nimoy photog

Leonard Nimoy lived long and certainly prospered. I was very sad to hear that on February 27th this legendary man passed away at the age of 83. He was more than just a nerd culture icon as the half Vulcan half human Spock on Star Trek.

spockHe first appeared on screen in 1951 and began an illustrious career in acting while working for wage equality behind the scenes. He always cared about people. This is evident in a very touching letter in a 1968 teen magazine responding to a girl from biracial parents who identified with Spock, saying “Not everyone will be like me but there will be those who will accept me just for who I am.”

Nimoy was a true Renaissance man: actor, poet, writer, musician, director, activist, feminist, photographer, and genuine friend to all. He boldly went where no photographers have gone before. In his controversial 2007 series The Full Body Project, Mr. Nimoy gave an honest depiction of real women and challenged societal standards of beauty.

He photographed The Fat Bottom Review, a buxom burlesque troupe hailing from San Francisco, California. In these images he imitates the poses of Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp while capturing pure joy and unabashed confidence, a ferocity that is purely female, and an “I don’t give a fuck what you think of me world, I love my body!” attitude.

Leonard Nimoy was disgusted at the sad fact that many women and girls suffer because the body they live in is not the one advertised in fashion magazines. Pop culture is distorted and mean. These women are proud of their skin and look the camera right in the face. They are more than just fat and flesh, they are visions of loveliness, joyously celebrating diversity and the art of sensual movement through dance.

He even spoke of this project on the widely popular Colbert Report. This was huge! He allowed Steven Colbert to geek out about Star Trek only with the condition that he could talk about his photos. Nimoy mentioned in the interview (sadly you can only watch it in the US, ComedyNetwork.ca doesn’t have the clip anymore) that the average woman weighs 25% more than what you see in magazines. By opening this door with his photos and words he facilitated an important (yet taboo) conversation about size in the media and how it affects our youth.

full body project
The Full Body Project by Leonard Nimoy courtesy of R. Michelson Galleries. See the whole set and buy the book!

 

These photos changed my life and paved the way for a new generation of women who are celebrating every curve of their unique beauty. Now we have models like Tess Holliday, size 22, tattooed, and very reminiscent of The Fat Bottom Revue girls.

She has started a sensation with “Eff Your Beauty Standards” and inspires me like crazy. She just recently signed a major contract with MILK Model Management UK and is championing Torrid’s no photoshop campaign. Even the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is featuring slightly more curvaceous women than before. Mainstream culture is being taken back by real beauty, oh you’ll see. Every body is lovely, doesn’t matter if you are a size 0 or a size 30 (or all that’s in between).

When a large woman is on stage or in an ad it is most definitely a political statement, it is also a reassurance that it’s ok to be who you are. Even the burlesque community is not safe from fat shaming. Recently Ruby Rage was fired from Lucky Pierre’s in New Orleans for not fitting the correct body type for their show.

This outraged every burlesque dancer who heard the news, especially the world renowned plus size dancer Dirty Martini. Burlesque is about celebrating every shape, size, age, and color of bodies. It is about confidence and exploration, an undeniable fearlessness and freedom, connecting to your audience because you ARE them. Showing off your “flaws” make their “flaws” ok because you are together in being imperfect perfection.

The moment I found out about Nimoy’s death my first thought was to share some of these images on my personal Facebook page (with a “friends only” filter just in case) since the images had such an impact on me. Now if you know me you know that I am not scared of nudity, despise censorship.

To my dismay this post was flagged and taken off my wall, I was pissed to say the least! I couldn’t believe that someone who calls me a friend would report that. Recent sharing of The Full Body Project photos has caused a stir across the whole internet, some of my friends have also been flagged and there are reports from someone in Toronto having the same problem.

Thinking about this now I am almost happy that someone got that upset, these flagger trolls are just insecure and don’t want to see someone they think is abject in the lime light. We got um Len! The conversation is on the table. Kim Kardashian move over, it’s time for The Full Body Project to break the Internet.

I started doing burlesque shortly after coming across these stunning images, knowing these women existed and flourished in a world that always told me I was too big was a game changer for me. I knew I could do it too and inspire change in others with this classic art form. After seeing these beautiful, large nude bodies I was confident enough to pose naked for figure drawing classes and then beyond.

I was once so self conscious that I wouldn’t even go swimming in gym class out of fear that someone would see my body. I am going to be posing for my own black and white artistic nudes soon, everything goes full circle. I am a stronger person and better artist because of the legacy of Leonard Nimoy’s work.

Thank you, friend, rest in peace.

bill maher

That’s it, it’s over. Bill Maher, we’re through.

If you’ve ever left a relationship because your partner’s bad traits start making it impossible to appreciate their good qualities, you know what I’m talking about. I don’t care if he’s funny, and spot on when it comes to things like pot and the militarization of police. He’s downright ignorant and bigoted when it comes to anything related to Islam.

I first saw signs of trouble in his film Religulous, when he poked fun at the Christian Right, criticized Muslims in a much harsher way. He pretty much gave Judaism a pass, except for some Orthodox Jews, and was critical of the State of Israel. I chalked it up to his fervent atheism, remembered that he really did a great job with the Christians and forgot about his unfortunate bias for a few years.

Fast forward to a few months ago. While Israel was indiscriminately bombing Gaza, Maher tweeted this:

As if glibly justifying a willful humanitarian catastrophe wasn’t enough bile for 140 characters, he managed to throw in a bit of misogyny too. I decided to watch his next HBO show Real Time, a show which, to be honest, I generally like.

This time, though, I was watching to see if he would apologize or defend the tweet. He didn’t even address it, but he had George Takei as a guest, and I adore George Takei.

I don’t ignore him enough to forget why I was watching, so I decided to be wary of Maher, applaud him when he deserves it, but be ready to call him out when he crosses the line again. I was giving him a third and final chance and he blew it.

Two weeks ago, he closed off his show, as he always does, with New Rules, a comedy bit that is usually quite insightful and funny. This time, though, it was neither.

He started off by making a point that it is easier to poke fun at Christianity than Islam in a Western context. Fine, it is. But Christianity is the dominant religion in the West, and the same point was much funnier when South Park made it.

If he had left it at that, then fine, boring but fine. But instead, he proceeded to make an argument that you can’t call yourself liberal if you don’t speak out against Islam. Here it is, if you want to watch for yourself:

Forget for a moment that no one made this guy the arbiter of what is liberal or progressive, just what does he mean by speaking out against Islam? If he’s referring to objecting to extremism, then fine, religious extremism is a bad thing regardless of the religion, but that’s not what he means.

The following week, the topic came up in the panel section of his show. It had to. The comments had caused such a stink that even Reza Aslan, noted religious scholar, progressive and practicing Muslim appeared on CNN and deflated the argument.

In the discussion on HBO, Maher made it clear that he was, in fact, talking about condemning the religion as a whole. Another panelist, Sam Harris, clarified even more by trying to argue that Islamic extremism wasn’t the exception but rather the rule.

I would have called bullshit and bigotry, but fortunately Ben Affleck did it for me. That’s right, an uber-mainstream, Hollywood A-lister who was on the show primarily to plug a movie called the host a racist. Give it a watch:

To paraphrase Michael Moore, one of Maher’s celebrity leftist friends: “When progressive scholars and Batman are against you, Mr. Maher, you just might be a bigot.” Moreover, you’re probably not a liberal at all.

What’s so liberal about telling people what they can and can’t believe? As an agnostic who also thinks, I find Maher’s comments offensive, and worse, ignorant.

When supposed progressive allies start sounding like the radical right they claim to despise, it’s time to move on.

No, I don’t want people to boycott HBO; I need my John Oliver and Game of Thrones as much as you. I also don’t think guests should refuse to appear on Real Time, as long as they make sure to call Maher out when needed, just like Affleck did.

I do think it’s time the progressive left realizes that a bigot is a bigot. Maher and his ilk aren’t allies, despite making good points from time to time.

Bill Maher, we’re done!

austerity sign

It’s trickling down. Snow falling from the condensed steam of downtown high rises. It begins to fall gently and you barely even notice it. But when that perfect storm hits, those snowflakes will blind you. Winter is coming.

Regular Canadians, us, our friends and families, who watch tv, listen to the radio and live normal lives are being manipulated by career tricksters and their corporate puppeteers. In English Canada, it’s Brian Lilley and Michael Coren, in Quebec it is Michel Hebert and PQ minister Benard Drainville, all so called journalistsBrian, Michael and Michel work directly for one of richest people in Quebec and Canada, Pierre Peladeau.

Pierre knows whats up. He’s watching his billionaire buddies in Europe. They’re ripping their countries apart, privatizing everything, destroying pensions and throwing people on the street. He’s got his eyes on Hydro Quebec, as the CLSCs are closed down, perhaps private health care too. They’re softening the blows with distractions. Cue the Charters. Attacking minorities becomes a pastime in Europe and slowly, in Canada.

Those few allowed to speak against it publicly don’t make sense. Liberals talk about loving the “others.” They spend their precious words whining about political correctness. The words fly over our head. Racism sells easier than political correctness. Reasonable accommodation, the ultimate liberal mental masturbation, hides a deep austerity. Are we so impoverished that we cannot provide for those whose spirituality calls for the covering of hair or not touching others who are not their spouse? We all work in the same places, play in the same parks, love the same and laugh the same. We don’t need to embrace the language of difference. Why can’t we accommodate everyone? Why are we so impoverished? Who stole our money?

On the banks of the Ottawa River, in the dirt of industrial Montreal, on the piers of Newfoundland, in the mountains of British Columbia, we were played against each other. Quebecers fresh from the farm and Irishmen fresh from the famine fought to the bottom for pennies in factories and forests. Immigrants from Eastern Asia met violence from angry Englishmen in Vancouver over starvation wages.

Historical memory is short. There was a time when Catholics, in many countries, were not allowed to have jobs in the government and were oppressed mercilessly. Now their descendants want to share their forgotten experiences with Muslims, Sikhs and Jews.

If there has been one thing consistent across time and space, it is that good, regular people, unfiltered by the poetic trickery of the elite and the pain of poverty, have always shared a bond. Humans have a natural solidarity and, I believe, want to love one another. It is the rich and powerful that benefit from dividing us.

Top hat wearing English blokes, not so far removed from Brian Lilley, used to write poems and stories about how much they hated those poor people working in factories and living in slums. Even today, think about how big television stations now portray trailer parks and ghettos in popular culture. They call us fat. They call us stupid. They want us to hate ourselves. And then, as if stealing from the poor of their own country wasn’t enough, these top hat wearing, cigar smoking monopoly men wanted the world. They sold lies about Native Americans, Indians, Chinese people and African people so they could send poor white folks to murder them, steal from them, and die.

The bodies of the poor are the weapons of the rich. And not much has changed. They still use us. Their ranks have swelled. They look and sound more like us. They’ve removed their hats, but they hold their reigns tightly and they’re riding us into each other with the force of a nation.

noword

On March, 17th, 2013, Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville, Ohio, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old West Virginia girl.

The defendants, both members of the town’s cherished Big Red football program, dragged the victim to a series of parties on August, 11, 2012, sexually assaulted her and documented the brutal and public rape that took place that evening. Video and photographic footage taken by Trent Mays and observers (who stood idly by as the victim was abused and publicly humiliated) soon circled rampantly on social media sites and cellphones.

Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays received offensively weak juvenile sentences for which they will serve one year and two years, respectively. Mays received a longer sentence for being found guilty of illegal use and distribution of nudity oriented material containing a minor.

The Steubenville rape case gained international attention following posts by the known blogger Alexandria Goddard, who raised questions concerning the integrity of the investigation and the attempted cover-up by the boys’ football coach and brought to light the social media backlash that had begun, defending the actions of the rapists and publicly shaming the victim. Twitter and other social media networking sites flushed with posts condemning the victim for being inebriated, accusing her of being promiscuous and discrediting the claims that she had been taken advantage of, despite graphic trial evidence.

See for yourself (WARNING: the previous link contains an amassment of pathetic, social shortcomings and a lack of sensitivity, worthy of instilling anger in even the most sentient of beings).

The Steubenville case in its entirety is horrendous, and that includes the media’s coverage and portrayal of the defendants. Major media outlets such as NBC, CNN, ABC and USA Today paint the rapists in a sympathetic light, emphasizing the demise of their “promising football careers” (as quoted by NBC) and the heavy emphasis on the victim being drunk.

Of the news media outlets that were guilty of putting unnecessary stress on the victim being drunk, USA Today opens their article with: “Two members of Steubenville’s celebrated high school football team were found guilty Sunday of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl…” This begins the outline of a very obvious media bias. cnnn

CNN’s reporter Poppy Harlow empathized with the defendants and had this to say when asked (by CNN anchor Candy Crowley) about the emotional setting of the courtroom during the trial’s verdict: “I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional — incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”

CNN goes on to highlight the trials and tribulations these young men are now faced with as registered sex offenders. There is little, to no acknowledgement for the victim and the lasting effects this rape is going to have on her.

news

These comments and implications intended to lessen the monstrosity of May’s and Richmond’s actions shocked the public, and serve as a depressing assertion to the prevalent desensitization of society caused by rape culture.

Making excuses and attempting to invoke pity for the defendants in the brutal raping and mocking of the unnamed 16-year-old victim, just because they were “promising athletes” or because one of the defendants broke down and cried in court, only stands to perpetuate rape culture and the harmful actions of arrogant individuals who think their athletic and academic standings grant them immunity from moral obligations.

This is only one case out of so many that has sparked a flurry of online victim blaming. The way that the media and society continually depict women as being fully responsible for their own well-being while drinking and the backwards claim that women are “asking for it” if they dress a certain way, is how this mentality continues to thrive in our society.

The focus should be on teaching people: that causing malicious, intentional, sexual and demoralizing, trauma to someone is not only vile and inexcusable, but more importantly-the blame should fall solely on the perpetrator of these actions, not the victim.

How does a tragedy such as the Steubenville case, in which the rapists are shown celebrating the victim’s public defilement and torture in front of her peers, make its way into our communities, and culture?

We can find the answers to those questions all over the world, seeping out of every crevice of our deadened and morally corrupt human capacities. Everywhere we look we can see misogyny. Everywhere we look we can find people who believe others are worth less than they are.

It is this loss of humanity that seems to be so prevalent in our society that shelters rapists. Under the guise of the media, young people are growing up not fully understanding the repercussions that come with every facet of rape.

Take for example the 2004 incident that occurred in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The Abu Ghraib incident refers to the acts of rape, torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the correctional facility. For a year these prisoners were abused and subjected to routine shaming.

This was an instance where a group of people (in this case trained military personnel) were left largely unsupervised and in charge of prisoners and within a year were not only abusing the prisoners, but sending graphic images of prisoner torture back home to fellow soldiers.

This is just one example of people feeling entitled to rape and torture, just because they uphold a certain status. Whether you are a soldier, or a football player, rape is never any less of a crime.

It is saddening to see that the impact of a culture so desensitized, that pushes such conflicting and twisted views regarding rape, could influence young people to film and boast about raping a girl to their peers.

Unfortunately this is a product of rape culture; it casts a veil over the consequences of sexual abuse, by constantly putting more emphasis on the victim and not the rapists. Young people are growing up with a skewed idea of what “consent” means and because of this more and more victims are left feeling guilty or unsure of coming forward.

Not only did news media outlets inadequately acknowledge the suffering of the victim, they are responsible for aiding the growing delusion that rape can be joked about and treated lightly. This should be considered a crime in itself.

The power of the news media is vast, and as such the graveness of painting Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond in a pitying light is all the more profound. These implications will have major negative impacts on the 16-year-old Steubenville victim and sexual assault victims worldwide.

Something certainly needs to change and it sure as hell has nothing to do with what women are wearing.

You can sign the online petition asking CNN apologize on air for siding with the rapists