Heroes Week

Heroes: Kate Harding

If you haven't heard of Kate Harding, boy howdy are you missing out. Ms. Harding is a blogger and activist devoted to the shocking idea that fat people should be treated like intelligent human beings, and not stupid sacks of moral failure. It's an idea whose time has definitely come.

She founded a blog, Shapely Prose, some years ago, that has been instrumental in forming a lot of my current thinking on feminism, fat, prejudice, and self-acceptance. This was my gateway to such earth-shaking ideas as "Eating a cupcake is not a morally charged act," and "Women should not be obligated to look hot for the benefit of random strangers." Through her blog I learned that people in the overweight BMI category are actually the ones likely to live the longest, and got some amazing perspective on what BMI looks like in practice. It's eyebrow-raising.

That blog is still active, though these days it's run largely by her equally witty co-bloggers; Harding herself has been busy using her pen for the forces of good on such topics as Roman Polanski, plus-size model Crystal Renn, and cyberbullying. Oh, and: She's got a book out.

Kate Harding, y'all. She's smart and funny. She tells it like it is and backs it up with science. She, too, isn't afraid of any consequences for sticking up for herself and what she believes in. 

This post is a part of Heroes Week 2010. Please post a link to a post about your own heroes in the open thread!


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Heroes: Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert is an amazing, smart, warm human being, and it pains me that he walked the face of pop culture for decades before I knew it. It's possibly you still don't know, so let me share. The famous movie critic was diagnosed with thyroid cancer some years ago, and the winding course of treatment, recurrence, and complications has left him lacking a lower jaw and unable to speak or eat. 

There's an amazing profile of him on Esquire. Here's Ebert's own essay about his medical adventures and the role of conversation in his life. Scratch that: Read his whole blog, man. It's brimming with so much wisdom and evidence of the greatness humanity is capable of -- both on the part of its host and the community of commenters -- that I admit I'm tearing up just writing about it right now.

In the face of disability and death, Roger Ebert has built an edifice of intellect that humbles me. He writes about movies, of course, but movies are a gateway he uses to look at all of the big issues of life: Politics. Love. Death.  

Mr. Ebert, for this grace in adversity, you are one of my creative heroes. I salute you. I hope that I, too, will have the strength and will to continue the work that matters to me, even when my body fails.

This post is a part of Heroes Week 2010. Please post a link to a post about your own heroes in the open thread!


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Heroes: Lady Gaga

Yes, I am totally serious. I adore Lady Gaga, I admire her like the blazes, and I won't hear anyone speak ill of her. I can see you sitting there rolling your eyes at me, but stop and listen for a minute, OK? 

Lady Gaga is a pop star, and as such, I know a lot of people dismiss her and her work out of hand. Dig deeper, dear reader. She owns the "pop star" thing completely, and her public persona is so completely flamboyant that you might as well consider it a disguise. At the same time, her private life is very much not playing out in front of the cameras. Where Britney, LiLo and a bevy of other young starlets were photographed in clubs and at beaches, drinking and exhibiting more than too much PDA, Lady Gaga retains an air of mystery. 

Now that's some fantastic separating of your personal and professional lives. She knows just where she wants that line drawn, and nobody crosses it.

Then there's that public persona itself. Her image is obviously painstakingly crafted so that she's sexy, but not sexually available. She's not the slack-lipped receptacle for desire, she's the one with agency. She pushes the boundaries of sex appeal, always with a hint (or more) of danger, of sharp edges and teeth that bite. It's a far cry from the pop-tart naughty-school-girl trope we've seen play out over the last several years. (And not a moment too soon, if you ask me.)

But I've saved the best and biggest part for last. Why do I love and admire Lady Gaga? It's because of that tea cup, the bubble dress, the masks. Lady Gaga is not afraid of making art for its own sake. She's not concerned somebody will think she's weird or too outrĂ©. She's not afraid to dream big. 

You hear that? She is NOT AFRAID. That, my friends, is the biggest lesson to learn from Lady Gaga. What would your creative work look like if you entered it with a spirit of complete fearlessness? I'm not there, but I sure hope I find my way before I go.

It helps that I love her music, too.

This post is a part of Heroes Week 2010. Please post a link to a post about your own heroes in the open thread!


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Welcome to Heroes Week 2010!

February is kind of a lousy month. It's transitional; not yet spring, not really winter anymore, gray and salt-crusted and slushy. That's what makes it the perfect time of year to get in touch with the secret wellsprings that keep us going. Heroes Week is a time to celebrate the people who motivate and inspire you, particularly in your creative life. 

This comment thread is an open forum for people who want to participate by writing about their own heroes this week. I have some guidelines written up, but only you can say if they're right for you. Go ahead and pop a link to your post in the comments. I'd love to read about your heroes, and as the week goes on I'll post about some of my own. 

 Let's rock this thing!


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Heroes Week 2010

Last year, I wrote a few posts about people I admire and called it People I Admire Week. My good friend Tom Bridge renamed it "Heroes Week," which I think we can all agree sounds a kazillion times better. It was an interesting exercise in contemplating the forces that make me who I am today, and I'd love to create a space for other people to do it, too. I am therefore announcing Heroes Week 2010! Let's all get excited about the people who inspire and motivate us!

Heroes Week is Feb. 22-28, 2010. If you'd like to participate, then post about your own heroes on your blog. Then come to the open comments thread and post a link so we can all admire your shiny, pretty heroes and influences.

Obviously I'm not the boss of you and you can write up your heroes any way you very well please, but I did have some guidelines for the kind of heroes I was looking for last year. I'm copying them here for your convenience.

  1. Friends and family don't count. It would be easy to fill a week with the obvious stuff: I could say I admire Sean Stewart and Jan Libby, my mom and dad, Naomi Alderman and the Brothers Hon. But I want to dig a little deeper, here. If you know somebody well enough to have their IM information, or if they'd likely know who you were if your name came up in conversation, you know them too well for this purpose.

  2. You really want to be like them. Look, we all admire Mother Teresa, but not many of us get fired up over giving our lives over to helping the sick and poor. I want this admiration to be actionable in a more than theoretical way.

  3. Your lifetime and their lifetime have to at least overlap at the edges. Even better if the person you admire is still alive! This keeps out people we've been taught by rote to admire since we were small; your Abe Lincoln and Jesus, Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin and Hammurabi. I want to hear about admiration you probably don't have in common with millions of other people.

  4. They have to be real people. Seriously, folks, no Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Captain Kirk, OK?

I'm super-psyched about this. I've got some new heroes to share, and I'm hoping that some of you reading this out there will contribute some new ones along the way. Let's go!


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