Friday, October 28, 2011

The Space Between Friends and Enemies

Through my 6+ years working with girls and young women, I've learned a lot about the messages society sends us. One that I talk about frequently in both my direct service work and here, is female relationships.

There are two prevalent themes of female-to-female relationships:

1) Close friendships: I think (and have seen both first hand personally and anecdotal through my work) that girls are encouraged to have very close friendships. Because stereotypes associate women more closely with emotions, it's usually totally fine for girls to have best friends they spend a lot of time with (and they're not bullied to the same level for being "gay" like boys are.) Girls are socially encouraged to grow very close to one another.

2) Girl hate: I've written a LOT about this. Women are encouraged to:
-Put down ALL other women in general.
-Put down "girliness" and femininity.
-Hate on each other's bodies.
-Compete with one another.
-Get into girl fights (because they're hot, you know!)
-Exclude, ostracize, and gossip about girls that they don't like.

The problem, as I see it is that there are ONLY these two options promoted to girls. And they get confused, because real relationships can't be captured in a dichotomy like this. When I was in charge of a group of 60 girls ages 6-14 spending 50 hours a week together, for 8 weeks every summer, this confusion manifested negatively on a daily basis.

Girls would form extremely intense friendships. Something would go awry (like a rumor, talking behind someone's back, another girl coming in to the mix, and/or simply just growing and changing) and then they would immediately transfer each other from "friend" to "enemy" category. This of course, exacerbated the problems, because when people are labeled an enemy--all bets are off. You can say what you what.

Time and time again, I had to teach them that there IS a space between friend and enemy. And time and time again I could see the light bulb turn on. No one had ever put it like that before. The truth is: Not everyone can be or should be friends. People can't be friends for a variety of perfectly legitimate reasons. Some examples off the top of my head include personality conflicts, vastly different value systems, one person wanting more from the relationship than the other, past conflicts or experiences which create distrust. Anything really. And it's perfectly ok to just not like someone.

But it's not ok to treat them like crap and put them in the enemy zone just because they rub you the wrong way. Or just because things didn't work out as friends.

Unfortunately, this lesson is not limited to girls. Women also can fail to utilize the space between friends and enemies in their lives as well. But really, there is no reason that we must have strong emotions, either negatively and positively, toward everyone. Some things can just be.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jimi Izrael: Epic Disappointment

This post is a part of my “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column at The Progressive Playbook in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist lens.

I love NPR's Tell Me More. I listen to it almost every day that I drive to work. I've written many times about the numerous interesting topics it has brought to my attention. I think Michel Martin is perhaps the most compelling interviewer on NPR's nationally broadcasted programs.

One of the show's regular Friday segments is the "barbershop" where Martin checks in with an ever rotating line up of diverse men. They chat about current news topics, politics, and sports. The regular leader of the pack is Jimi Izrael. I've always found Izrael's contributions to the discussions to be insightful. So I was, at first, pretty excited when I saw that a piece he wrote had been picked up on Jezebel today.

Izrael's piece is about a 14 year old girl, Amber Cole. Cole is making news because a video of her performing oral sex has gone viral. The story is a big deal, because it is obviously extremely disturbing. Izrael's narrative is told as the metaphorical father of the girl. The crushing reality hit me as I saw that Izrael's piece, while rightfully highlighting some of the racial implications of the tragedy, amounts to not much more than misogyny. Here are some excerpts:

She would listen to her mother, if her mother was not busy. Doing something, anything that is not parenting. I want her mother to spend less time being "empowered" and more time being aware and engaged with our daughter. I want her mother to be a better role model, not a BFF.
...
I am Amber Cole's father, and I am not raising a slut. White feminists can teach their own little girls to find empowerment through their crotches – my brown little girl cannot afford to be that carefree and cavalier with her life choices. Slutlife is the hard, lonely vocation of rich, educated, privileged white women who will fuck The World, contract social diseases and still, somehow find a husband. No black woman ever got far being a slut. I want to know what kind of women "slutwalk," while young impressionable girls of all kinds look on with wonder and admiration. I want to know why these same women run to protect Miley Cyrus but just shrugged, nonplussed for my little brown girl. I want to know what the fuck those dumb bunnies are thinking. Most of them do not have daughters. I want my daughter, the woman, to have healthy, vibrant sexuality. My little girl should have other priorities. I am her father. I will protect her and every woman in my life with my life.
Wow.

If you want a really great run down of the problem's with Izrael's piece, I suggest the comment section over at Jezebel, because the community there take down every line in his piece much better than I can. However, I would like to note a couple of things. First of all, this piece is written as the metaphorical father of Amber Cole and girls like her, but it squarely places the blame back on mothers (and later the media). It doesn't say very much about how fathers (or the absence thereof) can actually play such a critical role in the sexual values and self-esteem formation of young girls. Instead, his piece goes on to emphasize the fact that as a father, he was probably at work while this happened "doing the best I can."

So the mother is at fault because her absence is her being "empowered" but the dad is blameless because his absence is him "doing the best he can?" I just...I don't even know what to say. This idea is so deeply tied to traditional gender roles and sexism that it sickens me. It's the age old idea that mothers are ultimately responsible for kids. It's tired.

Secondly, I take his point that "sluttiness" has different implications for a white girl than it does a brown one. All too often, brown women's bodies are hypersexualized and behaviors/clothing choices seen as slutty to them are seen as acceptable to white women. This is a fair point and we can discuss this. We can also discuss how women of color have been traditionally excluded from the feminist movement, which has for too much of its history, been concerned about the issues which affect priviledged white women.

However, to place the blame for the situation with Amber Cole, who is the victim of child pornography and cyberbullying, on feminists is ludicrous. As is his slut-shaming. Izrael is obviously very uncomfortable with female owned sexuality. As commenter Gavagirl pointed out at Jezebel:

Of course little brown girls who get their freak on frequently and with gusto can't find husbands. Because only nice brown guys like Jimi Izrael want to get married to brown girls, and nice brown guys don't like filthy brown whores. And of course that's not due to any kind of fault on the part of the nice brown guys. It's up to the brown girls to make sure they've lived up to the expectations of the brown guys so that they shall be rewarded.

Lastly, to put the icing on the misogynistic cake, when the shitstorm of comment starts, Izrael jumped on Jezebel and left a gem of a reply including this:

It is easy for you to cosign some little black girl giving head, to suggest that little girls embrace the ideas behind a "Slutwalk" –which sounds too close to "Hoe Stroll" for my taste—when you are not a stake-holder. I have a daughter. I am a stakeholder, and this shit is real to me. It’s my every-day, my every-week. And it’s hard.

Now, surely this is just a joke. We, the women who find his assessment offensive, are not "stakeholders" because we do not have daughters? Your opinion of girls only counts if you are a father of a girl? Honestly, despite all the hateful stuff spewed above, this is the part I find most offensive. To suggest that the most important stakeholder in this case is the MALE relation of the girl is so absolutely mind-numbingly foolish that I can almost not even continue.

How are we, women who lived the very experience of growing up female, not stakeholders in the development of the next generation of young women?

Look, I get it. It's hard raising kids. I can appreciate that it is no easy task because all too often I could tell that my parents had no idea what they were doing. Additionally, I work in girl services. While I do not know the first hand experience of parenting, I do work with dozens of moms and dads raising girls who are the same age as Amber Cole.  I know that parents of both genders are always looking for resources to help them navigate raising daughters. But how dare he say that it's easy for childfree feminists to participate in SlutWalk because we are not "stakeholders" in the girl world. In the discussion of female sexuality, no perspective is more important than women's. (Never mind the fact that Izrael has totally missed the point behind SlutWalk.)

All around, I am deeply disappointed at Izrael's reaction to Amber Cole's story. I feel like he brought up a couple of really great things that the feminist blogosphere could have read, discussed, and learned from, but he put together a highly offensive anti-woman rant. As HeliosHyperion said, "How am I suppose to take him seriously, respect his opinion whether or not I agree with it, when he so obviously hates women?"

And selfishlessly, I'm disappointed that my Friday morning "Tell Me More" segments will come with a little more spite and a little less respect, on my part.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Let Me Clear Up a Few Things

There are SO many misconceptions about feminism that I frequently don't even know where to start when people run their mouths. In fact, I could probably write a blog post every day for the next 3 years and still not tackle all of the issues. HOWEVER, here are a few I'd like to tackle right now.

1) Everything a woman does is empowering. No. Women live in the framework of our society and can be and are as anti-feminist as men. Women have lots and lots of eternalized misogyny and behave through this lens on the regular. Just because a woman makes a choice, it doesn't make it automatically feminist. Seriously. For more of my thoughts on this, see here.

2) Criticizing other women is always unfeminist. No. Oftentimes women hate on other women and it is toooootally anti-feminist. However, as I said above, women can make anti-feminist choices and do anti-feminist things. Therefore, if one woman is analyzing or discussing the problematic choices of another woman (her internalized misogyny, supporting of stereotypes, etc.) it is not anti-feminist to CALL THAT SHIT OUT. Calling out non-feminism, is feminist. Right? I'm not advocating for bullying, but it is totally fair to discuss the relative feminism of various choices.

3) Feminists who care about the depictions of women in movies, TV shows, etc. aren't handling "real" issues. No. The media is real. It is very real. It is what young girls consume on a daily basis. And, as someone who has worked in the girl services field for over 6 years, I can tell you that the "silly" things in the media (commercials, TV, movies) are what are most real to teen girls when they are most impressionable. There is so much to feminism, that there is no reason that some of us can't work on analyzing the small stuff. Come on.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lessons For My Kids

Yes, yes, I know I said I wouldn't be writing as much and then I totally wrote almost every day this week. Sometimes caring for myself also means getting the concepts OUT that are taking up space in my head that I need for other purposes.

Did you know that literally everyone is pregnant or has just given birth?

Ok, that's not true of course, but if you scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, you would think it is.

I don't have kids yet, but all this baby mania makes me think about what lessons I would like my hypothetical future child(ren) to learn from me--not just in the things that I tell them, but by also how I live my life and the kind of person I am. Unfortunately, my childhood was not always full of positive implicit and explicit messaging. Frequently, I was made to feel pretty worthless. This is why I believe in family of choice. Given that, I greatly wish that the family I create with Ronald will be a family that my kid(s) choose without question. So without further ado, here are a few things I hope I teach:

  1. Love is a feeling, it's not a gender. 
  2. Labels and categories are great for organizing, but not for people. Even the labels you cling most closely to for yourself will fail you at some point. 
  3. You (and those around you) should respect your body, but it is not who you are. You are so much more.
  4. Real beauty is transmitted and understood through actions not looks. 
  5. You'll never feel good in the long run by shaming someone else. There might be a momentary satisfaction of bringing someone else down, but it will fade.
  6. If you don't laugh until you cry or can't breathe at least once every few days, something's gotta change.
  7. Every single person deserves dignity.
  8. Money matters, but not nearly as much as we're told. 
  9. Be thoughtful with your choices, because you will be held accountable for them. It's ok to mess up, learn from it, and try again. But you should always be able to explain why you made any given choice in the first place. There is no excuse for mindlessness.
  10. Selfishness is not always a bad thing
  11. Sometimes, relationships (of all kinds) must end. It's not easy, but once you realize that it is necessary for your own well being, then you need to take action to protect yourself. 
  12. Hate is wasted emotion and energy. Sometimes, you just have to learn that the hard way. More than once. 
What lessons have you taught/would you want to teach your kids/nieces and nephews/mentees/younger friends?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ron Swanson, The Tammys, and Pawnee Goddesses

Tonight, my most favorite line up of shows are all repeats. Depressing as that is, the episode of Parks and Recreation they are replaying inspired me to write. It's no secret that I have a deep love of this show, but this particular episode, Ron & Tammys, is possibly my least favorite since season 1.

The problem I have with it is that Ron describes his first major relationship with Tammy 1, played by Patricia Clarkson. Apparently, Tammy 1 was not only his first wife, but also the nurse at his birth and his math, Sunday school, and divers' ed teachers...aaaaaand they started their relationship when he was 15. For fairly obvious reasons, this piece of Ron's past was disturbing to me. And unfortunately unfeminist in an otherwise feminist show.

It kind of baffles me why they felt the need to write this story line for his life. Extreme age differences trouble me. Ron is fictional. We vaguely know he has a toxic past with Tammy 1 before this episode, but they could have made it anything.

Ok, I get that she's the villain of the episode so they're not necessarily condoning her behavior, but they have April continuously sing her praises as a bad ass woman. While I can appreciate the humor that Ron's a hard core manly-man who is intimidated by not 1 but 3 Tammys (2 ex-wives and his mom) I still don't see why his story needed a pedophiliac back drop that is supposed to mean that Tammy 1 is kind of cool, in a tough broad way.

BUT, contrast this with last week's episode which is by far my absolute favorite so far, Pawnee Rangers. In this episode Ron leads a group of Boy Scout-esque Pawnee Rangers who have one rule: Be a man. Because the Pawnee Rangers are boy exclusive, Leslie starts the Pawnee Goddesses. With this group, she has created a girl friendly, fun, culturally inclusive, and intellectual environment. It's basically a highly exaggerated depiction of the differences between the national Girl and Boy Scout organizations. And it's hilarious-especially if you're familiar with girl services.

At the risk of spoiling it all, I'll keep it sort of vage. Basically, as the episode progresses, Leslie realizes that she has created a group of mini-Leslie Knopes, who stand up for what they believe in. And the biggest lesson is that Ron's group wasn't perfect for ALL boys; it was perfect for any kid who liked to learn extreme survival tactics. And Leslie's group wasn't perfect for ALL girls; it was perfect for any kid who liked crafts, learning, and the indoors. (Personally I'd choose to be a Pawnee Goddess any day-which is why I'll be one for Halloween!)

Simply put, the message that kids are individuals, not gender stereotypes is a pretty great one. And, I think, a secondary message is that Leslie and Ron make a really great team, and that positive teams draw upon different individuals' strengths. Again, a damn great message.

Just please no more dark stories from Ron's past.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Love Your Body Day!

Why hello there--good morning!

Did you know that today is Love You Body Day? AND it's Fat Talk Free Week? It should be no surprise that I totally support these causes.

Which is why I'm bummed that this picture is all over Facebook...and receiving tons of praise for its apparent hilarity.
Yes, let's all body snark a little girl. I don't even get it.

Update: Meanwhile, on Twitter, one of the top trending topics all day as been #OkUPrettyBut. Here are some "highlights":


#okuprettybut how much did all that plastic surgery cost you tho?
#okuprettybut you're a HOE to the 3rd power
#okuprettybut ya second toe is waaayyy too long baby
#okuprettybut u not the cutest girl out your group
#okuprettybut you still have no business wearing that outfit.

Aaaaaaaaaand there it is. Social media reminding me exactly why we have these days in the first place. For every one voice telling women they are beautiful and worthy, there's about a million more hating on us, putting us down, and mocking our bodies and behaviors.

And as one man noted on the #okuprettybut trend...

and its hilarious that the #okuprettybut topic...is like 95% females hatin on each other. thats y girls cant get along lmaoooo.

Truth. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekend and the Representation of Gay Relationships



This weekend, I saw this movie, Weekend. (See what I did there?)

It was really, really good. I utterly enjoyed it and I couldn't help but get a little excited about watching two super hot dudes and their sexy times. (What? Sue me.)

The next day as I was cruising the webs, I came across this piece of news. It contained a sentence which really gave me pause:

Judy Chiasson, Coordinator for Human Relations, Diversity and Equity for the L.A. Unified School System, the state’s largest, said LGBT topics are controversial because people conflate them with sex — and, for religious conservatives, sin.

“People sexualize homosexuality and romanticize heterosexuality,” she said.
I'll put it out there again, so let it really, really sink in. In our culture homosexuality is to sex as heterosexuality is to romance.

I don't think that this assessment could be more true. When I saw Weekend, I can admit that my initial reaction was definitely to view it as more sexual in nature than romantic. I undoubtedly saw the romantic side...I'm not sure you could miss it...but the sex stood out to me all the more. Now, don't get me wrong. I didn't make up the sexualization. It's there, at times graphic.

But still I had to question myself. Would my impression have been the same if it had been a hetero couple? I have a sinking suspicion that it wouldn't have been. This cultural narrative is pretty pervasive, so much so that it is into the mind of allies like me. And I would say that it is particularly strong against gay men. Because romance is traditionally associated with femininity, a relationship which contains no women seems to be labeled mostly about fucking and not so much about romance.

One of the things that I loved most about Weekend was that it was so aware of what it was doing. One of the main characters, Glen, asks the other, Russell, about how often he sees true representations of gay life in the media. Glen pushes further, asserting that it's almost never because they wouldn't want to "scare the straights." But then, this film, becomes the very thing that Glen wants to see more of.

It is raw, real, and wonderful. I don't think that I would have truly appreciated it if I hadn't been reminded by Ms. Chaisson above that my brain has been conditioned to view things a certain way.

I'll leave with an except from Brian Moylan's review of the film, because I think he's spot on.

This is a modern gay movie, with the woes of coming out and AIDS far in the background and no one having to be a martyr like in Brokeback Mountain or Milk. Everything is normalized but it still isn't comfortable, with men combating not only with acceptance but also the ennui of perpetual Grindr hookups. But it is also a modern movie, devoid of the usual Hollywood trappings and instead creating something moving and deep out of snappy dialogue, real life situations, and brilliant performances...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shocker: Dr. Phil Sucks

Today, I worked from home. I was super productive, and it was wonderful. One of my work from home perks is that I get to work with the TV going. I'm someone who has always enjoyed just a smidge of background noise to best get "in the zone." My TVs on a lot.

Eventually, Dr. Phil came on and this promo played before the episode started. (I removed the embedded video because it automatically started playing when you visit the page...ANNOYING.)

I left my apartment about 3 minutes into the episode so didn't see how the rest played out, but I don't really need to, do I? The misogyny is running DEEP here in just the promo. Firstly, Dr. Phil asks the man who is also an adult film star how he feels about men seeing his wife naked. Seriously? Does he think that the dude needs to protect her from this? Who's looking out for him? He's naked too, I assume! Then, the woman obviously doesn't regret her decision and is proud that they make $62,000 a week (a freaking WEEK! I'd be proud too!) and yet Dr. Phil wants to make her feel like shit and drag their daughter into it. I mean, it'd be one thing if they were making the pornography in front of her, but there's no indication she's in danger.

(Here, I will skillfully avoid the feminism of sex work debate, because that, my friends, is too big a topic for a blog about Dr. Phil.)

Like I said, I didn't see the episode, but this little clip certainly bugged me and it seems like Dr. Phil is employing a double standard in his approach. Obviously, he's not patting the man on the back and giving him a high five for being a pornstar, but he seems to come down particularly hard on the wife. Kudos, DP, so original. No one has ever slut-shamed before.

I know I'm quite late to the party in writing about how Dr. Phil is no good--but truthfully, he just hasn't been a part of my consciousness in a really, really long time. Around my freshmen-sophomore years of college, I didn't have cable and the only station that my rabbit ears picked up was the local NBC affiliate. I watched NBC any time I was watching TV, which was often, since I like my TV on while doing homework and such. So yeah, Dr. Phil was on, as was literally every other show that NBC ran. I didn't religiously watch him, but I was quite, quite familiar with him.

I was a wee little budding feminist at the time and I didn't think too critically about too much, but I do remember him rubbing me the wrong way more than once. Now that I've been reminded he exists and I see this clip, I totally get why he was starting to bother me. (And that was in 2005! When will he go away?) His show is all around pretty damn sexist, and as far as being a "doctor" goes, he's shady. I mean, even his Wikipedia page is riddled with lawsuits and controversies.

So yes, I'm stating the obvious--Dr. Phil sucks. But one question remains. Dr Phil, the whole misogyny thing, how's that working for ya?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yeah...

Anyone who tells you that we live in a post-feminist society needs to read a few things.

1) The GOP is trying to kill women. No I'm not kidding. Thankfully, it looks like Obama will have our backs, but that's still incredibly terrifying.

2) And as everyone is talking about, intimate partner violence is now legal in Topeka. WTF.

I don't have a lot to say about these things. I feel I can let them speak for themselves. Besides, I'm super stressed out of my mind lately with about 100 troubling things going on in my personal/professional life. So, call this a half assed attempt at staying up to date.

In trying to remember to take care of myself first, I probably won't be writing as much in general until mid November, and then maybe even through the new year. Of course, as the occasional discussion/anger/question/laugh pops up, I'll be sure to share.

Until then, at least follow the advice given at Feministing, and contact your representative against the legislation in point #1:

Here’s how: Call (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative–you can call 24 hours a day and leave a message if the staff is not in the office. You can also email them here. If you’re not sure who your Rep is, click here to find out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Female Bodies Are Not Unprofessional

This post is a part of my “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column at The Progressive Playbook in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist lens.

I’ve been hearing few murmurings around the internet of this story, in which people are upset that the Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, had a little smidge of cleavage showing. As one Canadian opinion writer said, Clark should be wearing clothes “that won’t risk compromising her professionalism and stature in the eyes of some.”

This makes me bristle. Perhaps it’s because I had to have some professional head shots done recently, and it was near impossible for me to have them taken without at least a smidge of cleavage showing. Or perhaps it’s because this just smacks of sexism.

It’s well reported that female politicians are continuously picked at for their clothing choices. For male politicians, sticking to a basic dark suit is a fail safe. As long as men make this choice they’re rarely seen as under dressed. Or over dressed. Or inappropriately dressed. In fact, their clothes are virtually a nonissue all together. Read more...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Defending Selfishness and Letting Go of Obligation

I once met a woman who called herself an advocate for selfishness. When I first heard this, I thought it sounded silly. But as she explained it, I began to understand how very relevant this idea is. Anyone who has dipped a toe into feminism 101 knows that from a very early age, girls and women are socialized to put the needs of others before themselves. Bonnie Marcus at WomenOnBusiness.com explains this problem nicely.


As women, we have extra baggage around this issue because society has taught us that as women we should be nurturers. The assumption here is that we need to take care of everyone and make sure that they are happy and healthy and all their needs are met. According to traditional roles, the fact that everyone else is happy should be enough to make us happy because that is our responsibility. If everyone is happy, we are doing our jobs well. Of course, if there is some time after all this is done, it is acceptable to do something for ourselves. Otherwise, we are being SELFISH.

These limiting beliefs have so many implications for women in our society. As more and more women enter the workforce and try to keep their lives in balance, the stress builds. If we believe that we need to please everyone in our families, our relationships, our work place, what then happens to US? How can we do all of this and be successful at work too?

At work, how many times have you taken on other people’s needs or tasks before tending to your own?

How many times have you taken on the work of others with the attitude that “If I don’t do it, who will?”

How many times have you avoided necessary difficult conversations because you did not want to offend someone? You wanted to be well liked.

How many times have you not taken credit for your work well done because you want to be viewed as a team player? Perhaps you don’t even accept compliments graciously.

There's no way around it...this stuff is true and probably strikes a cord with most women.  When you think about it, it becomes pretty clear that to be selfish can actually be a bit of a revolutionary act. It can take guts, as women, to stand up and say, "My needs matter and I'm going to take care of myself first." I mean, what are we without ourselves? If we don't have our own backs, who will?

This time of year, these topics become extra relevant to me. I manage an event serving 1,200 people. While most reasonable individuals can easily see that this is no simple feat, I still have a lot of colleagues and business partners who want more personal attention for their involvement in this event than I can muster. The 2 hour meeting here and there to help each individual person figure out their piece of the pie can really eat up my time. Unchecked, it can easily force me to work 12 hour days, answering emails late into the evening even at home.

Last year, I tried to accommodate each person. I felt that I owed them something. This year, I have decided to opt for selfishness, if for no other reason than out of necessity. There is no way I could continue to cater to everyone else's requests and still remain successful in my own endeavors. I have become quite selfish with my time, and it feels great.

This doesn't mean I'm a jerk. I always try to find a solution or help those who genuinely need it. But it does mean that I am forcing everyone to be much more mindful about the requests they are making upon me. I'm asking them to prioritize. And I'm letting go of obligation.

Obligation is a really nasty feeling. (My best friend helped me to understand this, and God bless you, woman.) I mean, think about it--what good does obligation serve? To act out of obligation is very similar to acting out of pity. The result is that actions which come from a place of obligation are, for lack of a better term, half-assed. I think that, as people, our best bet is to do things fully or to not do them at all. If you are consistently operating from a place of obligation, then you're surely not putting out best work out there.You're not being the best employee/partner/friend/family member you can be. The only option is to choose what we can fully commit ourselves to.

This even goes for social interactions--it's a lot harder, but I'm trying to drop my tendency to accept invites simply because I feel obligated. I'm asking myself: 1) Do I really want to go, or do I feel I should go? 2) Is this something which I have the time to do; something which I won't regret later? 3) Will this situation cause any unnecessary stress?

If my answers aren't a resounding "yes, yes, no" then I try to minimize my time spent.

Of course, you can't avoid all obligation and you can't operate purely from selfishness. But if you have the tendencies I have (to constantly let the needs/wants of others overshadow your own) it can be a really liberating mindset shift to make. Even if for only a few weeks of the year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I'm In Love and It Ain't With a Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Thanks to my friend Danee who pointed me toward this piece, in which EJ Dickson describes her issue with Zooey Deschanel. I am absolutely enamored with her thoughts. Some highlights:

I hated her Hanes cotton ads, where she preened in front of a mirror while her pigeon-like warbling played in the background. I hated that her website was called Hello Giggles, and that she regularly posted Facebook status updates that said inane things about Muppets and baby animals and mirrors. And when I see her in the promos for New Girl — which describe her character as "adorkable" — I picture a bonfire of every flower and rainbow and Lisa Frank notebook I've ever seen.

But of course, these reasons were all secondary to why I really hated Zooey Deschanel: the nebbishy, bookish dudes I dated had no compunction about advertising how much they wanted to fuck her. Although I don't usually get jealous over my partners' crushes, it offended me that they thought their attraction to Zooey Deschanel was somehow higher-minded than wanting to fuck someone like Megan Fox, or Lindsay Lohan. Did they really think that this chick had depth and meaning because she had big blue eyes and tweeted about mirrors? Did they think that her vagina had magical, restorative powers that would make them want to live life to the fullest?

I knew, of course, that I couldn't compete with Zooey Deschanel — or her magic vagina — on any real level, because the whole point of MPDGs is that they're DGs; no girl on the planet can ever be like that, even if they cut their own hair and post pictures of their feet on Tumblr. But when you first start dating, and everything you know about relationships comes from romantic comedies, not being like Zooey Deschanel didn't stop me from trying. It's embarrassing to admit now, but I wanted to be worshipped for my uniqueness and lusted after for my adorkableness; I wanted to be the girl who made sensitive neurotics want to change their lives.

She continues,
I blame my behavior during this period on Zooey Deschanel. Zooey Deschanel made me think that falling in love was an Olympic decathalon in quirkiness. Zooey Deschanel convinced me that I looked good in dark-rimmed nanny spectacles when I really just looked like Ira Glass in drag. Zooey Deschanel led me to believe that guys would want to go out with me if I dressed like a menopausal librarian, when I probably would've gotten laid more if I'd followed my instincts and dressed like a total slut.

But now,
I no longer hold her accountable for any of my relationship fails, just as I don't directly blame Vogue for eating disorders or Hunter S. Thompson for making college boys want to become violent alcoholics.

But it still would be nice to see her in a movie where she plays someone quirky without being brain-dead, or dorky without being adorkable. And after hip, quirky twenty-somethings see this movie with their equally hip and quirky girlfriends, they should go home, eat a bucket of chicken wings, and have sex, without a unicorn or rainbow in sight.
This is the kind of stuff I was talking about when I wrote my piece on getting over Deschanel-hate. See, it's ok to actually look at the message that Deschanel's persona and characters send out into the world. Just because a female character represents something intended to be counterculture (in this case "quirky" and "weird") doesn't make it any less oppressive to women than more traditional female stereotypes (ie the hot chick, the vapid supermodel, etc.)

While I can readily admit that I have an issue w/ girl hate involving one Ms. Zooey, I can also understand her culpability in the whole thing. A list celebrities rarely are "just being themselves." Rather, they represent a brand, which is typically specifically designed to send a message out into the world. The message they choose to send is their own and that's fine; but that doesn't exempt them from being subject to critique about the character they choose. For example, I'm going to call out Johnny Depp on a rape analogy. (Sure he'll never see it, but whatev.) When a celebrities' chosen persona and roles directly replicate a tired trope, people are going to say something about it.

I guess what I would love is for guys to just understand what a joke the whole Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) thing is. Like Dickson says when she tried to play the MPDG role, "Sometimes, it seemed like guys were disappointed that being with me fell short of their expectations, because I didn't make them want to go bungee-jumping or sing Hall and Oates songs." Of course they were disappointed. No one is really like the MPDG characters. Sure, there are hella quirky, nerdy, cutesy, hipster girls out there. They are aplenty. But they will not really solve your live problems and take your creativity or life purpose to a whole new plane of existence. Women are not tropes; they are actual people who have actual relationships. And in actual relationships everyone is going to be dealing with actual issues.

I can't help but invoke Clementine's iconic line here: "Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours."

I can't say that I've ever actively tried to play the MPDG role. I've been weird for the sake of being weird and having fun. In high school I did a few of the things Dickson admits to doing (like wearing animal ears in public.) However, around then, Deschanel was playing roles like, "gas station girl" and was just about to appear in Elf, so I can't say that she had any influence on society--yet. I'm dating myself, but it's true. Then, the indie/hipster thing wasn't mainstream (yes, I just said hipster-ness is mainstream. How meta...) Quirky girls weren't the sought after ideal of the dating world for indie guys. The ideal woman was still more like the stereotypical ideal. (For example, the top 5 Googled women in 2002 were Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Shakira, Halle Berry, and Jennifer Love Hewitt.)

So in some respect, I like that there is a lot more flexibility in personality types. Trust me, I'm all for quirky-ness. One of my catchphrases is "normal is boring." But as I said before, the pressure to fit a MPDG mold is not much better than the pressure to fit the vapid, hot girl mold. A mold is a mold and any relationship founded on the expectation that one or both parties should fill predetermined expectations is bound to fail. Besides, I feel like with the pixie part of MPDG there's this whole petite body expectation anyway--but that's a complaint for another day.

Seriously, STOP Using Rape Analogies. Now.

This post is a part of my “Out of the Kitchen” weekly column at The Progressive Playbook in which various news and pop culture items will be examined through a feminist lens.

Trigger Warning for discussion of rape.

I was just reading through Jezebel, when I encountered this quote from Johnny Depp about photo shoots:

Well, you just feel like you’re being raped somehow. Raped … It feels like a kind of weird — just weird, man.” He’ll pose with fans, “But whenever you have a photo shoot or something like that, it’s like — you just feel dumb. It’s just so stupid.

This kind of stuff just outrages me so much that I have a hard time even knowing where to begin. Because I am usually quite happily enclosed in a protective feminist bubble, I hear rape metaphors rather infrequently in my personal life. And when I do hear them, I feel pretty confident in pointing out how very wrong they are. Read more...

Monday, October 3, 2011

This Picture Makes Me Happy


There is nothing particularly feministy about this news. I just really want to post this picture and note how happy I am about Arrested Development coming back.
I think it's going to be a bit weird for this to happen. Weird, but awesomely epic.

I mean, Portia de Rossi is a lesbian, and Will Arnett is both married to Amy Poehler AND currently playing the part of a stay at home dad on TV. Plus Alia Shawkat was in Whip It, which is a pretty damn feminist movie. So there are tie ins, right? Alia was also in BUST with Ellen Page, so yeah. See? This topic is feminist! YES! Let's run with this.

Here's a quote from her, and Ellen in fact:
BUST: Do you consider yourselves feminists?
E: "Yeah, of course, definitely. Wouldn't you think everyone'd be a feminist?"
A: "Do you get nos?"

Sadly, Alia, yes...there are many, many nos.

Either way, this feminist is SUPER EXCITED about this news.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October and its Awarenesses


Whelp, here we find ourselves entering yet another month. Another page turned in the calendar, another grain of sand through the hour glass (and no--that's not a reference to "Days of our Lives"...I'm just dealing with the fact that I'm getting older.)

October is an interesting month. It's has two super female oriented awarenesses sharing it. One gets a lot of attention, one does not.

First, we have Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I've spoken before about my love/hate relationship with this. It seems just to ride on its boobie focus, which gets on my nerves. Plus, aren't we kind of aware by now? On the other hand, my mom is a survivor.

On the other hand, we have the much less often talked about Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which, as it turns out, has been around almost nearly as long. And it certainly affects just as many women. But it's not as sexxxxy an issue as boobie cancer, so it's kind of swept under the rug.

I would much rather have people focus on breast cancer and devote time and attention to it than to totally overlook all issues facing women. However, our help for women is not finite. So I beg you, as we move our way through October and you are inundated with pink everything, please remember the purple too. When you start digging into the issue, you'll probably find it has affected many people you know.