Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oh Google Ads...

Dear Google Ads,

Thank you for undermining my words with your amazing ads. I just love them!

I mean, the $4.13 I have generated with my ads is totally worth seeing this beauty staring at me today. I'm sure the content of my blog *absolutely* matched the purpose of this advert.

Thank you...thank you, thank you.


/sarcasm. G'night y'all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Feminism Ain't About Judgy-ness

Judgey? Judgy? Either way it's a made up word, so work with me.

I remember a time in my life when I was judgy...super judgy. If you did/liked/talked about/were things I didn't agree with, I pretty much wrote you off as stupid or annoying. I've tried really, really hard to not be like this anymore. It's a daily thing for me, remembering to consciously accept others' right to make their own choices and to reserve judgment.

So, as someone who is really, really mindful of this, it's really hard for me to see the feminist community so full of judgment, and judgment that is accepted so long as it's judgment in favor of something counter-culture. The specific examples I'm thinking are of the judgment thrown at women who fall into certain traditional roles. Instead of examining the societal pressure associated with traditional roles, people instead seem to jump on the case of the people involved.

Here are a few things I've seen thrown around in the feminist blogosphere:
1) I'm so sad for anyone who doesn't like [fill in random sexual activity]. Your sex life must really be white bread.
2) Monogamy isn't natural for humans, so you should abandon it.
3) Why would she mindlessly choose to be a housewife?

Now if you have a problem with societal stigmas on certain sexual activities, or the system of monogamy, or the pressure to be a homemaker, then discuss those particulars. Judging the individual women who are involved here doesn't do any good.

Popular contemporary feminism advocates for the reservation of judgment for so many people, such as the movement to end slut shaming. My point, plain and simple, is that this respect for choices could move beyond what is trendy and cool within feminism to be more equally applied in a variety of situations. I mean, I'm a highly monogamous person. It works for me. And my relationship is about as feminist as they come...so does my monogamy deserve ridicule simply because it conforms to the norm?

I'm not saying that every choice a woman makes is inherently feminist, simply because she made it. I've discussed that before. But what I am saying is that to create a feminist space, we must generally reserve judgment and hear someone out.

Even if you don't want to.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Personal Opinions and Feminism: It Gets Scary Out There

The personal is political. Any person who has read any 101 feminist text is probably familiar with this phrase, which originally comes from Carol Hanisch's 1969 article. The term has come to mean that very personal things, (like your womb, your relationships, your clothes, how much money you make) all have a political context. It's very standard feminist fare.

However, I'm beginning to worry this mindset is starting to get a little over broad. Specifically, I'm talking about personal opinions becoming nonproductive political debates in the feminist world. What I see happening time after time is a feminist sharing her view on something (anything really) and suddenly the chorus of other feminists rises up and say, "WUT!? You think that? HOW OFFENSIVE You've erased the perspective of xyz people!!! I'M NEVER READING THIS BLOG AGAIN!"

For the record, I'm not talking about situations where someone has written harmful, shaming, or hateful shit. I'm talking about when a feminist shares her thoughts on a topic which are simply a personal opinion. Here's my current example. Jill over at Feministe covered a NY Times trend piece which claimed that women are now finding sex "so last year."

Here's the basic premise of Jill's thoughts on this claim:

No. Gladiator sandals are so last year (or so 2009, whatever). Sex is Lauren Bacall. Sex is a pencil skirt. Sex is fucking timeless and totally awesome, is my point. (But maybe I just think that because I have not yet found a husband who will serve the crucial role of convincing me that I never want to have sex ever again. Marriage, can’t wait!).

There are, of course, asexual people who have zero interest in sex. But that’s not what this article is talking about — it’s covering women who at some point did like sex, and now are tired of it. And that is not good! Because sex is really great, and is supposed to be a pleasure, and if it’s getting put on the backburner, that’s an issue.
I honestly thought this was a totally innocuous opinion, albeit an opinion not pretending to be anything else. However, people kinda jumped her case. Objections ranged from claiming that Jill was creating pressure on women to maximize sexual pleasure, saying that everyone should like sex, oppressing everyone with her view of what's normal, and that women who don't like sex had better pretend they do.

Wait, what?


I don't understand. Maybe I should go back and read the whole things again, but all I got was that Jill's basically saying, "Hey, from where I'm sitting, sex is pretty great, and to claim that there is a societal trend that women are viewing sex as 'so last year' isn't cool. If there's a real problem with women's disinterest in sex, then perhaps we should actually examine that and not chalk it up to a trend."

I'm really confused why she can't say that. I'm really confused why we, as feminists, can't share and discuss our personal opinions without it being declared that we're automatically oppressing others, simply by stating said opinions. I just fail to see how an opinion, like Jill's, is causing harm to anyone. Her view isn't creating a system of oppression or perpetuating stereotypes or invoking sexist/racist/homophobic/abelist/etc imagery. She's not trying to pass legislation that requires women achieve X number of orgasms weekly.

I (assume) we can agree that it's very hard to pinpoint a single unified feminist ideology, so why can't differing feminist personal opinions exist simultaneously? Why does sharing one's personal opinion automatically connotate a political attack on another person? I can see how a personal opinion like "homosexuality is evil" can be harmful to others, but "sex is great" doesn't seem to fall into this same category.

I know that it is human nature to find things that challenge our opinions/perspective as threatening. But, if an otherwise generally like-minded feminist shares a viewpoint you disagree with, resist the urge to attack and rather, engage her/him in a discussion.

The truth is, we're all experiencing life and writing from our unique circumstances and identities. If you feel that someone hasn't taken your experience into account, then advocate your view, but take it beyond "I AIN'T READING THIS NO MORE." Use your voice and get your perspective into the mix.

And for what it's worth...sex is NOT so last year.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Seriously, Indiana?

I can't take it anymore! THE WORST headlines are coming out of Indiana lately. I'm becoming utterly embarrassed to call that place "home." I would have never, ever, ever imagined three years ago when we went blue, I'd someday be feeling safer and more at home in TEXAS. Texas, people.


Anyway...here are the headlines making me so very ashamed.

Criminalizing suicide.

Selling a child to a pedophile.

The gay marriage ban.

The war on choice.

You're breaking my heart, Hoosierland.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Parenthood: Simply Put, I love It.

I can't believe I haven't blogged about my current favorite TV show! Perhaps I'm just coming off of a super high from tonight's episode, but regardless, prepare for some gushing.

I am utterly obsessed with NBC's Parenthood. When I first saw the promos last year, I rolled my eyes. All I could think was, "OK, NBC is desperate for some viewers, so they've poured money into a recognizable cast...but this will probably be crap." I absolutely read it as a cheesy show that would be all about the warm fuzzies of family and generally aimed at a demographic older than me.

I couldn't have been more wrong. In every aspect I could possibly ask, Parenthood has exceeded my expectations. They have portrayed an incredible amount of feminism in the relationships. It's rare that the decisions/challenges/family structures depicted in a show feel this realistic to me, but damn, this show does not disappoint.

The cast is made up by Zeek and Camille Braverman (Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia) who have four adult children, each with a family of their own. And each of these families is very different. You have Sarah (Lauren Graham) raising her kids on her own, Crosby (Dax Shepard) who has a biracial son and is co-parenting with Jasmine (Joy Bryant), Adam (Peter Krause) with the traditional nuclear family (and his son has Aspberger's syndrome), and finally Julia (Erika Christensen) who is the breadwinner of her family married to a sensitive stay at home dad of their young daughter.

As I'm sure you can see, this show depicts family in a much more realistic and nuanced way than your typical television program. The realism doesn't end there. Time after time, I find myself so fully invested in the story line because the writers craft situations which are both compelling and believable. And time after time, I find myself relating to the characters and empathizing with their thoughts and reactions.

As I have tweeted before, I wanna be a Braverman so freaking baaaaadddd...

All in all, I think it's highly unusual to find a television show which so truthfully depicts both heart felt family values, strong female characters, and feminist ideals. For example (spoilers) this episode it is revelaed that Haddie (Sarah Ramos) is having sex with her boyfriend, Alex (Michael B. Jordan). Even though Adam and his wife Kristina (Monica Potter) represent the most conservative and traditional arm of the Braverman family, and they are disappointed with Haddie's choice, they don't shame her, ground her, or put a chastity belt on her. Instead, they make sure she is being responsible.

Of course, the preview for next episode alludes to her getting pregnant, which I hope isn't true! And I guess we'll just have to see how that plays out.

Truth be told, I could continue to write paragraphs and paragraphs about each of the female characters and how I am impressed with the depiction of each of them, despite their many differences, but I think I'll just let you investigate it for yourself.

Although, I am waiting for a gay character...

Seriously though, if you're not watching, you're missing out on some great TV.

F'realz y'all.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Big Girls: The Intersection of Fat and Gender

I'll say before I dive into this that if you want more information of what I'm going to ramble on about, I suggest you Google "healthy at every size." There are many others out there talking about this much more clearly and for a lot longer than I. Having said that, I want to take a second to talk about my take on weight and gender in this world.

Earlier today, someone on my Twitter linked a fascinating blog by a local HAES blogger and dancer, Ragen Chastain. I've heard of Ragen through my work here in Austin before, so I was delighted to read something of hers. Anyway, the subject was Kirstie Alley's recent "fall" on Dancing with the Stars, that I was only aware of because of Conan's persistent mockery of Alley's size. (I like Conan, I do, but if I could get him to stop ONE thing, it would be this.)

I highly, highly suggest you read Ragen's blog about it, especially if you watch Dancing with the Stars (I don't) and want a dancer's perspective on the whole thing.

This incident with Alley has inspired a blog which I have been mentally composing for a while now. To start, let's try a little exercise.

First, I want you to think about the phrase "He's a big guy." What does this mean in our society? Imagine someone who fits that description. He's probably very tall, strong, powerful, and may have some weight on him. Kind of like your stereotypical linebacker physique.

Now, think about the phrase, "She's a big girl." What comes to mind now? Usually the people I hear saying this phrase are intending to invoke images of fatness, sloven, laziness, someone "unattractive," etc.

You see, our concept of fatness is not equally applied all people. There is a clear intersection with body size and gender. Women who are larger than what has been deemed socially acceptable are the objects of much more ridicule and scorn than men who are overweight. Need more proof? I will rely on the old standby. How many TV shows can you think of where the main male character is a "big guy" but he is married to a woman who fits the narrow definition of beauty?

King of Queens, Still Standing, According to Jim, and even Family Guy all come to mind, just off the top of my head.

Ok, so...how many shows can you name with an overweight wife and a stereotypically attractive man? Honestly, I got nothing. In fact, most people would find this idea absurd. The concept of a "hot" guy with a fat chick is laughable and would only be really seen as a passing joke. This pairing would never be the way that a family is structured, as in all those shows listed above. Time after time, the idea is that women have one major responsibility: to be small and to be hot.

And hot is small.

And small is hot.

Now, I do not intend to suggest that men do not face pressure to look a certain way. They do. I just feel this pressure is much stronger, more widespread, and more entrenched in our society on women. In fact, I feel that the pressure on men to be trim* is more of a recent trend. Fact of the matter is that we shouldn't be making things "equal" by making our boys feel worse about their bodies.

We should be making things better by ensuring that everyone's size and shape is equally respected.

Lastly, what has happened to the word fat? Why is "FAT" now the biggest insult and the worst thing you could call a woman? Fat or big, in their actual meanings, are descriptors. They are not absolutes, and they are highly subjective descriptors, but they are descriptors, nevertheless. In theory, fat and big should be words that has the same emotional charge as thin, small, average, tall, short, red, brown, smooth, shiny, etc.

However, over time we have laced the term "fat" with other meanings--laziness, disgust, undesirability--all aimed at disparaging the people we deem fat. I guess what I'm getting at is that the real issue isn't BEING fat, it is the meaning we have ascribed to being fat. If fatness was just seen as a normal variation on body size and shape, we wouldn't really have these problems, would we?

We've got to get the stereotypes about fat people out of our heads. And we must break the self-loathing we hold inside about our own shapes and sizes.

*I say "trim" for the male ideal and not thin or small, because these things are equated with femininity, and therefore gayness and *God forbid* that man be feminine or gay.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Family of Choice

I've been looking for something to write about and kick off April on this here blog. Today, I found a topic. I just happened to read about Ashley Judd's memoir on Jezebel. Judd wrote,

It as then that I discovered we all belong to two families: our family of choice and our family of origin. My family of choice is a colorful assortment of surrogate grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who infuse me with love, belonging, and acceptance. My family of origin, the one into which I was born, was also brimming with love but was not a healthy family system.
This statement speaks to me and is a concept which I was recently discussing with some coworkers. What I've been saying for a while is that my friends are the family I chose. The concept of multiple close relationships with family members is, sadly, foreign to me. I can't pinpoint one reason or another why I am not close to my family, but there are a few certain contributing factors including mental illness and abuse. My grandmother was a hugely important part of my life, but I have long felt that when she passed, my concept of family fell apart. You can even get that feeling when you check out what I said on my Live Journal as a 17 year old who just lost her. And while I have been warmly welcomed into Ronald's family, and I feel a part of them, it's just not the same, ya know?

I guess what I really wanted to talk about with this post, however, is a gentle reminder to those of you who have strong family connections. Please remember that your experience is not universal. As Judd mentioned in her interview on Today this morning, there are many of us who have survived child abuse. While her experience is centered on surviving incest, (something I did not encounter growing up) the reminder is a good one to emphasize because of all types of abuse.

Our society is rather focused on the concept of family. How often do people say things like "blood is thicker than water" or that they would do anything for their family or that their mom is their best friend, so on and so forth? There's nothing inherently wrong with being focused on "family values," but I do think that there is a problem in assuming that simply because someone is related to you they are more deserving of your love than other people.

For me, how someone treats me is infinitely more critical than their relationship to me. Here's an example. Say you have a sister who continually verbally abuses you (puts you down and makes fun of your looks, body, what you say, how you dress, intelligence, your relationship with your partner, etc.). But you also have a best friend who is the most caring, compassionate person in the world. Your wedding comes around and you choose your best friend to be your maid of honor instead of your sister.

Some people would be horrified by this concept. They would insist that "at the end of the day all you have is family." But in my mind, this is ultimately the right choice. I'm not saying you should terminate your relationship with your sister, or that you shouldn't work to improve it, but the fact of the matter is that she is a toxic person in your life and doesn't deserve this place of honor simply because you came from the same uterus.

To those who say things like "at the end of the day all you have is family" and "family comes first" I would argue that you probably have an amazing family, and for you, this is deserved and true. But please, understand that your experience is not universal.

It's not worth it to look down on those of us who don't hold family in this regard, because you do not have the understanding of what our experience has shown us.

I do have high hopes, for my own little family, however. The start of it (Ronald and myself) is doing pretty great so far and when I define family in those terms, then I can say that yes, family absolutely does come first.