My Story vs. Women's Stories

I feel like I need to address something that came up recently: Sometimes I'm going to tell my story.

I put up a number of pictures recently, which you can see in Women's Bodies section, and a post that contained four of them, four of the bigger women, went a little viral. Not hugely, but it reached more people than I usually reach, and that was interesting and exciting to me. The thought that people were reading my words and thinking on my experience filled me with a hesitant hope.

There was so many wonderful comments that were very touching. Women shared their personal feelings of relating to the images and needing the message they presented. I felt very proud of my work.

However, there was a vocal minority who felt I had not included enough body types in the post that gained such attention. There was no attempt to look at my timeline and see what other pictures I had done, and in one case there was zero attempt to even contact me, but rather just a nasty set of careless subtweets.

I did my best to appease these people, but there was no appeasing them.

The women were not skinny enough. They were not dark enough. They were not fat enough. They were not fat in the right places. They were not old enough, or young enough, or obviously transgender enough (?), or, in one particularly galling case, male enough.

While I am happy to listen to solid criticism and do my best to respond to it, there is something I want to address here, an overreaching arc of treatment that my art receives that men's art does not receive.

Sometimes I am going to tell my story.

Sometimes I am not going to perfectly represent all women in a single picture.

First, because that's impossible. It is impossible in a four picture limit for me to include enough images that will please every single person who sees the one tweet of mine that gains that kind of attention. 

Secondly, because it's rude of you to demand it.

There is a certain entitlement that the socially conscious public feels towards the work of marginalized groups, that these things are examples of perfect representation, and must be. We are placed on pedestals and expected to speak for the whole of our gender.

But I can't speak for the whole of my gender.

I can't even speak for the whole of my gender who are overweight and bisexual.

I can only draw what is in my head, taking representation from mine and my friends' bodies, and say to them and to myself the kind words that I so think we need to here because they are words that I need to hear.

I can write to my experience. I can draw to my experience.

I can not make a picture that accurately represents every woman with a body on the planet.

However, there is an expectation that I should. Not only that, but this expectation never seems to apply to other mediums. If you search #bodyposi or #bodypositive on Twitter you will see a plethora of bathroom mirror selfies of bodies that are perfectly within what is considered "acceptable" for women. At no point do I see people asking why they didn't take a picture of a fat person and include that.

I was shocked and appalled at the level of ownership people felt they had over my message, my words. If you can't see the problem with trying to control what I draw and what comes out of my mouth, and if you can't see how your feeling of entitlement to demand that from me is linked to patriarchal ideas of ownership over women's creative property then please, the door, help yourself to it.

This does not mean that I don't want to hear criticism. I do.

I would just like that criticism to come from a place where I'm not expected to speak for the entirety of the gender.

Whitney was wrong. I am not every woman.