Frozen: A Story of Sisterhood in Balance


Warning: here be spoilers.


From inside a snowflake-patterned frame, Disney sisters Elsa and Anna (from Frozen) smile at the onlooker.

Are you Team Elsa or Team Anna? Image via Fanpop.

I spent last weekend celebrating my niece’s fifth birthday – Ciocia loves ya, Kitten! – and the movie Frozen came up in conversation more than once, since it’s the kids’ current favourite obsession. It rather evolved into an ongoing debate happening between my brother-from-another-mother and me. Simply put: Team Elsa or Team Anna?

He’s very strongly Team Anna. He thinks her optimism and get-’er-done attitude have been tragically undervalued because everybody’s too busy focusing on how she almost married a man she just met — and unfairly so, because who in the Disney Princess family hasn’t made that mistake? I see where he’s coming from, absolutely. But I also get kind of frustrated by it, not because I’m anti-Anna exactly, but because I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for Elsa and the way her personality has been shaped by her secret burden.

But for some reason, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that conversation over the past week, and I’ve come to reject the entire premise of the question.Forget Team Anna and Team Elsa. Why aren’t we looking at Anna and Elsa as a team together?

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Personal Growth and Personal Shrinking

The image of a fat woman in a pink tank top, displaying her arm flab and double chin without shame. Superimposed over her face is a Google search, where the search term "fat people don't" is completed: "fat people don't get cold, have feelings, get hired, or deserve to live". Across her front we see the slogan "It's not about sensitive feelings, it's about respect."

When someone is considered less human because of how they look, that’s prejudice – whether they chose their appearance or not. Image via Plus Model Magazine on Tumblr.

I spent some time this morning sounding off on a friend’s Facebook wall within a conversation about obesity, inspired by this article, about how “obese girls tend to do worse in school”. (For the love of God, don’t read the comments.) The article doesn’t point out what seems patently obvious to everybody who’s ever been a teenage girl: obese girls do worse in school because they’re too busy dealing with the stigma and bullying that comes your way when you’re obese.

After a bunch of friends who have all experienced being a teenage girl expressed support for the original poster’s comment – “It’s not being ‘obese’ that’s the problem, it’s how girls who are obese are treated” – one guy showed up to spout his thoughts about how research links BMI to cognitive deficits, parents need to know how obesity affects their kids so they can stop feeding them wrong, and the real problem is that everybody eats crap because we’re all just too dumb to know better. The OP took a strong stance: basically, “I will not accept fat-shaming on my Facebook wall”. And the man in question promptly apologized and said he had learned his lesson and would try to find out more about the social determinants of fat as well as the political deployment of body shaming.

No, I’m kidding, of course he didn’t.

Bermudan athlete Dwayne Leverock, who is a large-bodied cricket player, making a dramatic catch.

The will power and personal growth needed to be a successful athlete only applies to thin people, right? Image via SB Nation.

Instead he wrote a long fat-shamey post (not exactly dropping it) in which he turned it around on the other foot: it wasn’t that he was being disrespectful of fat people, but that he actually respects fat people better by telling them they need to whittle down their bodies by any means necessary. Or, in his exact words:

 I think that over-reliance on outside influences – as legitimate as they can be – as explanatory factors utterly disrespects a person’s will and potential for growth.

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“A Traditionally Female Occupation”

Flashy text reads: "It's our day!" Below it are images of women holding hands, with different cultures, body shapes, fashion styles, skin tones, and appearances represented. Includes a woman in hijab, women with short skirts and cropped tops, and women in business wear, pants, or dresses.

I just thought it was a cute GIF. Image via International Women’s Day Resources.

Today marks International Women’s Day, and I was inspired to blog by a post from Fat Heffalump, talking about the ways femininity has functioned in her life and intersected with her body size, leading her first to reject all things feminine but then ultimately to take pride in reclaiming those things for herself – a woman whose body is rejected as a “good enough” female form and consequently stigmatized and demonized – as a feminist act. Rock on.

That got me thinking about my own life, and the ways I do or don’t perform femininity. Continue reading

“Just Like Every Other Parent”


It must be Ridiculous Headline Day or something.

I started the day with a glimpse of an article in 24, one of Toronto’s free daily newspapers, headlined “Pope says he’s not superman”. Well, duh – that’s Clark Kent.

Cover image for People Magazine's special edition welcoming Prince George.

I can’t wait to become a parent so I can get my own special edition People magazine cover too! Image via Amazon.

Then, on my lunch, I accidentally tripped across this absurdity: “William and Kate are just like every other parent”.

How do we know that the heirs to the British throne are absolutely no different from anybody else with a new little one? Because they use parenting websites. And we know this because they told a parenting-website founder . . . at a Buckingham Palace ceremony they hosted to present said founder with a knighthood.

Just like any other parent! What, you mean you haven’t knighted the people who helped you get through Junior’s switch to solid foods?

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Friendly Atheist in February (and a Blogging Announcement)


Man, I really gotta get blogging more.

But in the meantime, here are the pieces I’ve made time to do this past month, all for Friendly Atheist because they’re actually willing to pay me for this stuff.

I have a plan for increasing my blogging in the days to come, as well as venting my frustration at my latest foray into the world of creepy anti-sex conservatism. I’ve been reading a right-wing scare-tactic book called You’re Teaching My Child What? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child by Dr. Miriam Grossman. Initially I was going to write a one-shot review of the book and how honest and/or fallacious I found the arguments within. (Spoiler alert: not too honest, very fallacious.) But I’ve got so many Post-It notes already, having barely started Chapter Three, that I’ve decided to make this a chapter-by-chapter review: one blog post for each chapter of the book.

I can’t take full credit for this idea: it’s been inspired by plenty of blogs doing the same thing, particularly Love Joy Feminism (which has been blogging Created to Be His Help Meet and To Train Up A Child) and The Pervocracy (which has been doing a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the creepy messages in Fifty Shades of Gray). 

Anyway, cross your fingers I can make this work. It’s a busy, busy life.

Halfway There, and Living On A Prayer


I felt like now would be a good time to note for anybody who is still hanging around at my blog that I’m just under halfway done my schooling – three-sevenths, to be precise. My experience has been . . . well, mixed. I love the subject matter; learning about children is inspiring and fun, even if there are aspects of lecture-based schooling that necessarily suck the joy out of any subject. There are a few things that frustrate me about attending a small private college, and perhaps about my school in particular. For instance, the classroom where we do most of our learning is not optimally designed – it’s kind of a church-basement-like setup – and the acoustics make background conversations very distracting. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the lecture, which is a problem, but even during times when we’re supposed to be talking, it also gets to a point where I feel stressed and overwhelmed by the noise level. The school has repurposed an old home as a learning environment, so there’s not much that can be done about it until and unless they decide to renovate or move. In the meantime, though, I can get really stressed out by all the noise and bustle.

It’s a bit upsetting that the school will pay lip service to the importance of self-care while keeping us all so ridiculously busy we can’t actually spend any time on anything other than school most days. My house is a mess and there’s nothing I can do about it because I’m barely able to keep my head above water at school. I’ve been walking around with my jacket open since Christmas because the buttons broke off and I haven’t had time to replace them. Eating well and exercising? Yeah, right. Eating a proper dinner makes more dishes than if I make one of those just-add-water package deals – and eating nachos and salsa for dinner makes even fewer! (Seriously. Just one tiny bowl for salsa, people. It’s the perfect meal.) And exercising? Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

The good news is that I’m gradually adapting strategies to deal with some of the stress and overbooking I’m experiencing. This is super-necessary and kind of new for me, because I was only just starting to deal with my depression and anxiety issues when I was last in school, and I’ve been through a heck of a lot since then. I’m also finding myself not young anymore: my body reacts more severely to lack of sleep, bad nutrition, dehydration, and all the rest. I’m trying to prioritize activities that I find relaxing: planning activities that I find restful, reading before bed, drinking tea. Things I’d like to get better at prioritizing:

  • Maintaining an organized environment. It’s a lot of work to fight against clutter, butt the clutter in the house can make me so stressed and anxious. 
  • Cooking with vegetables, and other ingredients that don’t come in powder form.
  • Squeezing in the occasional bit of physical activity, even if it’s just a few stretches or a bit of extra walking. 

I’m also trying to spend at least some of my time paying attention to ideas and issues that don’t have anything to do with children, lest I find myself becoming a really boring dinner companion. (“What do you think about how the controversy is playing out in Sochi?” “Umm, today Johnny painted a potato!”) It’s hard balancing my author/blogger self against my ECE self; it becomes a bit easier when I make a point of taking interest in other subjects, and ultimately makes me a better writer and a better ECE. Here are a few of the issues I’ve been most interested in lately:

  • Size-based discrimination, fat activism, and Health At Any Size
  • Relatedly, the media’s role in perpetuating body size/shape bias
  • The situation of Canada’s aboriginal cultures
  • Transphobia and trans rights
  • The phenomenon of rape culture as part of a woman-abuse continuum
  • Pseudoscience (especially as pertains to midwifery and antivax)
  • Spiritual abuse in fundamentalist religion

But because my studies take up so much of my time and mental energy, I might as well mention a couple of things that are child-related that have been capturing my attention lately:

  • Gender stereotyping and the pink-toy phenomenon
  • The insights of Reggio Emilia schooling
  • Mindfulness as a tool for working with children

The number one thing I’ve learned from my studies that I did not expect? There’s no one right way to care for a child. Beyond some pretty obvious no-nos – the Golden Rule is a good basis for a surprisingly broad range of parenting choices – many of the things that I’ve worried about in the past aren’t going to make a major difference. Breast versus bottle? Cry it out?  TV before two? Different people will have different priorities, and (outside of really extreme situations) there’s probably not a single correct approach that yields the best possible child. I still have opinions on these situations – I would absolutely refuse to let my baby cry it out, I’ll breastfeed if I can but not stress myself out if I can’t manage, and I plan to really downplay television as much as I can – but that doesn’t mean people who don’t make those choices are wrong or bad or screwing up their children in some permanent way. Good news, that. 

Recently on Friendly Atheist


. . . I’ve had a few posts, even though I’m more of an introverted agnostic nowadays. And have been really busy with school, too. Like ridiculously, I-come-home-long-enough-to-sleep kind of busy.

But I still found time to cover the following:

  1. “Alberta school now prayer-free . . . but for how long?” In which a none-too-religious parent challenges the idea that a public school should include the Lord’s Prayer in its daily routine after her kids got singled out for not knowing the words. Because it’s Alberta, she faces backlash and complaining from people who think democracy means the majority gets all the rights and freedoms.
  2. “Catholic bishop plans to perform exorcism after Illinois governor signs gay marriage bill into law.” And he did it, too. No word, yet, on whether Illinois is free of its burdensome gay demon problem.
  3. “What the frack? Why is the pope talking about environmental issues?” (Because he cares about the poor, who are disproportionately affected.)

Don’t give up on me. I don’t have as much time for blogging as I did before returning to my studies, since so much of my writing time gets swallowed up by writing tests, assignments, papers, and notes. (I do a kickass PowerPoint presentation, too.) But I’ll sure keep trying!