Who’s Watching the Women?

I’ve been following the latest “My god, people are fat!” debate in the feminist blogosphere with interest. For those of you not up to speed, it started here at Feministe. I’ll say, as a brief side note that, as much as this post sucked, I agree with Maia that the comments were, for the most part, heartening. This is a big change from even a few years ago, to see people have the courage to speak passionately and intelligently about their position. But I also think it’s in the comments where you get a good idea of where the tension is. The comments, though there are many to get through, over at Pandagon are illustrative.

So, I have two things I want to get at. One, I wish we as feminists would do a better job of the ways “obese” and “poor” overlap as social constructs and how one word can often stand for the other group. Now, there are obese people and there are poor people, obviously. And there is a great overlap in those groups. But I’m trying to get not at the actual groups, but at the social constructs and how we talk about obese people having no self-control or being too stupid to know what to put in their bodies or lacking access to experts who could tell them what to do with themselves; the narrative is all about how obese people put all kinds of things they shouldn’t in their bodies because they are too stupid (or uneducated to know better) and they thus have really negative life outcomes. Now, read that same sentence and swap out “obese” for “poor.”

It works just the same.

I find that interesting. In both cases, it’s about a group that has too many people in it, who need education and expertise and guidance, and who are deemed failures or troublemakers if they resist efforts from the outside to improve them.

The word “class” doesn’t quite fit, but I think it has to do with demanding people want to strive to remove evidence of what has been deemed their shitty circumstances. Yes, of course, you will be punished for striving. But you will be punished worse for not striving.

It’s almost as if the problem is that the obese/the poor, by their very existence, insult their “betters” for not recognizing and properly responding to their “betters'” expertise on how best to live life.

That’s the dynamic I keep seeing play out in these comment threads–“I have expertise. You must recognize it.” “I know my own body. I am the expert on my own life. Fuck off.”

And this is where it gets tricky for feminists to talk about, right?  Because, often, we don’t have expertise about our own bodies. Shoot, for 20 years I didn’t know I had PCOS, and I was glad for the doctor that has the expertise to tell me what was going on with my body. Plus, we are often lied to about our bodies–that masturbating can make you crazy or that sleeping with people outside of marriage will somehow ruin your body, etc. You live here on Earth, I don’t have to tell you. Our Bodies, Ourselves exists for a reason, and it’s not so that we can all laugh that someone would think we’d need to be told that stuff.

But, and this is a big BUT, it is also true that “I know better than you what you should do with your body and I insist on the socially-sanctioned right to tell you (and to enforce it)” is a fundamental strategy for controlling women. Make our bodies fair game for public discussion and public worry and public scrutiny and you can keep us in line.

That’s why I find it so weird and disconcerting that feminists want to sit around and talk about fat as a problem. You can’t talk about fat separate from bodies. (Well, you could, but a glob of fat in a bowl isn’t a health issue.) Female bodies, in fact. I mean, even when we talk about fat men, it’s about their moobs, like being fat is feminizing them in some terrible way.

Is it really not clear to feminists how the “obesity epidemic” is about reasserting the right to police women’s bodies? Except now, we’re doing it for your health! When people talk wistfully about how “nobody cooks at home anymore” who do you think that “nobody” used to be? When people talk about how kids don’t get the same free reign of the neighborhoods they used to have, who is the unspoken monitor of all that free time?

Who has, supposedly, fallen down on the job causing us all to be fat?

How is this not prime meat for feminists to sink their teeth into?

If I can pick up a guy I don’t know at a bar and take him into the bathroom and fuck him silly and feminists can see how that’s my business, even if I might get a disease or get pregnant or slip and throw out my hip or some other outcome that would affect my health, why can’t I pick up a burger at a bar and not have it become cause for public fretting, especially by feminists?

I think, at least in part, it’s because we have been trained by society since we were born to dominate those we can, or to put it in more familiar terms, to exert privilege when we have it, and to insist on our privilege being recognize or we will punish those who don’t.

And a lot of us are very good about understanding how that dynamic plays out in certain situations, about how tempting it can be to go ahead and insist on our privilege in certain situations, even if it’s wrong.

A lot of social justice movements have done a lot of work and made a lot of gains to make that happen.

But the impulse to dominate is just as thoroughly taught as our desire for justice is. So, we work for justice in realms in which we can see injustice.

But we don’t bother to try to check our bullshit in realms where we don’t see injustice.

And a lot of folks don’t see any injustice in the “obesity epidemic” and so they feel free to go ahead and stretch their “I will make you do what I think is best for you” muscles.

I think that’s what makes these discussions in feminist circles especially problematic, because this is a topic upon which people feel like it’s okay to go ahead and indulge their impulse to police women, because obesity isn’t an injustice, and they think they know more than those poor stupid people who just don’t yet recognize their expertise.

But I just don’t see how any discussion that involves people policing women’s bodies and trying to dictate what women do with them can ever be feminist.

“Weight can signal a lack of activity or too many donuts, and that shouldn’t irk anyone,” Monica says. But that’s not a cultural critique. That’s an invitation to stick our noses into the business of women who are somehow “signaling” by being fat.

Again, I feel like this is a point that feminists would mull over–does a body, merely by being a body, signal anything? If my having big boobs tells you nothing about whether I’m a slut, why are you so sure it tells you anything about whether I’ve had too many donuts?

Are we sure we’ve actually given up the desire to scrutinize women’s bodies and tell them what to do with them?

Because these discussions make me feel like some folks need to think more about why they’re so excited to jump into these discussions in order to tell people how unhealthy they are.

Anyway, feminist blog fight. I should stay out of it, but I can’t resist. I think we can all guess I may regret it.

What I Found in the Methodist Cemetery and a Long Sidetrack about Elizabeth Bennett

Let’s take a minute and bring everyone up to speed. Timothy Demonbreun had a bunch of kids with his wife. It then appears she was kidnapped by Indians. While she was away, I think it’s likely Demonbreun presumed her dead (but wasn’t sure), so he took up with Elizabeth Hensley/Bennett/Himmsley and they had some kids. When Teresa showed back up, Elizabeth married Joseph Duratt/Durard/Durand. Elizabeth had a tavern up on Paradise Ridge somewhere called “Granny Rat’s” so I would guess that she said his na me “Duratt” but you see it Durard far, far more than you see Duratt.

While she was married to Duratt, she had at least one more Demonbreun kid. Presumably, she also had some Durard children. But I don’t know this for sure. Bridgett, do you know?

There is a Durard Hollow to the east of me and I found Durards in the Methodist Church graveyard on Brick Church Pike, which is just over the hill from said Durard Hollow (down Ingram road).

And who should I find in the Methodist Church on Old Clarksville Pike today?

Okay, wait, it’s very important we not get ahead of ourselves. We know Granny Rat had a tavern at the top of Paradise Ridge in Germantown. We know she married Joseph Durard. We know she’s buried out Little Marrowbone Road. We know Little Marrowbone Road runs through what used to be called Demonbreun hollow, because there were so many Demonbreuns out there. We know Teresa’s children also came to Tennessee.

If you, for instance, are a Dozier from along River Road? You are a Demonbreun by way of Tim’s daughter. Teresa’s son is buried in a graveyard up in Robertson County.

And we know there are Durards out here. They could be Elizabeth’s step-children, I suppose, but dang, we could use a Durard or two to stop by and tell us.

Anyway, so here’s the deal. What we think of as Germantown now, if there are people left who think of it as Germantown, was, at the time Granny Rat would have had a tavern, very isolated and not on a main road. Not that this means she couldn’t have had a tavern there. Granny White’s tavern served the Natchez Trace and it was a few miles away from the Natchez Trace. But, if you weren’t going to come up the Clarksville Highway (what is now Whites Creek Pike), chances were you were going to come up Eatons Creek Road and not what is now the Clarksville Highway.

If you look at where the ferries were and look at the TSLA map, you can see why this is so. The new bridge was in in 1907, but the road we now think of as Clarksville Pike didn’t exist. You still were maneuvered over to Hyde’s Ferry, which made Eaton’s Creek your best road north. This was clearly doubly so before the bridge went in. If you crossed at Hyde’s Ferry, you took Eaton’s Creek north towards Joelton.  If you crossed at the Buena Vista Ferry, you took the Clarksville road (which is now Whites Creek Pike).

We know there was a tavern in Joelton at the top of the hill, but the evidence I found at the TSLA strongly suggested that this was not Granny Rat’s tavern.

I posit, for your consideration, that her tavern was on Eaton’s Creek road, at the top of the ridge, just up the hill from where Eatons Creek intersects Little Marrowbone Road. In fact, I’m even going to call it. There’s an antebellum house there. I think it’s too new to be the tavern (though I hope y’all weigh in on your thoughts) but dwellings tend to go where dwellings were. So, that’s my guess. That’s where her tavern was.

Just to bolster my claim, according to the 1907 TSLA map, there was a General Demonbreun living in the curve of what is now Old Hickory Boulevard, right near Eatons Creek Road. So, even if the farm she was buried on was way at the other end of the hollow, there’s evidence of Demonbreuns at this end of the hollow.

And, to bring me back to my point–Durards. Today I found DuRards at the Methodist Church on Old Clarksville Pike. And who else did I find in that cemetery? Demontbreuns. (I’ve got to get over and check out the Methodist Church in “Germantown” proper. I should have done that today, but I had to pee.)

I made you a map.

I just wish I knew more about the Durard part or whether there is even a Durard part.

Edited to add: I forgot to include a link to the TSLA map.

Just Passing This Along

Katie Granju has an update on the investigation into her son’s death. I can only say that I knew the “she’s crazy!” thing was coming and that this quote in the story is very, very odd. The medical examiner says, “We actually removed the organs and looked at (them) in our hands. Which do you put more weight in, an X-ray or actually holding the organ in your hand?”

But an X-ray is a picture. If it shows broken bones or masses or whatever, it’s not imaginary. I’m sure some things are clearer than others. If it shows a broken bone, it shows a broken bone. I had an X-ray that showed a mass in my chest and they made some guesses about what it might be and then decided, based on those possibilities, to do a biopsy (infected lymph node, which was not one of the things they guessed).

What the mass was was open for discussion, but that there was a mass was not.

So, if the X-rays show something, it’s beyond weird that the ME’s office doesn’t find evidence of anything. That’s not how it works. If there was something on the X-ray, there was something.

Speaking of “something,” something is not right here.

The Other Reason I’m Tickled a Dog Ate My Book As It Was Being Read

It just seems like something that would happen in a Calvino book. You are reading a book you like and, as you read it, your dog eats it so that you can’t ever go back and see what it said, you only have the memory of it.

A City of Ghosts owes a great debt to Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Invisible Cities is a collection of stories about many different fantastical places that might all be the same place, stories told by Marco Polo to Genghis Khan. A City of Ghosts is a collection of stories about the same place from many different fantastical angles, all told as if you are either the person they’re being told to or you’re listening in over the shoulder of the person they’re being told to.  But I tried to make it clear that these are stories that are told.

Anyway, the dog eating the book just seemed like a nice little nod from the Universe.