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

(Re) (Self) Publication Announcements

 Summer has been busy, mostly not with writing.  Mostly with horses.  (although both photos are old…guess not much photography is happening this summer either).  Also with allergies…. ~:p   And some editing has been happening.

Actually my article in the next Air n-Aithesc is an edited piece, some chunks very rewritten, actually.  I’ll be posting when the issue is out very soon!

Meanwhile, as it’s been over a year since “By Blood, Bone and  Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan (Nicole Bonivusto, ed, Asheville, NC: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2014) came out, I decided it was now time for my essay in it, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses” to “come home.”

I started “Musings” as a short piece for the web.  But, of course, “short” wasn’t possible. So it was going to be a long piece for the web, possibly as a PDF.  Then as I was finishing it up, the call for submissions for BBB&B showed up….and I figured I should submit it. Which I did…..and eventually the anthology came  out.

I have now replaced the actual shorter piece I later made for the page (which I had started to house this essay) with an intro to link the PDF of

Musings on the Irish War Goddesses

There are a few minor changes, mostly endnotes….um, mostly shamelessly noting other articles I have further explored some things I mention in it….and the CC related posts I have made here.
 I have also put up some reworkings of my Sarah Connor Charm School fitness pots on the site as well…they are only linked through the training page at this point and I hope to rework them further soon.  But you can find them here if you are interested.

Biannual Publication Announcement – Air n-Aithesc 2

Yup we did it! With Maya St.Clair doing the bulk of the actual work.  We got issue two of Air n-Aithesc published!

AnA issue 2 cover
We have the art of Paul Borda, we have Maya examining what CRP methodology is, we have Irish witches discussed by Morgan Daimler, we have Ceffyl taking about developing a personal relationship with Deity, we have poetry by Finnchuill and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and we have book reviews by Maya, Finnchuill and Blackbird O’Connell.

And yes, I have an article entitled “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of Heroes” where I discuss the storys of Scáthach and Finn’s variously named foster-mothers…or rather where they come in in the heroes’ stories as they sadly have none of their own. This is, of course, always a part of this project I’m doing here.

You can order through the website or just go to Magcloud…you can, of course, still get our first issue if you have missed it.

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

A place where things come together

My gym, with photo shopped wolf picture someone never did make me for itAs I wasn’t writing much about Gaelic spirituality at the time I started this blog, having started at a time of conflict, flux and burn out in the community and taking things more private for awhile, I have realized it might seem a sudden switch to some of my readers. While the intent of this was always to be about various aspects of the warrior path in my life and how they came together, the focus had been on fitness, self-defense and popular culture. That itself might seem quite a mix to some. But it really is in my interest in the warrior ways of ancient Ireland and Scotland that all those things come together, the physical training and the importance of story.

I’m not good at compartmentalizing. Somethings need to be, however, and therefore when I wanted a space to blog about homesteading and to share with my husband, I made another blog Dùn Sgàthan Notes, I also joined a blog for horse advocacy although between three of us we seem a bit too overwhelmed by it all to post much. Then, in order to share space for writing about things related to The Sarah Connor Charm School, I created a blog for the group. This last is the most likely to have cross-posting. (What am I saying? The only thing I’ve posted there so far has been reposts of things from here. I hope this doesn’t annoy those who might read both.)

But this blog is for all things related to women on the warrior path, however diverse that may be for me. It’s a place where things come together for me in my practice. Now I also have a real space location that brings things together, as well.

For years now I’ve had limited space for exercise equipment. Usually a small room, which usually means that things overflowed into the rest of the house.It lead to some bad habits, like making a stop by the computer in between sets, removing my focus.

When I was planning to build my own house, it was actually pretty much centered around the idea of having a gym. A gym/temple, really. But I never built my house. A decade ago we moved into the “in-law apartment” of my parents’ home. Since their deaths, we now own the house…and we still live in the apartment. I wasn’t ready to use the rest, the apartment is smaller and easier to care for and heat and it just doesn’t “flow” into the rest easily. But we decided to find ways to expand into the rest. And, it of course, started with a gym.

Moving the living room Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor doing chin-ups in Terminator 2furniture out of the way (come spring most of it will be moved completely out), we put down padded flooring, moved in the weights, benches, heavy bag. We added a pull-up and dip tower, as I have given up, for now, on finding the perfect bed frame to turn on it’s side. When things are moved out more we’ll have more open space, especially to work the bag, and probably get more equipment over time.

And in the far corner is a shrine. I may be the only Polytheist, especially the only HARD Polytheist, out there who has a shrine in her gym with a statue of An Morrígan and a figure of Sarah Connor. I hope these are joined by a figure or picture of Scáthach or other literary Irish warrior woman, or many, but I’m not finding the right one(s). I’m looking for well done and muscular, tattooed would be nice but muscle is more important. I have some great ideas in my head but a lifetime frustration of never being able to get such images out onto paper (my sister got that talent). I do have a list, a sort of prayer, instead:

I serve the War Goddesses
Badb and Macha and An Morrigan, whose name is Anand
Fea and Nemain, Bé Néit
I follow in the footsteps of the banfénnidi
Macha Mongruadh
Ness ingen Echach Sálbuidi
Medb ingen Echach Feidlig
Creidne
Scáthaig Buanand ingen Ardgeimme
Aifi ingen Ardgeimme
Bodbmall
Líath Lúachra
Luas Lurgann
Étsine
Bréfne
Símha ingen Chorrluirgnig
Bec ingen Conchoraig
Lithben ingen Aitreabhthaigh
Truth in our Hearts, Strength in our Arms, Fulfillment in our Tongues

(ETA April 2012: I have changed this over this time period, please read this post on why and how it reads now)

There are photos all around of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Some, now collected in a frame, are worn, faded, damaged, having gone from apartment to apartment with me for years, the first for 20 years this year, taped to the walls of various “workout rooms.” Likewise, there are similar pictures of Kathy Long. Later these were joined by Demi Moore doing one-armed push-ups as Lt. Jordan O’Neal in G.I. Jane (this also includes the statement “Failure Is Not An Option” at top and D.H. Lawrence’s poem “Self-Pity” at the bottom) and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley 8. But now I have more pristine photos of Linda, with autographs, including one of us together. I’ll be printing more from ComicCon to go up, too.

But while An Morrígan and Sarah Connor grace my shrine, it is not to say that the two images are the same. One is a representation of my Goddess, the other is a representation of a role model. As a hard Polytheist I do not believe that the Goddesses and Gods are archetypes. They are real and They are many. Even a Goddess I worship of the same name as a Goddess you worship might not even be the same Goddess. We are limited, They are not so much, we do not always know who They are, only Who They tell us and They may tell us to meet our always limited understanding.

And while I might be limited, I’m not completely simple either. I have no problem with both worshiping Goddesses I believe are very real and alive and being inspired by stories both ancient and modern. For me Sarah Connor and other modern role models are as potent as the ancient ones of Ness and Scáthach and other literary figures who I also do not believe are degraded* Goddesses but humans in the tales.

So this space, this very sacred space to me, is filled with images that represent the warrior path for me. It allows me to stay far more focused and mindful, more reverent than I have been for some time when working out with weights. I meditate, usually sitting on the balance ball, before the shrine between sets. I focus on what I am doing, what I am offering. Because working out is worship for me, a practice that deteriorated by bad habits, which now I am breaking.

There are no offering plates on this shrine as there are on my others. The offering is my blood, sweat and tears. If something else is demanded there, it will be given, but the focus here is on the work of the body. And where that meets the spirit.

 

*Yes, I know even some Celtic scholars these days use “euhermerized” but this word actually means the opposite; it actually means that the historical becomes mythological, that humans become Deities, not the other way around.

———
Text and top photo copyright ©2011 Kym Lambert, wolf picture is currently photoshopped but a similar one will go there Drawing copyright © 2002 Aaron Miller
Photo of Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2 copyright © 1991 Carolco, currently owned by Pacificor LLC

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

Getting back “on program”

After an active rest followed by a deep blow to my life (if you’re reading this in a personal blog, you know about this already…but this is cross-posted), I want to say that as of tonight I am returning to my fitness program. Other training, however, may still have to wait.

For the past few of weeks the only exercise I’ve had has been cleaning stalls, hauling hay (and not much), loading wood stoves and walking patrols at work. Tonight I did some chin ups, push ups and crunches. It’s a start, considering I’m also not sleeping well and am just plain emotionally exhausted.

I’m posting this mostly because by doing so I know I gotta stick with it. And because, perhaps for the first time in my life really, I need motivation.

Time is going to be an issue for the running, but I might have to just add a small horse (with a choice of three, with a fourth one possible if he starts getting healthier….I’m not trying this with my filly right now) to my run rather than longeing them. That should be, um, entertaining? Especially for the dog.

Fight training of any kind, especially regular martial arts classes are just out right now. I had actually hoped that we might be able to swing once a week classes, but those are over an hour away from here and with our extra work load at home there is no way. I do have some firearms classes coming up next year and had planned to refresh my tracking skills a bit…however, the latter I might just send my mate to alone, as one of us does have to be here and, honestly, with a daytime schedule he’ll be up for a multi-day workshop more than I will, and have him help get my skills back up. The shooting stuff I’ll get too…one day classes I can do. I think…uh, not looking forward to the driving AND staying up all day.

I need to be back on track…this is part of my healing, it’s part of dealing with the stress. I must remember Sarah in the psych hospital, still training against all odds.

Then we’ll see about writing again.

cross-posted to my blogs, Sarah Connor Charm School fora, Hooded Crow and Women of Strength LJ communities….sorry not links, that means altering them for various fora and I’m just too damned tired for that.