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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:51 pm 
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Hey, I also had a teacher question my chronic bitchface! I was 10 years old and she told me on the last day of school that I always looked mad and should smile more.

I also agree that most of the looks she got were probably from the fact that she was standing in a crowd, with a camera (a few people were clearly looking at the camera so it wasn't hidden), or creepin' on the swingsets. Also, have you ever done that thing where you're staring off into a crowd and your eyes land on someone and you may think something innocuous like, "I have that scarf." or, "That reminds me, I need my roots done." and the person happens to look in your direction the same second and then you quickly avert your eyes because it looked like you were staring at them like a weirdo? I've had a few people give me a dirty/weird look in that scenario. Which is why I prefer to wear sunglasses as much as possible.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 4:40 pm 
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paprikapapaya wrote:
I can see it from both sides, too. Sizism is absolutely a thing; I've experienced being rail-thin and being quite zaftig and can say that I am absolutely, without a doubt, treated differently now. Though I have to say, I feel like people stared at me more when I was thin, and I enjoy the feeling of being more anonymous now that I am fat. I got so much unwanted attention being thin, now I rarely get harassed on the street.
#1. You are gorgeous, and I would totally harass the bejesus out of you on the street or anywhere; just say the word, lady!
paprikapapaya wrote:
I feel like some of these photos are just catching people's genuine curiosity at someone stopped, sometimes making an odd face, in a crowd. I might look at someone bending down, or squinting at a map, if they were stopped in the middle of a busy area. Just out of fleeting curiosity, not because I was making a judgment about the person's body. I feel like perhaps she's transferring a bit of her own feelings, feeling like everyone is staring at her because she's fat, into the project; when it could be far more innocent than that.
#2. This.

I saw these photos a few days ago, and after looking through them I’m not at all convinced that the photographer is the object of observation in the ways (or for the reasons) that she imagines. She claims to be directing the gaze back on to the gazers, but she’s really just ricocheting it back onto herself, and I’m not entirely sure what’s demonstrated or achieved by this other than that standing in the midst of a crowd generally garners the momentary attention of passers by. The one taken on the swingset is especially unpersuasive; to be honest, if an unaccompanied (and apparently sad/upset/depressed) adult sat down on the swing next to my kid, I’d probably give them a funny look, too.

Moreover, it was pointed out in comments elsewhere that the image with the map was taken at the entrance to the World Trade Center site, where there is apparently only one direction people can go in, so a map would be both unnecessary and incongruous. I'm also bound to mention that in terms of size she's not much (if at all) larger than some of the other people in the photos, including one woman she's apparently decided is giving her a "strange" look. I really think most people are too busy thinking about their own shiitake for a random stranger to register for more than a fleeting instant; she just happened to catch those instants because that was her goal. I can't help thinking that the "issues" she's supposedly highlighting may have more to do with her own stuff than the people she perceives as judging her.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:01 pm 
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I'm going to pop in on page three and disagree with most of the responses here. I've been looking in on this thread and Haley's blog several times for the past couple of days--I've been trying to think through very carefully before posting that I think Haley is getting an unfair amount of heat in this thread. I think there's a fine line between questioning her project and dismissing her altogether (the latter of which is problematic in the context of silencing someone who is creating a project about being silenced).

I'll start by saying that her technique is very, very flawed. The lack of context is problematic but on the other hand, if she provided more context, she'd be criticized for "editorializing" too much. I'm not sure there's a way to be neutral with this project (and I'm not going to derail into the shortcomings of neutrality because no one will ever want to be my friend again). No matter what, I think there'd be holes to poke in the project--and rightfully so! But the holes don't preclude the parts of this project that do have merit.

And besides, she isn't trying to prove that fatphobia exists or that larger people receive disgusted looks on a regular basis. She doesn't have to prove this; we already know that those who don't fit norms of acceptable size/looks face noticeable prejudice. Haley is simply reflecting on the question of how this prejudice manifests. She's doing so by presenting possible evidence...and yes, some or all of that evidence might be rendered null or insufficient...but the question itself shouldn't be erased. Pictures stay with us and good on her for bookmarking this into my consciousness.

I agree that the majority of these photos beg questions of the onlookers' intentions, and that in some of them, it's very possible they were looking at something else. Yes, stopping in a crowded throughway with a map is going to garner a look, and I read the cop as trying for a goofy photo bomb, since he's looking directly at the camera. There were only three images in which I could clearly, without question, assert that people were judging her weight (the woman looking at her butt, the man turning around to look at her and not her camera, and the man looking at her ice cream). But something I've noticed: she's posting new pictures every day. Is she posting every picture she takes, in order to leave it to the viewer to judge? She pretty clearly addressed that she doesn't know why people are looking at her and she's leaving it open for questioning. She was also forthcoming with how/where/why she set up her camera...so, I'm hard pressed to say she's being manipulative (or, at the very least, she's making an attempt to be as transparent as she possibly can).

I don't think she's trying to shame anyone...and frankly, I bet she has enough common sense to know that the mostly likely response to these photos is to question her ethics/effectiveness as an artist and not to judge the people in the background. Fatshaming is so culturally acceptable that, even in the photos where people are clearly giving her dirty looks, the worst critique of them is probably, "okay that sucks but that doesn't make them a bad person because people do it all the time." And those people aren't going to be identifiable to those who don't know them in real life. Those who do know them in real life? Really? Are their relationships going to change over a look caught on camera? Probably not.

Of course, it's just my personal stance that I don't find it dickish of Haley to take pictures of these people. Logically, I think the argument that it's dickish is valid, even though I don't agree with it. Legally, however, she's in the clear, unless she plans on profiting monetarily off of these photos. As of now, they're simply posted on her blog. I'd also be really surprised if she didn't know laws regarding privacy in photos--take a look at her CV. She isn't exactly a dim bulb.

That all said, I do wish she'd provide more explanations of context and omit the pictures in which there was too much room for doubt...but it's not my project. I still think it's unfair to invalidate the intent.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:10 pm 
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Desdemona wrote:

Moreover, it was pointed out in comments elsewhere that the image with the map was taken at the entrance to the World Trade Center site, where there is apparently only one direction people can go in, so a map would be both unnecessary and incongruous. I'm also bound to mention that in terms of size she's not much (if at all) larger than some of the other people in the photos, including one woman she's apparently decided is giving her a "strange" look. I really think most people are too busy thinking about their own shiitake for a random stranger to register for more than a fleeting instant; she just happened to catch those instants because that was her goal. I can't help thinking that the "issues" she's supposedly highlighting may have more to do with her own stuff than the people she perceives as judging her.


Well, nice people like you probably aren't too focused on judging strangers...but I've overheard enough comments accompanying the looks to substantiate that a lot of people really do like judging strangers. And while it might seem like a woman who's not much smaller than she is would have no room to judge--it's just as often that we judge those who are more like us than who are unlike (for example: women judging the promiscuity of other women...how often does that happen?). I think the woman you're referring to is in the map picture, so I'd be inclined to think she's looking at the map...but, in another context, she could be thinking, "well, I'm not quite as fat as she is."

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Last edited by tinglepants! on Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:10 pm 
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acr wrote:
i'm pretty sure i have chronic bitchface. i'm feeling a lot of face shame right now.


I'm not changing your subnick again!

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:28 pm 
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Speaking strictly about the WTC picture, as someone who walks by that exact spot every day on her way to and from work, I can tell you that the look was most likely pure irritation at someone stopping right in the middle of the flow of traffic. It's a narrow strip where at rush hour (as that appears to be), hundreds of people walk by in both directions and for some reason, at high speed. If you stop there to look at a subway map, you are going to get dirty looks galore, from me included. Nothing to do with your size. Maybe more along the lines of "Damn tourist...get out of my way".


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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:34 pm 
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oh, seriously. tourists. i'll hate on a tourist blocking the sidewalk with no hesitation or regret. i bet my glaring bitchface is in the background of about 50 trillion nyc vacation photos.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:17 pm 
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Desdemona wrote:
#1. You are gorgeous, and I would totally harass the bejesus out of you on the street or anywhere; just say the word, lady!


You would do that for me? That would make me ever so happy!

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:26 pm 
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tinglepants! wrote:
I agree that the majority of these photos beg questions of the onlookers' intentions....Is she posting every picture she takes, in order to leave it to the viewer to judge? She pretty clearly addressed that she doesn't know why people are looking at her and she's leaving it open for questioning.

i think [in a snooty art crit way] this is what i really like about this project. you're left with the question. maybe the person with teh bitchface is a fat hater, and maybe not. as a person used to receiving a lot of crepe for weight (or for looks or for height or for ethnicity or whatever) i suspect that after a while you always suspect someone is looking at you funny- and it isn't always true or for the reasons you expect but it might be. [this last part my own extrapolation from being an outsider]

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:39 pm 
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tinglepants! wrote:
I'm going to pop in on page three and disagree with most of the responses here. I've been looking in on this thread and Haley's blog several times for the past couple of days--I've been trying to think through very carefully before posting that I think Haley is getting an unfair amount of heat in this thread. I think there's a fine line between questioning her project and dismissing her altogether (the latter of which is problematic in the context of silencing someone who is creating a project about being silenced).


I agree. I was trying very hard with my comment not to silence her or to negate the importance of the project. I'm not sure if I made that clear, but I do think that she has an important point. My initial reaction to the description of the project was "this is awesome," but then I found the actual photos unconvincing. You also added some information that I was missing that makes the project seem a bit stronger to me.

That said, I do wonder if there's a way to communicate this message so that fewer people will dismiss it offhand.


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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:04 pm 
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I don't think she is receiving a lot of heat, I think most of us question the motives of those looking at her. I think there are really good examples as to why someone would look at her the moment the picture goes off and people have explained such reasons here.

As someone who is morbidly obese and has been caught in that moment looking at someone for various reasons, I think the project is uninteresting. I think it also causes a lot of people to jump to conclusions in that people are looking at her because of weight rather than all the various reasons.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:23 am 
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paprikapapaya wrote:
Desdemona wrote:
#1. You are gorgeous, and I would totally harass the bejesus out of you on the street or anywhere; just say the word, lady!


You would do that for me? That would make me ever so happy!
You know it, ma'am.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:34 am 
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torque wrote:
tinglepants! wrote:
I agree that the majority of these photos beg questions of the onlookers' intentions....Is she posting every picture she takes, in order to leave it to the viewer to judge? She pretty clearly addressed that she doesn't know why people are looking at her and she's leaving it open for questioning.

i think [in a snooty art crit way] this is what i really like about this project. you're left with the question. maybe the person with teh bitchface is a fat hater, and maybe not. as a person used to receiving a lot of crepe for weight (or for looks or for height or for ethnicity or whatever) i suspect that after a while you always suspect someone is looking at you funny- and it isn't always true or for the reasons you expect but it might be. [this last part my own extrapolation from being an outsider]

If she really wanted to leave it up to the viewer, her project description would be something like "this project is to see what reactions a person taking pictures of themselves in public places would get." But her description (and title) clearly indicates that this is supposed to be about fat shaming. She says "I have always been aware of people making faces, commenting and laughing at me about my size. I now reverse the gaze and record their reactions to me while I perform mundane tasks in public spaces."
She does say elsewhere that she doesn't really know the reasons people are looking, but this is in the "About" section. It's what people first look at to find out more about the project. And that's why this project is regarded as a commentary on fat shaming.
I would be totally fine with her posting these pictures as a study on the reaction of people to public selfies or whatever. But as it is, she's leading people to believe that these people looking at her are judgmental.


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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:16 am 
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joyfulgirl wrote:
But as it is, she's leading people to believe that these people looking at her are judgmental.


Yeah, which probably says a lot about her and her experiences in life. When you have been made fun of in the past, you start to interpret more things as people making fun of you even if they aren't.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:50 am 
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If this were science, her technique would have its flaws. But it's not. Maybe she's merely trying to capture what it feels like subjectively to be an overweight woman in public places, not necessarily provide objective documentary evidence of fat shaming behavior?

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:55 am 
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that's what we can glean from it as viewers, but it isn't her stated intention.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:45 pm 
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joyfulgirl wrote:
But her description (and title) clearly indicates that this is supposed to be about fat shaming.

guess i got caught not reading the original materials!! F for today's class!

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:47 pm 
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I agree with mumbles and acr in that the onlookers faces resemble my own "forkin' tourist!" face.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:20 pm 
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acr wrote:
that's what we can glean from it as viewers, but it isn't her stated intention.

Unless I missed something, I don't see anywhere in her stated intention where she suggests that she's capturing documentary evidence of fat shaming behavior either. In fact, she's explicitly agnostic about whether they're looking at her because of her body size or merely because she's in their way standing in front of a camera:
Quote:
The images capture the gazer in a microsecond moment where they, for unknowable reasons, have a look on their face that questions my presence. Whether they are questioning my position in front of the lens or questioning my body size, the gazer appears to be visually troubled that I am in front of them [emphasis mine].

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:42 pm 
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I really liked this piece and feel like it says a lot of the things I want to say about this topic.

Quote:
This is why I don’t think the primary value in Morris-Cafiero’s project is that it documents a certainty that she is constantly subject to judgmental stares because of her size, and why the commenters’ heavy-handed analysis (complete with brilliant sweeping solutions to the "obesity epidemic") is sort of missing the point.

What this project documents, for me, is that paranoid feeling of constantly being assessed -- the pressure of critical eyes on a body that stands out whether I want it to or not. Because sometimes, I AM being stared at, or laughed at, or pointed at or scowled at, because I am fat. Sometimes I am not. And I can’t always tell the difference.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:55 pm 
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I think the other thing I am struggling with in this thread is the number of people who are dismissing out of hand her lived experience. I don't think any one here would accept that about, say, gender essentialism or slut-shaming, but with fat hate we are all content to bury our heads in the sand.

When I was a pre-teen and teenager I was fat enough to be publicly mocked. To have boys be dared to come "ask me out" so they could all laugh about it later (I was wise to them and would ignore it but god the feeling is awful as a fat 10 year old)--or right then. To have the first response to me saying something someone doesn't like an insult about my body.

I am now not-fat enough to be considered average sized by most (neither my brother nor the fashion industry, but I would literally be dead before I reached that point so fork them both). The difference between being read as a fat woman and non-fat woman is truly something I can't put into words.

And I was not as fat as the artist is, so I imagine what she experiences is more severe. What I do know is that when you don't fit in, when you aren't performing "woman" as you should (you're too butch or too fat or too non-white or too-whatever-the-fuck) you are made to be constantly aware of how you are failing. It is subtle, and it is insidious, and it is ugly as hell.

And there is a big difference between "whoops, bisque face!" and "hey, that teenage girl is blatantly staring and laughing at that woman's butt".

And the fact that the tenor of this thread is "she is wrong and oh god I'm embarrassed about my bisque face" makes me feel really sad.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:08 am 
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I don't think anyone is dismissing her experiences. In fact, I think her experiences colors her view in a way. And like your quote, it documents her own paranoia due to her past experiences. Sure she says she doesn't know what she is thinking but the initial comments seem to indicate that she feels if she takes pictures of herself, she'll see people mocking her. I also don't think she is wrong, but I think you can catch people in various states if you take a picture. That doesn't mean at that moment that anyone is thinking badly of her. They could be but who knows?

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:19 am 
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Yeah. She sets up a camera in a public place and then hangs out in front of it. Of COURSE she gets weird looks. You could be the blandest most average dude in the world (...in order to be as opposite as possible, right?) and you'd still get people giving you, at best, neutral and mildly guarded looks on the way by, and probably staring at you or making bunny fingers (or holding police hats) behind your head on the way by.

I'm not saying that she _doesn't_ get stared at and fat shamed in her real life, but to set up a thing where she's going to be stared at and then point out that she was stared at? I guess it's interesting artistically, but it's as much a selection for effect as the world-class violinist who set up in the worst busking location ever and then was used to make a bogus point about people not paying attention to great art in their midst.

I don't give a crepe what I look like when looking at people doing annoying things on the street. I know I've shot annoyed glances at enough people in downtown Santa Cruz as they butchered Beatles songs or wandered around taking photos like big tourist nerds or did basically anything to impede my walk down the street. I don't care if they're fat or thin or pretty or unappealing-- they're in my way and they're annoying, and I will glare at them in a moment of mild irritation and then move on and then I will forget them. (Unless they're super annoying and then I will ask my co-workers if they noticed the same people, and we will compare notes about sidewalk idiots for a while while we wait for our coffee or tea to be ready.)

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:45 am 
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I'd really like to call into question the rampant use of "in the way" in the context of a woman whose entire presence may be called into question by virtue of her, literally, taking up space.

In nineteen pictures, I count 4 in which the walkways are crowded enough that anyone stopping would force the foot traffic to slow down or bottle neck. In all four of these pictures, it's very possible there's enough room for others to walk around her without slowing their gait (but if I'm to take the photos as they are cropped, she's "in the way" in fewer than 1/4 of them). Heck, even in the token-defense map picture, she's off to the side, giving others ample room to pass.

And to be blunt: in those above-mentioned four pictures, she wouldn't be in the way if she were "normal size."

And I say this as someone who has never been larger than "average" and who has never been publicly stared at, except to be cat-called. Oh, and I also have chronic bisque/cranky/sad/tired face. But it isn't about my lived experience, it's about hers.

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 Post subject: Re: Woman Photographs Herself Receiving Strange Looks in Pub
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:59 am 
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Should Write a Goddam Book Already
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Location: Notavandownbytheriver
Also: I have to wonder, among three pages of posts, at the dearth of responses by those who support Haley's project. I don't accept that the project is so uninteresting as to elicit a unilateral reaction.

Those of us who feel she's being shamed have a lot more to lose by entering into this argument...those who think she's just doing a crappy art project don't have the same emotional/experiential investment. It's easier for to speak up if you don't have to risk further feelings of being silenced by those who doubt you.

Edited to replace "them" with "you." I'm trying to avoid polarizing language.

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"If he was you'd hear him farting at the back of your yoga class." - 8ball


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