‘I Can’t Tell If It’s Healing Or Destroying Me’: Rupi Kaur’s Feminist Poetry
“the thing about writing is / i can’t tell if it’s healing / or destroying me,” Rupi Kaur writes in her debut book of poetry, Milk and Honey. It’s a complete poem in its own - one of many micro-poems in the book, shorter than tweets but packed with power.
“the rape will / tear you / in half / but it / will not / end you”
“i am undoing you / from my skin”
“the way they / leave / tells you / everything”
Kaur, who lives in Toronto and is also a photographer, has a dedicated social media following - how many other poets can say they have fanblogs about them? The press release for Milk and Honey describes her as a “Tumblr sensation.” Kaur has over 283,000 followers on Instagram, where she shares her poems, one by one, each earning tens of thousands of likes. There’s even a BuzzFeed list about her, “18 Reasons Why Every Woman Should Follow Poet Rupi Kaur On Instagram.” It makes sense: the back cover of Milk and Honey calls the collection “the blood sweat tears / of twenty-one years,” and it’s easy to imagine a fanbase of teenage and twentysomething girls who have devoured all of Sylvia Plath and still want more.
I mean that as praise, and as explanation: so much of Kaur’s writing feels familiar, but in a new way. Many of Kaur’s poems recall slogans and sayings, twisting them just enough so that you see them in a new way. Like “other women’s bodies / are not our battlegrounds,” a complete poem on its own, or a longer twist on that often-ridiculed phrase, “not like other girls.”
She makes me think of that familiar slogan, “The personal is political,” as she writes about rape and recovery, falling in love and recovering from heartbreak, and growing comfortable in her own skins. Her poems are at once intensely personal and staggeringly universal, and she often writes as a “we” or an “our”: “our knees / pried open / by cousins / and uncles / and men / our bodies touched / by all the wrong people / that even in a bed full of safety / we are afraid.”
Others of Kaur’s poems are almost empowerment slogans - “you must / want to spend / the rest of your life / with yourself / first” - while others are tough-love girl talk - “don’t mistake / salt for sugar / if he wants to / be with you / he will / it’s that simple.”
In a poem titled “women of colour,” Kaur writes, “our backs / tell stories / no books have / the spine to carry.”
Milk and Honey may have proved that wrong.
Images: Facebook/Rupi Kaur, Instagram/Rupi Kaur
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5 Ways Your Curves Are Benefiting Your Body
Hating on our curves is something that is both easy and demoralizing. But maybe we are letting unrealistic beauty norms poison our thoughts toward bodies built for survival. Curvology: The Origins and Power of Female Body Shape, by David Bainbridge, is a book that ventures to explain the “how” and the “why” of the shape of women’s bodies. Bainbridge, a trained veterinarian and zoologist, writes directly in the introduction that humans are the only species in existence with curvy females. The book is divided into three parts: The Body, the Mind and the World. Each of these tells a different part of the story about female form, whether scientific, historical or cultural.
Critics rest easy, though a man wrote this book, Bainbridge recognizes that his state as a “forty-something Caucasian male” may not make him the “ideal person to write a book about human female body shape.” He also brings women’s voices into the book throughout with quotes at the beginning of each chapter from different interviewees. Representative of different ages and varying body mass index sizes, the anonymous interviewers have one thing in common: A general dissatisfaction with at least one aspect of their bodies.
But guess what? This female form that has been scrutinize for years upon years is built with purpose—extra fat included. From Part One of Curvology, here are some of the ways that your fat is working for your benefit:
1. Fat can keep you alive—for months
Stored body fat = energy for really, really long walks
We learn in Curvology that fat is not just the blubbery stuff floating around, reeking havoc, and keeping our jeans from fitting. It is a form of stored energy in our bodies, and is housed in cells called adipocytes. By storing huge amounts of energy and calories in our bodies, fat has the capability to keep us alive for up to two months. Women carry even more fat, which would be able to sustain the needs of pregnancy. Cool, huh? No wonder ancestors who carried fat were the ones who passed along their genes—body fat can keep you alive!
2. It’s not the size of the curves that counts...it’s all about location, location, location
High fives for your curves: The “hourglass” and “pear” shapes, unique to women’s bodies, distribute fat in a way that benefits health. The gluteofemoral fat that resides in the thighs and butt are less harmful than abdominal fat linked with things like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. This means that the shape of women's curves dictate the likeliness of getting diseases. A low waist-hip ratio is even linked to protection from some forms of breast cancer, dementia and gall bladder disease, according to Bainbridge.
3. Plus, the fat in your butt and thighs is actively fighting off disease!
Not only does the distribution of fat in women’s bodies prevent diseases, gluteofemoral fat in women does something that it doesn’t do for men: it releases substances that help maintain a healthy metabolism. This means the fat in your butt and thighs is actually actively warding off potential diseases, while simultaneously not releasing toxicity to your body like omental, or bad belly, fat. Way to work it, thighs!
4. If you're trying to have a mini-me, higher body fat ups your chances of pregnancy.
The female reproductive system is ruled by hormones including one important one called leptin. Leptin is thought to provide information to the brain about when puberty should occur, and guess what it's made of? That's right: fat. Bainbridge writes that fat in the butt and thighs produces an increased amount of leptin as puberty goes on, "The curves are 'speaking' to the brain." With the brain staying informed about the amount of fat that is in the body, it is able to secrete more or less estrogen and progesterone depending upon the body's apparent preparedness for pregnancy based on fat levels.
5. Women with larger thighs are more intelligent, and so are their offspring!
Bainbridge explains studies that show women's lower body fat stores a rich amount of omega-three poly-unsaturated fatty acids. This lipid molecule is vital to producing humans' famously large brains. Thus, the larger the thighs, the more of these molecules, resulting in more intelligent brains! And, when these molecules are passed on, children of women with larger thighs have proved to be smarter as well. Even more interestingly, girl offspring in this scenario reap the benefits more so than the boys. Who runs the world?
There you have it. Sizable curves equal intelligence and health benefits, so next time you look in the mirror, make sure you tell your body (especially your lower-half), "Thanks!"
Photo via IMDB.
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Chef Rossi’s New Foodie Memoir Is Mouth-Watering
As BUST's beloved Eat Me columnist, Chef Rossi has been schooling us on everything from poached eggs to tuna tartare for more than 16 years, and always with a dash of humor. But those with heartier reading appetites can now devour The Raging Skillet: The True Life Story of Chef Rossi, her juicy memoir about growing up, becoming a chef, and working as New York’s most unconventional wedding caterer. In chapter after delicious chapter, Rossi pairs bold personal essays with the recipes that play a role in them—like the Snickers-and-potato-chip casserole she made for her stoner friends as a rebellious teen, and the vanilla-infused shrimp she once made for Vanilla Ice. Bursting with gourmet goodness, The Raging Skillet (out November 10) is a toothsome read sure to have you clamoring for seconds.
By Hanna Lustig
This article originally appeared in the Oct/Nov 2015 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
15 Times J.K. Rowling Proved She's A Badass
Bringing the world Harry Potter is one of many contributions JK Rowling has made to the world. Her storytelling, her characters, her philanthropy and political activism, her dry-yet-biting wit, are all reasons why, in my humble opinion, JK Rowling is one of the greatest humans on the planet. The following are just 15 of the many:
1. That time she made this misogynistic Serena Williams-hater go sit in the corner:
After tweeting her support of Williams, Rowling received this reply:
To which she brilliantly replied:
2. Her most perfect response to this ignorant person who claimed they couldn’t see Dumbledore as gay:
3. And then her suggestion Dumbledore and Gandalf could get gay-married in Ireland
4. And her “nobody cares about you” response to the Westboro Baptist Church
5. Hell, and when a Twitter follower said he “stopped being a fan” because of Rowling’s revelation about LGBT students and teachers:
And she responded thus:
6. That time her charity work bumped her down from a billionaire to a millionaire.
Rowling at a conference for her charity Lumos, which works to "end the systematic institutionalisation of children across Europe."
7. In related news, Rowling tweeted her support of Syrian refugees, received this response, and responded with no fucks given:
8. "Why Dumbledore went to the hilltop"
Her TwitLonger explaining her objection to the cultural boycott of Israel, emphasizing the importance of art being available to everyone.
9. This NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour
Promoting her latest Cormoran Strike murder mystery, Career of Evil, Rowling stopped by NPR to discuss, among other things, her approach to writing about sexual assault:
“It was very, very, very important to me that this didn’t become what I call ‘violence porn.’ So it was very important to me that the damage inflicted is felt to feel real and human and Robin, who is one of our central characters, is key to revealing what it feels like to come up against someone like this and what that does to their life. These are not pieces of meat. These are not mannequins to be dismembered. And it was important to me that those scenes were not written with a view to titillation but to understand why it is so essential that this man is caught.”
Then, when [SPOILER] talking about the sexual assault of one of the central characters:
“I wanted the reader to know, or to think they knew, Robin before finding out about what had happened to her in the past. For me it was very important because I wanted the reader to feel the weight of that. That they knew the human being; they didn’t first of all see the survivor. And that is something that can very easily be lost in life and in literature when you’re talking about this kind of mindset and this kind of violence. Giving the survivor a voice, a face, giving them their due humanity is really important to me.”
On rape being a signifier:
“This does not define her. She is many, many, many, many things. And that’s about giving her her weight as a human and not seeing her as the vehicle for some grotesque act that someone else decided to perpetuate.”
Whatever you think about Hermione and Rowling’s flawed feminism (and who in the hell’s feminism isn’t flawed?) Hermione’s character was a net feminist champion. Her brains, her being “plain” in J.K. Rowling’s imagination, her activism, are all deeply politically arousing.
Batcii/Tumblr / Via batcii.tumblr.com
11. This tweet, because this tweet:
12. Scotland/victimization/cunt tweet
13. And her “haters gonna hate” response to this person who is clearly ignorant of her background
14. This letter she sent a fan who was being bullied:
15. Her Harvard failure speech
It made all of us feel better.
Images via Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr
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You Have To See These 'Shake Cats' In Action
After the success of photographer Carli Davidson’s Shake Puppies, she’s followed up with the ultimate crazy cat lady gift, her new book of cat photographs, Shake Cats.
As an animal rights activist and mother to her own kitty, Yushi, Davidson has always been interested in photographing cats – she did a cat photo-shoot the same year that she did her photo-shoots for Shake Puppies, and said that “I had originally thought I would do cats and dogs in the same book, but looking back I think it was best to give each animal its own book so their unique features could be highlighted.”
Davidson, raised by parents who were both artists and animal lovers, “grew up encouraged to be curious about both the nature and creativity.” This curiosity resulted in having her own pets, but also led her to the animal activism that affects so much of her work. “I believe that animal rescue is a revolutionary act of love, and I want that energy reflected in my work. When you rescue, you are creating space and empathizing with another being that needs the same things we all need: to feel safe, shelter, food, affection, and patience.” Not surprisingly, many of her kitty models are rescue cats and adoptees from her hometown, Portland, OR.
On our current culture of undeniable cat obsession, Davidson says that it’s only natural: “We have been worshipping them as spiritual icons for 10,000 years since the Mau (Egyptian cats) were domesticated, and the cult of Bastet took hold in Egypt. Now we worship them for their Internet antics because they bring joy to people all over the world. The rise of the cat back into worship status on the Internet seems natural if you look at their historic significance.”
But what’s so great about them, anyway?
“They are healers, I mean if your friend is having a bad day, sending a picture or video of an Internet icon like Lil Bub, Grumpy Cat, or pretty much any cat doing something funny, it becomes a source of humor, comfort, and connection. Cats combat Internet negativity with their sheer visual presence.”
Which is exactly why having a copy of Davidson’s book is essential. With over 135 pages – that’s over 135 different kitty cat action shots – you may never have a bad day again.
Photos via Shake Cats by Carli Davidson
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