Wonder Woman Rant Redux – muscle, space and physical feminism

Six years ago I wrote the post Wonder Woman—a rant from Goddesses to costumes to Goddesses which remains my most popular post ever. *sigh* (because while I’ll always throw in pop culture material regarding physical feminism and all, that’s not the precise focus of my blog even if story is and these are our stories) And as it started getting hits again recently, likely due to people looking for things regarding the new movie, I figured I should add a review to the movie.  But  as I had not made any commentary regarding Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman when Batman v. Superman came out, have been pretty actively avoiding doing so, really, I realized I really need to get the physical feminism issues of this out of the way so I can review Wonder Woman without discussing this aspect.

But first, please let me note that I am really excited about Wonder Woman, it’s way past time to finally have a stand-alone superhero movie for a female character!   To boot, it’s also important that it is being directed by a woman!  Be nice if there were more women in the background, it sucks to “take what we get” but hopefully it’s a step. IF it succeeds. And there is evidence that it is not meant to, that it is being under promoted and it is being released at a bad time in regards to established competition.  

If we want more this movie must succeed strongly!  Pleas go see it, multiple times if you can!  Yeah, use capitalism to our advantage, by the Dr. Pepper! (don’t like Dr. Pepper…yeah, me either, but the cans are what might be worth the purchase)  Buy T-shirts!  Uh, but we have to have our limits, please, PLEASE do NOT buy the fucking diet bars!  Talk and post about the movie!

Let’s make this a huge success and at the same time demand more!  More! More female superhero stand-alone movies!  More female led superhero TV shows! More female directors of both! More female writers of both! More female producers of both! More female show runners!   Also more diversity over all…. women of color, trans-women!

And yes…..More muscle!  

Can someone point me to the original source?!  I found this tons of places via Google but have failed to find the origin.

Part of not writing about this for the past three or four years is just other things going on, but also not wanting to get into the accusations of body-shaming Gal Gadot.  So let’s get a few things clear here:

  1. I in no way wish to body-shame Gadot. This isn’t about her really, she just landed in the middle of an ongoing issue, especially as she never sought out the role. It is about the choice by Zack Snyder, and anyone else involved in casting, to actually pursue her for the role for it despite the fact it was for a character currently shown as largely muscled. This is on the casting not her. I am sorry if her feelings have been hurt, but also see #3 here.I am also sorry she got attacked for her breast size, which is in no way an issue for me. (however, in her defending that someone should inform her that the cutting off a breast thing was likely propaganda created by forcing the Iranian *ha-maz-an “one fighting together” into similar sounding Greek term which conveniently made it sound horrid to Greek women who might want to become one. Certainly, there is no way it would help women draw a bow, quite the opposite, and certainly no evidence that the Sauro-Sarmatian female warriors who probably were sometimes called this did so, especially as they were expected to marry and have children when they gained adulthood [sound familiar?  yes, Amazons were likely among the war bands I am studying, of course] 2,500 year-old Alt-Facts are no more true than modern ones) Yes, perhaps WW is often shown with outrageously large breasts but as they are irrelevant to her ability as a fighter I really do not consider it important. Muscles matter, however.
  2. Discussion of the bodies of actors playing superheroes is not focused only on women, but has
    long been going on with men. The attacks on both Michael Keaton and George Clooney when they were cast as Batman were really before the internet took off and may be forgotten by many and since overshadowed by the, not unrelated, snarking on the rubber batsuits. This is a rather extensive post exploring Batman’s physique, including the actors from Adam West up through Christian Bale from Gotham Alleys. Ben Affleck’s and Henry Cavill’s muscle mass has been up for discussion on the interwebs as well, never mind that they got more upgraded muscle suits to help them out (difficult with bare harms and shoulders of WW’s costume, of course).
  3. Despite the usual cries (from privileged people regardless of the issue) that there should be no “oppression Olympics” oppression is not equal. Some forms of oppression are worse than others. And within particular form of oppression there is definitely a difference, that’s actually the very nature of oppression.  Yes, being “skinny-shamed” or even “societal-ideal-body-shamed” might hurt the individual’s feelings and that is real for them, it is not the same as a largely muscled woman who is
    shamed for “looking like a man” and who is (as is relevant to this issue) unable to get a job in film or TV because they are too muscular, which happens, and that is, honestly, not the same as someone being fat-shamed by being denied all sorts of jobs, being forced to buy an extra seat or not be able to fly at all to not being able to get appropriate healthcare and sometimes dying from that.As thin actresses are favored and get jobs all the time, bitching that muscular actress are left out of a role essentially designed for them is not thin-shaming, it is discussing muscle-shaming. On the other hand, almost all the defensiveness about “thin-shaming”in this situation is really thinly (no pun intended) disguised fat- or muscle-shaming the latter of which is displayed here.In a nutshell, it is simply not thin-shaming to demand that other types of women’s bodies be seen in movies especially when the character is already established as having a body that does not meet the societal ideal.
  4. As a continuation of the above, there is more going on here than one woman’s body shape. It’s the whole damn message that, again, the Women’s Health piece drives home, that women are supposed to be thin and only thin. There is a very narrow (yeah, pun is intended here) range of acceptable body types in the media, especially in any sort of leading role. There is a constant message that women must take up as little space as possible.This was notable to me in watching Batman v. Superman, right down to the first encounter between Affleck’s Bruce Wayne and Gadot’s Diana Prince when he towered over her intimidatingly (while Affleck is 6’4″ and Gadot is 5’10”, canon Batman is 6’2″ and the modern canon (we’ll get to this) WW is 6’0″ which is not as notable a difference, and height is easily managed in film so this could

    have played far differently. Again, while already very muscular, both Affleck and Cavill are made almost absurdly large with their suits and in the way they are featured, while Gadot appears diminutive, even while doing “large things.”

    This size disparity is, of course, also found in the comic at times, but is, frighteningly, perhaps mostly geared towards kids as in  Justice League Action.  The message given to girls by always portraying female heroes as a always being able to be strong but thin remains a message to not take up space, to fit a societal ideal that most of us do not and which girls and women harm themselves daily to try to achieve. While also being strong? Can this message be denied here at all when there is a damn tie-in to a weight loss product?

  5. This has been one of a long line of very thin women being cast into muscular roles, a role that is now known for being muscular just as (even more so, really…far more so) Sarah Connor was, where the actress was put into a position of proving she was gaining enough muscle to do so and we are told repeatedly that she did despite all evidence that she doesn’t. Now, again, this seems to get close to thin-shaming, but again it’s about the spin that is put on the issue by the promoters and puts the actress, who surely would rather not be there, into the spotlight to try to prove a point about what women’s bodies are “supposed” to look like.I also can sympathize, I do not put on a lot of muscle even though I work out specifically to attempt to.  So if it’s a matter of not having a mesomorph-dominant  body I get it. I’m totally an endomorph/ectomorph cross.  So why not cast an actress who already does?  Because not all women have difficulty putting on muscle, just as not all men can put muscle on easily!But there is another factor. Are these women actually getting the sort of fitness training that builds muscle.  The Women’s Health piece (I’m not giving them yet another link) claims Gadot said “that she’s been doing “a thousand and one things” to gain body mass in preparation for the role, including kung fu, kickboxing, and jujutsu.”   So, you know, fighting arts is great for preparing for such a role but they do not exactly put on mass. I can only assume those thousand and one things included weight training but, of course, that also has to be done right even for someone genetically inclined to put on muscle.And, here’s the kicker, there’s a long term gas-lighting (no, really, that is what it is) technique in the fitness biz of telling women that “women do not bulk up like men but you must work out to make sure you do not bulk up like a man.” Or even the ever growing popularity of “lift like a man but don’t look like one, just starve yourself.” (no, I am not linking to any of this shit, it’s too easy to find as it is).  It’s so fucking common.  And this little game of “oh, she’s really muscular for a woman, this is is what a proper muscular woman looks like” is a growing part of that gas-lighting.

    This gas-lighting is so pervasive and has been going on so long that women truly believe they can’t bulk up and that they must also avoid bulking up as much as possible. They also believe that a “toned” look, one of the most horrific jokes in fitness, on a woman is comparable to a body-building physique on a man. This is not just cis-women who believe all this (and I do apologize for how cis-centric this all is, the subject makes it difficult to be more diverse at this point) so most people do believe that Gadot (and other actresses put through this), for a woman, has “really bulked up.”

    (Want some great reading on how how sports media plays into this gas-lighting check out Body Panic: Gender, Health and the Selling of Fitness by Shari L Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs and Built to Win: the Female Athlete as Cultural Icon by Leslie Heywood and Dworkin)

  6. This movie is tied in with a fucking weight loss product!
  7. Sorry Women’s Health (no, not linking again), but while you can be strong and thin bigger strong people will still be stronger!  Simple physics!   “Oh, but she’s super-powered.”  Yeah, so is Superman and if there is any superhero who doesn’t need size on his side it’s Superman…yet he keeps getting bigger so….  STFU!  You’re just espousing sexist sizism that dictates women must strive to be as small as possible with this sort of shit. (I’d also be interested in whether under the circumstances of Superman’s superpowers, the yellow sun, which makes virtually nothing a real resistance for him, if such a creature would have much muscle mass at all. Anyone? ….and make it something more than an opinion because I don’t care so much to give that time, thanks).We know the Amazons trained. I expect muscle. It appears there will be in some of the Amazons, although I have yet to see boxer Anne Wolfe or MMA fighter Madeleine Vall in costume yet.
  8. A fucking weight loss product!
  9. Wonder Woman is certainly not about weight loss, she has instead, happily gained both height and weight. The Golden Age WW was, indeed, a rather tiny 122 lbs at 5’8″.   The New 52 WW is 165 lbs at 6’0″ -but honestly she often looks more muscular than that likely would.
  10.  So this movie, which should be about showing women are strong and powerful as superheroes, who can take on men, monsters and armies, is still giving us a message that this better be done while avoiding taking up too much space. Brought fully home by the fact that, they tied it into a fucking weight loss product!
  11. We have a legitimate expectation to see more varied feminine bodies on screen and that does include ones which are muscular especially when the character is already know to be and is supposed to be physically powerful!
  12. We have a legitimate expectation to see women taking up space in movies! And everywhere!  We have a legitimate right to take up space!
  13. We don’t want your fucking weight loss products!

Again, the take away is that this might annoy many of us ,but it is vital, especially if we want to see female superhero muscle to support this movie!  Which looks like it might be very good, despite this. Which is why I wanted this out of the way before I saw and reviewed it.

But also success means more female-led superhero films, more female directed superhero films, hopefully more female produces superhero films. And other such action films, maybe too!  Because right now the myth that women’s action movies do not bring in money, something which they seem to want to prove by not promoting WW as much as they already are Justice League. We have the promise of a Captain Marvel, which will be the first female-lead stand-alone Marvel offering in 2019.  Can we hope for others to follow? Only if we make this big!

In fact, this doe not need to be the last Wonder Woman of our times. Superman and Batman have had too many actors to count (well, okay, I’m too lazy) playing them since Kirk Alyn (who preceded George Reeves) and  Lewis Wilson (who preceded Robert Lowery who preceded Adam West), respectively.  Meanwhile, actually making it to screen Gadot is only the third live action actress, following the well known Linda Carter TV series run in the 1970 and the Cathy Lee Crosby pilot movie that ran the year before Carter’s series was picked up instead. There’s a lot of room there for more women playing Wonder Woman. And TV is another option.

And as Supergirl is slated early for a third season on CW, which is picking up more DC titles and which has already been established is a different Earth than the DC movies with different actors playing the Flash, I think it is now the time for them to finally do a workable Wonder Woman with a different and buff actress playing her.  And without resorting to the dreck of the previous series attempt and remember that even bits that might work for raised-since-a-young-age-as-a-“regular-girl” Supergirl is not going to work with raised-to-be-a-warrior-since-birth Amazon  Oh, she might love sharing ice cream with her bestie but not to cry over her “lost love.”  While we’re at it, let’s make sure her best friend is Etta Candy (or if they met way back, Etta’s granddaughter or something) and make sure she is fat and athletic and a fucking badass as she should be and never actually the joke she could have been (and I’m waiting to see how the movie does with her)…and never, ever have her mention wanting to lose weight because Etta does not give a fuck about your fat-shaming standard!  Oh, yeah, Diana should be bi too, because finally what was really quite obvious has been officially acknowledged. And also she must fight Nazis. I’ll discuss the taking her story back to WWI instead of WWII when I have actually seen the movie, but the original Wonder Woman came to the Man’s World during the World War II to battle the threat of Nazis. She has had to battle Nazis cropping up at various times. We have a real Nazi problem right now, we need her fighting Nazis now!

So we need to make this move HUGE and then voice our desires to see such a show come up soon.

Go to the movie, take friends, go lots of times if you can, take more friends! Post and promote, if they won’t we have to!  Buy products, but not the fucking diet bars!  Let’s remind them that women bring an audience!

ETA: I just had this go through my feed!  I guess they were just waiting to promote it (or something), so another way make this big and get more WW and more of other female superheroes is participate he shit out Wonder Woman Day

 

Wonder Woman, with muscle, punching Trump mural in Pilidelpha

Women Kick Ass at the Artemis Film Festival!

If you’ve been reading awhile you know that along with exploring the Gaelic warrior path, I just love female action movies…what ones there are…. and they exist …and are unappreciated in the mainstream. So I couldn’t help but get seriously excited when I heard of the Artemis Women in Action Film Festival happening in Los Angeles April 24-26, 2015!

They have been fundraising to make this happen at WomenKickAss.com and now have the funds for a single screen so it is a go!  They are trying to raise enough for at least a second screen and maybe a third!  Please, if you can, help out, if not snag that link and share it around!  The fundraiser ends on March 19!

 ETA: And there will be a Twitter Party on March 19 from 7pm – 8pm PST!

Linda HamiltonBecause this is important!  If we’re going to get more movies with women action leads, we need to support and celebrate the effort and show that we are an audience to be reckoned with! And it’s vital that we have more of these movies out there, because it’s not that we just want them, its that we need them!  At any age and we especially need this to grow so young women and girls can see women as equal, in all ways! We need this festival to thrive!

There will be competitions for films and screenplays and women of action films will be honored!

This includes Linda Hamilton receiving the Artemis Action Icon Award! Well, who else would it be?  Because for so many of us, even after more than two decades she just really is The Icon!

Actress, stunt woman, author Angela Meryl will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Unsung Heroine Award and stunt  woman  and stunt coordinator Maja Aro will be receiving the Artemis Stunt Warrior Award.

You can see a message from festival founder, actress and stunt woman Melanie Wise in this video.  Please remember that the Women Kick Ass fundraiser has been extended to March 19 and therefore you still have three days to join in and make this event really take off!


The Women Kick Ass Project from Artemis on Vimeo.

Of course, if you can help out and actually go to it ….well, if I could I would! So do it!

(cross-posted on The Sarah Connor Charm School Blog)

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 4: Training

me doing chin ups

So, yeah, I had made some warning that there might be yet another installment on this theme and here it is.  Really, I’m using it mostly because this is somewhat a continuation of things touched upon in part 2 about how the Sarah Connor Charm School became an exercise in implementing some of my warrior path training ideas, with modifications. Since I’m finding my current focus on upping my own training and working on getting my business going again seems to be interfering with work on my second post about Cú Chulainn’s relationship with the Morrígan, I figured maybe writing about training on this path might help me get on track in several ways. I have to stay that thoughts about the Tara High Kings Festival competition may also be prompting this (and there may be a post in that after we see what takes place)

One thing that has been coming up for me is the idea that I “broke training” for much of this summer.  In June and July we were caring for a very sick dog. For much of that there was a heat wave here. Neither of us got much sleep for those weeks, although my mate as an EMT really seldom does, nor did we eat very well. Everything was constant stress. After our Cù died, I had started to get back with it, but became very sick myself…as often happens when getting through tremendous stress and poor self-care and then, well, the body realizes that it doesn’t have to get through anymore.

There is a lot of focus in the amateur fitness world that you work out through everything.  Illness, stress, business, what ever. As a fitness professional, I tell my clients to back off or take breaks when sick, because the body doesn’t need extra stress when trying to heal. To take breaks on a regular basis, actually, as the body needs rest and adapts to constant exercise in a negative way. I’m good about taking scheduled rest breaks, but still self-flagellate about taking breaks when it’s not “in the plan” so I get caught up in that thinking.

But, really, what are training for? For me it’s different from what many think about, even while the industry sometimes gives lip service to the idea of fitness for life, it’s largely about looks, usually about weight. So if your focus is on that, well, taking a break when things are going to shit might mean gaining weight (although this is largely a fallacy, weight isn’t as easily controlled as such ideas make it out to be, which is part of why I am a Health At Every Size™ trainer) or losing muscle (you do, but muscle rebuilds faster than it built in the first place).  That’s not what I’m training for. It’s not what those I train train for. The truth is, I’m training for being as healthy as possible. And, really, I’m raining for crisis. And when there is one I’m in it, training for it just can take away from what I need to put into the crisis at hand.

Okay, it might not be as romantic and exciting as the idea that I’m training for the Zombie Apocalypse, er, Revenant Cataclysm, but in reality training for any crisis is training for any other. It’s about making the body stronger so it better adapts to stress. What ever form that stress may take. So that the body doesn’t break down, at least not completely.  A bad summer cold is nothing compared to other possible stress related health problems, after all. And even a crisis which might not seem overly physically taxing does still mean physical work needs to be done, especially when homesteading. Keeping up with things that needed done here like caring for our other animals often took a toll just due to the exhaustion. I hadn’t been training before, I’d likely not have been able to do any of that at all.

It’s true that certain stressful periods can be aided by exercise, it can alleviate anxiety. I won’t say I didn’t exercise at all while taking care of Cù, there were times when my husband was there to watch after him that I’d escape to the gym or the trail for awhile. But the work out was light, exhaustion catching up with me. And not as frequent.  Therefore not within my usual training perimeters.

Of course, training on this path isn’t just about fitness. But I do believe that it is the base of all the rest of training. This is obvious for martial arts training but for some it may not be for the less obviously physical. However, I find warrior trance to be very physically challenging, it is often movement based and even when not puts a great deal of stress on the body. When it comes to research, I also find I am more focused when I am engaging in regular physical training. All these things fell behind too during that time. The only thing that didn’t, obviously, were the parts about connecting with my animals, especially my dogs, especially this one, and the Otherworld. Because those things were at the center of everything. And all these things are aspects of the path.

I have been playing with the outline for a training program, you know for this War Goddesss cult I’m not starting.  A look at what I feel is needed to serve Her/Them. As I noted before, I had started such an outline for organizations I was in but they never panned out. I was often told they were too much, yet I know someone doing the version I redid, changing out the cultural and mystical bits, for the Sarah Connor Charm School.  There’s also endless modification…so…

I am hoping to be posting a new outline on the website soon. It will take some thought. I see as a three fold path, after all, warrior-seer-poet. Some of us ares strong in one of these than the others and that may change. I am weakest in the poetry, but as I age I might increase my focus and learn more to strengthen it. Never know.  This combination is based on what we see among the warriors of the Fianna as well as the Scáthach’s training of Cú Chulainn and is coming up a lot in my writing.

But right at this moment, I’m focused on the fitness part of the physical training an starting to get back to the martial part, as well as working on Sight, research and writing. Well, this is somewhat a restart of the writing. LOL

As I am so focused, I thought I’d leave you with links for posts I did for the Sarah Connor Charm School Blog. As, really, this is one element of the training programs which wouldn’t change. We have no real concrete information on fitness training, other than there was lots of running, of the early Irish warriors, so we go with what we know works. Even if I had details, I’d modify it for reasons of science and, especially, safety.

EDIT: I have revised this specifically for the Shadow of the Hooded Crow Fitness Files

SCCS Fitness Training Intro: This Fitness Program will make you look just like Sarah Connor a Stronger You!
SCCS Fitness Training Part 1: The Activity Triad
SCCS Fitness Training Part 2: Flexibility
SCCS Fitness Training Part 3: Cardiovascular/Endurance/Aerobics
SCCS Fitness Training Part 4: Strength Training

Copyright © 2013 Saigh Kym Lambert

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 2 Warrior Cults and Charm Schools

As I noted in An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons I had been planning before the blogosphere explosion to write a bit about how the Sarah Connor Charm School and  Hooded Crow relate for me. About why I am doing both, where they meet and where they don’t. To do so was actually probably sparked when I was told that someone had proclaimed the Charm School as a Gaelic Heathen warrior group. As it was at a time I was trying to get more attention out about my Hooded Crow project, I think it was especially annoying. Of course, it would come as a big surprise to all those Christian women I work with in the Charm School, and probably Pagans of other cultural involvements.

So having reiterated that the SCCS is not a Pagan group, I shall now admit that it actually started out as a Pagan joke. And now may be responsible for this Pagan project. In fact, I’m starting to reconsider what I said that They never used Sarah Connor’s image, because I think They did quite a bit to kick me in the ass….even if none have ever copied her appearance. Because right when I needed it, there it was.

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Termintor 2
It was probably this one

Never having seen The Terminator, I didn’t pay much attention when a friend, a mentor on the warrior path, and his roommate were talking about the second movie about to come out. I seem to remember them focused on Arnie and machines. *yawn* Later that day, I was a bit surprised when I visited other friends (at the time) who were not, AFAIK, Arnie fans anymore than I was, to find that they were all excited about Terminator 2 as well. Then they showed me her photo in a magazine (remember those things? ah, yes, tell me the machines aren’t taking over, after all). Linda Hamilton, dressed in black and with all that muscle.

You know how you don’t know you were looking for something until you find it? Yeah, one of those moments. Or rather it built, I sought out the first movie, got to the new one the first chance I got. The first moment when Sarah is on the screen doing chin ups was probably when it really hit. This was something I was looking for, I just hadn’t known it.

There are people who probably do great without story and imagery to motivate and drive them. I’m not one of those people. I am very driven by story and image, I need to put things in my head to work towards.  While I had found enough to get me into martial arts and physical training to be on this path I found myself on, much was rather anachronistic and much was unformed in many ways. Especially as a woman on the path, with a male mentor who had a world of images and stories through the ages he could go on but which tended to make those like me feel marginalized.

Yes, there were other strong women fictional roles before then, including Ripley of the Alien franchise. But Sarah was different, because there was a multitude of layers about here which were meaningful for me. Okay, maybe I wasn’t that paranoid about machines and I never had a kid, the latter being a strong connect for some of my friends, but pretty much everything else. Despite a fantastical story line, she was very real, very everyday. Just one of us.

The key thing was her character arch, which might be one of the best ever created in movies. Yeah, I might be bias. She was just like most of us have been at some point, directionless, working a dead end job we hated and felt inept at, not exactly winning at love. She wasn’t a warrior, she didn’t start out with knowledge of how to fight, she wasn’t granted super powers. In the first movie she is totally a Final Girl, with two notable exceptions. One is that she survived having sex, but then she does have to have this kid as it’s sort of the point. But the main one is that when the monster is finally dead, rather than sighing with relief and trying to return to a “normal life” despite the trauma, she heads south of the border pregnant, with a gun and a dog and looking for training. When she appears again she’s crazy, trained, physically strong. To the point that she, herself, may be more machine, but you can see her arch continue as her relationship with her son begins to heal in T2.

The combination of physical strength, fight training and preparedness were things I realized where intricate to making a civilian warrior. A bit of craziness might not hurt either. Because this was where I felt directionless at the time this movie came out. Obviously, I wasn’t going to be transported back to the Iron Age. I also had health issues which made being a professional warrior of any type, law enforcement, military or firefighter (which  had at one time wished to do), impossible. Um, okay, I also have an issue with authority which might have gotten in the way. It helped to see the survivalist presented. And a woman at that.

Of course, there was the muscle. I was struggling with fitness, in part due to health issues (some of which got worse in the year or so before the movie came out) as well as being a scrawny hard-gainer. I was studying a martial art, which included some fitness (although probably shouldn’t…I have several issues with that now), was lifting, running. I was having problems with figuring out what to do and how to do it. I had long ditched the standard fitness advice to women, for it was (and is) about diminishing, getting smaller and weaker, not about strength. Therefore I was reading bodybuilding magazines and books, but that often left me frustrated, because of being a hard-gainer (but I did learn the term “hard-gainer”).  Sarah offered  more realistic physique than the bodybuilders did. Oh, still very different than I could and Linda Hamilton was not a hard-gainer, having obtained that look in a very short time. But still more real. At some point along the line I did decide to figure it out by become a personal trainer…which is it’s own twisted tale.

This was the practical side, which I don’t feel I was at all grounded in before. And which is vital to the warrior path. Which also needs to be grounded in the present day, even if the reasons we do it are in the future (and, no, probably not Skynet or Revenants, so it’s best to be ready for anything).

So I was pretty obsessed, using this story and imagery to motivate me as I continued with my growing physical training and with continuing research on Gaelic culture and religion. And now, back to how the Charm School started as a Pagan joke.

The same people who first showed me Linda/Sarah’s photo were working on a parody Pagan newsletter not long after the movie came out (or maybe even had started before, time slides). It was going to satirize various excesses of the Pagan community. I was at first trying to come up with something mocking some other folks I knew, but, well, sometimes it’s more fun to joke about yourself. And so, “Sarah Connor Charm School” and an “ad campaign” for this “warrior training program” bloomed. The parody ‘zine never happened, but the Sarah Connor Charm School remained a running joke.  Which spread among many of my other friends from various circles.

As I got online, I kept referencing the joke with real life friends who already were in on it and it grew to those I “met” online. Indeed, many women had been inspired by the character in similar ways.  We made up a batch of T-shirts, we discussed fitness, martial arts and self-defense, a bit of prepping..I started a LiveJournal page for it.

Meanwhile, I kept worshiping the War Goddesses, yet felt forbidden to speak Their names or talk or write much about Them, which often became uncomfortable (especially as others were not so forbidden and, well, some of the information spread was…well….). I worked within or Outside a variety of groups, started a warrior group within an organization which has fortunately written me out their history from what I understand and so will remain nameless here, tried to start up some other things which got too distracting and off my path…..  I returned to the wilderness, with the internet my primary way of keeping involved in things Celtic Reconstructionist. I kept trying to build what that was, continuing my own studies and training.

In the mid-aughts, there was a big strive to get CR well defined and a group of people I was friendly with got together on that. Including the two people who first showed me “Sarah’s” photo. It was over all a stressful time in my life, my Mum died during it being at the center of my own chaos and hell. Within this group of people, there was a lot of ego clashing and underhanded ploys for control which I unfortunately got too caught up in. It was just a real clusterfuck. Then something happened among these people that was sort of “off-topic” but a major ethical and spiritual deal breaker for me, regarding oaths I had taken….and then was abused and mocked for taking a stand on. I was already sick of the ego plays, power grabs and fighting. I said “fuck it” and walked away.

Oh, some CR-types stuck with me as friends and were as disgusted as I was, of course, but I wasn’t all that active in “the movement” any longer. I even stopped at all using the term CR, although I, of course, continued to use that methodology. I kept doing my own thing, “labeled” for the syncretic tendencies of being Scottish focused and married to a Heathen, kept working with Badb, Macha and the Morrígan……but for online connections and networking I threw myself more into The Sarah Connor Charm School. It was, after all, a hell of a lot more fun than what I’d been dealing with. At a time when my life was continuing to be less fun. My Dad and several dogs and horses all died during this time period, too (all for natural causes related to age).

I started a website which I eventually got a domain for, started a Facebook page, met more and more people, especially women, who were inspired by her. Many who were not Pagan, who I probably wouldn’t have worked with on such things if I had done something Pagan focused…but also Pagans who are dedicated to other Gods or are not dedicated to particular Gods or are more ….well, there’s a lot of variety.  And we talked more about fitness and training and prepping…and we developed the Honorary Degree thing where we celebrate real strong women and girls (and now boys with the John Connor Award and heroic
A kiss form Linda Hamilton after I present her with "award" for the inspiration she givesanimals with Max’s First Line of Defense Heroes). I even took my ideas developed for a Pagan warrior group and removed the religious and cultural material, replacing it with basic charm school type liberal arts and with Sarah related languages (as she had trained in Central and/or South America) for the curriculum. The physical, prepping and even arts stuff was already in there. (and for all those mighty, mostly male, Pagan “warriors” who complained my ideas were too tough…we now have someone systematically using it, thank you very much!).

And, of course, I got to go meet Linda Hamilton and give a token of all of our appreciation.

I also cracked down on some training I hadn’t gotten to yet, having a job where I could afford it and perhaps more time and energy due to less drama. You can, of course, read about some of that here, here and here. And wrote stuff *wavesingeneraldirectionatblog*  I had already included research in pop culture female action heroes, physical feminism and related topics in my studies long ago, but I got a deep focus on that during this time.

And then it happened. Writing I had put on a back burner, or really the freezer, and didn’t know what to do with I took out, heated up and started working on. Making several changes, including writing about the War Goddesses. Suddenly, it was vital that I write and talk about Them. A lot. I then put that on the back burner, but only that far, because I felt the need to work on an extensive but shorter piece. Which, when finished I suddenly found a place to submit it to. Then more possible places and more things are out in editors’ hands. And all to one degree or another related to the War Goddesses. And then I realized I needed to make the “online shrine” and change the name of this blog to match.  And, of course, a FaceBook page for it and two related groups Clann na Morrígna and Ban-gaiscedach na Morrígna (I fear LJ is becoming a thing of the past, but I have an older group there just called Hooded Crow which you need to message me to join and really isn’t used as much). And two related At some point I’ll probably put a page outlining the training program up, but if someone is already doing the cultural-religious stuff, then that’s already posted.

And in doing so, I have become more involved in doing things within the Pagan/Polytheist communities, but choosing where I hang out and who I do them with. Sometimes, now that I’ve been away from certain prejudices, with some association with folks I wouldn’t once have. Finding common ground where They want me to.

I think that stepping way from the drama and focusing on the Sarah Connor Charm School stuff helped clear away a lot of bullshit. It also led me to meet and learn from some really wonderful women who I might not have had the time and energy to get to know. It’s helped me move along my own path more than the work I had been doing trying to build a general CR focused “movement” which did often leave me with little energy for the warrior stuff.

So, this is exactly how these two things tie together for me. Of course, they are, I’m not big on separating parts of my life all that much.  I figure Hooded Crow will always be smaller than the Charm School, given that the focus on CR methodology and one group of Goddesses combines for a less interest. Even though it’s less gender specific (SCCS has a lot of male supporters, but the “school” itself is for women…it should be realized, as I have said before, men have a lot more stories than we do already).  Right now it’s mostly just my thing, anyway, while the Charm School has become a lot of women’s thing.

And if you missed it please see  An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons part 3 is on it’s way (EDIT is now up Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture), I’ll be less focused on Sarah Connor (although Linda Hamilton will get a mention) and instead discuss Gaelic Gods and Heroes in pop culture, especially the Morrígan (although in general that should be “sort of”).  (EDIT: also now have An Morrígan and SC: Pt. 4: Training)

copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Fat and the Pagan Community

The first real blog post I wrote here was The Abuse of Thin=Fat. Some readers may know I am again a Personal Fitness Trainer and I work from a Health At Every Size paradigm. My concern in fitness is about helping people find their strength, not reduce their size. This is in part because I don’t like to lie to people and the idea of permanent weight loss is a total lie for 95% of all who lose weight. And this is when they are maintaining the actions that worked for them to lose weight, although everyone from fitness instructors to doctors love to make accusations of “cheating” or “being unable to comprehend how much they are eating.” There is also, in fact, no actual evidence that being “obese” is itself a health hazard (there are just too many studies listed here for me to pick one). But another reason, coupled with these, is that I simply believe that being strong and powerful is more important than being tiny, and you really can not get smaller and not lose strength (without abusing dangerous drugs and totally screwing your health for life, so let’s leave it at you can’t do it).

This morning it came to my attention that much loved Pagan media personality (who I admit that I never heard of but there is a lot going on in Paganism I don’t pay attention to and the whole podcast thing somehow I just don’t get) David Grega died apparently from cardiac arrest at the young age of 27. Grega was also fat,* this prompted a blogger to write a post A Pagan Taboo, Obesity which gives a great deal of common misinformation regarding the correlation of fat and health. For every single one of his unsubstantiated claims at the end there are links disproving them at Truth Behind Fat: References.

This got a lot of other Pagans going, some of which is brought up in A Tragedy Creates Potential for a National Pagan Discussion on Health. This involves a lot more misinformation, a lot of “we should discuss other health matters but, of course, obesity is a major health issue” type of stuff. Well, no, not in the way they mean.

As is brought up at the beginning of Jane Raeburn’s post Pagans Discover Fat Hate, she points out that we really do not know what caused Grega’s heart failure. As far as I can tell we don’t know. It is just assumed that it was because he was fat. However, the post on Patheos points out that Grega had started a group known as Pagans promoting Healthy Active Tendencies (PHAT) and there it appears that he had actually lost 100 lbs. It would be just as easy for me, as a HAES advocate, to say that his death was caused by that weight loss, by his dieting, by over exercising, by emotional distress from self-shaming. But I’m not actually saying that, because I don’t know what caused his death and it would be just as wrong to assume that the weight loss had anything to do with it as it is for those claiming it was because he was fat. Either way, it’s 1) victim blaming and 2) based on absolute ignorance of the facts.

Keep in mind that several years ago a guy only about 10 years older than Grega, which is still young for heart disease, who was a very physically active outdoorsman also died of cardiac arrest. This probably surprised everyone, due to the fact he wasn’t fat. It turned out he had an undiagnosed heart defect. People of all sizes and all over the apparent health spectrum do, in fact, just drop dead from their heart stopping. A lot of things can stop the heart. It’s consider shocking news when a marathon runner does so, although some will blame overexercising for that (the same overexercising the same might demand fat people do, btw), most are just shocked.

This is, like all victim blaming, in part because people want a magic formula to keep it from happening to them. “Well, she was just asking to be raped, look at that dress!” really means “I’ll be safe, because I don’t dress like that.” “He died because he was fat” means “I won’t die because I’m thin” or “I won’t die because I”m going to lose the weight, I am.”  It’s not really an excuse for doing it, it’s not the whole reason everyone does it, but it is a big part of why people think this way.

But it doesn’t work. Remember one very important thing. We all die. And thin people get all the diseases that are considered “obesity related.” I know this, I’m thin and I was pre-diabetic…and getting diagnosed was almost impossible. Lifestyle can affect health, but lifestyle does not always affect size. There are skinny people who eat crap and don’t exercise, there are fat people who eat healthy food and exercise regularly. And even “lifestyle” related illnesses are not always linked to unhealthy lifestyles. Again, I ate what standard diet guidelines would claim was a healthy diet, but for my own needs it was too high in carbs and too low so it was spiking and dropping my blood sugar, I was not as active at the time this came up because of another illness which prevented me from exercising at the level I had been use to.

The truth is, we just never know. There are ways most of us can be healthy. However, this has to be separate from thoughts of weight.

Let me say that I do not believe anyone owes anyone to be healthy. If you do not want to eat a certain way or exercise or what ever, that’s your right. You do not owe me, the Pagan community or society at large any commitment to change your health or fitness levels. And, as Jane said, the path to health is a personal choice. If you feel that involves dieting, then I’m probably not going to change your mind anyway, but it’s also just your choice. Now, however, I’m going to talk as a HAES personal trainer. If you listen to me, it’s your choice, but I am going to be opinionated here.

Fitness is not about size, it’s about what you can do. We all differ in both size and capability, but except in extreme cases, most people can build their fitness levels up. They can become stronger, more flexible and gain more endurance than they had before exercising. They can improve their chances of getting certain diseases, through exercise and diet, although there are many illnesses that are not remotely affected. But all this comes regardless of weight loss.

In fact, striving to lose weight can be greatly detrimental to health for several reasons. Dieting can have adverse affects on health. Then there is simply the fact that self-hatred is just not healthy. And the weight-loss paradigm does not and cannot build self-esteem.

I believe in promoting health for those who want it. I want to see the Pagan community do more to promote real health. I do not want to see fat shaming and hatred and common lies to be a part of it. We should be healthy because, IMNSHO, it’s funner to have our bodies at their best. Fitness should be fun , not punishment and not torture. And what is fun for one Pagan isn’t going to be fun for another. The way I  train on the warrior path is likely going to seem horrible to someone who might be a priest/ess or a filidh. If health is the path we choose it should be a celebration without shame, without blame.

Here are some links for those interested in the HAES approach:
Health At Every Size Community
Dances with Fat so many great posts, you might want to start with 11 Reasons to Stop Focusing on Weight
The HAES Files
Big Liberty home of Truth Behind Fat: References

*note as a HAES trainer and Size Diversity advocate I use the preferred reclaiemd term “fat” rather than the misguided medical term “obese” or the common term “overweight” which falsely indicates that there is a particular weight one should be and to “over” that means something.

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Still living, still training and meeting an idol

So I’ve never managed to get into the swing of regular blogging since taking up Teh Project again. I’m still training, but I’ve not done a lot that is worth writing about in that respect. We’re hoping to get back to actual shooting classes come fall and winter, so look for reviews of those in the coming months. But writing offline has taken up a lot of my writing energy and while I do have something I plan to put on the web, it’s gotten a bit cumbersome for a blog post so I’ll be doing an actual old-fashion webpage for it…then blogging a bit about it here. That will be soon.

In the meantime, I’m preparing to meet a couple of my idols, my current biggest one, Linda Hamilton, and my teen years biggest one who I still adore, Lindsay Wagner. Yeah, Jaime Sommmers of the Bionic Woman may seem a bit pacifistic compared to my current stance, but she was an inspiration for strength and as I knew no one would make me bionic even if the technology was developed like that, the idea that being strong was something that could mean you didn’t have to fight actually inspired me to first pick up weights and start running. Um, okay, those “weights” seem pretty silly now, but it was a start.

Both are going to be at Chicago ComicCon this coming week and so am I. I’m beyond words excited to meet them and I will probably share some of that on this blog. However, the most immediate updates will be in the Sarah Connor Charm School Facebook page and LiveJournal Community.

What will likely get reviewed here, especially as I wish to put more of my interest in Celtic cultures and ancient women warriors into this blog as well as the contemporary and pop culture material that makes up much of it, will be Neil Marshall’s new movie Centurion that he’ll be screening and doing a public interview and question and answer session on (sadly the screening comes after, you get tickets at the Q&A as there might be more questions after the screening). Marshall is the man who gave us Rhona Mitra kicking ass in Doomsday so that this film includes “Pictish” women warriors may not end up badly. But I find anything that does go into Things Celtic tends to go real bad. And “Pictish” even more so…such as King Arthur featuring the “Woads.”

I am a bit picky about this stuff, as can be noted by two articles I have had up (and which could use some updating I’m sure) for awhile now. One on The Picts and the other on The Problem of the Woad itself. Oh, you might have also caught on about this interest when you saw the tattoos, huh?

When it comes to the on going debate about women warriors among the Picts or other Celtic (and as the article notes, I’m persuaded to refer to them as a Celtic speaking people) I’ve got the Outsider view; I’m neither on the side of those who say they were a common fixture of the cultures nor the side of those who say they were purely fiction. What we can prove is another matter. And so far I’ve found this exploration filling an introduction (mostly on the non-Celtic evidence) and two chapters.

So I expect this will be an all around interesting four days for me and that it will give me a lot of food for thought. And, of course, a way to combine the subjects here…which, of course, they always sort of do come together for me. As, should I ever finish this book I refer to as Teh Project and get it published, you’ll see someday. Or you’ll just have to see what future posts here offer.

Sadly, no one else from the Sarah Connor Charm School is going. I am hoping to meet more women so inspired though. I hope I’m not the only one who is preparing for this con by upping her weight training.

It’s about the pain, or what we want to do with it.

In an interview at the MCM London Expo last May (which tells you how long I have been thinking about this), Linda Hamilton remarked regarding fans wanting to be like her Terminator and Terminator 2 character Sarah Connor, “I was playing a character in a hell of the world’s making. She’s in so much pain. Why would anyone want to be like that?”

My immediate reaction, which I did briefly express in comments on that page, was, “Well, because we’re ALL in pain and we’re looking for a role model to help us figure out how to deal with it.” I don’t know that in all these years of wondering “What Would Sarah Do?” and before and after looking for role models to match her, I really thought of it that way. But, really, isn’t that exactly what it all comes down to?

We all have pain. We may not lose our mother, friends, lover and many surrounding us to a machine from the future, but we do lose those we love to other terminators throughout our lives. We may not face the fact that our child is going to be entering a known dangerous future, where he’ll be burdened with saving humanity, but those who have children (their own or those of others close to them) are faced with, at best, their unknown futures, and sometimes very real and immediate fears for their lives and safety. Our pains might not be quite interesting enough to be a subject of a movie, and when they are they are usually such direly depressing movies that we don’t watch them, but they are real.

“Escapism” really often is about watching someone else have pain that is more interesting than ours. At times perhaps it is escape we are looking for, to see someone go through something that just makes us, for an hour or two not think about our own. But I think many of us “fangirls” and “fanboys” of particular, especially action, characters, often do so because we like the way those characters deal with their pain. And while we would not want their pain as well, certainly do not wish those horrors upon ourselves and our loved ones, we want to be able to deal with what we do face in a similar manner.

This means that the fiction we tend to prefer may well say something about how we wish to cope with or solve the problems and sorrows in our lives. Those who mostly watch comedies might prefer search for laughter to soften the blows of life. We who favor action, horror or science fiction movies probably want to cowgirl up, face things down and carry on. Of course, most of us probably want different coping methods at different times which is why some of us have varied tastes in our fiction.

I think that Sarah Connor is revolutionary in this way, as much as she is for her physique and prowess with arms, in that she gives women that role model to carry on and do what needs doing. And, indeed, that strength and fighting skills were part of her answers is revolutionary as well. The training, the preparation, the choosing to become a warrior, rather than just remain the reactive Final Girl, these things are hard to find in female characters, especially in film.

It’s not hard to realize that the fictional “solution” to pain focused on female audiences has often been, in one way or another, to be saved. Whether it’s the lighter offerings of romantic comedies where the heroine is in a bad relationship or none at all until she meets the right guy who helps her out of her current situation or the darker action where the heroine’s very life is in peril and the hero must risk his to save her, this has been a standard message. It’s been there for a long time, whether the saving of the damsel is the main story or just a side-bar of the hero’s journey. There have, however, long been plucky heroines who have saved themselves in many cultures, sometimes even by taking up arms. Some even trained hard to do so, but this has been rare and still is.

Even when we’re not being taught that we must wait for our Knight in Shining Armor to come sweep us to safety, we may be taught to just wait. Many of our more physically active heroines, after all, are endowed with the power to solve their dilemmas from some outside source. Whether it’s the Bionic Woman’s science fiction enhancement or Buffy’s supernatural vampire slaying powers being awakened or so many comic book heroines who go may run the gambit between “science” and mystical, we may well wish for suddenly being gifted with the power to take on our own problems. Even those heroines born with powers can instill the same desire, their typical “alien” identity often calling out to our own feelings of being alienated, that we might wake up to the realization that we are special and do have powers we never expected (that many do believe this these days, in the Otherkin phenomenon, is a can of worms I probably shouldn’t open). (I’m not going to say there are not similar male characters, just that there does seem to be more of a balance between them and those men who take action for themselves.)

But the truth is, Otherkindred aside, we’re not going to get those powers. So, certainly, we have heroines who have no powers but persevere. Ripley and a parade of Final Girls in horror films never prepare to any real extent. Ripley in Aliens goes through some weapons training after the threat has been established, but that’s about the most we ever see in any of these movies. This gives us hope that any woman could survive, given enough attitude. And so, we can survive our own trials, we’ll face them as they come.

As women we are supposed to constantly fear sexual violence, and so we have “good” examples of women saving themselves with attitude and ingenuity. In fact, we have an entire B-movie genre, the Rape Vengeance movies. I Spit on Your Grave is, of course, the representative of this genre. Like other Final Girls, the heroine doesn’t prepare and her sense of power is continually tainted with terror while her success is often dependent on just plain luck. It gives us a gratifying sense of vengeance, but no real role model.

Similarly, the cinematically superior, but inaccurately (or was it meant to be ironic?) titled, The Brave One, followed a similar formula replacing rape with the death of a loved one (which in a world where women are trained to see men as protectors this alone gives a similar sense of vulnerability) and the hillbilly hell setting with the dangerous urban world that the character had always lived in but seemed to be previously oblivious of. Many women related to Jodie Foster’s character’s fear and her striving to protect herself and avenge her lover, but instead of offering a role model of developed strength we get one of continued fear and powerlessness. She substitutes a gun she never learns how to use for real power, for real preparation, she never really gains control, she remains reactive and in terror to the very end. She is perhaps a good example of how many of us do deal with our day to day trials, scared, unthinking, out of control, nearly hysterical, sometimes getting lucky in our blind actions but never acting with strength. Again, a message society often tells women we are and can never get beyond, irrational, vulnerable, even when we do manage to enact our revenge.

In The Terminator Sarah starts out like Final Girls and those who are gifted with powers as just one of us, someone most of us can relate to. She works a very typically female shit-job, she is in college but there is some sense that she’s not really found her path yet, she’s stood up by a date with someone she apparently barely knows; she’s nowhere and we’ve all been there. Fate intervenes and she does find out she’s special, but instead of getting gifted with a power which will make her tasks easier, she’s given the burden of knowing she’s to bear a son who will be a great leader but in a world of utter hell. She’s a Final Girl, reacting, whining and scrambling in a situation she’s unprepared for, with tragedy after tragedy striking in just one night as her best friend, her mother and her lover, along with many others are killed. But in the end she makes a choice, to stop whining, to stop being reactionary, to prepare her son for what he must face by preparing herself. It might not be a totally independent decision, for she is told that she was the one who trained her son of the future, but for that young woman who “can’t even balance my checkbook” it was a big one.

We don’t see that preparation, but we see the results from the moment Sarah appears in Terminator 2. We see her chinning in a situation where maintaining any fitness level would take such a stronger degree of commitment than any of our own issues with motivation at getting to a gym can compare. She soon is picking locks and taking out orderlies with the skills she learned. These things tell us she prepared. And to those of us whose desire is to face our problems by being prepared, she’s awesome. Hard, inside and out, yes, but there are times this is needed. Hair triggered, but even “out of control” she’s got power because of her training.

It might seem strange that a character who onscreen never faces the threat of serious rape, face licking sexual abuse is as much as we’re shown (even the non-sexual beat down from the same orderly was not shown in the original theatrical release), has become an icon for many to prepare against sexual violence. It’s actually that she never is shown to be so imperiled that is at the very core of why she’s so inspiring. In a world where women are considered constantly at risk of sexual assault, she actually represents a woman who isn’t at the same degree of risk. Even in taking the gross face lick, there’s a strategy, she’s biding her time for what needs to be done, and that insult isn’t that important in the long run. Even taking the orderly out, though there might have been some feelings of rightful revenge, is more about getting him out of the way to deal with real problems. The threat of sexual violence is something to be dealt with efficiently and quickly, not pondered upon, just get the problem man out of the way and move on.

It has been pointed out that her muscle and Krav Maga skills would be pointless against the machines, but that doesn’t mean they were pointless in her training. We can well imagine that in the “man’s world,” a literal jungle, where she sought out paramilitary training, there were men who would have gladly taken out their violence upon a lone woman. She may well have been a rape survivor during the early days, that may indeed be an added pain, one many of us share, that is never revealed. But considering the future she and her son face, there are greater threats. So, the skills needed to deal with those men are acquired with the skills needed to deal with the future threats, again, when the threat is presented, get the problem man out of the way and move on.

Likewise, muscles, guns and hand-to-hand combat skills, which many of have been inspired to pursue (and some of us where before but just found our role model) might not help any of us with most of the problems we face. But the fact is, sexual violence is a threat that women live with everyday, the statistics remain high that we will be assaulted in some way by someone, stranger or “loved one,” at some point in our lives. Many consider it just a fact we have to contend with. It’s not our only problem, it’s not a problem most of us actually face on a daily basis (although some might fear it almost constantly), but the truth is, it’s a major burden lifted from your life when you feel just that much less vulnerable than you did before.

Knowing that should it come up, you have a good chance, that you are prepared, that perhaps that asshole who thinks you are a victim is the one that should be worried more than you, it does change how you handle other things. Living in fear, feeling that at least half of the world could take you out in a moment, does not empower you on any level. Sarah showed us that such threats can be just something to get out of the way should they come up. Until then, you can do what needs to be done to deal with the other shit in your life. So she becomes a symbol of the ultimate preparations against any sort of assault we might face.

This is, as I’ve noted before, the greatest travesty of Terminator Salvation, that the franchise that gave us this ultimate role model of strength, turned around and made the one female character who could have carried on that legacy into just a victim. A victim who needs a big strong Knight to save her. That demonstrates the very thing that Sarah Connor represented our journey away from.

And when it comes to other problems in our lives, Sarah can still offer us hope. We can face the loss of loved ones and still strive towards our goals because she did. If our tasks seem hard and overwhelming, we can stoically strive on, with out whining (or at least not for long), without faltering, because, well, she got through her burdens and, even when there seemed no hope, fought to find a better solution. Certainly she mourned her dead, she went from just conceiving to very pregnant in the last scene of Terminator, but she shows eventually you pack up your dog, gun and Spanish dictionary and head head out to prepare for what’s to come.

Of course, there is another factor in dealing with the sadness issue at hand in what Sarah inspires for us. Moments of sheer joy. It’s the endorphins, baby. Working out, martial arts/self-defense training and defensive shooting training all give us strong endorphin dumps. It might not solve the problems, it might not cure the source of the sad, but it certainly is nice to have those periods of elation.

So, Linda (although I’m sure you’ll never read this) and others who ask this question, this is why we want to be like Sarah. No, we don’t want her burdens added to our own. We just want her strength, which you demonstrated so well, to handle them. Strong and hard, sometimes too alone and shut-off but we can find our way back to love too, sometimes ranting and raving at a world that can’t grasp the hard truths, always prepared, with a plan, getting the small problems out of the way so we can deal with saving the world as best we can.

And it’s kind of nice if we can groove on some endorphins and look our buffist while we do it, too.

Copyright © 2010 Saigh Kym Lambert

Reconnections

As I noted previously, when I started this blog it was to write about the warrior path from all the angles I approach it, the spiritual, the ancient literary and historical as well as the actual training and the pop cultural. But by the time I really started working on it, I had backed off of writing about spirituality and my historical studies for various reasons I won’t get into right now. I felt more comfortable writing about my training, about self-defense and about how Sarah Connor is a mega inspiration. I threw myself into The Sarah Connor Charm School at the same time I privately got back to work on a lot of very spiritual matters that I didn’t write about.

Of course, it all connects for me, when I go out shooting I feel An Morrígan, the Goddess I am oathed to, with me, as I do when I lift, when I run, when I work…all the time. But I don’t really mention it much. The pop cultural ties into the ancient literature for me as well and both tie into my training and my spirituality. Story has power, no matter the source. Sometimes, as I’ve written about, the power is very negative…and sometimes even negative stories end up having power. I need to get into that more here, I think. In fact, I have some ideas.

I think that a part of my problem in writing a lot of this is that I find very few others making the connections that I make. Oh, there are some…some of you reading this, in fact. But I learned several years ago that my outlook is different than a lot of other Pagans. I realized this when I was working on an article for a women’s spirituality magazine and I was told it wasn’t “Goddess focused” enough. It was to me! But the editor couldn’t see it. She saw that I included factual information about violence against women and she couldn’t see the spirituality behind it, even with all the woo I thought I was putting in. I suck at writing woo, apparently.

And now, as I take up a writing project about the warrior path for Pagan women, I realize that I’m not in the same space as most who claim similar interests. Part of it is that I do not believe that there were all these huge numbers of women warriors in the past, especially not in Celtic cultures which I am focused on. Oh, I believe they existed, but the evidence isn’t there to support it so I can’t SAY they existed…which is what so many want to hear. Or others want to say that lack of evidence proves they didn’t. This, of course, is where story comes to play for me. What do all these stories mean?

And then there are those who, always mind boggling to me, want to be some sort of pacifist warriors. “Warriors don’t really fight, you know. It doesn’t mean that.” Um, it doesn’t? These same people, mostly women but hardly all women, also usually try to transform An Morrígan into some sort of loving Soccer Mom, who protects the weak rather than demands effort from the strong. Sorry, it doesn’t wash with either the lore about Her or my own experiences. I can’t say whether other people’s experiences are valid, but based on all that is know about Her, I can question it. Especially with the bizarre “retellings” of Her stories which are so far from what is in the lore as to, well, break ones brain to read.

When An Morrígan claimed me I had to question a lot about what I believed about myself and my God/desses…and the world. It’s still often a long, hard haul. But it’s there. Everything I do in life is either part of it or, still, fighting against it. Everything.

Where my training and my studies have taken me in the past few years, since splitting from working with people who I now realize were toxic to me and through the death of my parents, is sometimes mind shattering. While I’ve been transforming for years, there have been leaps forced by the events in my life and healing I needed to do. And I do believe it has led me to the right place to get back to work on the writing project which will sum this all up.

So things might crop up here of a more spiritual nature or of more ancient “pop culture” of story telling over the coming months. We’ll see how the mix goes here, perhaps. And perhaps someday some of you will be interested in this thing that has started to eat my life. Maybe.

Terminator Salvation and Physical Feminism at TEOTWAWKI

We went to Terminator Salvation Saturday night and it was an awesome movie on almost every count. Well, written, with the exception to be addressed here, well cast, well directed, with good nods to the first two movies and, of course, state-of-the-art special effects. I’ve reviewed it for The Sarah Connor Charm School (link will change later when it, probably cobbled with this, is put on the other website). But there is one thing that must be addressed here.

The scene, in fact, exemplifies, negatively, the very reason I have this blog and started the SCCS. Because while today we have to learn to defend ourselves because good men are not always going to be there to save us and we shouldn’t expect them to and law enforcement might be callable in most cases but an awful lot of awful things can be done to you in the time it takes for them to get there, which in some places is longer than others but is always a long time, when the shit hits the fan and society breaks down it will be worse. I’m not of the school that says all men are potential rapists, seriously, some men are just not, but when society breaks down those who are will feel more free to act. There are, indeed, some men today who do not rape simply because they do fear punishment, along with it being easier for men who already don’t care to get away with it, these men will rape, kidnap, torture and kill as well.

This is why I’ve always made the connection between physical feminism and preparedness. This is one of the things I hope to get across in this blog as it goes along, along with addressing our needs today. Because the needs are basically the same, it just will be even more dangerous. As women, we must prepare ourselves to be our own champions at all times (and this is not to say it won’t be more dangerous for men, as well, but it seems that more men in the survivalist/preparedness movement are gearing up for it, while not all women are…some are, this is good, more need to).

*SPOILER ALERT* This will spoil this one scene, but as it doesn’t give away anything more, I would hope those who have not yet seen it will consider reading this, if not, please return.

In the scene, Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood), the character most of us had the most hope for in carrying on the original Sarah Connor’s (Linda Hamilton) legacy*, has survived bailing from her plane when it is blown and has met Marcus (Sam Worthington) and he goes off while she begins to dress her injuries. She puts her Desert Eagle off her body and moves away from it before she is confronted by three men, one of whom has, of course, acquired her gun. She does tell him he should have chambered a round and takes it from him and begins fighting them. Just as I hope for a real kick-ass scene, she is quickly over powered and Marcus must come and save her. With her hardly having fought at all.

Now, of course, he needed to save her to carry the plot. But why in this way? Why make her a fucking moron? Why make her an ineffective fighter? There are so many ways this could have been done differently and carried the plot the same way.

Why not have her injured and he needed to save her by stopping her bleeding? Or at least have a machine be the danger, as really these men where just humans? Or if it needed to be an attempted rape scene, and noting the danger is actually a good warning to put out there, why not have her be more efficient, at least let her take out most of them, and Marcus only come in the end when one might have gotten a drop? Three against one are, after all, bad odds…but at least let her, a warrior, be more effective, not so totally helpless against three men who were clearly not real fighters. But really, have her have her frigging gun on her, not having been so stupid to be in open territory without it. That one thing is just mind boggling to me. You do not walk away from and of your weapons in such a situation. Ever.

This message, that women are just plain victims and always will be, needing men to save them is atrocious. It should never have been in a movie franchise which started with a woman who went from being a Final Girl (spunky and can save herself but not a trained warrior) to choosing to become a warrior in the end (which marked the first movie as unique, really, because she is going off to prepare, having already taken the measures of a gun and a dog, something Final Girls do not typically do).

This has basically ruined what was an otherwise great movie, well not quite as great as the first two, but a really good action movie, for me. And one that had such potential. There are many otherwise good female roles, the older and obviously takes -no-shit leader of a group of survivors, Virginia (Jane Alexander), the various women in various positions in the Resistance, yes, even Kate(Bryce Dallas Howard, who does a marvelous job of reclaiming a character who had been rather horrible in the very badly done Terminator 3), yes, rather cliche cute, smart kid, Star (Jadagrace). Blair Williams could have been a real icon for physical feminism and for prepared women, but they chose to portray her as a warning for how “helpless women are by nature” instead.

In fact, such a scene as this, which shows the danger and the need to be prepared, done with Blair winning the fight, with her having her weapon and blowing the hell out of the would-be rapists, perhaps recovering from the wound Marcus had already had to save her from, would have taken this movie from a good action film to an amazing women kick-ass must watch over and over obsession for me that the first two movies are. But no, while it’s a good action movie, worth seeing for that, and Christian Bale saves the character of John Connor from the emo legacy that Nick Stahl and Thomas Dekker created and remade him as the real Sarah Connor’s son, it doesn’t get added to my rotation. I won’t watch it after every viewing of Terminator and Terminator 2 (which I run frequently, sometimes to sit and watch and sometimes as background while I do other things in the house). And it could have. It might have even held a special place because of such a scene, a scene that both reminds us that TEOTWAWKI will add to our possible peril AND remind us that we do not need to hope that some man will be there to save us. That we can champion ourselves.

*Yes, in the end of T2 Sarah fell short of the saving shot and the T800 needed to save her and John. It’s an annoying event for many of us, done simply because Schwarzenegger had to be the hero of the piece. And yes, he takes on the mere humans during her escape, but she was doing okay until he himself drove her back towards them. The end of the movie was marred, but this scene is even worse. And, of course, we always have the fact that in the fist movie, Sarah saves herself in the end, the man protecting her already dead and so she had to champion herself.

Copyright © 2009 Kym Lambert

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