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.
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
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.
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.
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.)