Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If You Have Big Boobs, That Means You're A...

... woman with big boobs.  That's all.  Crazy how that works, isn't it?  Yet everyday I hear stories about women- young and old- getting called names, bullied, shamed, and even touched inappropriately just for having large busts.  I'll only say this once: breast size tells you nothing about a woman's personality or lifestyle.

I recently shared a story from my middle school days on my Facebook page (shameless plug: if you like my blog, go check it out!):

A group of my friends went to a lake house. We had planned to just hang out and perhaps make s'mores there, but a couple of us spontaneously decided to go swimming. Everyone jumped in the lake after them with their clothes on. I did too, without giving it a second thought. As soon as we got out, the mother of one of the boys (whom I'll call "Jane Doe") marched up to me, pulled me aside, and absolutely lit into me, saying that I was "giving these boys the wrong idea" and "this isn't a wet t-shirt contest." I was 13 and among some of my best friends. None of the other girls got this lecture from Jane. I was mortified. 

I was subsequently the only one wearing a one-piece (looked just like this!) at the end-of-year party.
A friend said I was "brave" for going against the grain.
I just thought, "Yeah.  That's what I was going for.  Brave.  
Not 'Cover myself in blue material and hope no one notices me.'"

Having done some growing up since then, I'd like to put down what I wish I would have had the maturity (and sarcasm) to say to Jane:

Dear Jane, 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but... (deep breath)... if your sons are ever out in public, they might end up looking at a girl with large breasts.  Oh, the shock!  The horror!  It's a pretty natural thing for a lot of boys, especially ones going through that wonderful time that is puberty, to do.  Most men do have a genetic predisposition to notice certain things about women, one of which I'm sure is breast size.  That's why you, the parent, teach them self-control.  You teach them that they shouldn't "get the wrong idea"* about a girl because she has a big chest.  You don't imply that there's something wrong with the girl for having it.

Singling me out from other girls at the lake- all of whom also had wet t-shirts at the time, I might add- was wrong.  It made me feel like a freak, which I wasn't.  I was a normal, shy, awkward girl with a larger-than-average chest for my age.  You were basically telling me that because of that chest, my body was relegated to pornographic material.  If you saw it like that, that was your problem and not a problem with my body.  You made me feel ashamed of my body when it's the only one I'm ever going to get.  Doesn't a 13-year-old usually have enough to feel insecure about?

I would say that I'm very sorry that my breasts offended you with their existence, but I'm not.  

The Absurd (Now Enjoying Being) Curvy Nerd

*I still think this is a really strange euphemism.  "I thought you were a Gemini," could be the wrong idea.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Women Aren't Required to be Your Idea of "Perfect."

We often hear about how fat shaming is horrible (it is) and how shaming naturally thin women is also horrible (it is).  What isn't addressed as often is the awful reality that we've rapidly become a culture in which no one seems to see a problem with judging women for merely having any type of body.  It isn't just a plus-size vs. model-thin issue.  It isn't just men doing the judging.   I think one problem is that people don't understand when it is and when it is not appropriate to bring up personal preferences, especially online. If you like shorter, muscular women, by all means, date/marry/live with/look at a shorter, muscular woman.  Tell that woman that you appreciate her height and her muscles.

Image from Dove.

Just remember: to compliment one of these women, you don't have to put the others down.
If you don't want to say something positive, you don't have to comment at all.

Posting the comment "I prefer shorter, more muscular women" on a picture of a woman who is tall and not muscular really only sends the message "I think all women need to be what I consider perfect in order to exist."  It doesn't contribute anything meaningful to the conversation, makes you sound just a tad conceited, and you don't gain anything by it, so why make that comment?  If your comeback is "because I can" or "I have the right to express my opinion," please go back and read why I'm tired of people using that as an excuse to be rude, cruel, or offensive.

Let's not pretend that it is only men who see women's bodies as objects to be scrutinized, either.  Women are doing it too.  Women can be even harsher on other women (I get the feeling that this is due to their own insecurities). A woman once asked me what size I wore to get an idea of what size jacket to buy her daughter-in-law.  When I told her that I wore a 2 in the jacket she was holding, but it did pull across the chest, she said, "I can see it might.  You don't look like a 2, though."  Then she proceeded to tell me all about how her own daughter was "petite and slender and wears a 4" and how I was probably wearing the wrong sizes and how bad it looks when people are "too big for their clothes."  I was so taken aback by this woman's need to comment on a stranger's body that I just blinked at her, shrugged and walked away.

Image from: disney.wikia.com.

"Too extremely proportioned"
"Weird small feet"
"Need less makeup."
We even judge imaginary women now.

A coworker later said that I "shouldn't complain about it, because I was so tiny and Jacket Lady probably meant that I looked smaller than a 2."  I was startled, firstly because I certainly hadn't intended to complain. I was laughing about it: Had I missed the memo reminding everyone about "National Judge Others by Arbitrary Numbers Day"?  In my closet, I have clothes in five different sizes!  Who on earth fits into one size in every store?!  Secondly, because shouldn't women of any size and shape be able to complain about complete strangers commenting on their appearance without being dismissed?!  The mere fact that another woman was shrugging it off made me incredibly sad and more than a little upset when I reflected on it.  I know that I do not fit everyone's definition of attractive/perfect.  Just because I might fit some people's definition doesn't mean I don't have insecuritieseither.  We will never be everyone's ideal.  That's a given.  But it isn't necessary for all of the people who find us less than ideal to tell us that.  Yet somehow it is becoming more and more acceptable for them to do so.

How do we fight this phenomenon?  Well, we can start by not treating it as "to be expected" or "normal."  We can show some female solidarity and not do this to other women.  We can stop accepting the judgment of certain women's bodies if they "open themselves up to it" by wearing certain clothes or by simply being a public figure like many female celebrities.  It is never OK.  It is unacceptable.  And it boggles my mind that some people do not see how incredibly egotistical and awful it is to tell a woman that she is not their idea of perfect.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Pettifoggery."

Yes, it's that time again!  Today's word is "pettifoggery," a noun that means either quibbling over trivia or the use of rhetoric, sophisms and pettiness by a legal practitioner.

"Red questions are best!"
"No, green questions are best!"

Their argument about whether Aristotle was more influential than Plato devolved into mere pettifoggery, ending with everyone arguing about what types of sandals were best in hot weather.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Song of Ice and Fire: Favorite Female Characters.

Edit: I can't get the spoilers that affect the plot fully blacked out; I will continue trying.  I'm going to try not to use too many spoilers, though. I do welcome comments, so if you want to ask or say something specific, please write "S/A" before your comment.  Thanks!

Image from www.fanpop.com.

Perhaps it's just my perception- though I think many would agree with me- but female characters in fantasy novels and movies often seem one-dimensional and sometimes merely there for the "hotness factor."  So I was pleasantly surprised when I read A Song of Ice and Fire and watched the Game of Thrones series.  Yes, many of the actors and actresses are typically good-looking, but then so are their characters, and they play their parts well.  What I love is that George R. R. Martin gave unique personalities (both bad and good) to his female characters in ASoIaF, and I think that is why the story works better on TV than a lot of book-to-film adaptations.  The characters aren't solely defined by their looks, even when/if their looks do play a part, and it lends strength to the narrative.

Below are my top three favorite female characters:

#3: Sansa Stark

I know, I know, many of you are thinking "What?  Sansa's a hateful little spoiled brat."  Most of my thoughts about Sansa, especially about her ultra-femininity, are actually well summed up by the post In Defense of Sansa Stark (S/A) on the blog Feminist Fiction. Yes, she was a brat... at first.  However, in Game of Thrones, she's also a freaking 11 year old girl.  She had little experience dealing with the world beyond Winterfell.  She was fanciful and naive.   I think her growing up, with the rose-colored glasses coming off, is one of the more interesting, nuanced story lines.  Sansa might be capable of lying to protect those to whom she feels she owes something- which unfortunately included Joffrey in GoT- but she thought that was the worst she could expect from others as well.  She couldn't fathom that others would hurt or kill because of lies, because she wouldn't.

"Please tell me I didn't think that."

Sansa's awful mistake was that she gave her loyalty and trusted too freely.  She had the romantic notion that a prince should cater to his betrothed, so when she denounced her father as a traitor to prove herself to Joffrey and Queen Cersei, she likely expected him to be stripped of his title or exiled, not beheaded. She realized her mistake.  She matured.  She knows better.  Now she has learned how to stay alive to fight another day, which in Westeros is quite an achievement in and of itself.

#2: Olenna Tyrell

Ah, the Queen of Thorns.  She might not get much "screen time," (I haven't seen all of the GoT TV series yet(!!)- I just know she didn't in A Storm of Swords), but she is extremely entertaining.  In some places I have seen Olenna Tyrell referred to as the "Dowager Countess of Westeros."

"Deary me.  And possibly Lawks."*

Like Maggie Smith's character on Downton Abbey, she does indeed have a sharp wit and is definitely not someone you want as an enemy.   She tries to protect the innocent and those she loves, but she is not blind to faults, even calling her own son an "oaf" for the way he handles playing the game of thrones. She tries to keep Sansa safe by marrying her off to her grandson to get her away from King's Landing, a plot foiled by the Lannisters marrying her off to Tyrion.   She thinks rulers would be better off listening to their mothers and not constantly bickering.  And of course, if the only thing you know about her is that she had a role in Joffrey's death, you probably like her.

And my favorite female character...

#1:  Brienne of Tarth.

Brienne is a very, very good warrior.  This alone does not make me like her, but the dedication she shows to her chosen profession does.  She tries to live by traditional, honorable knightly standards, even though she is often told that most knights are far from honorable.  In many ways, she is the polar opposite of Sansa's GoT character.  She is considered both unattractive, even ugly, by many. People have to be kind and generous to her to earn her loyalty.  I actually like the fact that she is depicted as insecure and wanting acceptance.  I don't mean that I like it when people have those feelings, but that side of her character makes it extremely easy to relate to her, even if you're not a morningstar-wielding bad-ass.  When she is asked by Catelyn Stark to escort Jaime to King's Landing to free Arya and Sansa, both of whom she thinks are prisoners there, I think Jaime sees in her a better person than he could ever be.  Possibly, he sees the kind of knight that he could have been in another life.

At least, I hope he does.  It's hard to say with a Lannister.

Brienne has the ability to inspire loyalty in others, and you find yourself wanting her to use that ability.  I just hope that she hasn't been influenced by un-Cat.  I know that Brienne was loyal to Catelyn, but Catelyn's zombie's actions have proven that she (it?) doesn't deserve loyalty, and even if I haven't come to like Jaime, I don't want Brienne to kill him on un-Cat's orders.  Brienne has qualities that are so much more valuable than looks: honesty, determination, and unwavering loyalty once gained, and I really want her to continue being a good person.  I also like that when people get to know her, they don't find her ugly anymore.  True ugliness is on the inside.

Do you agree with any of these?  Who are your favorite female characters in ASoIaF?

*The Terry Pratchett reference seemed to fit so well; I didn't want to waste the opportunity.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Mellifluous."

Ah, another Thursday, another word.  Today's word is "mellifluous," an adjective meaning musical or pleasant to hear.  It literally means "like honey," and is usually used to describe a person's voice.

Alternate definition:

Image from: http://www.rickmanistareview.com

Somehow he manages it even with a bad fake German accent.

The witch's voice was mellifluous and soothing, making it difficult to believe that the spell she was reciting was an evil incantation.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Apples to Oranges: Tired of the Squabbling.

Mr. Nerd dislikes Apple.  He doesn't like how much their products cost, specific things about their operating system, their marketing techniques, what he calls their "sue-happy" business model, or that you have to jailbreak their phones to unlock them.

Another person I know loves Apple.  She says their products are easy to use, good for photo and video editing and other media-related work, and she has found them extremely reliable.  Also, yes, they do look nice, and that is a valid reason if it's not the only reason.

Who is right?  This might sound like sacrilege to many a nerd, but you know what?  I don't actually care.

"Now let's both say we're sorry and shake hands like grown-ups."

Both of them have different technology needs and preferences.  You can compare specs all you want; some people just find using certain cell phones, tablets, etc. more enjoyable.  Yes, there is a subset of Apple fans taking their enthusiasm to excessive levels, but I know some Samsung users who cling just as tightly to their devices as "anti-Apple" symbols.  What people often fail to realize is that these are mindsets; they don't directly correspond to product quality.

I don't use Apple products almost solely because of the cost (and because Mr. Nerd and I share most of our devices, so it makes sense to purchase what he will enjoy using as well).   If someone said "But it's worth the money," I'd have to disagree just because I've never had any problems with my non-Apple phones, mp3 players, and laptops, have liked using them, and don't see the point of paying more.  I'm certain that a few people on both sides of the "Apple vs. Non-Apple" debate would somehow make this statement into a long argument about how I'm not a "tech person" and explain in detail how whichever product they use is actually best, which I find rather amusing.  I'm not claiming to have loads of experience, but I know when my laptop/phone/other is doing what I need and want it to do.  So I usually don't buy Apple for those reasons.  If other people have had a bad experience with other brands or simply prefer Apple and have the money to spend, more power to them.  

Remember; everyone could still be lugging cassette players around.

As consumers, shouldn't we worry about what technology fits our individual lifestyles best rather than what logo is stamped on it?  Does this have to be so divisive?  You don't have to be an "Apple person" or a "Samsung person" or an "Android person" or a "Linux person" or dedicate yourself to any single brand name or operating system if you don't want to.  Why don't we just say "No" to putting people in crazy, neat little boxes according to what brand of phone they use?

I say go ahead- be a rebel; buy an iPhone and a Samsung computer... or don't buy either and get whatever appeals to you!  I'm not saying that we all need to gather around a campfire and sing "Kumbaya" together and never disagree, but can't we stop the petty fighting for one moment?

In the end, in the immortal words of Gus Portokalos, "We all different, but in the end, we all fruit."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Autohagiographer."

Happy Thursday!  Today's word is "autohagiographer," a noun referring to a person who writes about his or her life accomplishments in a smug or self-aggrandizing way.

Everyone has those crazy relatives who become autiohagiographers every Christmas and send lengthy letters detailing all of their major accomplishments over the past year instead of just sending a card.

Sometimes I think if a "season's greetings" letter is over a page long, 
you should be able to return to sender with this attached. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Art (and Science!) of Baking.

I recently made a cake in the shape of a flower pot for a family member's birthday, using chocolate cake as the "dirt" and marshmallow fondant for the pot and flowers. It was my first attempt at making a cake that wasn't just a two-layer normally-iced cake, and while I need practice (especially at making fondant flowers), for my first time I think it turned out pretty well.  I was also a lot of fun!

I got tired of cutting out shapes and used mint from the garden for the leaves.

While I was rolling out the fondant, it occurred to me that I know very little about the mechanisms behind baking.  I love making cakes, breads, and cookies, and I can follow a recipe on how much to mix, when to knead, when I need to take whatever it is I'm baking out of the oven, etc., but I don't know why.  So I've done a little research and learned about some of the science behind baking.  I'm not going to go into any chemical reactions that take place, but here are some of the things I've learned:

1.  Marshmallows are made up of water, sugar and air bubbles.  Heating them in the microwave causes the water molecules to vibrate, which causes the sugar to heat up and warms the air in the bubbles.  The gas molecules in the air bubbles start to move faster when heated and push against the softened water and sugar mixture, so the air bubbles expand and the marshmallows puff up.

2.  Egg whites bind ingredients together and work as leavening agents because they are made up of mostly protein, while egg yolks make baked goods moist and richer because of their higher fat content. This is why cake recipes usually call for whole eggs.  Using one or the other would make a cake too dry or too soggy.  
Incredible and edible!

3.  Bringing eggs to room temperature will make them separate easier and make them combine with butter more evenly by preventing the formation of- for lack of tastier-sounding words- fat globules.

4.  Baking soda, like yeast, is a leavening agent that releases carbon dioxide.  Whipping those carbon dioxide bubbles that are produced with butter "fluffs" batter to help give it the right texture.  

5.  Cold butter stays in little pieces when added to the flour mixture for a pie crust instead of blending in homogeneously and being absorbed by the flour; the butter then melts in little pockets while baking and creates that traditional "flakiness."  

All I'm really doing is making myself hungry.

6.  You might think that adding extra sugar to bread dough will just make it sweeter, but adding more sugar than is called for in a recipe can make the yeast create too much gas (because yeast "eats" sugar to release carbon dioxide).  This can break any gluten bubbles formed while kneading, causing the bread to fall instead of rise correctly.  (You can make gluten-free breads if you avoid gluten for personal or health reasons by using a blend of different gluten-free flours; they just may not rise as high and will have a different consistency.)

If you have any questions about baking or cooking, let me know, and I will be more than happy to research it!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Erinaceous."

Another Thursday, another word.  The word of the day is "erinaceous," an adjective meaning of, pertaining to, or resembling a hedgehog.

If somebody thinks they're a hedgehog, presumably you just give 'em a mirror and a few pictures of hedgehogs and tell them to sort it out for themselves.
-Douglas Adams

Moles are somewhat erinaceous in shape despite not having spines and are actually distant relatives of the hedgehog.