Tumblin’ Into Self-Love

The media is everywhere, dictating what we should do, buy, eat, and think. It’s also dictating, subtly and not-so-subtly, how we should look in order to be appreciated and desired. Because we live in a media-heavy world that (overall) uses racist, ableist, sizeist, sexist, homophobic, distorted images in marketing, many people don’t see themselves as represented (or at least not fully). Certain bodies and communities don’t get attention, and if they do, it’s usually negative on some level. Furthermore, based on what’s perpetuated, many people see themselves as flawed and unattractive, creating a barrier to establishing loving, intimate relationships with others and with oneself.

So how can we disrupt the constant signal from mainstream media and learn to love ourselves more? How can we undo some of the damage that has already been caused? Smashing the entire advertising industry and all forms of media is not the immediate solution. There are steps we can take, smaller but meaningful, that involve our media more carefully and surrounding ourselves with positive images and empowering messages.

There are havens for different types of bodies and niches for all sorts of desires and communities out there, and one of those places can be Tumblr.

So what’s Tumblr?
Tumblr is a blogging platform where users can post text, videos, audio, links, images, and quotations to their “tumblelog” and other users can “follow” them. Every member has a “dashboard” where all the posts from the people they follow are aggregated, making staying up to date with other users quick and easy. Its focus isn’t on personal, “journal-like” entries (though those certainly exist in great numbers), but instead on “microblogging” and sharing interesting content. Essentially, Tumblr is both a place and the medium for collage-creation; Tumblr provides the cyber-territory as well as the content that people can use to paste information and build networks.

What makes this different from Livejournal, WordPress, Blogger…?
Unlike other platforms that focus more on the individual’s story (e.g. Livejournal), Tumblr focuses on sharing and dialogue. Due to Tumblr’s structure, it functions as a big social hub for people all over the globe. I think the key is its “reblogging” feature, which allows users to put someone else’s content on their own tumblelog. This, in turn, not only spreads content rapidly (making certain things go viral immediately), but also allows for dialogue between users (when people reblog others’ content and then add on comments and/or more information) that spreads commentary beyond the place where it originated.

And how does this relate to self-esteem?
By making conscious choices about which blogs to follow, people can essentially curate their own little empowerment stream. By providing people with a constant flow of content on their dashboard, Tumblr can help people grow more comfortable with and/or accepting of certain bodies and communities. Like I mentioned earlier, Tumblr can also open up dialogue and facilitate community-building/networking, so people can discuss and come together via this platform. The “dark” side of this is that people can isolate themselves and create a “bubble” that some say excludes and marginalizes as well. However, I’m not advocating for Tumblr to become the one and only tool for consciousness-raising that’s supposed to build community and expand minds and achieve world peace…I’m saying that people can use Tumblr as productive tool to help them in a larger project of self-loving and appreciation.

So where do I go from here? How can I use this tool?
Join Tumblr and follow blogs that you find empowering–blogs that show people like you and/or those that you find attractive. By surrounding yourself with self-selected, positive content, you’ll be able to undo some of the damage that mainstream media has potentially caused, see bodies and opinions that are otherwise invisible, and get in touch with like-minded individuals. Be warned, though, that like any other place where people can post content, you may find certain things offensive and/or triggering, so practice self-care and be aware of what you’re clicking (or what to do in the event that you click something unpleasant). Take the opportunity to also step outside yourself and beyond your comfort zone. Because we all have multiple identities, it’s likely that by following even like-minded individuals, you’ll be exposed to new things that might push your boundaries and/or expand your horizons.

Now that I have Tumblr, how do I start building an empowering dashboard?

  • Take advantage of the fuckyeah[insert noun].tumblr.com phenomenon. Basically, these Tumblrs are repositories for the things they advertise on their URLs (so fuckyeahfreckles would have tons of content related to freckles). There are many useful ones that relate to body image, self-esteem, appearance, sex, erotica, and more! If you want to check for FYs, search for them here: http://isitafyeah.com/. If your desired FY blog doesn’t exist, create and curate it!
  • Look at the Followers Lists for small blogs you find empowering. You can do this with bigger blogs, too, but the more well-known the blog, the harder it will be to sift through followers to find ones that directly appeal to you. Another variant of this is to look at the people who have liked or reblogged certain posts you find empowering and inspiring.
  • Explore Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com/explore) by clicking on categories or by searching for specific tags (e.g. lace, empowerment, sexy, food, etc.).

Pain vs. Harm (and some other thoughts)

Via Nonzer0 (which you should check out because it’s fantastic).  
Emphasis mine. 
——

From my limited experience:
Pain is different from harm. Whether the two coincide often has to do with intention or context–the pain felt during childbirth is processed and experienced differently (and usually not as psychic or emotional harm, even if the body is injured) whereas an equal amount of physical pain felt when being tortured in someone’s basement or in a POW camp I would guess is much more likely to be harmful.

In less dramatic senses, I think there is more risk of harm when we are acting out of any sort of malice, retributive anger, hatred, resentment, defensiveness, aggression–anything that Yoda would put on the dark side of the force.
This purtains to kink in that, when it is done in a “safe, sane, consensual” manner, one of the intentions may be to cause pain–physical or emotional–but not to harm. Anyone who wants to do you lasting damage isn’t someone that it would be healthy for most people to get kinky with. A good top, when you are not “playing” with power or other kink stuff but doing something more serious, is more like a spiritual guide, knowing when to push and when to slow down, open to feedback, offering support and encouragement when necessary, with steady love beneath whatever else is going on or whatever the expression of it is (you know I don’t necessarily mean romantic love). And in this context, the sub has the opportunity to experience and confront some of the things we struggle most with as humans– perhaps, physical pain, which she will learn is easiest when one surrendors to it or accepts it wholely; mentally, humiliation–which can be an joyful release from selfhood, an entry into intense trance states, a way of taking the ego and breaking it against a rock, failure or guilt–which, in going into fully in the safety of the setting she will learn to fear less in daily life, and to meet fully when it arises, her psychic and physical limitiations–which may help release her from some of the perfectionism conditioned into us by our culture, fear–which she will become intimate with and learn to and enjoy, create for herself the tool of imbuing the terrible with the erotic thus helping her to face it, to make it bearable.

It is a grounds, perhaps most of all, for giving and recieving unconditional love. There is incredible risk on both sides to exposing “shadow” sides, in asking for obedience or giving it, in giving a command or following it. The scene can exist only when both parties conspire together, are in it together. And it is amazing, to humiliate oneself completely in front of someone, to for a period of time exist in a state of utter trust and let someone cause you pain without trying to escape, and instead of leaving, the person stays, appreciates, loves you all the more. And the top, I would guess, has a reciprocal experience–to demand, inflict, command, humiliate, and still be loved. It’s breath-taking, isn’t it?
The difference between this and actual abuse has much to do with explicit consent and intention. Abuse often comes from intentions to harm, defend, protect, intimidate. Kink, in good situations, comes from intentions to expand and open emotionally and experientially, to achieve intimacy, to give and recieve love, and often includes inflicting pain in the service of these things.
Of course some people use kink to channel hatred of various sorts, or to put themselves in harm’s (rather than pain’s) way, and in those scenarios, there is great potential to damage all involved. But in the best cases, sex can become a pretext, a means, a background, or simply a component of a deeply intimate, alchemical process.

Advertising: Hope, Crying, and Culture

I often feel a desire to cry during movie previews. Well, not the movie previews, exactly, but some of the ads they play before movies–the ones with swelling music and Spanish words and some bullshit about what it means to be Puerto Rican. The Banco Popular one? Dear lord, it makes me well up like nobody’s business. There’s a longer version out there, but this the version in theaters (and it’s faster-paced):

Click here for it. Like, I’m watching it right now and I’m tearing up, even though I’ve watched it a bunch of times before. The part where the children’s chorus comes in? Ohhhhh man. If I haven’t cracked by then, that does it. (Of course, I have to be in the zone for the tears to be inevitable; catch me off guard or stressed and I will wave away the ad with annoyance.)

Anyway, I’ve translated the lyrics for those of you who are Spanish-impaired. 😛

I’m the light of the morning
that illuminates new paths,
that goes flooding the mountains,
the farmer trails.
I’m the fruit of the future,
the seeds of tomorrow,
planted in pure dung (read: fertilizer)
of my boricua land.
I’m a fisherman of dreams;
I go looking for a sea of spume
of shells and sands,
of sirens and moons.
Of stars and horizons,
my fortune is composed.
I’m a sailing seagull and an astronaut of fog.
Of the bread, I am the yeast that feeds the hope
of the Puerto Rican man,
of the awakening of my mother country.
I bring boricua blood;
I’m the son of the palm-trees, of the toads (does the song say sapos?) and the rivers
and of the singing of the coquí,
of valleys and coffee plantations,
of sugar-cane and pineapple,
of guava and mampostiales,
of tembleque and maví.

I chose to not translate tembleque, maví, and mampostiales. It feels too weird to see them in English, somehow linguistically reduced, or transformed into something else. But, if you MUST know:

  • mampostiales = “very thick, gooey candy bars of caramelized brown sugar and coconut chips, challenging to chew and with a strong, almost molasses-like flavor”
  • tembleque = creamy coconut pudding usually garnished with cinnamon on top
  • maví = “mauby,” a drink! (“The drink or syrup for the drink is made by boiling a specific buckthorn bark, Colubrina elliptica, with sugar and a variety of spices. In looking at individual recipes on how people make mauby, you’ll note spices and flavorings vary exceedingly. Cinnamon is usually included, but then the drink flavoring diverges according to recipe. Some people add cloves, anise, vanilla extract, or cola flavoring. For more info, just check the wiki.”)

If this doesn’t make your mouth water at least a LITTLE, you should get your salivary glands checked. Anyway. Why do I get so emotional? Part of it is the setting of the theater, of course, that sets the stage (no pun intended); everything is bigger and louder and more intense there, plus the darkness creates an air of intimacy and solitude (that’s more believable when one is not in a packed room with some dingbat kicking the back of one’s seat), or at the very least of uninterrupted connection to what is onscreen. However, even when I’m not in the theater, I can get teary-eyed. It’s the idea of this, well, idealized Puerto Rico. It’s a longing for that, and not coupled with the belief that it’s nonexistent, but with the belief that there IS that beauty and that wonder in the Puerto Rico in which I live–that it’s just a matter of stopping and appreciating it, or finding it, or even just knowing how and when to look. The beautiful visuals and music create an air of hope…and if an ad is going to make me feel something, hope is a fucking fantastic choice. It makes the viewer tune in to that part of themselves, the hopeful part, the part that identifies as Puerto Rican, the part that wants to be proud of the mother country and not ashamed. It’s the part that goes “yes yes yes” during the whole ad.

To me, advertising is important. Heck, I wanted to GO into advertising for a while! All things being equal, or more or less equal, I WILL give preference to the organization with better ads, not because I believe their product is better, but because I admire their advertising and feel like rewarding them for a job well done. I will purposefully choose to support a company whose ads I like. And speaking of other ads I like, Harris Paints created a CLASSIC with this one:

Click here.
This thing was played at EVERY MOVIE SHOWING IN EVERY THEATER (of the Caribbean Cinemas chain, at least, but I’m pretty sure CineVista also played them). It ran for YEARS. People went into a movie and sang along to this during the previews, some in barely audible whispers, others in great, booming voices. It was glorious. They eventually retired the commercial after a bunch of years and everyone got upset. And what does this ad have in common with the Banco Popular one? It invokes our sense of Puerto-Rican-ness AND it has great visuals AND catchy music. It talks about paint colors in terms of Puerto Rican things, colors WE know because we see them every day or we are at least pretty damn familiar with them. Green is not fucking…kelly-green or hunter green or limeade green, it’s “verde quenepa.” Red is this red, of the flamboyán (Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant). Blue is the blue of the cobblestones that line San Juan’s streets. And so on. In fact, here are the lyrics:

Paint your life
with the colors of my land.
Paint your life.
Piragua strawberry,
white like coconut,
mango yellow.
Quenepa green,
cobblestone blue,
flamboyán red,
turquoise of the sea.
The colors of my land,
our colors,
paint your life
with the colors
that Harris gives you.

Mmm, gotta love appealing to people’s sense of unified culture. I’ll avoid cynicism for now (shocking!). And for clarification, a piragua is like a snowcone, but the top is pointy like a pyramid (not rounded like a snowball). SO yes. Other ads or previews make me cry too, for different reasons. It’s usually the beauty in them, though, that captures me; they’re so intense and beautiful that I just can’t help but tear up. Same thing with music.