Treat Her Like a TARDIS Princess!

A smiling woman, Sasha Trabane, wears a ballgown made to look like the TARDIS from Doctor Who. She shows off the hand-painted inner panel for the camera.
Image via FlickFilosopher.

First things first: Sasha Trabane is awesome. Let it be stated explicitly and firmly and without qualification. She’s awesome.

This is the girl who created the above absolutely stunning ‘TARDIS Princess’ formal gown, complete with phone-box label, windows, and – best of all – a pull-back panel that reveals how, as Doctor Who fans know, the interior of the TARDIS is bigger than the outside.

So she’s creative. She’s talented. She’s devoted to the fandom she loves, which is a hugely positive quality as far as I’m concerned. (Full disclosure: I’m someone who just this summer, at age 29, finally achieved her teenage dream of appropriating Agent Scully’s hairstyle. And Gillian Anderson liked it.) She’s clearly smart and knowledgeable; I wouldn’t have a clue how to make a formal gown that looks this good. And she sure comes across as gracious and friendly, posing over and over for pictures

I’m deliberately not saying she’s gorgeous, although she looks beautiful in the pictures I’ve seen, because it’s not really about how she looks in her TARDIS dress. It’s about how she did this really cool, creative thing to pay homage to a story that obviously resonates deeply in her spirit and inspires her.

Except for some jerks on the Internet, it’s not about that. It’s about whether she looks pretty enough in her dress to get a thumbs-up for her efforts. It’s about “No Fat Chicks”.

I cannot shame these jerks enough. I encountered them on STFU Conservatives via Amanda Marcotte’s tweet, which is worth quoting in its own right, because it makes the point so succinctly.

A tweet by (at) Amanda Marcotte: "Another day, another bunch of dudes who don't see the point in women they don't want to fuck. (hashtag) Sigh."
Screencap by Sara Lin Wilde.

And that’s exactly what’s wrong with these people. It’s not just the fat-shaming, although that makes me see red too. But it’s also the idea that a woman can’t actually do anything cool or worthwhile or meaningful unless she does it while being thin, sexy, and c

A selection of Facebook comments on the 'TARDIS Princess' gown as modelled by Sasha. They say things like "She's bigger on the outside"; "would be better if she wasn't fat!"; "not particularly attractive; how about a sexy dress inspired by the TARDIS?"
Image via STFU Conservatives.

onventionally attractive.

Fuck that noise.

These are men (mostly, there was a Daniela in the mix) who seem unable to recognize the awesome achievement the ‘TARDIS Princess’ gown represents, both technically (making good-looking garments is not easy, especially if you’re a larger girl in a thin-loving world) and creatively. They think it’s a lot more awesome to joke that “she’s bigger on the outside” (get it, because the TARDIS is supposed to be bigger on the inside than outside? heh heh heh lulz) or to complain that they’d rather see something sexy. As the poster on Tumblr points out, it’s a good object lesson for us silly girls out there: “Remember, ladies: your pursuits are meaningless if you can’t express them in a way that’s sexually pleasing to all men.”

No fucking kidding! There are TARDIS minidresses aplenty out there, cut on the same template as the sexy-blank Hallowe’en costumes I’ve deplored in the past, but something like this is unique and exciting. But the problem is, Sasha didn’t do it to be sexy or please the male onlooker or make boys like her better. She did it for her own reasons, which in and of itself is awesome, because too many women in our culture buy into the idea that they’re supposed to put all their effort into pleasing male eyes, and it’s a near-ubiquitous message that’s not easy to shake off.

Fantastic Four comics panel, where the lone woman says "I'm not sure how I can help", and the general responds that "a pretty lady can always be of help, just by keeping the men's morale up!" Her co-superhero adds, "That's just the way we feel about Sue."
Image via Comics Alliance.

But sexist dudes can’t accept the possibility that maybe this is a woman who didn’t make that dress to please their eyes or tickle their dicks. It’s a form of sexism that makes me blind-raging-mad. If Sasha were a man, she could create whatever amazing thing she wanted to honour her passion for Doctor Who (or Firefly, or My Little Pony, or whatever) and people by and large would focus exclusively on the merits of her creation. But because she’s a woman, sexist pigs can’t separate the value of what she’s made or done from the question of whether she’s appropriately ornamental, because that is what a woman is supposed to be – an ornament that either pleases the male gaze or gets discarded as defective.

And of course, this particular brand of sexism also comes with a healthy dose of body policing. Wanting to feel like a princess in a beautiful ball gown isn’t exclusive to any size or shape, but the reaction of male onlookers certainly changes depending on a woman’s size and appearance. If Sasha were skinny, she might be told that the dress is awesome, but she’d also be told to take it off or show more skin, and a lot of men might suggest (as Daniel seems to have) that they’d prefer her wearing an itty-bitty sexy minidress instead. Sure, it’s less creative, but it’s not about a woman who wants to exercise her creative mind anyway.

Sara Lin Wilde at Fan Expo 2012, cosplaying my favourite skeptical heroine while not being as thin as Gillian Anderson.
Sara Lin Wilde as Scully (Fan Expo 2012).

Because Sasha isn’t skinny, the idea that she might dress as a princess or feel beautiful – or look beautiful! – is discarded like it’s crazy talk. Rather than focusing on her creativity and passion, commenters who talk about her being “the same size as the real TARDIS” are shaming her for daring to appear publicly and seek attention instead of hiding her body like it’s shameful. That doesn’t just attack Sasha; it also sends a message to other women who might consider being proud of their appearance while having body fat. Whether they manifest it through gorgeous gowns or teeny minidresses, the message to fat girls is always the same: hide yourself, nobody wants to see that. It’s no wonder, the comments on Tumblr from Thumbcramps:

I don’t think it’s a mystery as to why I, as a bigger girl, spend the week before a convention crying because I’m so nervous about what people are going to say about me just because I want to dress up and have fun like everyone else. And there is something really, really fucking wrong with that.

Hell yes, that’s bullshit. The pressure on fat girls to try to make themselves invisible until they can starve themselves down to size is enormous – and enormously unfair. The idea that fun and enjoyment in life is reserved for thin girls, and is something fat girls have to earn by making themselves smaller, deserves to be rejected and mocked as the disgusting sexist, body-shaming malarkey it is.

So wherever you are, Sasha, I hope you’re standing proud. You’re amazing and you’re an Internet sensation and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

As for the rest of us, let’s follow her example and fight the hate. Let’s be proud of ourselves however we look, and focus on what we bring to the table as fans, creators, and lovers of whatever stories we love most. Let’s learn to express ourselves without shame and let’s each use our own uniqueness to salute, with one proudly-raised middle finger, anyone who wants to know why we’re not decorating ourselves for their pleasure.

(I’ll go first with a picture of me as Scully. I really cannot emphasize enough that, before giving me some of the best advice of my life, Gillian Anderson liked my Scully hair! No hater can compete with that moment.)

36 thoughts on “Treat Her Like a TARDIS Princess!

  1. I love that dress!
    And you are absolutely right about sexism. I, personally, think that it’s worrying when people get too big but not because it’s not attractive just because of healthy issues. Women should not be forced to wear size 0 or made to think that if they don’t they are not beautiful and valuable. And men shouldn’t be allowed to think that women are there for them to enjoy. But at the same time I see so many scarily big women and men in the UK and it’s just so bad for their health.
    Obviously Sasha and Sara are nowhere near that big and they both look great.

  2. 1. You’re absolutely right!
    2. I love her Tardis dress and she is amazingly talented.
    3. I wish your picture of yourself was a close-up because I want a better look at your Scully hair!

  3. I love this post, and I understand you frustration. I’ve been a bellydancer for 7 years now, and it’s never easy being a bigger girl in this art form. You have to go above and beyond to prove yourself, and I always cringe when I hear “You’re such a good dancer for a plus size woman.” Or “I didn’t know plus size women could be such a good dancer…” and even though they mean it as a compliment… “It’s so nice to see a plus sized dancer, I think you look better than the skinny girls who dance.” Here I am, in all my dancer glory performing a improvised dance to a live drummer, one of the hardest things you can do…why? Because I once again felt like I had to prove my merits. http://tinyurl.com/a2n3vgm Standing right up there with you. Women are beautiful, no matter their size, shape, or skin color.

  4. I enjoyed your article and appreciate hearing the plight of this very talented and beautiful woman. I am quite impressed with her gown. I can only imagine how long it took to create it! Our definition of beauty is truly a subjective matter.which changes with fashion and the times. Truly to be healthy, comfortable with yourself, and contributing something to your fellow man should be the measure of worth. Society can not dictate a person’s worth.

  5. I’ll raise you a second middle finger for that salute. Sasha’s work is beautiful, and so is she. But even if those weren’t true statements, and she was working with a terrible costume… surely I’m not the only person who remembers that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. Anybody who can’t understand that needs to die in a fire. :)

  6. I didn’t realize this article was about fat. I was looking at the incredible dress. Then as I read, I had to go look at the ‘fat’ lady. I never noticed her, just the dress. I looked again, and again. There is a fat lady in that picture? I don’t see her. I see a very normal healthy sized woman. I know this so-not-the-point of your article, But she’s not fat. And neither are you. And don’t come back with some self-hating comment. this isn’t a compliment, just an observation.

  7. Y’know, it could be that it’s a shitty costume, it deserves to be ridiculed, and fat jokes are the low-hanging fruit of humor.
    But nah, it couldn’t be that – TARDIS reference, holy shit, that’s totally awesome!

  8. Hello,
    I want to thank you so much Sara Lin Wilde, this is a big topic. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all of your support! I’m utterly shocked at just how many people like my TARDIS, I never expected any of this and am completely blown away!
    I am a person who does what makes me happy, I do and create what I think is awesome and the fact that others like it as well is mind blowing.

    I would like to say to those out there with insecurities that you have the ability to either allow people’s comments to affect you or not, it’s all about your mind set because people never change so if they don’t like how you look or what you do that is completely their problem.

    I am comfortable and confidant in whom I am and I am not changing for any reason. I know I’m not perfect, I’m never going to be a size 5 or size 10 and so be it. I don’t live up to what society thinks is beautiful, I know that I’m original and beautiful in my own way. Words are just words and none of those comments are clever or mind engaging, in fact they are pitiful, so just be yourself, because if you are and you are comfortable with that no one can take it away from you, unless you let them.

    Have fun be yourself and thank you all so very much I still can’t believe that so many of you like Tardis
    Princess!

    P.S. Feel free to leave a comment on tardis princess facebook page.

    Sasha

    1. Both of you gorgeous ladies are amazing.

      Sasha: that dress is just mind-blowing – even though I know virtually nothing about the genre, the level of detail and creativity still blew me away. Also, you rock that dress – no skinny mcstickerton could pull that off.

      Sara: being Scully endorsed is an honour indeed. You also owned the look – for that and the TARDIS princess, it takes way more than just being a coat hanger… it takes the ability to wear the clothes, rather than letting the clothes wear you.

      But what I really wanted to say is this: I am not a skinny girl. The closest I got to being one was when I was training martial arts almost daily (and even then I was more ‘athletic’). Now, I am embracing my curves. The sad thing is that people never come out and say any of those hurtful comments (stupid as they may be). Instead, I put it all on myself by thinking those things in my own head.

      Thanks for making me realise how much damage I am doing to the person on the inside by not letting myself accept the outer parts too. Life is too short to waste on hating – whether its on others or yourself.

      1. Let’s not respond to body shaming with more body shaming. A lot of women seem to think that it is more appropriate to body shame skinny women because they view skinny women as somehow immune from the body policing this article talks about. It may manifest in different ways, but it is still harmful. So rather than referring to thin women as “skinny mcstickerton” and “coat hangers”, let’s try to foster a culture where we don’t tear someone down to build someone else up.

    2. Wow! Amazing costume. Is the panel painted? Quilted? 3 dimensional? Hard to tell in this snap shot. You are very talented and deserve these accolades.

  9. Hear Hear!!!!! Sasha’s dress is incredable. The work that she and Andy put into that dress is just mind blowing. Anyone who says otherwise (or who critisizes her because she is not a size -3) her either Trolls or @$$holes (or both).

  10. Dude – she’s (fat)??! What I saw was a beautiful young woman with an AMAZING dress. And if that was of HER making – I say what an amazing, beautiful and TALENTED young woman. That is all.

  11. Stuff like this makes me so mad! I think she looks beautiful and made an awesome dress! She would have gotten some haters no matter what. Like you mentioned a thin girl would have been asked to “show more” but if the girl was thin and the dress was “sexy” she would have been called an “attention seeking slut.” Although she probably got the worst of it for daring to be anything but a size zero. I’m really hoping the majority of comments were about how cool the dress is and not how it looks on her, so I can still have some faith in humanity.

  12. my own opinions. One, both of you are sexy, People don’t realize what sexy is anymore. Two, that dress was AWESOME, just the skill it took shows intelligence beyond belief. Three, women can be the same way toward larger guys, if we don’t have a six pack, we aren’t worth it. Just my 2 cents worth

  13. I understand all of this, and these jerk’s comments clearly hurtful. That said 10 @ssholes in a river of praise is not an indicator of the underlining misogyny in our culture. It’s a sign that 10 high school freshmen on the internet freak everyone out.
    The support & outpouring of adoration for this ladies work had been nothing short of a landslide. Why get bent out of shape about a few haters who are TRYING to upset people?

  14. Let me say one thing—–they are not MEN OR WOMEN—they are insecure, immature children that have bought into the media and hollywood hype that thin is in and best. I had hoped that MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, our culture was getting over the young thin is in crap. Sasha has more class than anyone on twitter and the internet. Sasha–YOU GO GIRL you are an inspiration.

  15. Testing 1 2 3 testing… I tried to comment before and I’m not sure if it didn’t work or is just waiting to be moderated. If you are moderating, you really don’t need to post this comment but if this one posts and not the other then I’ll know my first one didn’t work. Sorry if this is totally obnoxious but I’m just to obsessive to just let it go :)

  16. The problem you had with conventions comes from thinking that you were supposed to dress up for them. It’s at the conventions that you can dress normally, that you can stop hiding who you are from the rest of the world that doesn’t understand. Those of us who do understand are kind enough to allow the more mundane (that is, the sad, sad ignorant masses) part of society to join us. Even when they fail to understand and thus say or do something offensive, we realize that only through exposure to us on our own turf can those poor limited minds have a chance to expand. We are obliged to help lift them up, even as they lash out at what they don’t understand.

    The TARDIS dress is awesome. Hopefully it served as an example to some overdeveloped 14 yr old that thought dental floss was a costume.

  17. These jerks make me so mad! I think her dress is awesome and she looks beautiful. She would have gotten some haters no matter what. As was mentioned, if she’d been thinner, they would have asked her to show more. But if she had shown more skin people would have called her an ” attention seeking slut.” I think she got the worst of it, though, for daring to be anything but a size zero. I truly hope she got more positive comments than negative ones so I can keep my faith in humanity. I also hope she knows that she’s awesome no matter what those assholes say.

  18. Oh, you are SO right! And I am SO with you on this. I’ve seen comments like that and those people make me puke. That was an amazing dress she made and she looked fabulous in it. I would so love to meet her, because she’s a smart, talented lady. And your hair is great!

  19. You’re making the Doctor cry,
    It has come to my attention that some people have been harassed about their comments on the tardis princess pictures. I would like to make it clear that I do not condone hate comments of any kind, whether it is with a desire to criticise or defend me. The internet is an outlet to all. If I really had the power to change things I would have a time machine and DAVID TENNANT. Let us not forget that we are all human beings with feelings and love in our hearts.
    WWDWD? (What Would Doctor Who Do?)

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