“I need to stop looking away and unpack my own reaction.”

My fellow blogger and friend, GirlGriot used that gem to describe her gut reaction to something. You can read all about it here.

I was telling a few friends a story of a crazy event that occurred over a year ago. I’ve told this story to several different friends over time, in the same way so I was not thinking about it as i told this group. At least I wasn’t thinking about it until a friend called me out on a racist comment that flew out of my mouth. I took a mental step back for a moment, but she was right. What I had said, even jokingly, was racist. I know it was a not-so-charming stereotype learned from my mother, among other places where such stereotypes are fostered, while I growing up. Still, I had not realized how deep that nasty little bug had dug in it came flying out.

As I said, I’ve told this story before to others in the same manner. I can’t decide if no one else ever noticed it before, or if they had, chose not to say anything. Neither option sits well with me, but the latter especially galls me. Once called on it, I owned up to it, because it was what it was. I know my friends know me better than that. What scares me is that it has been there all this time and I even I had not noticed to check myself.

I’m left wondering what other nasty little deep-rooted gems are waiting to come out and bite me. I’m praying that if it’s something I don’t notice, that it does not take over a year before I’m called out on it.

How I Ink It…

Rai's back tattoo

Always meant to ask if you chose that order of symbols specifically, what the order means or did it just look artistically best to you in that order, if you got them at once or “add-a-charm” …? Q

As several others have asked similar questions about my sole tattoo– thought I’d answer you all here.

Actually, it started from the middle out.  I sort of placed them in the order in which I learned of them. I was raised Christian, so it is first in my life and thus above the peace sign. Judaism was the second religion I learned, placed right below the peace sign as a balance. While I eventually heard of several other faiths, Christianity and Judaism were the only two faiths that I was surrounded by and had any “working knowledge” of until high school.  Before then with my very limited worldview, Muslims were who the Jews were fighting in Israel and that’s pretty much it. I realize now, that it was something of a subconscious thing to put the Crescent closer to Magen David as opposed to the cross as Muslims were more their (Israeli) problem, than ours (Americans) as I was growing up.  Who knew? Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism were foreign concepts. Seriously, some mention of such in martial arts films would be the closest thing to understanding about The Way as I would come for years.  I was not associating with followers of those faiths to ask and learn, so my knowledge was spotty to say the very least.

Entering the workforce brought my first one-on-one interactions with Muslims and learning of the Koran.  Eventually Taoists, Hindus, Buddhists came into my rapidly expanding world view.  I came to know more people and as a result their respective faiths.  Books and now the internet also help flesh out of my still woefully lacking knowledge.

Though I had known of Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies since grade school, it was the resurgence of African culture in the late ‘70’s – early ‘80s that I first learned of African mythology.  The concept of Black deities, other than the age-old argument of the ethnicity of Christ in some churches, blew my mind. I knew if I got a tattoo an Ankh would have to be a part of it.   I placed it at the bottom because I knew I was Black before I knew I was Christian, so for me it’s the base of everything (including civilization depending on who you ask). The Om and the Taijitu as the last of the major faiths I learn were placed above the Cross simply to balance out the design.

Though some will claim that the Taijitu (the Yin Yang symbol), covers it, leaving out Paganism (generally represented by a Star Pentagram or Pentacle) was an oversight on my part, one I plan correct eventually for fairness. So I guess I get to “add-a-charm” after all, Q.

The design as I originally conceived it had each belief in red within a black circle, with the peace symbol in reverse colors.  Red drops (blood) emanate from the peace symbol piercing the black circle of each belief, turning each symbol red in turn. Unfortunately, I let the tattoo artist convince me that the red really wouldn’t show up well with my complexion and did the entire thing in black.  If I ever go back to have Paganism added, I plan to have red drops swirl around the black circles and through the peace sign. I chose it to run down my spine from the base of my neck (feeding the brain where I think) to just about the bottom of my rib cage (protecting the heart where I feel).  As our spine are to our bodies, our faiths, beliefs are to our souls.

Essentially, no matter what belief system surrounds us, at our cores we are still all one blood, it is the backbone of being human and we should all be able to live together in peace. It’s as complex and as simple as that.

There you have it – Religion according to Raivenne. (Queue John Lennon’s Imagine, except I’m leaving the faith in.)

Congregation dismissed.


Theme Thursdays | Complexities

In The Eye of The Beholder and The Artist

"Wrong Century" by Tomas_KucerovskyWrong Century by Tomas Kucerovsky
(click for larger view)

This illustration, is making the social media rounds, especially within the plus-sized community. It depicts the way plus-sized beauty is seen by most in this century versus how such beauty was seen in previous centuries.

I saw this illustration for the first time at 2:30am just before I went to bed. I could not quite figure out why my gut reaction to it was “WTF?”. I understood the overall point made, but that gut reaction lingered. Considering the time and I had to rise in a couple of hours for work, I emailed it to myself so I can review the art when I was not half sleep deprived.

I have now seen the illustration with a lucid mind (hah since we’re speaking of MY mind), in the bright light of day and now I understand my gut reaction.

The artist has the woman in the illustration gazing a famous painting of what are no doubt big beautiful women, while others near her mock her corpulent beauty. I cannot decide if her expression is wistful of a time when women with her physical attributes were greatly desired and considered the height of beauty, or if she is woeful of the fact that beauty such as hers is not considered so now.

What triggered my gut reaction was Kucerovsky use of Rubens Rape of the daughters of Leucippus as the beauty counterpoint. Why this specific painting? Why could Kucerovsky have not used say…

Judgement of Paris by RubensJudgement of Paris The goddesses Hera, Aphrodite and Athena being judged on their beauty by Paris.
(click for larger view)

or better…

The Three Graces by Peter Paul RubensThe Three Graces – more naked goddesses to behold!

or best…

Venus in Front of her Mirror by Peter Paul RubensVenus In Front Of Her Mirror
(click for larger view)

Now when a painting of the Goddess of Love and Beauty has more rolls than a bakery, there is no mistaking what the standard of beauty was in Rubens’ time. There is a reason to this day that the classic euphemism for a big beautiful woman is Rubenesque.

Of all the marvelous works of Rubens’ available that depict beauty as it was seen then, he chooses a painting depicting abduction and rape of women as his example! So now we are not Goddess worthy even within a picture of a picture, but abduction and rape is a-okay? What exactly is being said to us big gals here?

As a plus-sized beauty in the 21st Century, should I be grateful now if I am lucky enough to be seen as an object of desire even by rapist? Is that the only way we big girls can “get some”? If the female in the illustration is looking wistfully at this painting, what does that say about the artist’s interpretation of what he thinks is the mindset of today’s fat woman? That we’re so desperate we’d willingly accept rape?

Were this a face-to-face conversation, this would be about the point where one of my friends would say to me, “You see too much into things!” and I generally retort with, “And you don’t see at all!”

The overall essence of Kucerovsky ‘s illustration is good, it really is, but it also leaves such a bitter aftertaste in my mouth, that I can barely appreciate the zest of the original flavor.

Beautiful Monster – Sorta


In a nutshell: Disney has a new beauty line of cosmetics with MAC Cosmetics called Venomous Villains, featuring make-up inspired by classic Disney female villains such a Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians) and Maleficient (Sleeping Beauty). My rant is what they’ve done to my favorite of the female villains, Ursula the Sea Witch (The Little Mermaid).

Disney's Ursula

In some sick stroke of insipid marketing they gave my girl some serious celluloid liposuction just so she can shell out sea shell eye shadow?  C’mon Disney – really? Really!?!

Ursula was a mature ass.
Ursula was a glam ass.
Ursula was a bad ass.
Ursula was a fat ass.

Ursula was a mature, glam, fat ass and an unapologetic bad-ass vamp to boot! Don’t believe/remember that? Check this thick chick out here…

Tell me this does not scream “I’m sexy and I know it!”

Above is the Ursula millions of little girls (and the women who had to sit through the movie with them), loved to loath to love. Not this…

Disney's skinny UrsulaSeriously, who is this female?

Had I seen this image out of context it likely would have taken me a full fifteen seconds to get that she is supposed to be Ursula.

So what is Disney is trying to say? That you’re only allowed to be a bad-ass and glam these days if you’re young and slim? This reboot is a slap in the face of all of us mature, bad-ass glamorous women, especially those of us who just happen to be fat.

The real ugliness of this is, had they left Ursula drawn as originally intended almost no one would have batted a false, rhinestone eyelash at her glam fatness. By changing her they’ve made a non-issue into one. If Ursula is worthy of being included in the Venomous Villains Beauty Line (and she damn sure is), then she should be worthy as originally drawn; not re-drawn and quartered.

The Fire Next Time…

Other than my poem, A Lesson Deferred and a Facebook status post, I have been pretty quiet on the whole Trayvon Martin matter. A friend called me on it knowing I must have some opinion. My response was along the lines of simply not wanting to go there again. Today, I read a comment from a fellow blogger’s Slice of Life post from yesterday and she has nailed my feelings right on the head…

“I am so very tired to being quiet, of having to be concerned about the degree to which I can express my feelings because I have to worry that people will label me an “Angry Black Woman””

This is how I feel in a nutshell.

What does it say when a public figure such as Rush Limbaugh regularly feels free to spew vitriol on a variety of subjects, but I feel that I feel the need to self-censor? The very fact that I feel this restriction, this need to play the “Good Negro” just makes me more angry.


Visit the rest of today’s Slices of Life over at Two Writing Teachers.

SOL - Slice of Life March Challenge 2012


A Lesson Deferred

Moonlit justice
of an imagined sunlit crime
Swung from an oak
a cruel pendulum mark of time
Some eyes tremble
Some eyes leer
all wonder at the marvel
of what happened here

Emmit’s a lesson some can’t forget
Emmit’s a lesson some haven’t learned yet

How many more
Must there be
Why does it take a man’s death
for us to see

As we travel down the road of another man
Who will never travel the same again
Truck tires designed to ride him above
Much better used to drag him down in the night
For a crime no more sinister than
He wasn’t born white

James Byrd’s a lesson some can’t forget
James Byrd’s a lesson some haven’t learned yet

And sometimes a child is shot
For doing nothing more
The walking home in the rain
From the local store
Was it the clothes he wore?
Was it the color of his skin?
He carried iced-tea and candy
What was his sin?

Some fifty plus years between hence and thence
To be reminded how fragile the balance on the fence

Stewart, Griffith and Hawkins lesson some can’t forget
Diallo, Bell and now Martin lessons some haven’t learned yet
How many more names will be added before the lesson is set?


Letting off some steam in the wake of another senseless killing and wanting to bitch-slap Geraldo Rivera even while a part of me understands the rational behind the unintentionally inflammatory statement.

Visit the rest of today’s Slices of Life over at Two Writing Teachers.

SOL - Slice of Life March Challenge 2012

in public passing

I reference Whitney Houston in the following as she has become the latest occurrence of that which has garnered my ire, but I mean this in deference for all troubled celebrities who pass…

Does any one remember “don’t speak ill of the dead”?

I don’t understand this vitriol that occurs whenever a fallen celebrity dies. I concede my interest in Whitney Houston of late began and ended within the length of whichever song of hers popped up on my iPod. I enjoy the beauty of her voice for however long I may (or may not) have the song on replay until I move on. She was a talented singer and that we my never her anything new from her again is a loss for those who enjoyed her singing.

Those of us that don’t find the humor of such disrespect (especially within minutes of the announcements of the person passing) and dare call the critics to task don’t know how to take a joke or are taking things too seriously. No I, like millions of other Houston fans, did not scour the Internet each day for all news Whitney. That did not make us any less of her fans or make her passing any less meaningful to us in our own little ways. The disrespect of the dead is bad enough and some also choose to also belittle the living who want to take a moment to offer their respects even if it’s only something as simple as a single line Facebook status.

Did she take a superstar career and blow it all to smithereens? Yes, no one denies that. Ninety-point-whatever of us in this world get to fuck-up in relative private and will never have our laundry out but to a select few. In this world of information overload, most celebrities don’t have that luxury and intentionally or not, Houston’s laundry was there for all to gander. Eventually, even she owned up to her mistakes. Yet, because she (and other celebrities) don’t get a chance to “redeem themselves” in the public eye, it justifies the internet critics carte blanche to spout whatever snarky bullshit they feel like in the guise of being funny. Why? Just because the dead and their grieving family will likely never read it, does not make it any less hurtful. It is not gallows humor, it is just mean. So no, I do not feel compelled to pat such behavior on the back.

Just remember whether you (the critics), become famous, infamous or not, some day you will die and someone is going to talk about you.

Let he who is without / cast…

Why I’m Adipositive…

I’ve modeled for The Adipositivity Project, for about three and half years now and again today I am asked why. Thankfully, I know from those who’ve asked, the question is not the why of TAP itself, but why me? Why do “I” shamelessly participate? And quick answer is “Why not?”

Yes, I own a full length mirror at home. It may be old and has started to be spotty in some places, but it is no way near being so old that it can fool my eyes into not seeing what’s there. Trust me, I see every roll, lump, bump, crease, crevice, varicose vein, crows feet, laugh line, cellulite, splotch, mole, scar that I have gained over my forty-eight years on this earth quite clearly. I also see the tan lines from the bikini I wore at the pool in Las Vegas this past summer. I see the beauty mark my on breast that my late-husband was drawn to kiss as a moth is drawn to porch light after dark. I see the wrinkle I have over my right eyebrow only, because I am constantly arching it in sarcasm, amusement, anger, delight and yeah seduction. I see the body that used to be able to do sixty-crunches in sixty seconds, but fully owns that the only crunch I’m interested in now is usually Nestle’s. I’m simply a human female who happens to be fat and refuses to be cowered in the booth, in the back, in the corner, in the dark, by a society that constantly sees me as less than average simply because I weigh more than average.

I can’t lie; I didn’t always embrace my size. I always had the broad shoulders, thick thighs and big ol’ booty that drove my poor mother crazy when clothes shopping as a child. Even before I crossed that magical line that classified me as fat, many years before the dreaded letters BMI became a part of our health lexicon, I was never small enough to be considered a “plus-size” model even by current standards. My current state of fatness seemed to take only a few easy years to develop. As my friend Lyn is fond of saying “God made me and I helped out”; but the acceptance of that fatness and the phatness of me was a much longer, harder struggle that (in retrospect), even I concede was not as hard as it now for my fellow sisters-in-fatness. I have a special empathy for all the young fat girls and women coming up in this age where the constant bombardment of images of beauty and health do not reflect the beauty they see in their own mirrors each day.

Dot Golberg, a fan of The Adipositivity Project recently posted a YouTube clip on the Facebook page of Substantia Jones, the amazing photographer behind TAP that makes it the fat-de-force it is. Technically, the clip is a project for her college film course. In reality, the clip is in fact “a love letter to Adipositivity” as one commenter to the post aptly stated. While Ms. Goldberg speaks solely for herself, her words, her self-discovery and awareness of her own beauty are words I’m sure every woman of size, wherever they are in their personal journey, can relate to. As I posted on my own Facebook wall when I shared it, the reason why I continue to participate in The Adipositivity Project is For the unspoken fat women out there who have felt or want feel this, but can’t put it into heartfelt words as beautifully as Dot Goldberger has.
Thank you, Dot.

Watch Dot Goldberg’s love letter here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTzfBws7JWg

“Yes, I am fat. Yes, I am curvy. And yes, I am beautiful. I am all of those things.”
– Dot Golberg

Who is a Man?

New York Times article “What is a Man”?

El’Jai Devoureau was not born a man, so fucking what? Look at him. Yes, I said “him”.  Because if I passed Devoureau on the street I would not have questioned his maleness.  I guarantee  none of the males utilizing the drug testing facilities questioned  it either.  They did what they had to do. Mr. Devoureau did his job and that was that.  No one had an issue with him doing his job on that first day until the employer made it one by firing him on the second day.

Devoureau’s employer “heard” he was transgendered and asked if he had surgery, because only “men” are allowed to perform this particular job.  WTF?!  Is she even allowed to ask such a question legally? If she had had not heard Devoureau was transgendered would she have asked? Was any previous male in that position asked to verify their manhood before taking the job? Or did she take their masculinity at face value? El’Jai rightfully declined to answer the question because it was a private matter (aka nunya effin’ bizness), and was fired for it.

The state of Georgia where he was born recognizes him as a man. The state of New Jersey where he lives and holds his driver’s license recognizes him as a man. Hell, the federal government via the Department of Social Security recognizes him as a man.  What is the issue here?

This is hardly the first time someone transgendered was fired from their employment because of their identity. Though apparently this the first time a case takes on the question of a transgendered person’s chosen sex. There are the rare discrimination cases out there, but most settle out of court and I can fully understand.  Why is it whenever anyone has to fight for their right to do (or in this case be) something in the courts of law they must have all of their personal business dragged through the public to do so?  Everything in such court cases places the person under a very hot spotlight and few want to go through that.

“They were judging me for who I am, not for the job I was being asked to do, and that’s wrong, and I was hurt,” he said. “I’m doing this so everyone knows it’s wrong, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

It’s a damn shame that even if he wins this case (which I think he will),and wins his job back at the drug testing facility  his fight is hardly over. You just know there are going to be the “uncomfortable” to the downright hateful who will do their damnedest to make his job miserable. Still, the fight has to start somewhere and I say bravo for Mr. El’Jai Devoureau for being willing to bring this out to verdict, knowing his privacy is soon going to become very public, and not settling out of court.

Who is a man? El’Jai Devoureau. Fight on dude.

Things People Say…

Earlier today my Twitter popped up with a new Top Tweet #thingsfatpeoplearetold. There were over 1400 Tweets in the first 24 hours of its existence, an abridged list of the responses can be found here: #thingsfatpeoplearetold: The first 24 hours. As Red No. 3 (blogger and creator of the “#thingsfatpeoplearetold” twitter hash tag), stated some of the responses are triggering. I have heard several of these type of comments directly, many more I have either overheard or were told about. Still, the sheer volume and viciousness of what is said to fat people on a regular basis is disheartening to say the very least.

What makes complete strangers think their opinion of my fatness is of such import that they absolutely must share it? Your words are so special from the 500nth iterations of “You’d be so pretty/handsome if you lost weight” heard, that yours will be the one to crack the ugly fat duckling code within a fat person and s/he will suddenly want to do whatever it is YOU think is not being done to turn into an acceptable standard of beauty. I was especially fond of the woman on the subway this morning. A seat becomes available in front of me, I am a stop away from my destination and don’t want, so I stop back. The unofficial code for “come and get it!” and two women vie for it. Woman A: Heavy set; Woman B: very slim. Woman A slips into the seat first, much to Woman B’s obviously chagrin. Woman B then stage whispers to the person next to her
“Fat people should be charged for double seating on mass transit just like airlines. Bet they lose weight fast then.” to which I responded “Don’t hate because she beat you to the seat. You’d be sitting there, all smug that you beaten the fat person to the seat were this reversed, so hush.” Woman A looked at Woman B for a moment, opened her mouth to say something, apparently thought better of it and decided to listen to her music instead. Woman B simply glared at me. Being the more mature person, I simply stuck out my tongue and walked away as we had reached my stop. Complete strangers are one thing, but what really jars me are the things said by a fat person’s own family.

I was was always tall and “big-boned” as a child and teen, but I was not yet considered fat. Still, I was the spitting image of my paternal grandmother and earned her bodacious booty at any early age. At 12-13, physical my height and rear belonged to female at least three years my senior. My breasts didn’t catch-up until seventeen. My mother harped on my about my “fat ass like your grandmother’s”. She would pass by a rack with a pretty dress hold it out admiringly, then look at me and dramatically sigh and put it back on the rack. Uh, I was 14 and wearing a size 16, why would even stop at the size 10 rack and go through all of that? Still, I was not subjected to the nasty type of familiar fat hatred until my mid to late 20’s after I had my children. By then I was a grown woman, living on my own with my sons and husband and at least had the luxury of walking away from my mother (who was never larger than a size 7/8 in her life), when I had enough of her nonsense. I recognize it is not the same as day in-day out harassment by those closest to you who should support and have your back, regardless of size. What of the children and teens who cannot walk away from their families?

I am a member of several forums it galls me to hear/read the things some families do/say to their fat children during their lives. There are the little insidious unsaid passive-aggressive bullshits such as what I described between my mother and I above. Then there are the blatant things. Portioning ridiculously small amounts of food at meals and then chaining the refrigerator and cabinets for insurance. Verbal belittlement in private and public. Physical abuse. When Male forum participant (now in his late 20’s) said he tried to explain to his mother how he was abused as a child for his fat, she told him he was exaggerating and besides she was only doing what was for his own good like any responsible mother would. I have already over heard a father tell his young daughter (she could not have been more than twelve) that she needed to watch her weight, didn’t she want to be fat like Malia Obama and have the whole world talking about her. Yes, Malia Obama as in the the daughter of the President of the United States. Way to go Michelle Obama. Luckily, the little girl’s mother was there and commenced to blasting the father in no uncertain terms as to what she thought of his analysis of their child. She then informed the child that she was beautiful and bought her the extra lollipop which apparently was the impetus for the weight exchange. How many fat kids out there now are being abused with the White House seal of approval thanks to the “Let’s Move” initiative?

Then there the health professionals. You have a cold, its because of weight. You’re tired it’s because of weight. You have a mental illness it is because of weight. Or the symptoms of such can be greatly alleviated by the lose of said weight. I seem to continually befuddle my own doctor by my not having diabetes or cholesterol at my weight. Can I run a marathon?-no. Then again, I have no interest in doing so, so who cares? However, I can run up a flight of stairs to catch a train if I need to without feeling like I am going to die for the effort and as long as I can do that, I’m good. I concede not everyone has my health (such as it is), but not every fat person is one Crispy Creme away from death’s door either. This national obesity scare has come to the point that I swear if a fat person goes to their family practitioner for a chronic hangnail the cause of such will somehow be fat related.

Will #thingsfatpeoplearetold have any major impact over all on how fat people are treated? Probably not. However, if it maybe make a few people at least think first and perhaps keep that nasty comment to his/herself then it has helped a little. If #thingsfatpeoplearetold serves no other purpose than to be a reminder to other fat people that they are not alone in the hatred, then it has done a lot, at least for the moment.