Friday, 24 July 2015

Things and Stuff #19

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: utter loathing, a silver lining, and three random nice things

Thing 1: I hated Only Ever Yours, and here is why

[Trigger warning, and spoiler for what I'm about to say: fictional sexual and emotional abuse, but mostly self-image problems and fatshaming, so much fatshaming I can barely breathe, so much I swear it has given me an actual crick in my neck from spending so much time recently feeling furious and upset.]

Only Ever Yours is The Handmaid's Tale for teenagers, so you know it's going to be pretty grim. And it is: this is a universe in which terrible, terrible things are completely normal. This is a universe where girls are groomed literally their entire lives to be perfect, submissive, blank slates. When they turn 16 they will become either wives who are killed at 30, or sex slaves who last less long than that, or sexless teachers who impose these same things on younger girls until they drop dead...

And the absolute worst thing the main character or anyone else in this world can imagine happening to them is to end up looking like me.

KILL IT WITH FIRE (c) Louise O'Neill. This is presented out of context by necessity, but also I think reading it out of context may be the closest you can get to experiencing it the way I did...
I understand that the book is meant to be condemning this attitude, making it so extreme as to be ridiculous, mirroring the thoughts of an anorexic person onto an entire culture to show how absurd the whole thing is. I understand that it's a dystopia and in that context of course the main character would feel like that. I understand.

But excuse me if I don't care. Excuse me if I can't quite focus on the worldbuilding while reading the point of view of a character who believes I am so disgusting I do not deserve to live.

This is not theoretical. When it's as constant as this, it just stops being about the context. I don't care what the author was trying to do. What she actually did was write phrases like 'nobody will ever love a fat girl' over and over and over again. What she did was have her main character be so obsessed with her weight that she does herself an injury, and violently humiliate girls who put on a few pounds (leaving me wondering what the hell these people would do if they saw me - quite possibly have a heart attack and die, which would be fine by me). 

You are god damn right I'm taking this personally. 

I think the real problem is that when it comes to this aspect of the book, this is not some wild dystopian fantasy she's presenting here. This is what people really think.

If you are not fat, you might not know this, or might not care. But this is exactly what people think about people like me. And it's not just airbrushed supermodels in all the magazines and hateful scum on the internet: in a Yougov survey I took recently, about 70% of respondents agreed that people like me should be refused medical care until they lost weight.

Refused. Medical. Care.

I respect people, especially other fat people, who can read this book and simply see its obsession with how disgusting we are as a cautionary tale of where society could go. I totally respect people who can be disturbed by the book as a whole, and tut, and say how awful, we should feel sympathy for these girls because they are victims.

I am not that person. I hated this book and I hated all the characters, and it was a reaction of pure self-preservation, because they hated me first. If I had bought it in paperback instead of ebook I would probably burn it, not because it was a bad book that nobody should ever read, but because I feel the need to exorcise it from my life.

(I really didn't need the abrupt and shallow gay panic section either - yet another example of 'oooooh look at my fancy subtext' without anything to back it up - or the utter lack of any redeeming features in any of the female characters who we actually get to spend any time with, that is until the one good boy comes along and shows the painfully stupid main character the error of her bitchy ways. To be honest, the nihilism of it all struck me as profoundly unfeminist in places. But y'know, mostly the fat thing.)

Thing 2: the silver lining

I've read more in the couple of weeks since I finished Only Ever Yours than I have in ages. I don't know if it's because my day job and my sideline both involve so much written fiction, or what, but reading for pleasure had started to feel a bit of a chore. But in the last week I devoured The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman, which I adored and which made me cry in the good way, and I'm a good chunk into Wake by Anna Hope, which is also really great so far. I think that Only Ever Yours has reset the bar for books I read so incredibly low that I'm finding a whole new joy in it now.

Thing 3, 4 and 5: three things to cheer me up after I've made myself tense and sad writing about this

I had some really good related news last week and also this video is really pretty and soothing (c) Bandana Glassworks

Good advice, Mister J (c) via alias-milamber on Tumblr, I don't know who made the image but the cosplayer is Anthony Misiano

Pure joy (c) Walk The Moon, too many movies to list and MsTabularasa on Youtube

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