BEWARE OF THE BIG WHITE B!TCH
By: Lauren Anderson
A while ago, I was meeting a friend for dinner. They were standing outside the restaurant and watched while I crossed the street. It was heavy traffic, around rush hour, so attempting to be a pedestrian during these times is always an exercise in caution.
I work downtown, and live in uptown so I’m always crossing traffic. So when the “walk” sign flashed white, I did what I normally do: Rolled my shoulders back and lifted my arms out to the side, making my body as big and commanding as possible.
It’s become my signature walk when crossing the street. It’s especially effective because usually I’m carrying around 3 bags, so I can make myself SEEN.
My friend started laughing at me. They thought I was doing a bit. When I arrived on the other side, after we hugged hello my friend was like, “What’s with the walk?”
I explain to them my patented, “Make my body SEEN in traffic” campaign. And we both acknowledge that even though it looks ridiculous, it’s probably pretty damn effective.
* * *
And it got me thinking about bodies, and the idea of purposely making my body BIG. And how counter intuitive that is for an American cis-gender white woman like myself. Literally everything you see and hear in the media (and elsewhere) expects that I make my body small. Take up less space. Twist and finagle my body into the remaining places after everyone else has a spot.
And it’s a load of crap.
I’ve always had pretty good posture, and I’ve always been kinda strong. But I have never stood this tall, or been as strong as I am since I started working out at Solcana. And I can’t tell you the joy it’s given me. And honestly, it’s helped put my big body in a new context. Not only am I learning how to love this body better, but I can finally see my body as powerful, useful, and significant. And not something I have to apologize for.
And let me be really clear here: I believe all bodies deserve love and respect. Regardless of their strength and usefulness. I am just talking about myself. I am finding new joy on an individual level. But that doesn’t mean I think all bodies need to be this way.
But I’m finding out I really LIKE having the type of body that people step aside for and make room. And that’s like a whole new mind trip!
I have lived in a big body for a while now. And while I am continuously figuring out how to love this thing in it’s entirety and not feel less-than or trapped by it— I think from time to time, it’s important for me celebrate the freedom my new big strong body provides.
Because it does feel like a freedom. I’ve found there is a freedom in having physical strength.
And I freaking love it.
People notice when I walk into the room. I used to be embarrassed by this. I thought people were looking and judging and staring. But lately, I’ve come to really enjoy it. People ARE looking. But they’re looking the same way you would look at a mighty elephant. It’s as if to say, “Attention everyone! Something big and powerful has entered the room! Take notice!”
I’ve learned to take up space, and own it. There is also an assumption of confidence that people have started to attach to me. Which I appreciate, because like most people, I rarely feel as confident as I may look. And this assumption actually gives me a little edge. And I’ll take it.
A friend of mine was going through a really hard time. And as they collapsed crying into my arms, I could feel them melt into me. I felt my body engage. I knew I could support them. I knew I could take on their entire weight… even just for a little while.
In that moment, I could feel them give themselves over to me, and allow themselves to be held up. Like crawling onto a parents lap, and letting yourself be craddled, I could feel the bigness and the strength of my body provide great comfort and care. And I felt proud.
And finally, EXHIBIT C:
The reason I named today’s blog BEWARE OF THE BIG WHITE B!TCH.
No, I don’t think of myself this way. I don’t even like the B word. Specifically, because I think it lacks power. But that’s for another blog. Here’s what happened.
A few weeks ago, my mother, my sister and her girlfriend all went to the Farmer’s Market. We had a great time. My mom saw a booth for this special salsa that she got at the State Fair, and went over to buy some.
The booth was being run by a 50-something white male. As I walked up next to my mom, She said, “Try this one, it’s not that spicy.” And the guy selling it laughed.
He said, “Yeah it’s not that spicy. Perfect for white bitches.” And then started to laugh again, and repeat his hilarious “joke” to another older, white, male colleague. That guy laughed too.
I balked. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. How this man thought calling me a name would help sell his salsa, I’ll never know. But what happened next was fascinating.
My mom heard what the guy said too. Without thinking, she put her head down and I could see her make her shoulders smaller. She made her eyes wide, and set her face to look as unthreatening as possible. Like a tiny animal in the wild trying not to be eaten.
At the same time, I did the opposite. I rolled my shoulders back and engaged my lats. I looked that man square in the eye, and I said, “Excuse me? What did you just say?”
He didn’t hear me. Instead he offers me a sample chip. “Here, try this Hon.”
If I were a cartoon, you would’ve seen actual smoke come out of my ears. This motherf*%#@r just called me a Bitch, and now he’s calling me HON?!?!? Who the F does he think he is?
I say, “No. I don’t want that.”
He offers again, “Just try it.” Again, I say “No.”
Then he laughs and says to his colleague, “I guess some people just don’t know how to handle their spice. Ha!”
And I look him square in the eye, and in my most assertive tone I said:
“The only thing I can’t handle is being called a White Bitch.”
I say it loud enough that people all around can hear me. His face drops, and it’s as if for the first time he figures out that he’s not as funny as he thought he was. The crowd at his table disperses. And we walk away too. Not only did he lose my sale, he lost a bunch of others. I swelled up with sweet, immediate justice.
Ahhhh, VINDICATION. Thy name is profit loss.
As we walked away, my sister squeezed my arm and whispered, “That was awesome.”
Later on in the car on the way home, my mom says, “I’m proud of you for standing up to that guy. You had the perfect response.” I thanked her, and we talked about what happened in her body as well.
My mom says, “I did the opposite. I just made myself small and took it. Cause that’s what I was taught to do. That’s what all women my age were taught. It was our job to keep ourselves safe, and men just got to do what they wanted. We were taught to just overlook it, keep going. But I’m glad you said something. How dare he.”
I knew some of that confidence was because of my generation, and our expectation on how to be treated. But I also knew inherently, that my big strong body helped. If I would’ve been a smaller women, without as much physical strength, I might have been less inclined to speak up. That, I don’t know for sure. But it’s something to consider.
Because of my bigness, and my physical strength, I had the freedom to do what I thought was right. And it felt good. Like really really good. And I thought for a moment, “I wonder if this is how men feel ALL THE TIME?”
And that night I thanked my body. And I thanked myself for helping this body become the strong person I’m starting to see before me.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. This body is a form of resistance.
This body is capable of incredible love, comfort, and care.
And this body can also be a big scary white beast if I need to.
Beware B!tches. Beware.