Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'm a (fashion) hypocrite (OOTD from Saturday, on wheels))

I have a confession to make.

I bought pants. Twice.

Some of you may have remembered my vow to give up pants that I made in May.  Well....

#1:  It started off with a Labor Day sale through Eddie Bauer.  When I was a bit smaller, they had a curvy cut of chinos that was serviceable (they do come in plus, but I haven't tried them...they're expensive)).  It wasn't perfect, but with a shirt that hit at hip length, it was no big deal.  I found out that they have plus sizes on their webpage, and they had a curvy boot cut jean on sale for $19.99 with free shipping.  Since I have an Eddie Bauer store near me, I figured that the worst that would happen is that they don't fit and I just bring them back to the store.

I bought two pairs of jeans at two different sizes because my hips were at one size and my waist at another, so I wanted to give the jeans an honest try.  With the larger size I had to keep reminding myself that my self-worth has nothing to do with the number on the tag, and that sizes are arbitrary anyhow (despite my Health At Every Size stance, sometimes old thoughts creep back in).

The good news is that I found jeans that fit my body shape (although Eddie Bauer doesn't have petite or short lengths in plus sizes, so they were about 6-8" too long).  The bad news is the fabric didn't feel right against my legs, although not many fabrics feel good with the nerve damage lately.

Verdict:  jeans returned due to the fabric.

Author sitting in dark blue framed wheelchair with water bottle hanging off a wheel lock, wearing a black fitted tshirt and the black cargo pants mentioned in the paragraph
Locker rooms aren't usually good for self-photos
#2.  I have a variety of rewards cards that give birthday coupons, and Torrid always emails me a $10 off a $10 or more purchase coupon as a part of their program.  I've fallen in love with their leggings, so I went to the mall and figured that I would probably end up with leggings or some jewelry.  I decided to check out the clearance racks (partially to see if they had some fun geek shirts) and ended up finding a pair of cargo pants that had a drawstring waistband and a curvy-looking waist-to-hip area.  Dubious, I tried them on and they fit perfectly (partially due to the drawstring).  Magic!

Just fyi, the pic to the right doesn't do the pants justice (locker rooms at the YMCA aren't known for fantastic lighting or places to park oneself in front of a mirror). The pic doesn't really do me justice either, but I think I'm just having one of those days where I don't like any of my pictures.  I also promised one of my readers to post a fashion-related picture post of me in the wheelchair because clothes fit differently based on different ways of moving around the world.

Even better is the length.  They have buckles to make them be either a short capri or crop on an "average height" person....which means that the crop length is perfect as regular pants for me.  The D-rings also make a little jingle sound when I move that always makes me smile.  The cargo pockets are perfect for when I'm using my wheelchair so I can access my phone & wallet easily, but aren't so bulky that I scrape the pockets when pushing or using a cane.

Verdict: I have pants!!  That fit well (even if they get a little short when using my wheelchair), have easily accessible and functional pockets, and the fabric isn't annoying.  Hooray!


So, I'm not a complete skirt convert.  I admit it.  Maybe if I can get myself a Maccabi skirt or a Utilikilt, maybe I'll be converted...maybe :-)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Being a doctoral student with chronic pain

Starbucks disposable cup stained with pink lipstick and chocolate from my morning mocha
Starbucks cup stained with lipstick & mocha
Since I've been busy with school, work, coping, and being under the weather, I'll leave you all with this image that seems to sum up my current experience as a doctoral student with chronic pain.  A significant portion of my budget is dedicated to emergency caffeine (usually in the form of Starbucks because it's near my office), hence the cup.  A mocha is my usual preferred caffeine intake mechanism as it provides enough substance in my stomach to be able to handle pain medication when I'm hurting too much to eat properly.  The lipstick is significant because I generally only wear makeup when I'm really struggling with pain.  The messiness of both the chocolate stains (some from carrying it from the student union to my office, some from sipping it between phone calls) and the lipstick stains remind me of how messy my life is on the days I hurt, how my brain is sometimes just a mash of colors that might be pretty where they "ought" to be, and the lid representing how I would normally try to keep everything hidden if I could.

Coffee mess as art....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stairs versus elevator: Round 1...fight!

Elevator button panel with the second floor button covered with a drawing of stairs taped over the button, the raised number 2, and the Braille number)
Ableist to say the least, moreso with the taped Braille
I was on Twitter and came across a tweet from Amanda at Fat Body Politics that really got my brain going.  The tweet had this photo of an elevator button panel (the photo on the right).  This photo has been going around my Facebook feed between my physical activity & public health scholar friends and my body size & dis/ability activist friends, with some varied results.

Many of my public health & physical activity-minded friends talk about how every day physical activity needs to be encouraged, like taking the stairs instead of using the elevator (also called "non exercise activity thermogenesis" or NEAT for short).  Sounds pretty benign huh?  What this seems to lead to is architecture that places stairs in a very easy to find and access places and the elevator in an inconvenient (many times hidden) place.  The other mode of thinking with this style of architecture is to keep the elevator more clear for folks who need it (people with mobility impairment or people hauling carts of equipment), but it can backfire.

So what's wrong?  Well, I'll use my personal experience as an example.  On days that I use a cane (or when my nerve damage wasn't as severe, on the days that I could manage without a mobility aid), I have to make a bunch of choices when I need to get to a different floor of a building (the same decisions happen with entering a building that has stairs, just sub "elevator" with "ramp").

Can I safely use stairs today?  Am I feeling my legs well enough to not trip going up the stairs or fall down the stairs?  Will taking stairs that are closer to my destination use more spoons than trying to find the elevator that's tucked away, nowhere near my current or final destination?  Will taking the stairs lead to pain that makes me unable to work, do scholarly activities, or even work out (and do more efficient physical activity) later in the day?  Which option will cause me less social grief as a fat person (because my body is seen as proof that I am sedentary simply because of its size)?

Not all disabilities are visible Some disabilities wax and wane in their visibility (see my post PassOut for an example).  A lot of invisible disabilities and illnesses involve a huge energy management component, and elevator usage can help that person live a more fulfilling life....when we aren't barraged with messages that tell us that we're horrible people for using the elevator for a "short distance" or that we're fat/out of shape/sick/disabled because we don't use the stairs for whatever reason.

As a doctoral student in kinesiology, I would love it if people were more active.  It's what I study.  It's something I'm passionate about.  But...making healthist remarks about elevator usage doesn't help people become less sedentary.  It's shaming and shame doesn't help people become healthier and happier people.  Shame creates stress and the biomedical literature shows over and over again that long-term stressors (like shame, bigotry, and structural inequality) create less healthy people.

So instead of creating more problems in people's lives over whether or not taking the stairs is a part of their healthy life, how about this.  We make sure that both modes of transportation are clearly marked in a way that encourages people to listen to their bodies, keeps them safe, and keeps them happier in the long run.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

PCA/ACA Fat Studies Call for Papers (CFP)

Author on a bicycle in cycling attire & helmet, on a road bike. Photo is black & white, with pink text saying "I stand" and black text saying "for fun physical activity for all. Weight =/= health"
My STANDard poster
Since some of my scholarly work is in sociology of the body & sociology of physical activity, my work frequently discusses fatness.  So, I'm reposting this CFP for the Popular Culture Association & America Culture Association conference to put the word out for any interested folks:


(please circulate far & wide)

PCA/ACA Fat Studies 2013 Call for Papers

Fat Studies is becoming an interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary field of study that confronts and critiques cultural constraints against notions of “fatness” and “the fat body”; explores fat bodies as they live in, are shaped by, and remake the world; and creates paradigms for the development of fat acceptance or celebration within mass culture. Fat Studies uses body size as the starting part for a wide-ranging theorization and explication of how societies and cultures, past and present, have conceptualized all bodies and the political/cultural meanings ascribed to every body. Fat Studies reminds us that all bodies are inscribed with the fears and hopes of the particular culture they reside in, and these emotions often are mislabeled as objective “facts” of health and biology. More importantly, perhaps, Fat Studies insists on the recognition that fat identity can be as fundamental and world-shaping as other identity constructs analyzed within the academy and represented in media.

Please join us in Washington, DC from March 27-30, 2013 for the PCA/ACA National Conference at the Washington Marriott in Wardman Park. Presenters must become members of the Popular Culture Association. Find more information on the conference and organization at http://pcaaca.org/conference/national.php.

The deadline for online submission of presentations is November 30, 2012. Please do not email your abstract to either of the Fat Studies Area Chairs; we will only accept submissions entered into the PCA/ACA online database. You can find instructions here: http://pcaaca.org/areas/areas.php. In short, under “Fat Studies,” enter the name of your presentation, an abstract, and a short bio. We welcome papers and performances from academics, researchers, intellectuals, activists, and artists, in any field of study, and at any stage in their career.

All submissions are welcome, but please use the information above to ensure your proposal fits within the academic and political scopes of Fat Studies. Please also be mindful that Fat Studies is a political project and not merely an umbrella term for all discussions of larger bodies. Also, we encourage submitters to rethink using words like “obesity” and “overweight” in their presentations unless they are used ironically, within quotes, or accompanied by a political analysis.

Topics may include but are not limited to:
• representations of fat people in literature, film, music, nonfiction, and the visual arts
• cross-cultural or global constructions of fatness and fat bodies
• cultural, historical, inter/intrapersonal, or philosophical meanings of fat and fat bodies
• the geography and lived experience of fatness and fat bodies
• portrayals of fat individuals and groups in news, media, magazines
• fatness as a social or political identity
• fat acceptance, activism, and/or pride movements and tactics
• approaches to fat and body image in philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology
• fat children in literature, media, and/or pedagogy
• fat as it intersects with race, ethnicity, class, religion, ability, gender, and/or sexuality
• history and/or critique of diet books and scams
• functions of fatphobia or fat oppression in economic and political systems

Special Topic Session: For the 2013 Conference, we are inviting proposals for papers and performances for a joint session (1 to 2 panels) with the Fashion, Style, Appearance, Consumption & Design and Fat Studies areas. Possible topics include the intersections between body size, shape, and weight and one’s experiences as a fashion consumer, the ways fashion as an industry shapes the discourse around weight (“plus-size,” “women’s”, “husky,” “King-Size”, and “Big and Tall”) and fashion as a space for reclaiming the fat body through accentuating and adorning it (fatshion). Other topics could include the study of sales and the financial success of the plus-size, women’s, King-Size, husky, and Big and Tall market that have spawned a whole array of specialty stores dedicated to these consumers. Also the influence of fashion design and the evolution of the types of garments manufactured for these consumers to wear could also be suggested. Submit your online proposal for this Joint Session only one time to either the Fashion Area or the Fat Studies Area.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact one or both Fat Studies Co-Chairs:

* Julia McCrossin (jmccross@gwmail.gwu.edu)
* Lesleigh Owen (lesleigh.owen@gmail.com).

We look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, September 10, 2012

One last London Paralympics post!

I'm going to promise that this is the last Paralympics link dump post, but I won't promise that it won't get added to as I find more links around the internet.  It's a mix of the usual kind of athlete "inspirational" stories, some social critique, some oddball pieces...pretty much everything that I kept myself from posting on Facebook & Twitter.

First, a fun rendition of "Call Me Maybe" by the US Paralympic Track & Field team:

Friday, September 7, 2012

What would an accessible fitness facility look like?

For a moment, I want to share a dream with you.  This dream involves a space for fun physical activity for as many bodies as possible.  Tall bodies, short bodies, young bodies, old bodies, thin bodies, fat bodies, walking bodies, rolling bodies....you get the picture.

Author in a black cap, black Challenged Athletes Foundation shirt, blue pants, and blue framed wheelchair
Me before my first wheeled 5k
Part of this dream comes from the multitude of frustrations I have with using the fitness facilities available to me.  I had the displeasure of finding out that I couldn't take the TRX class at my campus rec center because the door to the room was not wheelchair accessible.  I was able to use one of the recumbent bikes, but had to park my chair in the middle of the running track as the only piece of cardio equipment with enough space to park a chair next to was the handbike...assuming that the only people that would need wheelchair parking space would be someone who is paralyzed.

Needless to say, it was frustrating but really got me thinking about what a fitness center based on Universal Design principles might look like.

This dream involves a space that is welcoming to all sorts of bodies, even from looking at the outer structure of the building.  Wide walkways with places to park bikes, trikes, handbikes, mopeds, scooters.  Adequate parking with spaces designed for the various ways people get out of their vehicles.  A nearby bus stop that is close to the gym.

The building itself would have automated doors with wide doorways.  The check-in desk wouldn't have a turnstile, but would have some other method of traffic control that is accessible to folks with large gym bags, folks using wheels or scooters, and folks who are fat.  The building would either have no carpet or very thin carpet that is easy to maneuver for folks moving around in various ways.  Both the elevator and stairs (if it's multiple floors) would be easy to find and navigate, and wide enough to allow for easy movement.

There would be cardio equipment that allows for a variety of people, including recumbent bikes that allow for the seat arms to be pushed away so a wider person could use it, treadmills that a wheelchair user could roll on, and machines that allow a visually impaired person to set their workout.  The water fountains wouldn't be blocked by mats or rugs.  Group fitness rooms would be set up with wide doors, equipment that can be reached from a variety of heights, and with sound systems that are clear and allow the instructor to be heard.

Staff would be readily available and trained to assist in a variety of ways.  There would be someone in the free weights who can help move dumbbells and barbell plates, who can spot lifts if a person doesn't have a workout partner, and who can make sure benches and other equipment are maintained in a way to allow for free movement of people throughout the space.  The weight machines would be spaced far enough to allow for bodies of a variety of sizes to be able to get in and out, and allow for safe transfer from wheels to machine and back.  There would be child care that patrons could use as a part of their membership that would accept all children and give them fun physical activity.

There would be indoor courts for basketball, volleyball, tennis with appropriate flooring for both seated and standing sports.  Studios for dance, yoga, Pilates, martial arts.  Ideally pools with lap swimming, a heated therapy pool, and a hot tub, all with ramps and lifts to allow a variety of bodies to get in and out safely.  Maybe even a climbing wall.

There would be no messages about fat loss, calorie burn, or other body-hating messages.  It would be about fun, challenge, strength, joy, and community.

What am I missing?  What would you see in this space?

Monday, September 3, 2012

More Paralympics

I'm finding some interesting articles about how disability is judged/rated through the games, and some interesting sociopolitical pieces for those interested. The second link (from The Ouch), is pretty interesting, talking about both the highs and lows of the opening ceremonies along with some of the nervousness that I've been reading from the disability blogosphere.