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If your body works, it is beautiful.

I am pretty sure this is a fairly obvious point, but I still feel the need to reiterate it. Your body is made to sustain life and consciousness. If it is doing that fairly well, you should consider it the most beautiful thing in the world. Because sometimes, for some people, their body doesn’t work. And when that happens, all you want is for your body to work again. To feel better. To let you live life. Maybe not a perfect or great life. Maybe not the absolute best life you could live with a 100% perfectly functioning body. But a life anyway.

Ask anyone who has been through a serious illness that threatened their life, or seriously limited their functionality. After you go through something like that, judging the external beauty of your body seems almost completely ludicrous. It’s not that you don’t do it. It’s completely programmed into our culture to judge the external beauty of women’s bodies in particular. So you notice and judge sometimes. But even as your brain automatically judges, you also note how ridiculous that is.

I can be walking through the grocery store and see a magazine with a celebrity in a bikini, and a headline about how great/horrible the person looks, and almost start laughing out loud about the stupidity of it. I’ll think, for half a second, “shit, I need to lose weight,” and then just laugh and think, “5 years ago I couldn’t work a full day. Why the hell would I worry about my weight for any reason other than my health?”

Girl culture makes this really hard. The longer I have been mostly well, the easier it is to worry about these things again. This is particularly true because external changes are easier for others to see and comment on. And other girls note and comment positively on changes in physical appearance frequently, reinforcing the standard.

I understand this, and that most mean no harm whatsoever, but I still find myself being somewhat offended by it. I have made some monumental physical changes in recent years: I made a myriad of lifestyle changes over a twelve year period that were incredibly hard, harder than you could ever imagine, that have allowed me to go from bed-ridden and completely non-functional, to running my own law firm and living an almost normal life. I also lost 50 pounds. Which do you think I get more congratulations for? Worse yet, which do you think I got more offers of help for? Even from people who know quite a bit about the length and seriousness of my illness. I appreciate the congrats on my weight to an extent, but a part of me thinks, “well, bfd.” It was hard, but not anywhere near as hard as being sick.

This isn’t at all (well, usually) a reflection on those individual people. They are usually being very sweet and trying to support me. They are just reflecting the values of our current culture. Now I am trying to support other women, and men, who live in a beauty-obsessed culture by asking you all to consider a perspective change: If your body works, it is beautiful. Period. You can whine and complain about your minor imperfections – we all do. Just try to remember that to someone whose body hasn’t always worked very well, you sound spoiled. I sound spoiled to my own ears when I do it, and I think that’s a really, really good thing.


Miley Cyrus is not a slut.

Or, at least no more so than most female performers her age. 

Since her VMA performance and the sound thrashing she’s gotten from it, I have been conflicted. I hate it when women are called sluts publicly. I also don’t particularly like it when women behave like sluts in public, either. But I tend to think that the former contributes to the latter by killing the general self-esteem of women everywhere, so I dislike it more.  

But the Miley-show was abominable. Truly horrific. And she completely did it to herself. And I like it when pop culture actually discourages women from behaving like they are whores.

So I was having a hard time figuring out why I still felt some form of feminist anger at her critics. I just kept wanting people to shut up and leave her alone already!

It finally dawned on me. Miley’s critics were bashing her for being too lewd, too slutty, too whorish, when she really didn’t do anything any more whorish than at least a dozen other female pop stars I can think of. That weird tongue thing? Lady Gaga’s done way weirder with weirder and more overtly sexual body parts. Masturbating with a giant foam finger? Madonna masturbated on stage in the 90’s, Brittney did it with a snake in the ’00’s. And the twerking? Please. That’s  just a new name for rump shaking, which every video ho has done since there were video ho’s. (Nicki Minaj in Starships? Hello!)

No, Miley wasn’t any sluttier than anyone else. She just was bad at it. And that’s the real problem I have with her critics. They emphasized the wrong things because she’s a woman. They shouldn’t be criticizing her performance for being slutty. They should be criticizing it for being bad. Because it was. She just really didn’t hit the right note. She didn’t perform well, didn’t have anything really choreographed or planned. It was like she was winging it in a club. Which is fine for the club, but not for the VMAs.

She was lewd and obnoxious to cover for not being prepared. And who could blame her, really? If there’s one thing pop culture is fantastically good at getting across is that being sexy and flaunting it are the very best ways for women to get praise and attention. Talent is only a very distant second, and not really necessary. Everybody’s just a little confused because we aren’t used to an attractive woman attempting sexy and failing so abysmally.

Which is why I am ticked. Instead of being fairly criticized for having a bad performance, as every performer does from time to time, she is being thrown under the bus for being slutty. Because she is a woman, the immediate criticism focuses on her use of her sexuality, and then criticizes her in an astonishingly harsh way for it. She is being called a slut for actually just not being a good performer. This is how we still punish women in our society? With attacks at their sexuality? Feminism will have truly gotten someplace when a woman can be criticized in her own right for doing a crappy job, without some reference to her sexuality, or even gender, being brought into it.

Miley is being unfairly called a “slut”, and she is also being hit harder than another male performer would be for the same level of crappiness in her performance. And that’s because in American pop culture, the most unimaginable crime is to be a woman and fail at being sexy.

50 Shades of Blue: The Use of Profanity at The Green Study


The Green Study

canstockphoto8636729A friend of a friend was directed to my blog. Her first comment, after reading one of my posts, was, “she uses a lot of foul language”.  All that writing, all that effort and her takeaway was the occasional swear word?

I’ve wrestled for years with my propensity towards the profane. As a parent, I managed to go the first 7 or 8 years of my daughter’s life without swearing in front of her. Lately, that’s been slipping, as I’ve struggled with health issues and exhaustion – just too tired of trying to do everything “right”. So a damn or shit or hell slips out. Then she and I have a discussion about language and I do penance by wondering how much her therapy bill will be in the future.

It’s not as if I don’t understand some people’s reactions. As a teenager, I was prim and proper and pious…

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Stephen Justice Benitez



stevie_j_2013_09_07_mh (106)our cat, Stephen Justice Benitez.

His name used to be just “Justice,” and at home, he goes by “Kitty” or, when he’s on our dining room table, “CAT!” But having now taken on this more important-sounding moniker, he is also constructing a more important career than simply being a moth-hunter. He recently revealed that he may have been an “alleycat extra” in the movie “Flicka” and he expects to soon be named U.S. Ambassador to Chile.

(Note: My wife said there’s something about living with the daily weirdness that is a cat’s behavior, and how that weirdness has started to seep into how we talk about him.)

Stephen Justice plans to murder an avian something:stephenjustice (1)Practicing self-decapitation:stephenjustice (2) The slope of the cat’s sleep is y = -x.stephenjusticeBall of cat.stephenjustice (3)Tomato-camo:2013_07_26_mh (5)_stevejusticebenitez

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Weight and compassion

Here’s the thing: not everyone is overweight for the same reasons, and not everyone can “do” something about it, the way it is traditionally thought of. Before I gained weight, and I mean real weight, not just 10 or 20 lbs., I though weight was easily controllable. Then I got sick. I first lost insane quantities of weight that I didn’t  have to lose, and then gained a ton back as I got healthier and healthier. It was hard. I knew I was getting healthy, but I simply wasn’t in a place to lose yet. It was hard to deal with people telling me to exercise, bc that wasn’t a true option for me for many years.

I have lost a lot of weight now, and am glad my body is in a place to do it, but that wasn’t alway the case. And, I realized while going through this that a lot of people are in the same predicament. Not necessarily sick, but situations in their lives that mean they don’t have the resources to attack the situation the way they would like to. When they complain about their weight, I think they are complaining about having lives that don’t lend themselves to making weight a priority at that time. We ALL have that somewhere in our lives, it’s just that if you are overweight everyone can see your problem and think they know how to fix it. I am guilty of this, too.

I guess I am saying we all bitch about something in our lives, and we are usually granted the understanding by others that the issue is complex, and we are doing everything we can about it. (Not always the case, but usually). I think people struggling with their weight deserve that same compassion and understanding, for the most part.