Anonymous asked: I think cannibalism is a choice that has to be justified, although not necessarily by a traumatic past.
Oh absolutely. But as you said, does it have to be justified by her past humiliations as an overweight woman? Or can it be a decision she makes because that seems like the most logical decision for her - as a person - in the moment?
I wrote this story in the fall, called “Lean Cuisine,” in which a woman about to turn forty decides she wants to lose forty pounds before her birthday and subsequently ends up starving herself. She becomes so obsessed with her body and what she’s denying it that she turns to cannibalism. Chessie is a normal woman: she works in a library; she faces daily trials and humiliations that both weaken and strengthen her; and she has a long-time friend whom she both loves and hates.
After this story was workshopped in my fall fiction class, I read through the comments from my professor and found myself stuck at how to proceed in revising this story. I knew (and still know) that something important is missing from both character and plot in “Lean Cuisine,” but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, despite the pile of comments I received from both my peers and my professor. But after reading Roxane Gay’s excellent essay on Buzzfeed, "Not Here to Make Friends," I had an epiphany:
At one point in her essay, Gay writes about Beth and Addy, the two main characters in Megan Abbott’s excellent novel DARE ME. Gay states, “Throughout the novel, Beth and Addy remain unlikable, remain flawed to an extent, but there is no explanation for it, no clear trajectory between cause and effect.” After reading this, I went back to the original letter my professor wrote me after my workshop of “Lean Cuisine,” and I found this sentence in the final paragraph: “I think it worth noting that we don’t really linger on good moments, like when Chessie looks at herself in the mirror, in which more could be illuminated about her by a more subjective presentation of her character.” My professor also states throughout his comments that the reader is “uncertain” about how he or she should feel about Chessie, and that her past experiences as as a “humiliated” girl need to be illuminated. When I had a conference with this professor to talk more in depth about my story, I told him that I wanted the reader to feel angry at Chessie for not taking more control of her own life. And I still want the reader to feel angry at her, but angry that she didn’t take control SOONER, because in her act of eating people (however outlandish that may be) Chessie is doing something for herself - for her body, for her self-esteem, for her mind - that has nothing whatsoever to do with past humiliations.
I guess what I’m saying is this: why should I have to illuminate Chessie’s past humiliations and tribulations in order for the reader to understand why she turns to cannibalism? What if Chessie was “normal” as a child? What if she was never made fun of for her looks or her weight? Does there have to be some sort of explanation for her current actions? Does Chessie have to be, in a sense, “vulnerable” for the reader to “get” her?
Why can’t Chessie just eat people because that’s what she wants to do?
I wrote about the female characters on The Walking Dead because I have lots of feelings about them (Team Carol! Team Andrea! Team Feminism!) and because a lot of people watch this show and I think it’s important to recognize how these characters are perceived in a societal way. I DON’T KNOW I’M A GRAD STUDENT WHAT ELSE DO I HAVE TO DO? The Female Gaze was nice enough to run the piece a few hours before the show aired.
Case in Point: last night my roommate had a bunch of people over to watch the mid-season premiere of the show, and I was kind of shocked at all of the bad-mouthing going on about the women on screen. There were lots of “dumb bitch” and “stupid ho” comments flying around, but I chose to sit there in silence with my beer because I hate to alienate people over my feelings in regards to fictional things (HAHA AMIRIGHT?) But really, I think there’s something to be said about the ways even fictional women are perceived, especially by other women - most of those comments came from the other women in the room.
Also, this is the wicked-awesome leather vest I mention in the essay, so if you’re NOT Team Andrea, I just can’t even.
Kelly Link, “Survivor’s Ball, Or, The Donner Party”
This is the most perfect line I’ve read in a while; but then again, I’m quite biased when it comes to Pittsburgh.
During Christmas with my dad’s side of the family, Hillary Clinton came up in conversation (actually, pretty sure I obnoxiously brought her up, probably by saying something like, “INTRODUCING THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATESSSSSSS”). Across the room, my uncle said the following:
"How dare she run for president, looking like she does."
My jaw literally hit the floor. The complete and utter sexism in that statement floored me to the point that I didn’t even respond. I love my extended family dearly, but the majority of them are so severely conservative, trying to reason with them in political conversations is harder than attempting to convince a brick wall it can walk. I’m still angry about this, because I wish I would have stood up for Hillary; not only for her as a woman and a politician, but for me as a woman, as well.
Really, has anyone ever considered the way a male politician dresses or grooms himself before he runs for office? If Barack Obama or George Bush came out to meet supporters with his shirttails untucked and his face unshaven and pit stains under his arms, people would definitely remark at how unkempt he looks, but would anyone say, “How dare he run for president?” I don’t think so. Actually, I know so.
Hillary is arguably the most powerful woman in our country right now, and she is also one of the most inspirational women I can think of. I also think she looks great—and also, WHO CARES. So what if her hair sometimes looks unbrushed, or if her clothes look rumpled; she’s helping to run the goddamn country! She could wear her fucking pajamas for all I care. Actually, if she did that, I’d admire her even more.
So I would say this to my uncle, if I could go back in time and stand up for Hillary: How should a woman be? Clean and pressed and lipsticked, making you a sandwich? Do I look okay to run for office? How should a woman be, really?