I’ll be reading a couple of pieces from Meanwhile, some old/new stuff and finally present my NaPoWriMo 2020 poem (this year I’ve been writing a couple of lines a day instead of a poem a day, resulting in a poem a week). So let’s see how it goes.
Why give away business cards when you can give away stickers?
Trying to change my online presence to my name to be a bit more “serious” and easier to find as a performer. So heads up, the Facebook page will (hopefully) soon change its name from Synth and the Void to Cynthia Rodríguez, with the URL kind of matching this URL now — cynthiarodriguezdotorg.
Twitter is @cynthiadotorg because lemgth is weird, but it’s the same concept.
So yeah, if you see me around, ask for a sticker to make your stuff look spiffy. ✨
Almost a decade late to the Rotation Curation party, but never too late, I guess: this week I am curating the TwkLGBTQIA+ twitter account.
Every week, @TwkLGBTQ gets a different person from the sparkling rainbow of lesbians, gays, bis, trans, queer, intersex, asexual and more across the world, to share their stories, establish conversations and get us to know what their lives are like in their current times and spaces.
So yeah, come over.
Leicester Meatspace: Remember I’m still opening for La JohnJoseph’s A Generous Lover, brought to you by the ever so lovely WORD! Leicester. 12 September, 7pm-9pm, Attenborough Arts Centre. It’ll be kaleidoscopic. You can still get your tickets online, by phone or right at the venue.
Sometimes I low key miss the days in which wealthy families gave housing, food and money to artists in exchange of portraits and decoration. Or when posh people were pals with writers and let them stay in their house, gulp absinthe and write sonnets in the mountains.
But you don’t need to be a Medici or a Lord Byron to help a caffeinated creator survive.
I got a Patreon account and at the moment I don’t know much about what to do with it. If you pledge to give small amounts of money per month, I can email you about life and we can talk and share advice and whatever. Once I start getting more into undisclosed projects, I can let you sneak a peak or something.
Just click on this link and choose your perk:
I still have a ko-fi account apparently, if your thing is more of a one-off. I haven’t updated my website address in there, but if you want to buy me a cuppa, it’s cool.
If you just want to give and being a selfless sugar parent is your thing, there’s always PayPal, and you can just click on that word. 🙂
A few months ago, I went to Manchester for a photoshoot for the online magazine Bustle. It was for the series A Body Project, led by the talented journalist Marie Southard Ospina and portrayed – on its Manchester leg – by Paddy McClave. The series highlights people of all genders, races and sizes, and particularly focuses on what each of these people might consider “their trouble areas”, that particular body part they can’t seem to make peace with no matter how far they are into their self-love journeys. My monstrous body part, of all the possibilities, was my chin. My chins.
The photoshoot itself was fun, albeit a bit soul bearing at times – chin bearing? Sitting inside an egg talking about Rebelde, scratching my head doing that comedy pose all the Russells love to do in their tour posters, cuddling Marie and Paddy’s beautiful baby Luna. Trying not to hide, trying not to use flattering angles for the first time in perhaps decades. Later, the bigger challenge came when answering Marie’s questions by email. That was a lot bigger and harder to hide than the chins themselves.
Either way, here is the article for you to read. I warn you, some bits are quite heavy as I talk a lot about extreme bullying in primary school, CSA and internal and external fatphobia and self-loathing. But it’s got a bit of a happy ending, I hope. At least I hope it does to you too, and you get to make things, take up space and be awesome.
Dunno if I’ve mentioned it already, but when my therapist found out I was trying to do “poetry stuff”, she told me to film myself and upload the videos on YouTube. It sounded terrifying. I mean, I’m going to therapy and stuff. Why would I want to be so “exposed” to mockery and disdain? That’s why I uploaded most of my film work and footage to Vimeo instead. No chance of sick comments, very niche, from filmmakers to filmmakers. Plus, none of that soul-selling copyright nonsense. I didn’t know YouTube let you register your films under Creative Commons!
Then, Pangaea World Poetry Slam came. Submit your videos, people can vote, you may win money, and will definitely get to be known internationally. However, you have to upload them on YouTube. Nowhere else. Get naked. Also, there are some cool free workshops on Hangouts that will help you to improve your game.
So I followed my therapist’s advice and here goes nothing! The official Cynthia Rodríguez YouTube channel. I’ve been uploading pieces for Pangaea once a week for the past three weeks, and will upload one very likely next week. From live footage to just talking to the camera from interesting places to full-blow film montage, I’m just looking for different ways to share stories and messages as they might benefit, amuse or *inspire* others. It’s already helping me improve and become less camera shy, and people have already started doing their own spoken word/films and looking for open mics to share. Sharing is caring!
This week, the weather was so nice I sat on the grass at Victoria Park and relaxed a bit. I was so chilled out that I ended up filming and uploading my entry for Pangaea right there and then. An old-ish poem, from three months ago or so. It’s called “Frivolous”, and I wrote it after the Open Stage at The Y where I read a lot of my hardcore pinko shit and then came the adorable Anna My Charlotte with an ukulele (she plays harp too! <3) and said she would see a bit frivolous after all my stuff, and then proceded to sing and play the most charming and nostalgic stuff ever. The perfect songs to play in the park on a peaceful sunny day.
So yeah, follow, like, share, whatever, and if you have videos and words, share them to the world!
The world sucks sometimes. You’ve read on “Craig David” about a lot of the boogers that happened in the world, and that was just for ONE WEEK. The following weeks kept getting worse and worse in small and great scale: police brutality, terrorist attacks everywhere, your parents damning this country to hell and validating those who hate us to be more outspoken about it, horrible people inside and outside taking sneaky pictures in the changing rooms and laughing at those who don’t exactly please Grandpa Hugh Hefner’s rotten standards, etc.
It can be awful daring to step outside with the piercing fear of being attacked one way or another, but then there’s also the fear of ourselves that, if we stayed indoors all the time, we might never be able to come out and our voice will be muffed and lost. The fear of not coming home alive, the fear of not leaving house alive. This is for you, for us.
It’s a poem/film/guide thingie called “How to Leave the House in Times of Trouble”. For those of us trouble by agoraphobia, being members of one or many “minority” groups and seeing our worst fears come through every day. There’s still a world outside, and this world still needs you. So get ready and earn some courage however you can, if possible.
The poem was written as an exercise at a Writing Poetry Google Hangout Workshop with Dean Atta. He gave the queue of making a how-to poem on any topic of our “expertise”. Later, I turned it into a short film for the Pangaea World Poetry Slam, who organised said workshop. It was lovely to merge three of my loves — writing, filming and sharing — and use them for a good thing.
Here comes the fun part: click, like and share with as many people as possible. Particularly people who would benefit from the message. You never know the ordeals someone could go through just to live a “normal” day. If I ever make money out of the streams, shares and likes (LOLS), I’ll give it all to a mental health organisation, particularly one which helps queers, POC and/or people who may not speak English and need someone to advocate for them. It comes with subtitles/captions if you don’t understand my accent, and I’m working on a Spanish translation. Subtitles in any other language are more than welcome. ❤
There are a couple of things that might be misunderstood. The “wear something that doesn’t attract negative attention” is not slut-shaming. We should be free to wear whatever we want, but some people don’t know or don’t want us to know this, so they attack. On low “spoons” days, you don’t even feel like fighting or defending yourself, so you keep your energy levels to a minimum and just try to roam by in a way that attracts as few bigots as possible.
Also, the “you’re still a woman on trainers, you’re still a man on stilettos” bit includes cis and trans people alike. A lot of trans people I know fear wearing items that are associated more with the gender they were forcibly assigned at birth. They don’t want to be “read” as “impostors”. A trans woman is still a woman on her Nike Air Force Ones. A trans man is still a man on his Louboutins. An NB is still an NB on whatever they want. Also, the fear of fragile masculinity or the fear of not being “seen as a woman” even if you’re cis because your exterior doesn’t match the “desirable standards” (women of certain colours not recognised in feminininininity, fat chicks like us seen as “one of the boys” by our crushes, et al). So yeah. I love you. If you find any fuckups in my work, let me know.
Last Bank Holiday, the lovely peeps at Mouthy Poets organised Restless Pens & Foreign Tongues, a workshop/open mic as part of Neat Festival and held at Nonsuch Theatre. The month-long festival, based in Nottingham, aims to bring and create interactions in arts and performance within an international context, particularly in the relationship of Britain as part of Europe.
The workshop was led by Melanie Irmey, member of the German collective Loewenmaul and based in Nottingham while she worked with Mouthy Poets for a few months. From the local corner, Chris McLoughlin facilitated the workshop too, and inspired us to write, read and share.
The idea was to explore the complexities and connections of the spoken language, not only in English but — preferably, rather — in other tongues, native, learned or even unknown. Sounds, ideas, new names for old feelings, old words for new images.
It didn’t mean you had to know another language, but that you had to be willing to know, or even guess one or another. The vast majority of the students only knew English and whatever they could remember from holidays and GCSEs. Leanne Moden, a marvelous writer and pivotal part of poetry in the East Midlands, says she only speaks “English and Bad English”; yet that was certainly not an obstacle. There were a couple of Afghan boys in the beginning, alas they were a bit intimidated and left within an hour. It’s a shame, because it would have been beautiful to listen to their words.
Exploration was key. We were encouraged to describe pictures and concepts in our own language, borrow other people’s, incorporate their words into our work, take fragments of our work and translate them into dialects we had never heard before thanks to the imperfect powers of Google Translate.
Later, the magic of technology took our interactions to the next level. Thanks to Skype, we held an open mic for and from the members of Loewenmaul all the way to Braunschweig. Through a massive projection on the wall, the poets shared collective and individual pieces in German, English or both. Albeit my knowledge of German comes mostly from hilarious Rammstein song titles (“You Smell So Good“, anyone?) and the most metal egg-free cookies recipe ever, the sentences were strong and powerful. There was one, shoulders naked, who proclaimed something quite immense about how — paraphrasing — “your mother is dead, but she was never alive in the first place”. If any Loewenmaulers could share her name and, in fact, the names of all the lovely performers, it would be majestic.
Then, from our side, works in English and more. Moden scuba diving into Icelandic, me trolling everyone with Mexican pop culture in Spanish, and this badass South African dude named Pete — again, share name and more work, please — shared an Afrikaans account on the current situation in his country. He later read the English translation, but even the original writing was engaging enough.
That’s what I mean with rediscovering communication. In the end, the words stop needing translation. We sort of develop internal devices like the ones from Stark Trek or Mass Effect, even environmentally-controlled programmes like the one from the TARDIS, and we speak the language of the world and the world speaks our language.
A lot of the people who want to close borders, a lot of the people who want to leave the community, don’t even bother understanding their motherland tongues.
Due to its artificial nature, generally involving an extensive process of planning, selection, filming and post-production, including severe editing and formatting to be technically suitable for screening, television is never going to be a 100% accurate representation of real life. That fact does not exclude so-called reality television and documentaries. Directors, producers and a crew consisting of up to hundreds of people will always set a default filter on every project in order to fit an specific agenda or storyboard. Even — and specially — if they aim to present their results as a source of information; approved by science, history and anthropology.
These days, the world of fat acceptance and plus size fashion has been a frequent subject for educational television. Under the general weather and matching the zeitgeist, the concept of people inhabiting larger bodies and taking advantages of opportunities and overall human guarantees like everybody else has rarely been portrayed under a positive light. At best they have been met with freak show curiosity, at worst they have been treated as monster-like experiments. But always as things and not humans, as riddles to be deciphered and, a general conclusion, errors to be exterminated.
That’s why I was sceptical when Channel 4, house of finger-pointing jewels such as My Big Fat Fetishand Embarrassing Fat Bodies, released the rather hip and perky Plus Sized Wars. What is it about? It’s not about cringing while staring at Gilbert Grape mothers stuck in their couches eating themselves to oblivion. It’s not about laughing at creepy weasels who display their objectifying tendencies by grabbing large bellies instead of small waists. It’s about celebrating fashion and its wider possibilities today. Rather than judging bodies, the show judges business plans. Instead of headless fatties, we have full faces, bodies and personalities having fun at the dressing room. Multi-dimensional humans with friends, lovers and a scorching sense of style.
The “Wars” in the title are not between women and their scales, but between different fashion companies. In the pink heart-shaped corner, we have Yours Clothing, an idea that came from a necessity like successful companies do: Andrew Killingsworth, an entrepreneur by nature, noticed that his plus size uniforms sold more frequently than his straight sized stock. He saw a gap in the market that needed to be satisfied; and he focused on larger clothes for office and leisure. Five years after his initial idea, Yours Clothing has over 70 stores all over the United Kingdom with about 30 more in the pipeline.
In the old and dusty corner, we have Evans. For decades, considered the sole source of plus sized clothes in the entire country and still seen as the franchise boutique where old ladies go to die. With the boom of plus/fatshion/fat acceptance blogging, Evans is now trying to reach a different target audience: young femmes with a spark in their eyes and who just have started to live.
And in the trading docks, we have Taking Shape, the latest ship to hail from Australia. With 30 years of success down under, Alla Buinowicz has now opened a few shops this side of the pond. They may have a few staples on offer, including anti-chafing shorts, but their matronly catalogue is not catching many eyes.
Squeezed in between, MiLK Model Management prides itself of being one of the best plus size model agencies in the island. Founder and former model Anna Shillinglaw may say all she wants about breaking rules and offering a catwalk and editorial alternative, but her selection standards are still ridiculously rigid: being hourglass, tall, with perfect eyebrows and not larger than a UK size 16.
Unless, of course, you are Tess Holliday, aka Tess Munster, today’s hottest plus size model. Hailing from Los Angeles, Tess is an imperfect UK size 24, wide limbs wrapped up in tattoos, not exactly statuesque in height, but overwhelmingly beautiful with her pursed lips, impeccable hair and Tex Avery pinup aesthetics. When she was brought to England by Yours Clothing for a lingerie campaign, she caused a sensation in both traditional and digital media. Her presence has saved the lives of bullied teenagers and adults, now glad to see that weight is not obstacle to achieve their dreams. People like to see themselves, and Shillinglaw saw the financial and popularity “potench” in signing Ms Munster.
Plus Sized Wars still had its bias: the interviewer tried to play Devil’s Advocate several times, attempting to shoehorn concern trolling whenever she could. “Are we at a point where it’s OK to be fat?”, she would ask. “But are you normalising obesity? Do you think you’ll get a lot of questions about the obesity? Do you sort of think that’s… OK?” Fortunately, the business owners knew how to reply with professionalism and diplomacy: “I’m not a doctor”. The matter is fashion, not health. The matter is being treated with dignity as a human being regardless of your size and whether you’re ill or not — and people of all sizes get ill. What do they expect us to do? Be naked?
Something Taking Shape and its infamous Skinny Bird Watching fail to consider. “All publicity is good publicity”, flaunts Buinowicz; but the solution to low sales in the circus tent department is not to treat other humans like animals or objects but to stop selling circus tents and start selling edgier and more appropriate garments for today’s civilisation.
Even Evans gets the message with its latest collaborations with graduate students and fashion houses such as Scarlett and Jo, Lovedrobe, Ronen Chen and Clements Ribeiro; while paying extra attention to their audience by featuring fatshion bloggers as models. Through the power of blogging, the consumer joins the producing line by becoming the perfect model and the best publicity. Looking at someone like you instead of laughing at someone who is not like you.
People like Callie Thorpe, Bethany Rutter, Danielle Vanier, Hannah Boal and Georgina Horne seen as figures of authority and good reference points to estimate how something would fit your shape. Even if it’s ever-changing and if bloggers like Horne take personal decisions. Remember: they are people like you, and like you, they are multidimensional, something that documentaries and pseudorealities often fail to portray.