Strength Has No Gender.

Rant pants are on. You’re warned.

I want you to think of your favorite movie hero right now. Male to start, if you would. I’m guessing he’s at least a handful of the following:

Handsome.
Clever.
Funny.
A leader.
Capable.
Tough.
Doesn’t cry.
Doesn’t flinch from duty.
Brave.
Good under pressure.
Strong.
Good with the ladies.

Now I want you to think WHY your hero’s that way. Born that way? Trained? Sometimes there’s a back story there, but a good chunk of the time there’s not and we just accept that Jack the Alpha Male is awesome because he’s awesome. Other times, Jack the alpha male had a good Jedi master. Or he shot first. Or he was the best pilot and he misses Goose. Or . . . something. The point is we blindly buy into these heroes being heroes because they have some combination of the traits listed above and we accept that Jack is Jack and Jack is Awesome PERIOD.

You know what never happens to Jack? He’s never raped so that he can rise from the ashes like some vanquishing phoenix. And do you know why Jack is never raped? Because that would immediately weaken his position as our hero. It would put him BENEATH and we don’t want our heroes BENEATH. We don’t want to pity them.

Enter Jill.

Jill is written into any number of novels, television shows, movies. Jill would like to be some or all of the things in that list, but in an alarming number of cases, Jill is not blindly assumed to have the same qualities as Jack. We buy into Jack’s superiority because we’re told that he has all of those hero-like traits. But Jill? Telling us that she’s awesome is not enough. There’s no assumption of strength. It’s like she is biologically wired to NOT be brave or tough so we have to prove it in the most foul way possible. She is a creature that is, by birth, DEMURE AND DELICATE. Because that’s what we’re saying when the only way we can think to present strong female characters is by victimizing them before they “blossom” into heroines.

Stop raping women to empower them in fiction, people. You’re doing an entire gender a huge disservice.

It is seriously fucked up to assume that this is the only way women can rise to an occasion. By using this literary device, you are selling readers–the world–on the idea that women are frail flowers who must be DESTROYED PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY to become . . . everything we immediately appreciate and respect in Jack? What the hell? And to the argument that it’s to make Jill more sympathetic, why isn’t she automatically sympathetic on account of being a human being? Why do we need to make her more relatable by breaking her down piece by piece? Why can we as a society blindly relate to Jack and his causes but then feel we have to justify our allegiance to Jill the Alpha Female and have a pity party?

Yes, rape happens. Yes, it’s a terrible thing. Yes, women may change after the trauma and in some cases, the women may become tougher than they were before their victimization. But that isn’t a staple of strength. Strength is strength. It exists because people have that particular quality. Men have it. Women have it. Women don’t need “circumstances” to have it. We don’t require something terrible to happen to us to develop it. It’s not like raping us gives us a magical strength power.

Stop feeding into this incredibly backwards paradigm. Stop accrediting men–IN A ROUNDABOUT WAY–with giving women strength. Yeah, sure, we hate the rapist, but you’re still saying that women wouldn’t have the quality of personal fortitude if it hadn’t been for the male that compromised her in the first place. That’s messed up. So just stop. Please. Or I’ll throw your book/television show/movie through the goddamned window and never look back.

Hillary out.

Hifflepits! AKA Being A Woman.

Last night, I bore witness to a woman getting pissed that people weren’t down with her anti-queer rhetoric and, in a fit of irritation, taking a shot at another woman’s infertility, effectively deeming the childless woman lesser.  The attitude was, of course, that this childless woman is flawed or not properly performing her function in the eyes of . . . I dunno.  God?  Tulips?  The Cheetos Cheetah?  Because WOMB and BABIES and LACTATION and GIRLY PARTS DOING GIRLY PART STUFF.

(I was informed later that this woman self-identifies as a Christian.  What a piss poor example coming in from the God brigade.  I wish good Christians could eat the bad ones and grow in power, like Highlanders for Jesus.)

Anyway, when I got A WEE BIT PISSY with Terror Christian and called her out on her tactlessness, she claimed that it was because she was “in a nest of vipers.”  Which I guess translates to IF YOU DON’T TOLERATE MY INTOLERANCE, YOU’RE MEAN AND I HATE YOU.  The entire exchange was mind-bogglingly stupid.  In hindsight, I wish I’d stopped reading far before I did.   But it got me thinking about how women were perceived–by other women, by men.  By society.  And I realized that a whole bunch of folks are operating under a flawed premise of what constitutes Female.

What a woman is:

  • An individual who wakes up in the morning and identifies as female.

What a woman isn’t:

  • A pre-ordained vessel for life.  Some women have children.  Some can’t have them.  Some choose not to have them.  The presence or lack of sproglings is not a gender marker THING.  It’s a parent marker and that’s quite different.
  • A dress.  Or a pair of pants.  Or a sexy bra or granny panties.  Clothing does not define a woman.  Neither does some market-fed idea of femininity.  You can wear a trashbag and be all lady, baby.
  • Makeup.  Because see above.  Glossy magazine pages still do not define “woman.”
  • A requisite nurturer.  If we nurture, you’re fortunate.  If we don’t, deal with it.
  • Delicacy.  I’m as delicate as a roid-raging T-Rex.  Still a woman.
  • A body shape.  We come in small, medium, large, and extra-large.  Big boobs, small boobs, round butts, flat butts.  You could be shaped like Sputnik and still be a woman.
  • Decorum.  Again, if we’re polite and you enjoy it, fantastic.  But if we aren’t, it isn’t a mark against our Female Cred.  We are not required to “behave like ladies.”  Because behaving like ladies more often than not means smiling while someone shovels a giant, heaping pile of manure at our faces.  No thanks.

This brings me to another point.  A gal on  Twitter last night said that she “wasn’t a feminist” which hey–you don’t have to slap the label on yourself if you don’t want.  Sky Poobah knows that people hear FEMINIST and lava spews from their eye holes.   But it does make me cock an eye because–

What a feminist is:

  • A person who believes that women are equal to men and thus deserve the same respect/pay/social benefits.

So if that right there ^ is the actual and proper definition of a feminist (and when you boil it down, that’s feminism in its purest form) why NOT be a feminist?  The alternative is pretty dire.  Amy Poehler had a whole thing on this in her interview with Elle, but my favorite part was:

Interviewer:  You’ve always made it clear that you’re a feminist. It’s a term that a lot of people back away from these days.
Amy:  But then they go on to explain what they support and live by—it’s feminism exactly. I think some big actors and musicians feel like they have to speak to their audience and that word is confusing to their audience. But I don’t get it. That’s like someone being like, “I don’t really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don’t know what I would do without it.” 

So sure.  Don’t identify as a feminist, that’s cool.  But I wouldn’t exactly shrug it off either because I’m fairly sure most gals are pretty square with the whole “being equals” thing.  Maybe if we renamed feminism we’d get farther.  Maybe it’s just become that much of a buzzword.  So let’s start over.  Let’s say Hifflepits instead.  “Hifflepits means girls get the same cool stuff dudes get.”  SIGN ME UP FOR HIFFLEPITS.  I AM A HIFFLEPITS ENTHUSTIAST.  It’d be a Hifflepits revolution.  I’d be selling Hifflepits merchandise forever.

Hifflepits.

Hillary out.

Tolerating Intolerance. Problematic.

I don’t even consider this a rant, though I suppose I’m putting it under that category for lack of a better place to put it.  So this week, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen the varying degrees of rage regarding the Duck Dynasty Dudes.  The patriarch said some anti-queer folk stuff, and then went on to say some fairly racially insensitive stuff, and everyone’s either falling into the camp of RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH or WOW, THAT GUY’S A DINK.

If you’re a fan of the show?  You’re probably in the former group.   If you’re not?   The latter.

I’ve talked before about freedom of speech and what censorship is and isn’t.  Fact:  Phil Robertson didn’t get censored.  Nor is he being persecuted for his religious views outside of the court of public opinion, which is apparently not as keen with the whole “homosexuals and pedophiles being in the same category” thing as Phil.  Phil Robertson is — much like yours truly — on contract with a business.  That business has rules, just like any other, and while Phil is bankrolled by this company, he has to follow those rules.  When he doesn’t tow the business line, he gets suspended.  It’s just like any other job, really.  So, let’s say you/us/me walk into the usual 9 – 5 and start spouting off stuff that’s going to be construed as anti-queer, religious slant or not.  What’s your HR department going to do?  Shake your hand, thank you for introducing them to Jesus, and pat you on the back? Or are you going to get a pretty serious reprimand for not following The Rules?

Why is everyone so baffled that this guy has consequences for doing essentially that?  Privilege doesn’t always buy you out of foot-in-mouth-disease, guys.  Just most of the time.  He’s on a company bankroll.  No, he doesn’t need the money, but he agreed to take it all the same and while he’s taking that money, he has to follow THEIR rules.  He didn’t.  Slap on the wrist.  Would happen to any of us working grunts if we pulled this at our day jobs.  But because people find him entertaining, he’s somehow above this?  Why?  Because he’s funny?  Hell – if we were all excused because we were funny, I’d get away with A WHOLE LOT OF STUFF .

The point stands: on a business level, he screwed up.  He’s taking money from a corporation that has a set of core values.  He chose to fly in the face of those values, now he gets sent to his room awhile.  Honestly, my guess is they’ll issue some public apology and get the show back on the air sooner than later, so don’t fret Duck Dynasty fans.  It’ll blow over.  It always does.  

I have a few other thoughts about this whole thing, but they’re scattered as post-surgery and painkillers, but bear with me, okay?

  • “Religious freedom” should not ever make it OKAY to be a bigot.  Until we have a true separation of church and state (which might not ever be possible), we are assuming that some book written 3000 years ago (and rewritten multiple times) by a bunch of guys we’ve never met or talked to should dictate social policy.  Meaning, we are taking this book, assigning an importance we CANNOT FACTUALLY PROVE, and allowing it to mold the social and legal rights of those who have non-cis lifestyles.  We cannot just let bigotry pass as religious freedom and be done with it, simple as that.  Religion dictates legislature.  When it doesn’t?  Feel free to cast religious freedom at me as something we can universally accept and promptly shrug off.
  • The south has a real and actual problem with hate crimes and hateful discrimination against queer folk.  This is in no part due to religion.  No person should be fearful of their communities because of hivemind.  Again, religious freedom is fine AS LONG AS IT DOESN’T CREATE A PARADIGM OF FEAR.  Right now, that’s not the case.  It’s problematic.   Check out Mississippi I Am, the documentary by Lance Bass.
  • You can believe whatever you want whenever you want.  You can say whatever you want whenever you want.  That IS your constitutional right.  But I – and people like me – do not have to like it.  Yes, you have the right to be a bigot and dress it up with scripture.  I have the right to call bullshit every time.  I probably will.
  • I do not understand how we can throw SO MANY things away from the bible (stoning daughters, eating pork, divorce being penalized by death) and yet miraculously always choose THIS facet of hate as something we continue to embrace?  So what arbitrary line is it that determines what parts of faith we modernize?  Some dude named Phil decided that day that we’ll do A, but not do B, and screw over those queers in C?
  • Most of the Christians I know are loving, wonderful people who are quite open to queer relationships.  NALT exists to help these Christians further their message of love.  Praise NALT.  Praise Christians who fight to be heard above the people who compare my queer friends and family members to those who lie with beasts and children.

I think that’s all I can manage mosty because my percocet is wearing off and Lulu’s starting to look like a porkchop.

Hillary out.

The Miley Cyrus Thing.

To this point, I’ve avoided talking about the Miley Cyrus debacle mostly because, at first? I dismissed it as much ado about nothing. A pop star got up on stage, gave a questionable performance that included defiling teddy bears, and people reacted by doing the O.o face and asking WHY, MILEY, WHY? My take on it was, “If she wants to get up there and give a strange, crappy performance, that’s up to her, but where were her handlers?” Not because Miley shouldn’t have been doing sexy things (cultural appropriation arguments aside, that’s a whole other kettle of fish for people better versed in the subject than I am) but because I just didn’t think the VMA performance was particularly entertaining. You’re an entertainer, you get up on stage to entertain. If other people out there found it fun and sexy and cool? Okay, well I guess she struck a chord somewhere but the vast majority of folks I saw/read found it ridiculous. (Though, I will say this – if her point was to get people talking? She succeeded beautifully. Weeks later? A month later? Folks are still obsessed with it.)

Anyway, the reason I’m finally giving into the MC hubbub is because the Sinead O’Connor open letter is making its rounds. Facebook, Twitter – it’s everywhere, and I have thoughts on it. Some good, some bad. Mostly good, but the bad is bad.

First things first. What is slut shaming? Slut shaming is, thank you Wikipedia, “A neologism used to describe the act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for certain sexual behaviors or desires that deviate from traditional or orthodox gender expectations, or that which may be considered to be contrary to natural or supernatural/religious law.” Basically, if you demean a chick because of her sexual exploits or because she chooses to present her body in a sexual way, you’re slut shaming. Yes, go ahead, lob the argument of “good taste” my way. Sadly, dudes? Most “good taste” is based on an antiquated view of how women should behave. Girls should be polite in public, should be demure, should reserve the mighty vagina for one dude. If they do have a one night stand, they should hang their heads and feel badly about it because that’s not what “good girls do.” Guys, meanwhile, can go through high school, college, and their early twenties humping anything in sight and that’s considered, “Sowing their wild oats.”

Long story short? The good taste argument is a slippery slope. Don’t present that to someone talking about slut shaming because we’re going to tear it apart. Yes, you can say “No one should do that in public, no one should be sexual before the public” but the reality is, men are lauded for their sex, and women are notoriously shit on for it. That’s just how society works. Good taste is perpetuating the notion that sex-for-girls-bad, sex-for-boys-typical. And it’s bogus.

So, what does slut shaming have to do with this Sinead letter? Welp, here goes. For the most part, Sinead’s message of self-respect is dead on. Miley Cyrus should NOT let men (or anyone) shape her image for money. She should not let the industry mold her into a person she’s not just to sell records. It should be about her talent, her music, and not how many times she can shake DAT ASS so dudes can wank it. Okay, I get that. High five Sinead. Good going. You had a career based on pushing boundaries, of not buckling to industry pressure, and you’re trying to mentor this chick with a message of self empowerment. I am so with you on this. In fact, I am with you for eighty percent of your letter. Here’s the problem I have with that last twenty percent: not once in that letter did Miss O’Connor ever asking herself if being sexual is what MILEY CYRUS WANTED. She assumed that girls, or this girl in particular, was at her core a “good girl” who “should want to reserve her precious body for her boyfriend.”

Look, the argument of self-respect, of respecting your body, of standing up to those who wish to exploit you? That should be heard everywhere, twice. Do only what makes you happy, what makes you comfortable, what makes you feel good about yourself. The problem here is that we (and by we, I mean the people who are cheering this letter) are operating under the assumption that what makes Miley Cyrus happy, comfortable, and feeling good about herself is not HOW SHE IS. What if that’s not the case? If this young woman likes dressing in tiny clothes, likes shaking her body, likes showing off the curve of her breasts and expressing her sexuality, that’s actually NOT a reason to make her feel bad. If she’s doing it to please others? Problem. If she’s doing it to please herself? Not a problem. And if you think the latter is wrong, you’re feeding into the slut shaming paradigm.

I really do think Miss O’Connor did a good thing here. I think most reasonable people can look at the letter and see the point she was trying to make and embrace it. What I’m challenging her (and really anyone else reading this letter) to do is to take a second to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, Miley Cyrus wants to be a sexual being. And I want people to see that as an okay thing. She doesn’t owe it to anyone to “act like a lady.” She shouldn’t feel bad about her body, how she sees her body, or how she moves her body. If she’s consciously making the decision to embrace her feminine sexuality, that’s not something to fret about or pearl clutch about. And if it offends you? Don’t watch her on TV or listen to her music. Yes, it’s okay for you to be offended, but at the end of the day? It’s also okay for her to be okay with her body and what she chooses to do with it.

Get me? Yes? Hillary out.

The Golden Rule Part Forty-Six.

Yes, yes, there’s that whole “nice” version that says, “Do unto others” and blah blah. Mine’s shorter: Don’t be a douche. Don’t be a douche to strangers. Don’t be a douche to puppies. Don’t be a douche to co-workers, people standing in line in front of you, or the police. Don’t be a douche to children or the elderly or people of different cultural backgrounds. Don’t be a douche to porcupines. Just . . . don’t be a douche.

This philosophy is simple and to the point. It’s served me well. If we all embraced it? There would be a remarkable lack of douchedom in our world. Can’t we all get behind that? Can’t we get behind a non-douchey existence?

So, what has me spouting about douchedom today? The long and short of it is an author attempted to engage a reviewer on the reviewer’s blog about a negative review and it came across as a little. Erm. Well, whatever. By all appearances, the author’s intentions were good, but as we all know good intentions mean diddly and squat.

The reaction to this has been visceral, both sides of the fence. There are folks saying you cannot as an author talk to people critiquing your work as it violates some unspoken . . . something something. I’m not sure what the rule is, as frankly, I don’t agree with it, but more on that later. The other side says people jumped on the author and need to take a chill pill the size of Cincinatti. Some bloggers even proclaimed, “HEY, AUTHORS, COME TALK TO US.”

Whatever side of the debate you fall on, I think we can all agree the whole thing became quite the kerfuffle. Kerfuffle is often entertaining, but also maddening-making.

Let me get this out of the way right now: in general, an author talking to a reviewer who panned their work is a bad idea. It’s not awful all the time, but the likelihood of the interaction going tits up is quite high. Why? Because even if the author is a straight shooter, respectful, asking legitimate questions and trying to learn from their “mistakes” with readers, their interference is often going to be construed as them being some loud-mouthed asshole who has nothing better to do but to tell the internet why they’re wrong for internetting. (Sometimes, the author IS a loud-mouthed asshole, which is just pathetic, but I think we can all agree those authors need a swift kick in the teeth.) Assuming the author is a normal individual, though? Sad, but true – authors can’t win this one. Or, as Wendig said, The Juice Ain’t Worth The Squeeze. The one time you actually get constructive criticism from the conversation will not be worth the fifty-four others where someone (maybe not the reviewer themselves, but one of their readers) will call you a ballsy tool for broaching the subject in the first place.

Which is weird, when you think about it. A reviewer talks about an author at length, sometimes unkindly, and yet the author is powerless to contribute to the dialogue about them. It’s like walking into a party where everyone there is talking about you and you have to sit in the corner sipping your Diet Coke while you listen to strangers smear you and your work. But you can’t make eye contact! And you can’t defend yourself or ask questions because that’s wrong! And rude!

Or something.

The whole paradigm is very strange, but I think what’s at play here is some messed up hybrid of net etiquette and accountability. What’s both wonderful and terrifying about the internet is it allows for the illusion of anonymity. You can say what you want, and if you don’t want to “hear” what people have to say back, you can hit post and run away. You can convince yourself it’s a way to free speech your face off without the rest of the world being able to hurt you for your opinions. Except, that’s not at all the case, really, because how often can you say provocative shit and NOT run back to see what you’ve wrought with your words? Reviews are no exception to this. If you’re going to pan a book in a review, you’re not going to be free from backlash simply because you put on a fancy dress and called yourself a reviewer. People — not necessarily authors, but fans, other readers in general — will digest what you have to say. Sometimes, they will take you to task for it. Some of those people won’t be nice.

That’s not to say people shouldn’t negatively review. In fact, some of the best reviews I’ve read didn’t love the work in question. But the thing I liked about those reviews? They might be critical, but they weren’t mean spirited. The reviewer didn’t relish tearing the work apart. They fairly compared and contrasted what worked for them versus what didn’t. They presented their negative comments in a way that didn’t savor an author’s folly. Any issue I have ever had with a negative review was not because the reviewer disliked the book in question, but because they took such abject pleasure in spewing their loathing all over the place, completely disregarding the time and effort it took the artist to create the work.

In short: the only time I’ve had a problem with a negative review is when the reviewer acted douchey. Now see my douchey philosophy in paragraph one.

And sure, go ahead and tell me that this is the shitty part of being an artist who puts your work out there for public consumption – people aren’t always going to love it. They’re not always going to be nice when they don’t love it. I recognize that. Hell, I’m braced for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to think someone who delights in calling me a talentless hack isn’t an asshole. The reviewer has the right to say whatever they want, and to a point they can hide behind the internet and pretend this gives them mystical Kevlar, but the reality is? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. While I might not walk up to you and say, “Hey, that’s hurtful,” I am absolutely allowed to A) think you’re a butthead and B) tell other people I think you’re a butthead. And while the “rules” say I can’t go to that party where everyone’s talking about me and defend myself? I’ll host my own party and my party will have better cocktail weenies and beer that isn’t Budweiser. And no one at my party will be a douchebag because I have flying monkeys and I’m not afraid to use them.

Douchedom. Not the way to go. In life, in reviews, in responding to reviews.

Hillary out.

Rageface, The Musical.

Only with 100% less music because holy crap, what the hell is wrong with people?

Profanity. You’ve been warned. Hillary’s mad and when she’s mad, she spews angry words and fire and acid spit and . . . you know the drill. Your work filters won’t like me when I’m mad.

My NNNNNGH started here. Read that article. No, seriously. Stop reading the crap I’m slinging and go read Ann’s post because it’s honest and terrible and something people need to know and see about my beloved industry. Shit, man – about my beloved world. “Sexism doesn’t exist anymore.” Suuuuure it doesn’t. Look at the updates with the hate emails. How DARE this Ann Aguirre person get her ovaries all up in male business? How DARE she upset the apple cart by calling attention to the blatant sexism in her neck of the Petri dish?

How dare she.

So let’s talk about the SWFA! For those not in the know, the SWFA is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers association. Basically, if you write Sci-Fi or Fantasy, you’re probably in the SWFA because they’re that big and that important. There’s a drama storm going on because two old timers in the industry (Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg) were called out for some fairly sexist remarks they made in a recent SWFA newsletter. Their response was to mock the anonymous haters in the LATEST bulletin (claiming they were being censored because, you know, that’s what you do when you’re told you’re discriminating – cry freedom of speech.) Fortunately, Jim Hines decided to name some of those “anonymous” people and uhh. There are some fairly significant names on that list. Scalzi, the out-going SWFA president and ever the decent dude, is owning up to his fail regarding the newsletter and has formed a task force to address the rampant sexism plaguing the SWFA in hopes of staunching the bleeding.

It’s a mess. But it’s a mess that’s all due to this horrid “boy’s club mentality” that plagues Sci-Fi, fantasy, and, umm, life. Because yeah, there’s real resentment when women show an interest in what has been a male-oriented THING. Sure, not all dudes are jerks. In fact, most of them are cool, but when the asshole minority is louder than the cool majority, we’ve got a problem.

I guess it comes down to this: if you’re one of those folks mooning for the good ol’ days of SFF where it was chainmail bikini book covers and female characters written as victims so the male protagonist can save her or . . . I dunno, as alien baby factories because that’s the role us titted creatures should be playing in SF, fuck you. Fuck your good ol’ days right in the ear. Fuck your outdated, douchey view of my role in your bizarre, nerdy, male-oriented society.

Reality check for the haters:

I’m smarter than 99% of you. My best friend is smarter than me, so that means she’s smarter than you. My mother (and grandmother when she was here) would eat little dorks like you for breakfast and not have the decency to belch afterwards because you’re not worth their belches. Women are here to stay. They’re strong. They’re intelligent. They’re aware that they matter beyond the curve of their breasts and the crevice betwixt their thighs.

I’m going to write books with a fantasy slant because I like to write weird stories. You don’t have to like my stories, but someone else will and that’s all that matters. I’m not going to shy away from your boy nerd rage because I’m afraid of getting my feelings hurt. If you talk over me, I will talk over you because you don’t scare me. And if you make me slap you down, I will make you look like a fool. I’m good at being a bitch when I have to be. If you ignore me, I’ll get louder. If you degrade me, I’ll drop the fucking internet on your head because that’s how I roll. If you throw, “But Jane says everything’s peachy and she’s a woman and therefore speaks for your entire gender” – well, fuck Jane. Because she’s a nothing to me and she probably isn’t as smart as I am either.

Enough of this. Enough. There’s plenty of swings for all the kids at the playground regardless of their pants parts. Let’s start acting that way, hmm?

Universal. Not So Universal. An Open Letter.

Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Hillary Monahan. I’m a writer and, as of last week, a dissatisfied customer who might as well have lit $120 on fire in lieu of visiting your park. I recently attended Universal Studios Orlando (May 21st, 2013) and I wanted to express my disappointment with the experience and explain why — going forward — anyone asking me about Florida travel will be expressly told to avoid your theme park and to concentrate their energies on Disney instead, who I must presume is your most direct competition. The sole black mark on my recent vacation was visiting your resort. I want that day back, but unfortunately, time does not work that way.

I am a heavy person. I’m not quite so heavy you can launch me into orbit like Sputnik, but heavy enough that I am aware (and comfortable) with my chubby label. I also have large breasts. I don’t quite know at what point in your design you decided not to account for ladies having lady parts, but I could not get on a single ride in your park that had over-the-shoulder constraints because it sandwiched my breasts into a tiny plastic window. On the Harry Potter ride, said window created a VERY EMBARRASSING experience for both me and your ride operator, a young man who couldn’t have been more than 25 and was desperately trying to get me in to experience the attraction because I fit in the seat itself rather comfortably. The only deterrent was the fact that I have ample curves.

At this point I should probably note that I was able to comfortably ride every single ride in Disney because they account for women being shaped like women. I am not “too large” for them in any way.

I am well aware that you have test seating outside of attractions so passengers can test their breasts ahead of time (and whatever elses they have that are too round for your seats), but this is an uninspiring feature for multiple reasons. The first is that the test seating outside of The Hulk roller coaster was covered in children resting their feet. No one shooed them away or made sure that it was open for people to use. As I’m on vacation and really don’t want to have to spend my time bullying other people’s children, I wasn’t comfortable berating them until they left. This same phenomenon occurred on no less than two attractions I passed. Normal benches were covered so test seats became a refuge for weary travelers.

The other issue I have is how very vulgar the positioning of these test seats are. Yes, I am heavy, and yes, the world around me knows it as well as I do. That doesn’t mean I want to flaunt my heaviness by wedging my huge boobs into your test seats in front of a hundred million strangers. I’m groping, squishing, and lifting assets that I had even before I gained any significant weight. Where and when do you account for my dignity? Why can’t there be an alcove to the side with a sign so I don’t have to feel like I’m putting myself on display? It’s humiliating enough to have to use the test seats in the first place to see if I fit into your modified seating. It’s worse when I have to do it in front of sneering strangers who will see me trying to flatten breasts that simply don’t flatten.

(Also, a note? Giving me a speed pass through the lines of other attractions so I don’t feel bad about the line I was bounced from after an hour does nothing to make me feel better. You know what might have? A refund on my ticket. But you don’t provide those.)

I think it goes without saying I left your park after a few hours feeling depressed and — for the first time in a long time — ashamed of my body, which was something I thought I’d abandoned a long time ago. I’ve never considered my size to be much of a setback before; I walked ten miles a day around Disney without too much issue, I kept up with my group and didn’t need special treatment because I have some extra pounds. I fit on bus seats without a problem, I wasn’t too ungainly for my flight. It wasn’t until I visited Universal that I felt strange or unwieldy in my own skin. I resent you and your attraction designers for that, Universal, and that’s why you’ll never see my money again.

I’m sure you’ve heard that spiel about one unhappy customer breeding at least ten non-buyers before. Well, I can assure you that as a writer, my reach goes a little further than that. One voice will become two, and if two become four, maybe you will pay attention then. Doubtful, but one can hope.

Sincerely,

Hillary Monahan