article about the Jem & the Holograms movie, because I'm curious about it (I liked the tv show when I was a kid), and there were some complaints about the choice of actress for Shana because on the show, she was dark-skinned with natural hair (in style/texture, not the dyed-purple part), and the actress they cast is mixed race and quite light skinned.

Here, see for yourself:

Shana is on the far left

Lower left, Aurora Perrineau will play Shana in the movie
So, there were people who expressed their dismay in the comments to the article.

And then I saw this:


First of all, you didn't hear anyone complaining?

Second of all, I'm sure that Perrineau truly earned the role and that she will do a great job (I've never actually seen her act before, so I don't really know), but as I like to tell people, context matters. This one instance of casting a lighter-skinned actress instead of a darker-skinned actress may not be a big deal on its own, but there is a long, long, LONG history of lighter-skinned actors being cast in roles where the characters are supposed to be darker-skinned, or actors who are white being cast in roles where the characters are supposed to be PoC (aka, racebending - here's another really recent example), and as someone who has spent almost my entire life never seeing anyone on tv or in movies that looked like me, I just have to say that there is a major, major difference between the two situations.

This figure is from the racebending link above:

As far as I know, this only tallies up the percentage of lead roles. This doesn't say anything about whether these lead roles were accurate, nuanced, complex, etc, or if they were ridiculously shallow, relying on or perpetuating stereotypes, etc.

The truth is, you guys, that PoC do not get a fair shake. When we look at the history of film and television, there are LOTS of white roles, some of them beautifully complex, portraying the entire spectrum of human behavior and morality, and that's pretty cool. But when it comes to non-white roles, the amount that exist, first of all, is startlingly small, and there are so many of them that are so lazily written that it's upsetting (if they even get to speak). But... that's what it means to be part of the privileged group. I could make the same comparison between male roles and female roles. (And of course, when race and gender intersect, what you get is that the number of well-written roles for women of color compared to the number of well-written white male roles is... depressingly bleak.)

So, the fact that Michael B. Jordan got cast as the Human Torch is awesome. There was no reason why the character needed to be played by a white actor (plot-wise), and the positive effect of seeing a black man playing a superhero has the potential to ripple through generations, giving millions of kids the chance to go to a movie theatre and see a badass good guy who looks like them. And of course, that means they get to imagine themselves as heroes too. (Why did I never aspire to be a Disney princess? Because I never saw any Disney princesses that looked like me when I was growing up, so I figured I didn't count.)

The fact that Lupita Nyong'o is the featured actress on People Magazine's beautiful people issue? There are probably girls out there who look like her who are just NOW hearing for the first time that the way they look is considered beautiful, because our beauty industry values lighter complexions to the point that you can buy products to bleach your skin.

Again, I'm not saying Aurora Perrineau will do a bad job, and I'm not questioning her status as a PoC or anything like that, and I'm not saying that we should sacrifice the quality of a performance for aesthetics. (Could I imagine anyone else playing Katniss other than Jennifer Lawrence at this point? No, because she is AMAZING in that role.) I am not complaining about the actress at all, and I am looking forward to seeing the movie when it's finished.

What I AM saying is that when Hollywood whitewashes a character, it's a missed opportunity to increase visibility for races that are already so ignored (or misrepresented) in pop culture and the media. It's yet another missed opportunity on top of pile after pile after pile of missed opportunities to give us regular people the opportunity to see ourselves being represented in entertainment and pop culture.

You cannot separate these instances of racebending into individual events without looking at the societal and political circumstances that led to them, and you certainly can't separate them from the consequences they will have. There is no such thing as "just this once" because it's not just this one time... it's the weight of EVERY time, building and building.

Context matters. History matters.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sephora haul! Palettes from Kat Von D: Esperanza, Monarch, and Chrysalis

Sephora recently had their big springtime Beauty Insider/VIB/VIB Rouge sale, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to pick up KVD's new summer mega-palettes, Monarch and Chrysalis, and her spring palette, Esperanza.

Here's a quick look and some swatches (done with fingers, on bare skin). They are all sturdy, magnetized cardboard (like Sugarpill's palettes), with generous mirrors and KVD's signature artwork on the packaging (which I love!)

First, the Esperanza palette: It's funny to me that it was a springtime release, considering how the colors are so summery to me. It's absolutely beautiful though - with two mattes, two shimmers, three sparklies, and one iridescent/duochrome transformer shade. All pigmented and butter soft.

I'm pretty much in love with the entire palette, and can't wait to mess around with Dayglo.

The Monarch palette is a total winner, if you like warmer palettes. Like its counterpart, the Chrysalis palette, it has three light-to-medium base shades and nine additional eye shadows, and it seems to be sectioned off into thirds: the left third is colorful; the center third is more mid-range neutral; and the right third is great for a smokey eye. (Of course, you can use them in any combination you want, but it struck me that the colors were set up this way for a reason.) Obviously it is HUGE compared to her True Romance palettes, which have eight eyeshadows. However, these don't come with an eyeliner, but I'm okay with that.

This one was also super soft and very pigmented, and it's a healthy mix of finishes.

Chrysalis is the cooler-toned palette of the two. I didn't think it stacked up quite so well, as I found Hybrid Moments and Mezzanine (the two purple shades on the left) to be a bit dry/patchy. Mezzanine, which has some glitter to it, felt a little gritty. Lucid, the pink shade on the right, also felt a little on the dry side. They weren't bad, but compared to all of the other shades in the palette (as well as the palettes above, and any of her other palettes lately), I was a smidge disappointed. Especially since I love purples and pinks.

FYI, the two black shades are different when you look at them side-by-side. Tornay is definitely a cooler, blue-toned black whereas Deadhead (in the Monarch palette) is more of a brown-black. Glasswing is actually quite pigmented, but it's hard to tell in the photo because it's so close to my skin color.

Overall, I think KVD has really, really stepped it up with her palettes over the years, and I'm always excited to see what she comes up with next. I'm super happy I picked these up (and even happier that I had the 15% discount to use on them).

Friday, April 11, 2014

FINALLY: 30 Things, Item 26: A tattoo to commemorate my first marathon

I had LOTS and LOTS of running tattoo ideas, some very large and convoluted. In the end, this is what I went with - the elevation profile for the Morgan Hill Marathon, which was my first marathon. (I'm now working on preparing for my third.)

The whole experience of training for and then running my first marathon was a really huge deal for me (as you may know, since I posted about it on my blog), and I think there is a lot of metaphorical resonance in these hills and in marathoning in general - the grueling difficulty, the ups and downs, the importance of being mentally strong in addition to physically strong. Those miles took a lot out of me, but they gave me back something too - the knowledge that I COULD finish a marathon. (And I've even finished another one since then.)

This experience is something that will be forever inked in my brain, and now it's inked on my arm too, where I can see it every day, and when I have moments of self-doubt, moments when I think to myself, "I can't," I can look at it and remind myself that I HAVE.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Like a girl? LIKE A BOSS.

Does my gender make my muscles look fat? *twirls hair*
As a female, I am constantly inundated with messages both subtle and overt about how my body is supposed to look. All the voices fighting for space inside my head become exhausting and even toxic.

Don't be fat, be thin; no, don't be thin, be strong; strong is the new skinny. Be strong, but don't be muscular. Work out like a man, but don't look like one; be feminine and pretty instead. Be a real woman. Real women have curves, but they should be boob-and-hip curves; they can't be curves of fat. Don't be fat.

And these expectations start early, right? As a girl, I was expected to be mild-mannered and well-behaved. I had a lot of dolls and art sets, but never any sports equipment (aside from a bike or skates). It's ingrained pretty early on that females are supposed to look a certain way and behave a certain way, and that deviating from the norm is baaaaad. And unfortunately for me, I was never "normal," EVER, if you take into consideration the fact that I can put on fat and muscle very easily.

It took me a really, really long time to start thinking of my body in terms of what it can do, rather than how it looks. The truth is, friends, that you are so much MORE than your looks. Your body is more than its appearance - it's a living, breathing machine that functions and IT CAN DO STUFF, pretty awesome stuff like (in my case) running marathons and playing roller derby and having a baby.

It's a uniquely female experience, being valued for your looks rather than your abilities and skills, and not in a good way. I'm not saying that men aren't judged by their appearance, but men are so rarely judged by ONLY that. Women are so often reduced to just their appearance, with beauty (someone else's standard of beauty) being emphasized to the extreme, to the point of devaluing physical and mental health, and that's what I've been tossing around in my head today - the fact that society really f***s us over when it comes to our bodies and our health.

Today I read this article (does it even DESERVE the categorization of "article"?) called "Is Spinning Making You Fat?", and it's so headshakingly stupid that it doesn't even deserve my anger. Essentially, it's cautioning readers against doing too much spinning lest it make your legs bigger:

Says celebrity trainer David Kirsch, "If you have a predisposition to bulking in your lower half, Spinning can make your butt and quads bigger." Adds Rebecca Battista, an associate professor of exercise science at Appalachian State University, "Those are the muscles you're using. Some cyclists get really big thighs."

I can understand if you're a model and you've hired your trainer to make sure that you maintain the physique you need to make a living (no matter how I feel about that particular physique being the standard), but this article is extremely problematic in that it categorizes being fat as a bad thing (but of course, how could we expect them to say otherwise? It's a fashion magazine), and that it equates being muscular with being fat.

If you're an avid spinner, your legs are getting bigger because of muscle, not fat. And the last time I checked, muscle is 1) not the same as fat, and 2) a good thing! If your body is responding to spinning by putting on muscle, you're doing it RIGHT. You're seeing results! But no, according to this article, muscular legs are BAD. One of the women named in the article stopped spinning "to let the muscles atrophy" to get her legs back to their nice, lean shape. That is a direct quote from the article - I'm not embellishing. The article cites a woman who was doing a great job at an activity she liked, but she gave it up and let her muscles atrophy because she wanted to meet a particular standard of female beauty rather than letting her body be its natural, strong self, and this magazine is condoning it. Let that sink in a minute. (I'll wait.)

Now put that article on the backburner, and check out this blog post: Women's difficulty with pullups is about more than biology, in which Camille of Fit and Feminist debunks the idea that women are just not meant to do pullups:

Few things have made me cringe in recent memory like the flood of commentary that greeted the Marine Corps’ revelation that 55 percent of its female recruits could not meet the new standard of three pull-ups when tested at the end of boot camp. 

 I’ve read one comment section on this story and that was plenty. I am pretty sure I’ve had enough “see? we told you women were genetically inferior weaklings suited only for making me a sandwich” bullshit to fill my tank well into the next decade.

All of the research she's read essentially proves that, with proper training, women can in fact do pullups. More than three, even! (And this is something I already knew because, hello, CrossFit!)

She continues:

So what’s the big issue here? If women are capable of doing pull-ups, then why are so few of us actually able to do them? 

Well, I tend to have the same line of thought whenever we talk about female physical strength, which is that we live in a culture that has glamorized and sexualized female weakness, and so any analysis about the physical limitations of female bodies has got to take that into consideration or else it is worthless. (This is the thesis of The Frailty Myth by Colette Dowling, by the way.) 

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.

Let that sink in along with the first article, and then put that on the backburner too.

Now: a few weeks ago, I watched the following clip of Mythbusters in which they try to debunk the concept of "throwing like a girl." Go ahead, watch it. It's good:

They tested males and females of four different age groups, and then decided to RE-test them, making them throw with their non-dominant arm because it was the only way to correct for the inherent cultural bias towards males - in general, boys are taught early on how to play catch ("playing catch is usually a boys' game") and they've had a lot more time, practice, and encouragement to do well at throwing and catching than girls. Of course there are always exceptions, but there's enough of a bias there that they had to account for it as a scientific variable, and once they did, they found that there isn't any profound difference between the way males and females "naturally" throw. Fancy that.

Women CAN do pullups, just like men can. Women CAN throw just as well as men. 

Women CAN. But a lot of the time? We DON'T. Because so often we're told that we can't and we're told that we shouldn't. We're expected to exercise so that we're not fat, but not so much that we become strong. Women in our society who are strong and muscular are considered manly and unfeminine and subject to questions about their sexuality. And then we're told by people who are eager to preserve the male position of privilege that men are MEANT to be the dominant ones, that historically they're the hunters and providers and women are the fairer sex and meant to support the men, and then you have all the people who are insistent that Chloie Jonsson not be allowed to compete against other women even though she is mentally, physically, emotionally, legally a woman, because of some misguided belief that all the other women in CrossFit can't stack up to her just because she happened to have male parts when she was born, even though there are plenty of cis women in CrossFit who could obliterate a large portion of the the cis male competitors as well as Chloie herself. 

Hooray, status quo! Keeping women weak since FOREVER!

So let's not accept this BS, okay? Let's NOT let our muscles atrophy - let's build them up even stronger. Let's be our best selves, whatever that means for you and your body. We are trying to fight back from under an enormous weight - let's not add more to our burden. As the quote goes, "Well-behaved women rarely make history." So let's make history and keep chipping away at the status quo. 

And let's continue to rock the booty shorts. Because I worked hard for my bulging thighs, dammit.

*ADDENDUM, 4/11/14*

Maybe my brain is broadcasting on some universe-wide frequency, or maybe I'm just incredibly consistent in my choice of Internet browsing, but since writing this blog post, two more things popped up on my radar that go along with what I've been saying here.

1. This is an old blog post (from 2006), but I just saw it for the first time yesterday. I think this quote sums it up rather well:

Now, this may seem strange from someone who writes about pretty dresses (mostly) every day, but: You Don't Have to Be Pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female".

2. And this video from Hank Green (vlogbrothers) was just posted today (Friday),

in which Hank addresses his concern about how, in our society, so many females measure their self-worth by how attractive males find them, and in typical Green brother styles, he recaps all these various historical standards of beauty with the point of demonstrating how arbitrary beauty (physical beauty) really is. "You exist for your sake!" he says, not for anyone else.

So, unless it's your job (in which case, I have no advice for you), you don't owe it to anyone but yourself to "look good." And even then, don't you owe it to yourself more to be happy and healthy (again, whatever "healthy" is for you personally), and to make your own decisions about your appearance rather than letting society dictate that for you?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Comparisons: Urban Decay Electric Palette vs. Sugarpill eye shadows

In case you already own a bunch of Sugarpill and are trying to decide about the UD Electric palette (or the reverse), here are some swatches I did. I tried to find the closest Sugarpill shades I could for each UD shade (and I do own the entire line except for one, which I know for a fact doesn't match anything in the palette). Since Sugarpill obviously has more shades, assume that if I didn't swatch it, then it didn't even come close.

Swatched using my fingers on bare skin.

Verdict: Pretty similar. Well, with a shimmery, sparkly bright silver, there are only so many ways you can go

Verdict: PRETTY close. Afterparty is a bit more blue than Gonzo, but just a smidge. Probably not a big enough difference to matter to the average person.

Verdict: Nothing similar. You could probably create a Slowburn-like shade by mixing Love+ and Flamepoint, but you may or may not be into that.

Verdict: REALLY REALLY similar. Love Buzz, one of the ElektroCutes, has sparkle to it, but otherwise, it's pretty much the same base shade of pink all around.

Verdict: Fringe is lighter/brighter than Starling (which I didn't do a good job of swatching). It's also got more of a sheen to it, whereas Starling is pretty much just sparkly. The other Sugarpill teals had more green, so I didn't bother.

Verdict: Pretty similar all around. Royal Sugar has sparkle to it, of course, but again, just like with Savage, it's the same blue base. (I did take a gander at Sugarpill's Hellatronic in comparison, and it's FAR more purpley, so I didn't bother retaking the photo.)

Verdict: Nothing super close. Jilted is more purpley than Magentric, which is the closest thing I could find (but wasn't identical or anything).

Verdict: Nothing close here either. Poison Plum is redder and more matte, and the two loose shadows weren't nearly close.

Verdict: Tipsy is pretty close, but it's not as bright. Absinthe is a bit more yellow.

Verdict: Nothing remotely close. It's too yellow to match any of the greens, and obviously too green to match either of the two yellows (which I didn't bother swatching). I tacked on Fringe again to see if it matched either of the other two, but not so much.

So, only you can decide for yourself if you need multiple bright shades, but hopefully this helped you with your decision-making a little. Also keep in mind that if you're new to brights and are just learning to experiment, then a palette would be a good way to go if you want more shades in smaller amounts, whereas Sugarpill's products are all full-size (even their palettes), but if you only want a couple of shades, then that may be a better choice.

Note that I haven't even TRIED to compare UD's Electric palette shades against their existing eye shadow line. They have SO MANY that I bet there are quite a few shades that are really similar to each other...

Happy makeupping!

Pause and reflect

I haven't written a blog post in almost a year. I've had a lot of stuff happen, some good and some bad, and I could've written a...