Tag Archives: feminist

My Response to an Anti-Feminist

14 May

On the Twittersphere, I recently shared a blog post by Katherine Fritz over at I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog. I got a response tweet from a self-proclaimed anti-feminist. Since his response came through a public forum, I felt it would be appropriate for me to release mine through a public, easily-put-link-in-140-character-box medium as well. Thus, the following post.

———

Hi Ian,

thanks for your thoughtful response! I appreciate your civil discourse and lack of ad hominem attacks. Seriously.

Due to your lack of actual citation beyond the link to a blog post that itself looks at largely anecdotal data, I will also respond using broad strokes and summaries. I can provide factual citation and data from research on historical trends from non-biased sources as requested, if necessary. Also, while gender and sexuality are multivariate, not binary, in order to most directly and efficiently respond to your letter, I will mostly be talking about feminism in largely binary terms.

So, I see your hurt feelings. They are true and valid. I will not dispute that they exist. However, I think that there’s some conflation going on assigning causality in incorrect ways. I am not saying that nothing was done, or that no one did anything. Things were done. People did them. But from where I’m standing, there’s been some conflation of separate entities in what all went down.

Yes, feminism has pointed out that there are issues that exist with men, masculinity, fatherhood, and male sexuality. It has not, however, said that those categories are the issues. They have the issues. And lots of those issues have affected women at a systemic and subsequently individual level. Yes, women, femininity, motherhood, and female sexuality also have issues. And those issues have affected men on a systemic and subsequently individual level. But feminism posits, with the whole of history that I won’t repeat here to back it up, that men’s issues have had the harder hit, when it comes to the way society has shown bruises. The phrase “it’s a man’s world” is an incredibly crude phrase, but it is a good summary of what the main problem throughout history has boiled down to.

You say that feminism has not been inclusive of men’s issues. I say that this is an unfair critique. Every activist movement only has so many resources to go around. You wouldn’t criticize a puppy rescue for not seeing to the homeless kittens out there, too. It’s not their scope. Do they care about kittens? Yes. Do they want organizations to exist to get the kittens help? Yes. Do they think that by addressing the cause of homeless pets while working specifically with the target population of puppies their work will also help kittens? Yes. When they go out to the public to talk about their mission, are they going to use their limited time and resources to talk about kittens? No. Feminism works on the overall condition of human rights by focusing on a target dynamic. We think men and their plights are important too. We’re just not that organization.

Finally, there is the important distinction between “the actions of an individual who claims a label” and “the definition of the label itself.” A person can claim that they are a certain thing, and then act in no such manner. It’s been the recognized case with religion for years. People claiming to be Christian and to believe in love and forgiveness have gone and slaughtered millions in crusades and KKK rallies and abortion clinic bombings. Were those actions produced by Christianity? No. They were actions produced by angry individuals who falsely claimed the nearest convenient label as a justification for their own independent action.

Feminism is not about taking advantage of or attacking men. Feminism is in fact exactly the opposite, about righting a systemic abuse of power to bring us all back to a playing field of being reasonable, decent humans to each other who don’t make assumptions based on stereotypes, whether about males or females. The actions of not-actually-feminists only “stain” the movement as much as the action of male rapists and serial killers and bigots and otherwise terrible humans “stain” the whole of manhood.

As Katherine mentions in her blog post, true feminism does not discount subsets of feminist interests. Women are allowed to want to be mothers and wives and mascara-appliers and hair-doers and skirt-wearers. They are allowed to care about their high heels and children. That is fine. Acceptable. Laudable. As is not wanting to be a wife or a mother or to wear makeup or do anything remotely similar. Or, to be a male and to want to be a husband and father and to wear makeup and do hair and wear skirts. Or, to be someone who falls in none of those categories. Feminism is the idea that boxes are idiotic, and no one should be trapped in them – or outside of them. You say my idea of feminism is naïve, but I would counter that perhaps your experience of it is limited. I do not deny that there are angry people out there calling themselves feminists and acting the opposite. They are visible. They are loud. They are really quite noticeable. Yes, they exist. But feminists who are reasonable and don’t go gutting others in the style of exactly what we’re trying to end exist, too. The “warm, happy, sunny feminism” you claim I know because I practice it, or at least try my damnedest to. Katherine does as well. There are others – women and men – in my day to day life who practice it, too. I see them. I know they are real. I’m sorry people like them apparently don’t exist in your personal world. Though when presented with two people – one who’s smiling at you and the other who’s about to stab you with a knife – I can understand how the knife-wielder might take more precedence in what you’re remembering came at you that day. I promise there are more of smilers out there, somewhere around you.

But don’t get me wrong – people who are good feminists, are decent humans are allowed to get angry, too. Just like you, we’re allowed to feel hurt at our own knife wounds. And we’re allowed to fight back. Just as you are.

Best,

Miceala Shocklee

I Am Pro-Shirt

17 Nov

Aaaalrighty, time for me to join this whole internet yelling thing for a bit.

So. I here there’s this shirt. This shirt, to be specific:

Well, before I start talking about this shirt, let’s get some facts straight about me, your writer here.

1. I am a scientist. (Like I have a real degree in it from a major science school and everything.)

2. I am a feminist. (Eh, just go read my other writing for evidence.)

As a scientist, I will whittle things down to their barest of bones for analysis. I will look at the big picture. I will pin down tiny facts with a sharp and pointy needle. I will check my references, try to look for multiple sides of explanations, and figure out a hypothesis that fits best. I will try really fucking hard not to factor in my own biases, or make the data say what I want it to because I’m so fucking desperate to prove my own point. I will be cool. I will be cold. I will be objective. I will be level.

As a feminist, I will scream the bloody guts out of you if you step on my dignity as a woman (i.e. human).

That man, in that shirt up there? Ya wanna know what I would do if I met him?

1. Babble incoherently because I’m standing in front of a super competent scientist who did a fucking amazing thing.

2. Continue to babble incoherently because while I did take quantum mechanics and special relativity, his is still not my particular field of science.

3. Default to commenting on his super cool tattoos.

4. Blush super red because I’m one of those people.

5. Leave feeling awed at the chance to have met him.

You know what I wouldn’t have done? Give a damn about his shirt. Because it’s his. fucking. shirt. And it has done nothing to harm me.

I mean, maybe the Hawaiian shirt-style colors are a little garish on the eyes, but that’s a different matter entirely.

But seriously, how the fuck did we go from lauding this man as an emblem of scientific progress to tar-and-feathering him as the epitome of misogyny? Has he even done anything misogynistic? Because so far, I’ve not heard any reports of that… I have heard of him making a public apology for wearing a shirt that apparently offended people, which honestly goes up and beyond the dictates of good character. So… why aren’t we telling him that he’s a good guy?

Oh, yeah, the shirt.

Well, let’s pause. What’s so offensive about this shirt again? Did it have hateful words on it? No. Did it depict violence towards women? No. Did it depict a woman being coerced to do something she didn’t want to do? No.

The only thing this shirt did (again, beyond the garish color scheme) was depict a confident-looking woman posing confidently in the clothes that this hypothetical art-woman presumably chose to wear because she liked them. And this scientist-man, Dr. Matt Taylor, saw this shirt of a woman being confident enough to flaunt for the presumed hypothetical camera and thought hey, this is a cool thing. An attractive thing. I’d like to wear a shirt that broadcasts that kind of existence for a woman.

(Well, presumably some sort of thought train like that. I obviously can’t know exactly what he thought. It very likely could also just have been, “Ah, cool shirt brah! Imma wear this!”)

But seriously, why are we yelling about this shirt? Because a woman is being sexy on it? WOMEN ARE BEING SEXY ON EVERYTHING. Coca cola cans, internet window advertising side bars, stripper poles, art work, the streets because remember how it’s supposed to be okay for a woman to dress however she wants and not be judged for it? Well, a hypothetical not even real woman was dressing how she wanted on a shirt. Consensually. And a man wore it. Woooo male support of feminism. Right?

As someone who’s also done a fair amount of vocalizing on the eating disorder awareness front, I could see how some people might start yelling about how the woman on the shirt is thin, thus perpetuating unrealistic expectations and suppressing the idea that other body shapes are beautiful and blah blah blah. I’m pretty sure Dr. Taylor didn’t pick up this shirt and go, “Oh hey, I could perpetuate thin culture with this. Yeah, Imma do that.” And even if he did have a thought train along the line of, “Oh, skinny woman. Skinny woman pretty. Yes wear.” WHATEVER. THAT’S HIS FUCKING PREROGATIVE. He’s allowed to have aesthetic preferences. That’s okay. Besides, he’s kinda busy doing cool science shit. The battle against fat shaming is not his responsibility. And again, it’s not like his shirt specifically says “only skinny women are pretty.” It doesn’t. It doesn’t.

So, what do we have about all of this? A scientist wore a garishly colored but otherwise non-content-offensive shirt. And then the world yelled at him, because apparently the world likes to make assumptions and project thought processes instead of slowing down to actually get facts and analyze.

Seriously, guys. It’s just a shirt. I went to a university with more males than females. All of us were scientists. You wanna know what we wore? Our pajamas. Actually. I have a friend who almost never wore anything other than his pajamas. Yes, he even wore them to job interviews. I have never seen this man in a suit. Except for the people who were adding a second business major to their science one, the people at my school, if you saw us in fancy clothes, it’s because it was laundry day and we’d run out of everything else.

And furthermore, I do not joke: World, this is a male scientist not working in a wet lab. Stop giving a shit about the not-actually-offensive shirt, and just be gratefully he was wearing pants.

An Open Letter to Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld at Fox News

25 Sep #HeForShe

To Mr. Eric Bolling and Mr. Greg Gutfeld,

yesterday, September 24th, you two made some foot-in-mouth – or should I say dick-in-mouth, by your language – comments about Major Mariam Al Mansouri. Was it because she is a fighter pilot? Or a freedom fighter? Or a figure for justice? How about because she’s a trail blazer? Or symbol of refusing to sit down in the face of injustice?

No. It was because Major Mariam Al Mansouri is a woman.

What’s this, you appear to have thought to yourself, the first female fighter pilot of the UAB stood up against FOX’s sworn enemy, ISIS? Well, I could comment on her bravery… or how many social prejudices she’s overcome… or how she’s such an ally for US interests… Wait, I know! Better comment on her boobs!

Or make a low-brow, uninspired joke about female driving stereotypes that would paint Major Mansouri as less capable than a male counterpart, as Mr. Gutfeld seemed to think best.

Because sexist “jokes” are totally what all your viewers were itching to hear just then, right?

Wrong.

I’d like to introduce the two of you to a little something called the HeForShe campaign, a “solidarity movement for gender equality,” as the website says.

Oh, sorry, I used some large words that you two don’t seem to be familiar with, based on your performance yesterday. Let me break it down for you.

Solidarity means that hey, feminism isn’t just for or about females. The state of women – roughly one half of the human population – is something that affects and is affected by the other half, all you male-identifying folk. So hey, how about we stand together through all this stuff instead of making half the human race grind its teeth because of your stupidity?

Movement – so, we’re not just standing. Men have had to fight for their rights – like oh, say, freedom (ring a bell?) – and have come a long way. Women, we’ve been fighting too. But, as evidenced by men of your caliber, we’ve still got a long way to go to reach equal respect, freedom, and opportunity. Major Mansouri fought against an entire culture of disapproval for her opportunities. And now that she’s taken back her own personal freedom, she’s fighting for other women – and men – from the cockpit. That’s right, men. A vulva in the cockpit. Turns out genitalia doesn’t determine whether you can fight, metaphorically and very, very literally, for something you believe in.

Gender equality is what it sounds like – not women nagging men, not men belittling women. But rather, each of us evaluating the other based on individual merit, not our degree of mammary tissue or what kind of urethral exit we’ve got going. To demonstrate this concept, I’d say a fair evaluation of what Major Mansouri has done could be called “courageous, competent, and inspiring.” As for your Wednesday behavior, I’d put it at “unintelligent, unduly crass, and ignorant.”

I’m not the only one who thinks so. This is not some “feminazi” rant over a trivial matter. I am not some hormone-crazed female who “can’t take a joke.” No, I am justified in my outrage at your blatant and blind perpetuation not just of sexism, but of rape culture too. Your behavior treats a woman as if her body is fair game. As if the very fact that she is female makes her an acceptable target for jokes, for disparagement, for verbal undressing, for whatever your male mind may damn well please, really. But if Major Mansouri had been a man, would you have made comments about his bombing aligning it with his ball sack? Or his dick? I mean, you would have had a ready “joystick” joke right there. Would you have demeaned his skills as a soldier by saying that oh hey, he must not clean up as well on the bombing field because everyone knows that women do the household chores? Would you immediately jump to verbally jostling his sexual parts as a “joke,” instead of properly saluting this soldier who is fighting as an ally on your side for an entire fucking people’s freedom? No?

Then I think, sirs, that you have a problem.

You have several solutions before you. Heforshe.org has several to recommend. Personally, I’d advise issuing an apology. And no, not some flimsy sham of a guilt admission. I – and I suspect other men and women too – want remorse. We want acknowledgment of your ignorance and ill intention when you made those comments. We want recognition of your underlying prejudices. And we demand concrete measures for change.

Because if that does not happen – well then gentleman, if you will not remove your foot from your mouth, then perhaps it is time to get your dick out of the seat. Fox News obviously needs more female anchors anyway.

Sincerely,
Miceala Shocklee

———–

Let Eric Bolling, Gerg Gutfeld, and the rest of Fox News know that sexist comments like these are not only distasteful, but dangerous. Tweet this page’s url to the anchors and their channel, or leave a message for them on Facebook. Feel free to copy and past the letter above and add your own signature, or write your own message.

@ericbolling
https://www.facebook.com/EricBolling

@greggutfeld
http://ggutfeld.com/contact/
https://www.facebook.com/ggutfeld

The Five:
https://www.facebook.com/TheFiveFNC

Show support for the Kim Guilfoyle, who brought of the story and condemned her colleagues’ remarks on air.

@kimguilfoyle
https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyGuilfoyle
http://kimberlyguilfoyle.com/contact/

sample message:
Thank you, Ms. Guilfoyle, for deciding to highlight such a courageous female in our day and age as Major Mansouri. I support you in how you wanted to spin the story, and I condemn the comments that Mr. Bolling and Mr. Gutfeld made. Thank you for immediately calling them out on it and letting them know that their behavior was unacceptable. I thank you for your efforts and hope that you will keep standing up for women everywhere, beginning with yourself.

On Feminism

22 Sep
Though if you want to be a delicate princess, all the time or sometimes, then you are damn well welcome to do so too. (source)

Though if you want to be a delicate princess, all the time or sometimes, then you are damn well welcome to do so too.
(source)

Just moments ago, to put it in breaking news lingo, I read an article on Emma Watson’s speech to the UN on feminism and, particularly, the HeForShe campaign. The article cites a glorious portion of Watson’s speech in which she says that she decided to be a feminist because it just made sense.

I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, [women’s expression is] seen as too strong, too aggressive, anti-men, unattractive.

Why has the word become such an unpopular one? I think it is right I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decisions that affect my life. I think it is right that socially, I am afforded the same respect as men.

Many a badass woman has talked about how they of course they decided to be feminist, because when they paused to look around at the world they lived in, it just made sense.

This is not how I became a feminist.

I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I was “born” a feminist, but I was certainly shaped into one from before the age that kids develop theory of mind. What feminism really stands for, the ideas of equality – equal opportunity, equal respect – they were delivered to me as the norm. I grew up a feminist the way you can grow up a Southerner, or a Catholic, or a French-speaker. What feminism said was just a fact of life, the same way that belly buttons and fingernails and noses were.

Well, mostly.

Let’s back up and pan out. I grew up in the Midwest, as many of you lovely readers know. Because my parents are brilliant humans who cared deeply about my education, I attended a private, all-girls school from the age of three. Sure, this caused a lot of difficulties in my life, because a pre-pubescent or post-pubescently-hormonal clique of girls is about the social meanness equivalent of a pack of rabid hyenas starving for unsuspecting prey with a side of well-marinated sadism, but beyond that, uh, tiny pitfall, my school had a hell of a lot going for it.

For one thing, I was surrounded by girls. Yes, I did art and English and social studies and French entirely surrounded by girls. But I also did algebra and geometry and trigonometry and AP calculus and honors physics and AP bio and AP chemistry entirely surrounded by girls, too. There was never even a spec of the “girls can’t do/are less good than boys at STEM fields” attitude that apparently pervades other academic institutions. For me, the idea just plain didn’t compute. It was ridiculous. It was laughable. At least, it was once I heard about it. Because growing up from the age of three going to a school that required I and my entirely female classmates to take all those STEM field classes, and furthermore take them under the direction of something like 98% female faculty – the idea that “women aren’t good at math/science” never entered my brain. It’s like how I don’t know the Chinese word for milk. It’s just not ever something that was taught or exposed to me. I don’t speak Chinese. I don’t speak anti-feminism.

My school showed me that women could run the gamut of competence. My English teachers were 99% female. My science teachers were 99% female. My math teachers were in fact 100% female. Interestingly enough, my music and drama teachers were mostly male. And straight. So there went any kind of “heteronormative males can’t be interested in the performing arts” stereotype.

When it came to higher education, the faculty that taught me included both women and men with PhD’s. Most of the administrators at my school, both grade school and high school, were women. And what’s more, my school has had a 100% college acceptance rate for its graduating seniors since women were first allowed into college after my school’s inception in 1833.

So, I had a lot of role models. I saw adult women in positions of administrative and academic power and expertise. But my school also taught me that capability was not something I needed to look upward to find. I was shown that women are competent at any age and level of experience. When it came to student government, being at an all girls school, obviously, every single position was filled by one of my female cohorts. Our state-winning sports teams were entirely female. Our academic competition teams were entirely composed of females taught by mainly females, and we routinely routed out the all-boys schools we competed against. Our clubs, our plays, our every extra-curricular ever – they were run and attended by female students. I – and other students – even created clubs. We saw a need, we filled it. We problem-solved. We critically thought. We engineered. We created. We supported. We fought. In my sixty-seven person graduating class alone, one female student set a new record for the military entrance physical fitness test. Another went to West Point. And another to the Naval Academy. On the flip side, one of my friends deferred college for a year and prioritized full life experience and went to teach in Peru.

I lived in a world of intelligent, competent, caring, complex women. Sometimes we hated each other. Most of the time we at least got along, if not fiercely loved each other. Our views on love, sex, religion, politics, academics, sports, literature, really life in general were spattered across the board. But whatever happened between us, we knew it was because we were people, not “just” because we were women.

When I was still in grade school, I once asked my father on an election year if there were any female candidates. He told me that no, there weren’t, because women are naturally less good at being leaders than men.

That statement did not compute with small me’s view of the world. And to my school, I am incredibly grateful for that.

Oh yeah, I later ended up heading five clubs, creating a seventh-twelfth grade mentorship program, graduating as valedictorian, and becoming the first of my school’s students to go to Caltech.

I think I did all right on the leadership front.

Oh! And I do believe that next election, I’ll likely be voting for Hillary Clinton, very serious female Democratic presidential candidate.

Because the fact that she is female does not bother me.

Because I know that what her second sex chromosome is matters less than what she has shown of herself.

Because I know that women can be leaders.

Because I was raised a feminist.

I thank my fellow females for that.

Poem: At The Market

5 Jul

 

At The Market

Today while at the market I heard
a most skeptical remarking word
about the tattoo behind my ear –
“Do you know it’s there, my dear?”

The asker proved an elderly man
and I so young at twenty-three
could only smile and reply
“yes,” most delightful and politely.

“You were drunk that night?”
the old man asked, and I just laughed if off.
“No, I planned this pawprint,” I smiled,
But still the man, he scoffed.

“You volunteered?” he said incredulously
so I smiled and laughed again.
“Yes, it’s a memory,” I explained.
“Identity in my skin.”

Perhaps I am just an upstart
Or perhaps he is just rude,
But my appearance is not his call.
In the end, he’s just some dude.

Misogyny, Misandry, and Father’s Day

15 Jun

I hate Father’s Day. I by no means hate fathers. I don’t even really hate my father. I just hate the nationally celebrated day that will overstuff my Facebook and Twitter feeds and force me to think over and over again about the complicated relationship I’ve had since, well, ever with that terrible, wonderful, intimidating word. Father.

Honestly, I’m pretty confused about how I happened. Yes, yes, I do technically know how I happened. I have two heterosexual, reasonably fertile parents with differently sexed genitalia. I remember that talk my school gave us back in sixth grade. But as for the why of that how – I am confused, since I’m generally under the impression that my parents have been fighting since before I was even born. But apparently passion, like humans and their human relationships, is a complicated thing.

And so I was born, thanks to the complicatedness of existence. Naturally, that meant that my existence has been consequentially complicated too.

I know that there were good times with my father while I was growing up. Afternoons of hide and seek, nights of my father’s consenting to play barbies before bed. My dad is the reason I was thrown into the water and turned into such an aqueous creature so early on. There were giggles and smiles.

But there were tears, too. Oh so many, many tears. And I, built for better or for worse to register the negative over the positive, tend to remember those tears first and foremost. I was three or four the first time I encountered the word “divorce.” My parents were shouting it at each other downstairs in the kitchen. I heard them from my hiding place, crouched just around the corner at the top of the stairs, where they couldn’t see me. I heard my father shouting, his yells deep and growling. I heard my mother shriek back, her words shrill and defensive. Even at three, I knew that one of those timbres was the one with the threat, and one of them was not. My mother’s yelling carries hysteria. My father’s yelling carries violence. His is the anger that has always scared me more.

Now, at the age of 23, I understand that my father is human, a damaged individual with a backstory of dysfunction that explains so much of his threats and narcissism and alcoholism and distance. He is doing the best he can with what he himself was given to work with. But at the age of three, that higher reasoning hadn’t kicked in yet. All I knew was that my father, the man I was supposed to believe was there to protect me, was someone of whom I was deeply, deeply afraid. And while that is something I have come to understand, it is not something I can yet entirely forgive.

I grew up living in fear. The man who taught me that promises are important with the force behind the words he used to tell me that he would always keep them is also the man who taught me more with his actions just why that is when he broke oh so many of them. The man who said he would always be there for me, no matter what, is also the man I would come to think of as “the bachelor who happens to be married to my mother” because of how often he was away on business, golf trips, hunting vacations, or affairs.

I am so much of who I am because of having preferred the counter examples to him. I am trusting because my father is manipulative. I am a giver because my father is a salesman. I am a pacifist because my father is a predator. I am widely accepting because my father can only believe that what he wants is right. I will ask for help because my father will keep on blundering ahead. I am supportive because my father is so critical. I lack so much self-confidence because my father is so self-assured.

I am perhaps equal parts broken and strong because of how I have reacted to my father’s lessons, direct or otherwise. I have spent a lifetime trying to defend who I am as a woman because of the man who acted as if women are nothing more than pretty tools for his disposal. I grew up expecting to be assaulted, in one way or another.

And yet, his misogyny has not instilled in me an equal misandry. Yes, for much of my life, I was flat-out afraid of males. My all-girls school education and sheltered childhood spared me having to interact with guys on any sort of regular basis. But the occasional visit from male neighbors, or uncles, or cousins, or, you know, going to a restaurant and having to talk to a male server – I was routinely petrified.

A slow introduction to the male half of the human race and a college education at a male-heavy college where I was the only girl in the room often enough that I eventually stopped noticing has helped a bit, but there is still some amount of inherent distrust in me. I was taught, by action rather than doctrine, that males are a people who could very, very easily hurt me. Physically or otherwise.

And yet, I have also grown up craving male attention. Approval. Affection. The things that I did not at all register sufficiently getting from my father. It was somewhere around middle school when I first realized just how desperately I was searching for a surrogate father. I had a male music teacher, and after I’d used an untraditional medium for a project in his music appreciation class, I asked him over and over again, for something like a week, whether or not that had been okay. The answer was obviously yes, every time. I stopped asking after I realized, in a moment of horror, that I was continuing to ask the same question of this music teacher not because I was still unsure of whether or not how I’d done the project had actually been okay, but because I knew that it was, and I wanted to hear the music teacher say that. I wanted to hear him tell me that yes, it had been a good idea. Yes, it had been okay. Yes, I was okay. Yes, he approved of me.

Hello, daddy issues.

I have since worked very, very hard to pull back those daddy-seeking tendrils. There’s been a lot of therapy.

And yet, somehow, I continue to become close to males who treat me in some way or other like my father did. I actively try not to, try to make friends and lovers of the guys who display qualities that I value, rather than qualities I grew up fearing. Still, I too often wind up with quick-tempered, stormy friends. Guys who will say things with their words and never follow through with their actions. Recently, I realized that I was staying with a guy who completely ignored me because I feared my emotional turmoil of a life would be harder without the paltry reassurance I got from that flimsy titular relationship than it was with it.

In other words, I was staying with him for the exact same reason my mother has stayed with my father. Down to the very words she’d used to explain it to me.

We broke up shortly thereafter.

So. Father’s Day. Such a complicated day for me. “Father” is the word for the man who gave me my first real taste of misogyny. “Father” is the word for the man who made me seek so desperately a desire to find his counterexample, rather than falling into easy misandry. “Father” is the word for the man who was causative for so many of the bricks that build me, and for the cracks in them as well. “Father” is the word for the thing I view with equal parts despisement and yearning.

“Father” is a word that has only ever been associated with the word “happy” in a negative sense. So how can I not hate the phrase “Happy Father’s Day?” There is so much unfulfilled wishing in that phrase for me. So much history, so many complications and contradictions.

I find it difficult to wish people an oxymoron.

Poem: I Am Not A Prostitute

10 Jun

I Am Not A Prostitute

Dear man on the sidewalk,
I am not your prostitute.
I did not walk down this street
so that you could take me home.
I did not call that taxi
just to make you moan.
No meant no,
and I told you so in more ways than one.
I wish you had just listened.

Dear man at the party,
I am not your prostitute.
I did not walk outside
so you could try to score.
I did not pull away
because I wanted more.
No meant no,
and I told you so in more ways than one.
I wish you had just listened.

Dear man in my bedroom,
I am not your prostitute.
I did not invite you home
so that we would wind up here.
I was not hesitant
just out of fear.
No meant no,
and I told you so in more ways than one.
I wish you had just listened.

On the question of a cat call…

11 Apr

In modern feminist discussions, there’s a lot of talk about cat calling. The general sentiment seems to be that cat calling is rude and invasive.

I mean… yes, having someone shout something at you unexpectedly is by definition invasive. But… I am not yet completely satisfied with the discussion around cat calling.

For example, earlier today, I read a Guardian article trying to clarify where the line is between acceptable flirting and sexual harassment. (It’s part of Laura Bates’s series, “Everyday Sexism.”) I generally agree with the article, especially the last two points about context appropriateness (eg. “flirting” in a job interview is a definitive no go) and “am I actually, all things considered, just being a bit of a dick?”

Yeah, that last one’s a question people should probably just ask themselves, like, all the time. Sending an email? Don’t be a dick. Talking to a customer service representative over the phone? Don’t be a dick. Trying to ask someone out? Don’t be a dick. Basically unless you are somehow a sentient cock or some kind of dildo, don’t be a dick. Simple stuff.

But… I do have some hesitations about some of the Guardian article’s assertions. Obviously, pretty much all summary articles need to taken with a grain of salt. There’s no way that six very short phrases are going to capture the mess of grey complexity that is the scope of human interaction in the sexual realm. The Guardian article is by no means definitive or comprehensive. Guidelines are guidelines.

Like point number four, “Is this ‘advance’ actually just a shouted and uninvited assessment on my part of this person’s attractiveness/body/genitals?” I’d say there’s some wiggle room there.

Why? Because there’s a huge range of variation on “shouts” and “uninvited assessments.” What they are, how they were made, the vibe behind them, the person who made them, the person they were made out… There’s a spectrum there that I’m pretty sure runs the gambit from “completely acceptable” to “you will burn in hell forever.”

Let me explain. In my own subjective, personal case, if some guy (or girl) came up to me with very politely folded hands and a mousy little voice mostly mumbled under they’re breath ’cause they’re that quiet and a body posture not at all aggressive and a personal space bubble that kept them at least three feet away from, if this person came up to me and said in full blown self-defacing awkwardness, “Um, excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt your day, but I think you’re very pretty. Okay, I’ll just let you go now…” I WOULD FEEL SUPER HELLA ALL THE UNCOMFORTABLENESS.

Ummm why was the person so awkward? Why were they so mousy about it? Were they trying to hide something inappropriate under the comment? And that body language… why were they so self-defacing? Are they okay? Are they being bullied? Abused? What’s their mental health state? DO THEY NEED A FRIEND? DO I NEED TO MAKE SURE THEY’RE OKAY? Oh god, now it’s my duty to go make sure they’re okay and make their day better and try to fix whatever hurt in their life I can ’cause they gave me a compliment and there’s so much lack of clarity in this situation and oh god all I wanted to do was go buy groceries…

Plus there’s also the fact that the person actually approached me to talk to me. Came up to me. Joined our personal spaces. Even though (s)he stayed three feet away. As unaggressive as that is, I actually feel like the flow of my life has been more violated than if I’d just been able to keep walking. It was well-intentioned, but I still ended up feeling more violated than I would have if some random stranger had just shouted something at me that I could have just immediately written off and gotten on with my life. Grocery shopping. Whatever.

But again, that’s only one scenario. I personally have actually been sexually harrassed by an ex-mentor who got too testosterone-headed and decided he wanted to tell me something outside the house of a graduation party we were attending and began saying stuff like “I’d love to see you with your hair down some time” and “man, your legs just keep going,” and decided to “wrap up” the interaction with a hug that he wouldn’t let me out of even when I started to pull away. Thank god someone else decided to leave the party at that moment and shouted at us, causing the ex-mentor to jump away from me guilty. In that case, the uninvited comments on my physicality, confidently made though they were, were most definitely sexual harassment. Too close, inappropriate context, indication of discomfort on my part – lots of reasons.

But I have a third scenario to tell you all. Earlier this week, I was actually walking to the grocery store. As I made my way towards the entrance, I had to pass by the table area nearby where people chill, eat, wait for their ride, whatever. As I approached the area, a shades-wearing guy looked up from the sandwich he was eating, smiled (thankfully after having the courtesy to smile), lowered the sandwich, and, looking at me, exclaimed a very appreciative “Woooooow!” It all happened in two seconds of knee-jerk spontaneous reaction on his part.

Yes, I blushed. But I also smiled. Genuinely smiled. And laughed, called out a thank-you, and kept walking. I went into the grocery store, and the guy went back to his sandwich. He didn’t stare at my butt as I walked away, he didn’t make any move to approach me, he didn’t make any more comments. He just smiled at me for the additional two seconds I maintained eye contact and then went back to his day, letting me go back to mine.

Did he shout? Yes. Well, he raised his voice. But it was not a holler; it was an honest-to-goodness exclamation that I was allowed to hear. If he’d just muttered it under his breath, I’d have been creeped out. Alright, you just have your private little fantasy session there, dude, whatever… His smile was sincere. It was genuinely pleased. It honestly probably is the same smile that smacks itself on my face whenever I unexpectedly encounter a dog on the sidewalk. Or that would appear if suddenly one of Van Goh’s works plopped itself in front of me. Whoa! Intense aesthetically pleasing thing that I wasn’t expecting!

Because honestly, that’s how that cat call made me feel. I was an unexpected work of art. A thing of beauty to be given admiration in its own right, not because the guy had any agenda of ownership for it. His voice was respectful, not leery. Then there’s the fact that what he said wasn’t super invasive. It was just a “wow.” A sentiment. Not a specific evaluation. He didn’t name any of my body parts, or label me anything sexual, or imply I owed him anything, or ask me for anything, or try to sound suave. He just communicated his own personal response. “Wow.” Simple. Clear. Non-aggressive. Generally not offensive.

He kept his distance, didn’t try to force himself any more into my space than he had with his prior reflexive response. He didn’t try to get anything from me. He didn’t stick around and try to interact with me more. No. He gave me a compliment – uninvited and shouted – and then went back to his sandwich. Like a normal dude who just happened to see something cool. And that was that.

I don’t think that was sexual harassment. I don’t even think that was even flirting. I think that was just one human’s positive response to the aesthetic of another human that he was kind enough to share with her.

Maybe I’m reading into the situation what I want to see. Entirely a possibility. But I don’t think I am. I have been sexually harassed. I have been cat called. I have been leered at. I have been stalked. I have been complimented. I have been respected. I have been protected. I have been allowed to fight for myself. I’ve seen a variety of human action and reaction, and I think that I have enough social intelligence to at least be able to correctly pick up on the general vibe of an interaction.

So. Cat calling. Not always a cat call. Sometimes it’s a harpy shriek. Sometimes it’s a sincere commendation.

Cat calling is grey and tremorous territory. There is an art to compliments. All in all, I suppose the lesson is that if you’re going to try to venture there – just don’t be a dick.

Unless you are a dildo. Then you may be a dick.

More Than 7 Reasons ‘Frozen’ is Not a Progressive Movie

24 Jan

So, I love Frozen. Like, fairly legitimately love. I’ve already seen it twice and plan on throwing money at Disney a third time once the sing-along version hits theaters. And Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer? Definitely on my “most favorite fictional characters” list. They possibly have the most common sense out of all the characters in the movie. Seriously. I love the look on Sven’s face near the end of the movie before he and Kristoff go hurtling back into Arendelle that clearly says, “Why do I have to fix everybody’s shit? I always fix everybody’s shit…”

Thanks Disney! Source: http://www.disney.co.za/movies/frozen/gallery

This face.

But, given all that, I would not label Frozen as “progessive.” Sure, on some points it does marginally better than some of Disney’s previous movies have done, but I think the points made in Gina Luttrell’s PolicyMic article, “7 Moments That Made ‘Frozen’ the Most Progressive Disney Movie Ever” are fairly shortsighted in their praise. I’m rather horrified at the thought that hype around surface impressions of the movie will set Frozen as the new standard for Disney progressivism. Disney still needs to do way better before I grant it the label of “progressive.”

Here’s why.

1. “Elsa and Anna’s abusive parents”

Since when is having abusive parents in a fairy tale progressive? It’s not even new. Cinderella’s stepmother forces her to be a domestic slave. In the original fairy tale, it even happens while Cinderella’s father is still alive. He lets his new wife subjugate his biological daughter. Then there’s Snow White’s stepmother who tries to have her killed. Hansel and Gretel’s father tries to send his children off into the woods to die (but hey, they weren’t his problem anymore, right?) once he remarries. In Aladdin, Jasmine’s father treats her in the usual fashion of female objectification as property. In Mulan, the namesake protagonist’s father orders her about and expects her to be a docile, obedient daughter willing to take her father’s words and decisions without a peep. And while not a Disney film, but in Shrek, Fiona’s parents lock her away because they think it’s the best way to handle her curse. Sound familiar?

Yes, parental misunderstanding of the best way to help a kid with idiosyncrasies of some sort or other is rampant these days. Just like it’s been rampant since always. But while Elsa and Anna’s parents are obviously ignorant when it comes to what they should actually do (like embrace Elsa’s gift and help her learn about it openly, instead of telling her to basically pretend like it doesn’t exist), they clearly always act out of love. And while abuse can often come under the “title” of “love,” I really don’t see anything malicious in what Elsa’s parents do. They were told that if people became afraid of their daughter, they would hurt her. So they in their shortsighted way do what they thought was the best way to make sure nobody would ever be afraid of their daughter. And at no point does Elsa ever indicate that she thinks there’s a better way to handle it or ask for something different. She turns Anna away voluntarily, because she also thought her isolation was for the best.

But then there’s also the fact that even if the actions of Elsa’s parents were abusive, the movie never ventures on to explicitly point out why their response was wrong or suggest how it should have been different.

2. “Elsa’s self-empowerment”

So, I love the song “Let It Go.” I play it on loop. But let’s examine the song in a larger context. Yes, Elsa feels she is finally free to be herself…

…now that she’s been chased out of her community, cut ties with everyone she loves, explicitly told her brand of individuality isn’t appreciated, and decided to continue her life of self-imposed isolation. What’s the message here? “You can be yourself, but only if you’re completely isolated away from the rest of society where you’ll have to deal with disapproval if you do show that you’re different.”

Besides, Elsa still doesn’t completely understand herself or her powers. Sure, she can do some cool shit with it, but she still can’t control it, as we see when she later accidentally nearly kills her sister again. It’s clear that all of the creation that happens during “Let It Go” is coming from emotions like rage, vengeance, and smugness. She’s not calm when she creates. She’s still in emotional throes.

What’s more, it’s not like Elsa’s newfound semi-embrace of her powers came from within. She didn’t just walk outside into Arandelle all, “Look here, people, I’m a BAMF! Watch what I can do!” No. She lost control and was forced to out herself while trying to escape an uncomfortable social situation. The set-up of “go take your strangeness and have it by yourself on some mountain!” is the equivalent of “she was crazy, so we locked her in an asylum.”

Also, what the hell is she going to eat in an ice castle??

3. “Anna’s clumsiness, awkwardness, and honesty.”

Yeah, four words: Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Seriously. All Disney’s done is trade one limiting trope for another.

Also, “until Brave, the idea of an outspoken princess is unheard of.” Really??? How about Belle from Beauty and the Beast, who managed to be outspoken and didn’t sound like an idiot half the time while doing it?

4. “Kristoff’s ability to lead next to a strong woman”

Ah yes, how progressive, we definitely needed another male figure whose authority still trumps that of the strong female lead. Also, “Kristoff is a wonderful example of what a masculine, 21st century man looks like.” Blond, muscular, self-confident and self-made? Ah yes, that totally defies stereotypes and expands the bounds of what we’ve come to understand a man can be in these progressive times…

Really. Kristoff doesn’t seem like the Disney Princes of old because Frozen adjusted its tone to match that of modern teens and twenty-somethings. The characters don’t use the formal language or etiquette portrayed in more period-true movies like Cinderella. For years, Disney’s basically taken modern day people and stuck them in old clothing. But that doesn’t mean they’ve inherently changed at all. When Kristoff first interacts with Anna, it’s to gruffly tell her to move. Dang women, always getting in the way of what men want! Seriously, he can’t even say “please.” Because apparently Anna, obviously a stranger to those parts, is supposed to magically read his mind to know what he wants (because every woman should intuitively know how to please a man, right?). Later, Kristoff escorts Anna to the mountain first because he feels he owes her for the supplies she bought him, and then because he wants Anna to give him a new sleigh. Throughout the entire movie, it’s clear to the audience that Kristoff is condescending towards Anna and doubtful of her judgment. “He’s not afraid to call Anna out on her poor decisions?” Yeah, telling a woman she’s wrong and that a man knows better is really progressive.

Yes, in the end Kristoff falls in love with Anna and tolerates her “quirkiness.” But hey, she is a manic pixie dream girl after all.

5. “Oaken’s gay family”

How progressive is it really if most of the audience isn’t even going to catch what’s going on in this scene? “Oh hey, we’ll make a statement, but nobody will hear it!”

Besides, the man in the sauna isn’t “clearly” Oaken’s husband – he’s much younger and in fact looks like he’s more in the age cohort of the woman next to him. All in all, it’s inconclusive. If he is the gay partner, then great, props. But again, Disney could have done much better.

6. “Arendelle’s unquestioning acceptance of a queen”

“Unquestioning acceptance?” Sure, as long as she’s exactly what they want and expect her to be. But as soon as she exhibits unexpected power, the immediate response is to distrust her and chase her out of the kingdom. Besides, who else does the kingdom even have to rule them??? The previous two monarchs died and the runner-up has been locked in a castle (just like in Sleeping Beauty…) until she came of age. There’s no potential male competitor ever mentioned. And what’s more, all we see is the coronation. Who knows what pressure there could have been on Elsa to marry after that?

Besides, female queens? How about Tangled? Flynn rider wasn’t a prince. He only became royalty because he married into it. Then there’s Brave, which focuses on explicitly proving why Merida’s totally capable of being a ruler all on her own.

And Luttrell’s comment about how at least Anna and Elsa aren’t sitting by twirling around in their ball gowns while a male rules? Yeah, still looks like they’re wearing ball gowns to me. Ball gowns that show off their stereotypical unachievable female figure, no less. And are we supposed to forget the scene immediately before that? The “For the First Time in Forever” sequence where Anna sings about how she’ll get to twirl around in her ballgown and flirt with boys now?

7. “Everyone’s reaction to Anna’s foolish engagement”

Alrighty. The “da fuq?” response to the snap engagement is pretty cool. But yet again, what about Merida, whose story kinda centered around her not wanting to get married at all? I’d say it addresses the trope expecting women to want marriage much more successfully than Frozen, in which, uh, Anna wants to get married. And how about the fact that it’s only Anna who gets chastised for the decision? Everyone focuses on telling her that she’s wrong, but not one single person ever rebukes Hans! Of course, when a bad situation crops up, it’s always the woman’s fault, yet again.

And anyway, what about Disney movies that don’t focus on marriage at all? Alice in Wonderland? Lilo and Stitch? Women have adventures without marriage or relationships even having to be remotely a causative factor.

8. ALL THE REST

There are still so many remaining issues to bar Frozen from being counted as progressive. Like Disney’s continued insistence on perpetuating an factually infeasible female body image. In fact, there was a fair amount of heat before the movie was even released over the comment from Disney’s head animator that no matter what they’re experiencing, no matter what emotion they’re going through, when animating females, “you have to keep them pretty.” Seriously. The very construction of the female’s bodies is ridiculous. BOTH female protagonists, and most of the other women, are still portrayed as stick-thin with eyes that have bigger circumferences than their wrists, heads that have bigger circumferences than their waists, and hands that are actually impossibly too small. The male protagonists fare no better. Both male leads are portrayed as big and burly.

You can’t be “progressive” if you haven’t actually changed anything.

All in all, Frozen takes no drastic steps towards being any different from the rest of Disney’s canon. It’s amusing, it’s got a great soundtrack, and it does mildly better on some points. But better enough to be deemed “progressive?” I don’t think so.

 

The Unseen Strength of Women

14 Feb

unseen strength of woman

The unseen strength of woman,

A child on her hips and a husband on her mind,

With dinner to cook

And a PTA meeting to organize,

It doesn’t even cross her mind,

Those words, “thank you.”

 

The unseen strength of woman,

Five-inch-heels so sharp

They should really be called a spike,

Matching step for step

The confident stride of

The tailored pant legs around her.

Stumbling is not an option.

 

The unseen strength of woman,

Bearing the slow insult

Of one gray hair,

Knowing that soon she’ll have to add

Dye to the collection

Of tint and color and paint,

Because the men stop paying

Once youth checks out.

 

The unseen strength of woman,

With an eye for cloth swaths

And a penchant for fabric

And hands that know another language

Stitched silently across the hem line.

The unspoken sacrifice.

 

The unseen strength of woman,

Buried beneath a waistline of toil

Or the perfection scraped by

In a perfectly plucked eyebrow;

They pass each other in the street and

One nods to the other,

And both vow

Never to betray the other –

Weary.