This blog is part of the Scáth na Feannóige/Shadow of the Hooded Crow project exploring fénnidecht as a practice to follow the War Goddessses, Badb, Macha and the Morrígan whose name is Anann. This is a less formal place for me to discuss various issues of interest to someone on a modern version of the Outlaw warrior path such as physical training, history, Old Irish literature, pop culture inspirations, werewolves, ecstatic trance (okay, I find that one tough to write about but I may try), gender issues the wilderness....


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The real reason everyone is nuts over Michelle Obama's arms

When I first saw Michelle Obama's arms bared, I did notice she was in fairly good shape. As always, I thought it was wonderful to see some muscle on a woman, but I really didn't think much of it. She is buff, but not exactly that buff. It was just nice to know she wasn't afraid to become strong.

Yes, I admit it, for all my focus on women's physical strength, most of my concern about an Obama was whether Barack really was going to dig us out of the legacy of the last administration. Oh, and if they would set a good example by adopting a shelter dog rather than buying a puppy.

But a lot of other people apparently noticed and seemed to feel it was a big deal. I won't round up all the chatter as Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press managed to pin down most of it already in Why all the fuss over a first lady's bare arms?.

The thing is though, she failed to answer it. In fact, there were things she reports in this that are glaringly wrong, sexist, strong-woman phobic and point right to the answer. Yet she never hits on it.

In Noveck's section entitled "MRS. OBAMA'S ARMS COINCIDE WITH A FASHION TREND" she quotes Glamour magazine's Susan Cernek saying that erogenous zones vary with styles, implying apparently that buff arms are current (this is not, actually, said here by Cernek so we don't know if that's what she meant or not). Noveck then goes on to note that Linda Hamilton, as Sarah Connor, started the trend of muscular arms but that Madonna was the most famous celebrity with them. Oddly enough, she makes Hamilton's buffness out to be even earlier than it was, mistakenly saying that it was in the '80s. As it is, of course, the trend of mainstream female muscle started and died in the 1990s, it is not in any way a current trend.

This actually is the reason for the big deal about Michelle Obama's arms, because they are not the trend. Yes we had a few short years of buff actresses and sports models, but for the past ten years or so both Hollywood and Madison Avenue have given us thinner and thinner images once again. Madonna is one that didn't follow this trend and there are a scant few others, as I post about often here, such as actresses Evangeline Lilly, Rhona Mitra, Jessica Biel and very few others. Now we have female "action stars" whose biceps I could touch my fingers around. No, the very reason for all this fuss is because this is simply not accepted.

And we can see why in other statements made, especially by the men who commented, along with some major fallacies again. Noveck quotes Tyler Thoreson, executive editor of men.style.com, as saying "When I look at Madonna's arms I see someone whose priorities are way out of whack. It takes hours a day to keep them that way. Why not volunteer instead at a soup kitchen?"

No, it does not take hours a day to build and keep that sort of muscle, that's a common cry by those who do not work out or who work out ineffectively and therefore figure those who have more success must be doing something unreasonable rather than right. Building muscle, in fact, requires rest, you can't work them too much or you over train and you can't work them daily. Now Madonna is not just big but very cut, so she may well spend a lot of time doing cardio, but correct me if I'm wrong as I'm not a big fan, but I think cardio is part of her actual job. Doesn't she dance a great deal in her shows? So I think it's probably a wise priority for her.

Thoreson himself doesn't look like fitness is a key part of his life (I Googled him and there are lots of photos to go by) but one might hope a fitness trainer like David Kirsch would know better. But he too is quoted attacking Madonna by saying that unlike her arms "Mrs. Obama's are feminine. She looks like a woman." Um, sorry, Madonna is a woman so,you know, she looks like a woman too. Why is this so hard for people to grasp?

Because people like this are telling us constantly that if we get too big we suddenly become men.

One might, then look at the three clients of Kirsch who are noted, does he know how to train women this man who says that just by doing more and more push-ups everyday any of us could look like Michelle Obama (which someone with training in fitness would know is not true at all...it just doesn't work that way)? Well, of the three famous clients noted, I will say Ellen Barkin is rather buff, while the other two all photos I could find show them painfully thin. Perhaps those are from before they trained with him? If dozens of push-ups does that, I think I'll stick with my more diverse training (which does include push-ups, of various types and difficulty...hardly any just standard anymore).

Only Gloria Steinem comes close to the answer, this is sexism plain and simple. But it's not clear if she gets the point about exactly what the message is, she's only quoted as noting that if Hilary Clinton had become President Bill Clinton's arms wouldn't be a subject of discussion. The sexism is that it's that these muscles are on a woman and that is supposed to be abnormal. They'd not be abnormal on a man.

The message is that Michelle Obama's arms are a big deal because it's still considered abnormal for women to be strong. And that's the message many who are noting it want us to keep getting. And in case we don't accept it, then we'll be given bad fitness advice, that great contradiction of "women can't get as big as men but make sure you don't work out the 'wrong way' or you'll end up looking like a man."

So it's time to stop making a big deal and just accept it, yes! women get muscles, we are strong! We do all have this potential, some of us might look like Michelle Obama, others might look like Madonna or Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor, still others might fit the "farm wife" or "bull dyke" stereotypical images while others might be plumply hiding muscle and most of us won't look like anyone else at all. But none of us, barring extreme medical conditions, need to be frail and weak. Rather than making a fuss, we need to make it not a concern at all because too many of us are strong.

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Year of the Gun: First Step, Basic Pistol

I have written in the past that one should train with any weapon she intends to use for self-defense. In believing this, the only guns I have ever previously owned for self-defense or otherwise has been shotguns, having had some training, mostly informal, in using them. I have shot rifles, but not since my youth. I had never shot a pistol before last weekend other than an Air Soft. Last year I decided that 2009 would be the year I truly trained in guns, got better with shotguns but also got trained in others. Handguns were first, not only because they were the least familiar but because I want to train at AWARE and this year that is all they are offering.

I chose, however, to take an NRA Basic Pistol class in NH first, rather than AWARE's Basic Pistol, simply because I wanted to do so with my mate. I do not want to have a gun in the house that he does not know, he may well need it to defend himself for while this blog might focus on women's self-defense, men are crime-victims, even rape victims too, and he is interested in shooting. I could find no available classes near us, so I looked close to where my sister and his mother live so that we could combine trips with family visits and found courses offered at Major Waldron Sportsmen's Association and signed us up.

This class was led by Evelyn Logan, a sharp outspoken woman with a strong sense of humor and an even stronger belief in self-defense. Or, as she put it, the right to survive, "If someone attacks me, he's infringing on my right to survive." Evelyn was very open about being a rape survivor and an attempted rape survivor, "Anyone want to guess why the second was an attempt?" (there are some factual mistakes, like her husband's last name and I think she's younger than this indicates). It turns out that Evelyn has taught at AWARE and she was thrilled to hear that I was going to be training there as well.

As there were many instructors working with her, we also got a taste of various reasons people where enthusiastic about shooting handguns. Along with self-defense and tactical some of the instructors did Bullseye and at least one does Cowboy shooting. We also were able to glean information about why some preferred certain guns over others and how that varied, sometimes picking up things that we might not have expected (for instance, because I am most comfortable shooting left-handed despite being right-handed, probably due both to shooting shotgun and a touch of arthritis developing in my right hand, I noted one instructor mention that being left-handed Glock magazine releases pinched his finger...I might not have noticed this as we only got three shots at the end of class in trying different models, but yes, even with three shots I noted a mark which would likely mean much more discomfort after far more shooting so perhaps no Glock for me).

There were moments of sadness for me. Several women actually noted that they were there to "humor" their husband, boyfriend or father. My mate and I joked that if we were not among the first to introduce ourselves he should have said he was there to humor me (although not actually true, and even less so by the end, he really got into it). Some of these same women also began hanging back when we were able to try out different guns and were quick to say they enjoyed shooting the .22s we trained with but the higher calibers were just too much. I am hoping that as they shoot more this might be something they get past. Hearing it made me, tired as I was from switching my hours and many other reasons for having had little sleep that weekend, head back to try out another .45.

I thought the class we well organized and feel I'm well on my way to becoming knowledgeable enough that handguns will be a part of my self-protection arsenal. But, yes, this is a first step and training will be ongoing. I was thrilled to have a teacher such as Evelyn who has such a passion for women's self-defense and who has actually stopped a rape using a gun. I will undoubtedly train with her more in the future, as I intend to take more classes at MWSA and she has said she'd try to volunteer when I do. Along with the AWARE classes, the first of which I hope will be next month, I intend to do Persona Protection in the Home, Basic Shotgun (because you never can learn too much) and Basic Rifle at MWSA. I hope, too, to eventually be able to get down to some of their monthly Tactical shoots. It's good to see a range such as this one with such a great focus on defensive shooting, when most I found closer to me seem focused almost exclusively on shooting sports.

If you are in the region and looking for training in guns for self-defense and/or sport, I do recommend MWSA. Hopefully, if you're looking for self-defense inspiration, you'll get to meet Evelyn as one of your instructors.

(For the Second Step: Responsible Use of Lethal Force and Third Step: Self-Protection with Handguns clink on these links)

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert ní Dhoireann