Scarcely a week goes by without a study on gender differences in the brain making headlines. “Female brains really ARE different to male minds,” reported the Mail Online on July 28, while a day later Salon framed the same research as “Women are getting smarter faster than men.” The tired old Mars-Venus debates play out simplistically in the media, like a never-ending tug-of-war, while feminists and anti-feminists alike rage, celebrate, or down their blood-pressure medication, depending on whose side has been thrown the bigger scientific-breakthrough bone.
Asia Monet Ray, 7, strutted onstage like a tiny Beyoncé in a white, high-cut leotard, complete with a fluffy dog tail made to wag when she gyrates.
Titled “Rock That,” her dance was a fusion of classic jazz, sexy pop-locking, and crowd-pleasing gymnastics that hasn’t yet been given a name. At one point, Ray, tail facing the audience, slapped each hand to her backside as she knocked her hips from right to left. Later, the 4'2" diva slowly sunk into the splits, fixing a sharp gaze at the judges with pursed cherry lips.
In the early 2000s, when I was a burgeoning fashionable fat girl, I stumbled across the LiveJournal community Fatshionista. I loved seeing pictures of women my size or larger dressed in stylish, interesting, sexy clothes, embracing bright colors and form-fitting cuts, performing liberation and defiance. Even while I stayed on the outskirts of body positivity during my high school and college years, I still found a well of confidence and self-esteem that television commercials and women’s magazines never offered me.
"By morning a family of baffled new bodies caress one another in the sun & each by each, we teach ourselves to dream." —Rachel K. Zall, “A Body Wakes Beneath a Sheet of Lightning”
For transgender women, the tides of each day bring triumph one morning and tragedy the next. Today’s legal victory or affirming media portrayal is chased by tomorrow’s murder or incarceration. But this duality is rarely captured in its full, panoramic spread by a media too interested in pat stories about trans women. For so long, the people who wrote about us were not us. Finally, that is beginning to change.
“I can’t compete with an Asian chick,” says the comedian Amy Schumer. When a busty, blue-eyed blond—a type that launched a thousand wet dreams—admits she can’t contend with Asian women, it signals a certain shift in our culture’s preferred sexual tastes.
Ask any World of Warcraft player about “Goldshire” and you’ll likely hear more than a little embarrassed giggling. The small town just outside the human capital of Stormwind is a known hotbed of ERP—shorthand for erotic roleplaying—derided but secretly loved in the gaming world in a way that mirrors the physical world’s vexed relationship with sexuality.
At the risk of perpetuating stereotypes, I once went through a bisexual stage.
I was a teenager, and I tried on the label as a way to describe my affection outside of prescribed definitions of love and lust. But like the too-small shoes I’d wear before I came across affordable size 12s, the identity was ill-fitting.
In May of this year, comedian Sarah Baker garnered a lot of attention for the monologue her character, Vanessa, delivered at the end of an episode of Louie. Vanessa asks Louie (Louis C.K.), point blank, why men hate fat girls so much. “What is it about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that’s just not in the cards for us?” she asked.
We are the fighters. We are the women who don’t take shit from no man.
We are the women with the sharp tongues and hands firmly on hips. We are the ride-or-die women. We are the women who have, like Sojourner Truth, “plowed and planted and gathered into barns and no man could head us.” We are the sassy chicks. We are the mothers who make a way out of no way. On TV, we are the no-nonsense police chiefs and judges. We are the First Ladies with the impressive guns.
More than a decade before Maureen “Moe” Shea was Hilary Swank’s sparring partner in Million Dollar Baby, she was struggling just to get a jab in. “There were gyms that closed the door in my face,” says the now 33-year-old featherweight champion. “One person said, ‘Boxing is for people who’ve been in jail. You should be at home baking pies.’”