Tag: Body

Meagan Kimberly reviews Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado – The Lesbrary

Meagan Kimberly reviews Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen

Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado cover

In this collection of short stories, Carmen Maria Machado does what skilled horror writers do best: she examines real-world beliefs through a lens that highlights that real horror isn’t monsters, but our own societies. This collection grapples with the trauma and horror women and women’s bodies are put through by a patriarchal society that wants to see them submit.

In the first story “The Husband Stitch” a woman gives her lover everything he desires but keeps one thing to herself–the secret of her prized green ribbon. He’s so entitled that he constantly demands to know why she’s so attached to it, but she refuses to give him this one thing she wants to be hers. They even have a son together and one day after hearing his father ask about the ribbon, he asks about it too, but she doesn’t tell him, creating a rift between mother and child. It’s a poignant moment that illustrates how toxic masculinity is taught and passed down from one generation to the next. Finally, at the end of the story, tired of the questions and demands, she lets her husband remove the ribbon and her head falls clean off. It’s a not so subtle metaphor displaying how the demands and entitlement of the patriarchy end up killing women.

“Mothers” tells the story of a woman left with a child she doesn’t really want, not without her partner at least, who left them. But Machado’s narrative twists to make it seem like the main character had a mental breakdown and that the child, Mara, never existed. Rather, it appears as if the protagonist has broken into another family’s home and abducted their daughter. What made this story particularly scary was the inability to tell which narrative was real. It’s a tale that plays with reality and the psyche.

Machado dives into pop culture with “Especially Heinous – 272 Views of Law & Order: SVU.” Each snippet acts as a summary of an episode, but they’re not episodes of the real show. At least, that becomes clear as the story goes on. But at the beginning, it’s truly hard to distinguish if the synopses are real or not as they sound like actual plot lines from the series.

In “Real Women Have Bodies” an employee of a boutique fashion shop witnesses the strange phenomena of women disappearing and becoming invisible beings. They haven’t died, they’re just no longer corporeal. Even more horrific, these women are getting stitched into the very clothing the store sells, showing the still solid women stepping into their places. With this tale of horror, Machado depicts how the patriarchy keeps women controlling each other, doing men’s dirty work for them.

One of the most fascinating stories, “The Resident,” takes classic horror elements to create a sapphic scary story that’s part The Shining and part The Haunting of Hill House. This story highlights Machado’s skill in creating erotic horror out of lush and sensual language, with lines like, “a voluptuous silence that pressed against my ear drums.”

Every story features a queer main character, making the horrors and trauma they experience that much more terrifying. Because even though these are fictional stories, are they? Haven’t queer women–specially queer women of color–been subjected to unspeakable horrors in real life? At what point do stories and reality merge? Machado’s writing truly leaves readers with a sense of unease in trying to untangle those threads.

Body dysmorphia helped me realise I’m non-binary

Body dysmorphia helped me realise I'm non-binary

Sam Smith at Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball 2019 in December. (Karwai Tang/WireImage)

Sam Smith has said that their body dysmorphia helped them realise that they are non-binary, describing themselves as something of a “shape-shifter”.

The British singer told the Sunday Times that learning to love their body played a large part in their journey to coming to terms with their gender identity.

“For me, what triggered everything was the work I was doing with my body issues,” the 28-year-old said.

“I always had body dysmorphia. As I started to address that, I started to address my gender and realised that I was holding myself to these ideals of how a man should look.”

“As I looked into it, I did therapy, I realised there was more to it.

“I have girl’s thighs and I have girl breasts too. It started to awaken this conversation that had always been in the back of my mind.”

Sam Smith says they have ‘always’ been non-binary. 

Smith described their body as “fluctuating”, explaining that they lost 50 pounds after seeing a nutritionist.

“I can lose weight, I can put weight on quickly, I am a shape-shifter,” they joked.

More than a year on since they came out publicly as non-binary and clarifying that their pronouns are they/them, Smith admitted even they get their own pronouns wrong from time to time.

“I mess up, my mum messes up – my family messes up,” they explained. Smith said they don’t get offended when people stumble, adding: “When people correct themselves it is a wonderful feeling because people try.”

“Yes, I have always been non-binary,” Smith reflected.

“I have always felt the way I’ve felt, and just hearing other non-binary stories made me suddenly feel seen.

“This is a way that I can live, where if I tell people this is how I feel and this is how I like to be treated, life is easier.”

Munroe Bergdorf no longer describes herself as ‘born in the wrong body’

Munroe Bergdorf: L'Oreal eviscerated for Black Lives Matter message

Munroe Bergdorf at an LGBTQ+ History Month breakfast in February 25, 2020 in London, England. (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty)

Model and activist Munroe Bergdorf has explained why she no longer uses the phrase “born in the wrong body” to describe her trans experience.

Munroe Bergdorf, a patron for the trans-support charity Mermaids, shared her thoughts with the organisation on the phrase, often used to explain the trans experience to cisgender people.

She said that while she had previously described herself as “born in the wrong body”, the phrase no longer felt like it fit.

Bergdorf said: “I’ve come to understand why the phrase ‘born in the wrong body’ is unhelpful to me.

“I know why I used to use it; because other people struggled to understand, but looking back I know it did me harm.

“Saying you have the wrong body feels like a kind of self-abuse, and it’s not the same as saying ‘I need to adjust my body to be my true self’. That’s a different thing.

“We only get one body and it’s really important, especially for younger people to know they are unique and beautiful. I would say to younger people that transitioning is hard so you need to look after your body, love it and respect it.”

According to Mermaids: “The phrase is one we’ve used ourselves in the past and, at the time, it seemed helpful.

“Back then, the idea that anyone – let alone a young person – could be transgender or gender-diverse was a new concept for many of those we spoke to. That collective lack of experience meant transgender people and support organisations had to find some way of explaining what being trans meant.”

The charity added that its “broad position” was that “no child is born in the wrong body”, but that every person must describe their experience in a way that feels right for them.

Mermaids added: “We believe that transgender people shouldn’t be expected or encouraged to reject their entire amazing, intelligent, beautiful, creative bodies, simply because of gender incongruity.

“Still, we also know some people – including some of our amazing patrons – do use that phrase to express who they are.

“It is your right to use whatever words you choose to describe yourself.”

Zoe reviews Body Music by Julie Maroh – The Lesbrary

Zoe reviews Body Music by Julie Maroh – The Lesbrary

Body Music by Julie Maroh

Body Music is a graphic novel translated from French, written and drawn by nonbinary lesbian artist Julie Maroh, best known for their book Blue is the Warmest Color.

It’s a series of short 5-10 page vignettes about love and desire between different people in Montreal neighborhoods. The vignettes are connected by theme and location only. The book is packed with representation–there are queer people, straight people, polyamorous people, people of color, people with disabilities, trans people, and people of all ages. The variety of the characters and situations present images of all forms of love, from healthy long-term relationships to unhealthy long-term relationships, fuck buddies to polyamory to missed connections. Sometimes sexy, sometimes happy, sometimes sad, these stories reflect that there is no singular experience of love. One person confesses their romantic feelings to their partners, a mother and a son reminisce about her dead husband, two lesbians run into a straight man with a fetish, a couple relives their first meeting at a gay bar, among others.

For a series of themed vignettes, each is unique. The writing and art style shift each chapter, enough that it doesn’t feel like there were any repeats. I feel like ‘balance’ is the keyword for this book, which uses text and image in such a way that neither feels overbearing. Moments where one fails or suffers are counteracted by an abundance of the other. Simpler stories were augmented by engaging visuals and layouts. In moments where the art didn’t have as strong a grasp on me as a reader, a poetic monologue drew me back in.

Like many collections of short stories, there are some hits and there are some misses. Sometimes the vignettes are too short to do anything other than provide a second long snapshot, which can be unsatisfying. Because there is so little context to each story, it can take a couple of pages for the reader to understand what is going on. However, these are the minority. Most stories are either engaging or poignant, and I appreciated the balance between the two.

Not every chapter has something miraculous or revealing to say, which made the chapters that did hit that much harder. One vignette about a man waiting impatiently for his partner to come back from a dinner with his ex is simply funny and entertaining. Then, two chapters later, Maroh describes the effect a terminal illness has on a relationship. It communicates both the monotony and the sacredness of our everyday lives and loves. I feel like a lot of romances or books on love tend to veer toward one or the other, so having a space where love was portrayed as both casual and revered was refreshing.

In their foreword, Maroh writes “The image of the heterosexual, monogamous, white, handsome couple, with their toothpaste smiles for all eternity, stands in the collective unconscious as the ideal portrait of love. But where are the other realities? And where is mine?” This book is incredibly important to me as a younger queer person. Mainstream media doesn’t have very nuanced depictions of both casual and serious queer love, and I haven’t gotten to a point in my life where I am having a lot of those experiences myself.

This is actually my second or third time reading this book. I first read it when I was about 17, and now, at 19, different chapters resonate with me more. When I was younger, it gave me hope for my future. Now, it’s fulfilling to recognize a few of my own varied experiences within the pages.

I tend to give away books pretty soon after I finish them, but this one has a permanent place on my shelf. It doesn’t even get loaned out. Body Music is a dynamic graphic novel with great representation and high re-read value, and it is an experience I recommend to everyone.