On Feminism, Needily

I’m a feminist. I have been since before I understood what feminism was, and I’m grateful for that. I grew up thinking that I could do anything that I wanted to, without any concern for gender. I hung out with the boys until fourth grade, was never consumed by beauty or girlie things, but absolutely loved my Barbie dolls and everything else girl. It wasn’t an issue. My parents never pushed a gender identity, and I never felt the need to have one. I still consider myself somewhat of a tomboy, although I recently learned how to fill in my eyebrows with powder to make them look more fantastic. I appreciate that knowledge immensely.

I got to college, full of wonder and amazement at the mountains of theory that could be produced by academia, and found my calling. Sociology, women’s studies, and everything that goes along with it fascinated me. I thrived in those classes – to me, it’s like common sense, but more in-depth. More focused. More history, reflection, examination.

One thing that always struck me was Judith Butler’s description of heterosexuality as a performance of drag, meaning that in order to participate in society as a heterosexual man or woman, you’d have to put on the right clothes, and do your makeup a certain way, and act in a way that was socially acceptable.

It all started to click. When I was in high school, I’d given up my nerd persona to try to fit in as a teenage girl. Of course, that meant denying my identity as a “know it all” in pursuit of acceptance. In time, of course, I found that trying on different identities had led me to the truth – that I am who I am, regardless of my outward appearance. I came into my own and found that it was entirely freeing and wonderful.

But let’s get back to feminism. To me, feminism can be summed up in one word: equality. It’s not about being better than anyone, or denying anyone. It’s about being respected and treated as equals.

Here we are, in the twenty-first century. We’re officially post-postmodern, but we’re at a crossroads. Women have gotten the right to vote, and we’ve proved ourselves to be a force to be reckoned with at the polls. We’ve attained degrees, and sought higher education. We’ve entered the workforce and become politicians. We are no longer relegated to the role of teachers or secretaries, not that those roles aren’t absolutely necessary. We’ve been given choices. Motherhood isn’t an absolute identity.

And yet, we’re not there. There isn’t true, sweeping equality. We haven’t broken all of the glass ceilings. The pushback has been intense. Men’s emasculation at the hands of feminists have caused many a sleepless night for those concerned with that sort of thing, those people who believe that it’s a serious fear, that somehow women are determined to undermine our societal stability. (What societal stability?)

Recently, I was made aware of a blog that is focused on submissions from people who believe that they don’t need feminism. It’s called “Women Against Feminism.” It hurts me to read.

We’ve got women being raped and gang raped in India without any assistance from the police. We’ve got ISIS ordering Iraqi women to undergo female genital mutilation, and then backtracking to deny those claims. We’ve got women being kidnapped in Africa for wanting to get an education. It goes on and on. Our world is a broken place, one where being a woman is often a very dangerous thing to be.

You think you don’t need feminism?

The posts are laughable. They claim that they don’t need feminism because they don’t want to be a victim, or because they want to be a stay-at-home mom, or because they want respect and equality.

That’s feminism!

Feminism is about respect. It’s about equality. Feminism has nothing to do with “angry vaginas” or victimization or the furthering of political agendas. (Well….feminists do believe that women should be able to advocate for themselves, so I guess that in itself is a political agenda. I’m guilty of wanting to make my own decisions about my body! One poster says that her daughter is a privilege and not a choice. I’m confused about how feminism had a hand in that. I’m curious how the struggle for equality and respect became the choice to procreate or not — even natural family planning attempts to in some ways influence procreation, and regardless, that’s not about feminism. That’s about birth control. I’m a feminist. I’m pro-choice. I would never have an abortion. See what I did there? I made a choice about my own body….I didn’t make a choice that affected anyone else’s body. That’s feminism.)

One of the posts denies that patriarchy exists; another claims that she can’t think of an instance where feminism hasn’t caused more destruction and violence (I’d love to see her sources). Yet another claims that she doesn’t need feminism because her son shouldn’t be made to feel like less of a person because of his gender. That one got to me. Where does it say that feminism is about making a person feel like less of a person? Aren’t we fighting for the exact opposite thing?

I have a boyfriend. I’ve had him for a while now. Six weeks after we met, I dumped him because he was being a misogynist. He was ridiculous. He made comments that offended me. He said things that outraged me. He made me feel disrespected, devalued, and incompetent. We later had a long talk about what it means to feel respected and valued.

I know that he will always be a “man’s man,” embodying a very traditional type of masculinity. He knows that I’ll always be a feminist. We’re an odd pair, but we’ve learned from each other. We’ve learned to live with each other. He’s learned that I’m a valuable partner and that my intelligence is an asset. He’s become more understanding. He’s become more open. He’s grown emotionally. I’ve done the same. I’ve learned where he’s coming from. We’ve had endless amounts of debates about things, particularly women’s roles in the world. I expect us to contribute equally to everything, be it financial or domestic. Since he’s working right now and I’m not, I’ve taken on more domestic tasks. It’s a give and take.

One thing that I take from my discussions with him is that the physical differences between men and women are tangible. He’s stronger than me. (He was a Marine. It was really no contest.) I’m smarter than him, at least on paper. We both enjoy learning. He’s wittier than me – dry humor. I’m better at expressing emotions. He’s horrible at it. He’s better at math and cooking. I’m better at socializing, communication, and administrative tasks. I pay the bills. He pays me.

Feminism is not about one gender being better than the other. (This is based on the heteronormative assumption that there are only two genders….it’s not a discussion I want to have here, I have points to make.) Feminism is about acceptance and equality. I’m not trying to feminize men. I’m not trying to make all men seem like rapists, and all women victims.

The reason boyfriend and I work is because we complement each other. My weaknesses are his strengths, and vice versa. We’ve been able to work together to begin to achieve our goals. We’ve been able to laugh about our differences, talk about our differences, and grow as people because of them.

We need feminism.

I write about my relationship with my boyfriend because I feel that it’s important to discuss – feminists are often portrayed as lesbians (oh god, not lesbians!), or militants (what does that even mean in this context?), or violent, abusive, women-hating people, man-haters, or some combination of those adjectives. Feel free to insert your own.

Feminists aren’t those things. We’re people. We’re human beings. We exist with or without a partner. Some of us are men. My identity is not just his girlfriend. My identity is my own. I am a human being. I seek the same things that other people seek: happiness, love, acceptance, friendship, shelter, food, accomplishments, glory, and so on. (Glory, because who doesn’t want that?)

Another poster writes that she doesn’t need feminism because she likes men like Christian Grey, the super dominant billionaire sex god from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books. Okay. That’s fine. As a feminist, I would also love a super dominant billionaire sex god. Doesn’t mean I can’t be a feminist and still get one. (Super dominant billionaire sex gods, please feel free to apply.)

I bring up my boyfriend because I think that feminism and anything can co-exist. Maybe not. Feminism and racism aren’t a great pair, nor are feminism and fear-mongering, nor feminism and slut-shaming, which is often cited as being something in which feminists engage. I disagree. I’m pro-women. I’m pro-people. I’m pro-human. I’m pro-good-people-doing-well-for-themselves-and-others.

He’s way stronger than me. I was joking with his grandparents on Facebook today (after posting an article talking about the Women Against Feminism and their repeated insisting that feminism is moot because we need men to open jars) that every time I threaten to strangle my boyfriend, he responds that I don’t have the upper body strength. It’s true. I probably don’t.

But that’s not important. What I bring into our relationship is. To me, it’s like this: everybody has certain abilities, certain areas in which they excel. Lately, we’ve been seeing a rise in women in the workforce and stay-at-home dads. This has caused plenty of concern for plenty of people. But here’s how it is for me: I believe that everyone is suited to some things. For instance, my brother, who’s super manly, is way better at organizing than I will ever be. He’s in charge of organizing. I’m in charge of scrubbing. It works out.

Every relationship is based on give and take. Boyfriend is good at some things, I’m good at some things. Together, we’re great at a lot of things. Every single relationship is based on complementary attributes. So what if someone is great at childcare and the other is  whiz at engineering? Are those tasks only to be completed by someone of one gender or another? No. Everyone has an energy, whether it’s more masculine or feminine doesn’t matter.

I can’t be trusted in the kitchen. (Look at my foot scars and my lifetime knife ban…) Boyfriend is fantastic. You should try his pork tenderloin some time. Does that mean I do a lot of dishes? Yes. Because he cooks. Do I do a lot of sweeping? Yes, because he gets all the stuff in the right place before the sweeping.

These internet people (yes, internet people, take it with a grain of salt) claim that they want to be stay-at-home moms without being harassed. They should be allowed to do that. Anyone who’s harassing them is not a feminist. They say that they’re not afraid of men. Feminists aren’t afraid of men. I was assaulted by one, but I’m not afraid of them.

What I’m trying to say is that you do need feminism.

These women who are against feminism are allowed to do the things that they do because of the courageous women who fought so hard for basic human rights. They are allowed to vote because women stood up for that right. They are allowed to walk in the streets alone, which isn’t allowed in some places, places that could use some feminism! They are allowed to be stay-at-home moms or nuclear physicists or teachers or doctors or lawyers because of the perseverance of the women who came before them. That is not something to deny. That is not something that should be shunned. Their choices are their own because of the people who spent their lives fighting for that freedom.

Our world is not a world without women. The world needs mothers and lawyers and teachers and thinkers — men cannot shoulder that burden alone. The world needs people who think and create and nurture and care. Women are half of our future — we need to make it so that their voices are heard.

Denying feminism is at best ignorant and at worst setting us back as humans. The stigma that surrounds feminism is shameful, because women are active participants in our future as a global society. We are feminists because there is a need for understanding and equality. We are feminists because we work for freedom. We are feminists because we support education for all people. We are feminists because at the end of the day, a woman’s work is never done, nor is it valued enough.

I hate that there are women out there who decry feminism as an attack on men. I love men, but I don’t love men who don’t give me the respect that I deserve. I love to get dressed up and put on makeup (and now, fill in my eyebrows!) but it doesn’t make me less of a feminist, or less of a woman.

I am woman. I am so much more than that, though. I’m a human being.

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On Capital, sort of.

The 99%: “Money Can’t Buy You Class”

screen shot from the opening credits of the Beverly Hillbillies, showing a family of four white people driving in a car with lots of stuff in the backA very special thank you to the Countess LuAnn of the Real Housewives of New York for supplying the title to today’s post.  I doubt this is what the Countess was going for, but she brings up a good point: what’s the difference between having money and having class privilege?  Is there one anymore?
There’s always been the concept of “old money” and “new money,” and the former seems to spend a good deal of time spurning the latter until begrudgingly accepting them—usually when newer money comes along.  In fact, when Caroline Schermerhorn married William Astor in 1854, this was a marriage of old and new money.  Caroline brought to the marriage old New York Knickerbocker stock (this is where the New York Knicks get their name from) and William Astor brought the new real estate money.  The Astors were now “old” money, and would be allowed to look down their noses at the upstart Vanderbilts with their tacky railroads.
But do these lines between old and new money ever really go away?  The Beverly Hillbillies of the 1960s showed us an unsophisticated rural family transplanted into swanky Beverly Hills after oil is found on their land.  Are they accepted by their neighbors? No, obviously not. But their tight-knit family and clearly voiced morals place them as superior to their rich, superficial neighbors.  If upward mobility won’t get you accepted by the people with money, well, that’s OK—did you really want to be like them anyway?
Even on Gossip Girl, ruling prep school princess and over-achiever Blair Waldorf is portrayed as a bit of an upstart because both of her parents have earned, rather than inherited, their money (like Serena’s parents did).  As Jenny (who lives in Brooklyn, takes the subway to school, and makes her own clothes, so is clearly “poor”) tells Blair in season two:  “You might be privileged, Blair, but you work for every single thing you’ve achieved. Like me. Serena just glides through.”
What’s really going on here?
Well, the Countess has a point.  Class privilege is something different from having money, even though having money can take you pretty far. (And it should go without saying that class privilege is connected to race privilege—people of color don’t have the same opportunities or experiences as white people, regardless of how wealthy they are.)
Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu was one of the first to spell out how class privilege really comes from different kinds of capital.  There’s the obvious kind: economic capital, cash money, the stuff that gives you purchasing power and freedom from having to worry about how to pay rent, your heating bill, and your student loans.  
Then there’s social capital.  This is your network: who you know, who your parents know.  Unsurprisingly, if you go to a fancy prep school with the grandsons of Congressmen and the daughters of business leaders, you have pretty darn high social capital.  You have easier access to sources of power, which means you have more power and privilege.
Finally, there’s cultural capital.  This form of capital is not who you know, but what you know about how to succeed in the culture you live in.  (It can also include what you own, based on what you purchased because of what you know.)  So, if you’re well educated, and you read the right books, know the right artists, own the right gadgets, watch the right TV shows, can name the right designers, speak with the right accent, and eat with the right fork—well, that’s a form of privilege all on its own.  Middle-class families can be really, really good at giving their children lots of cultural capital, even when they lack economic and social capital.
I’m opening my series with this little sociology refresher so that, as you (hopefully) read on, you understand what I mean when I refer to class privilege, and you can think about what kinds of privilege different characters in pop culture might have and where they got it.  Additionally, when we talk about social mobility, we might wonder with kinds of capital are most important to that mobility.  Because, really, we’re not just talking about money.

Truth, Lies and the In-Between

Is there a disparity between who you are and who you present yourself as?
I’ve been wondering that a lot lately.
It’s interesting. I’ve recently become close with a girl whom I was introduced to by a mutual friend. We share the same group of friends, for the most part. People often ask her why she’s friends with me. She’s confused by that question.
I’m confused as well.
And it’s been making me wonder what the perception of me is in the social circles that I run in.
Of course, I try to follow the golden rules: acting to others as I’d like to be treated, trying not to do a terrible amount of gossip, kindness, respect, loyalty, etc.
But that’s where things get gray.
Everyone thinks that what they’re doing is correct.
Of course, I was watching reality television when I came to that conclusion. The Real Housewives series is a showcase of points of view. Since you see the drama unfold and then hear interviews that reflect the opinions of the participants, you get a glimpse of the ways that conflict operates. Of course, there’s great truth in the idea that there are always three sides to the truth: yours, theirs, and the real truth. And I’ve come to the conclusion that no one knows the real truth about anything. Watching the housewives talk about their dramas, I find my sympathies rarely change but that sometimes, I’m not even sure who I want to sympathize with. Instead, I watch their impending arguments with fascination. Each is convinced that her opinion is correct.
One was lauding the fact that her son was in law school, yet I read in a law blog yesterday that he’d been kicked out for being unable to pass. Her reaction? To criticize the school for being unable to handle his learning disabilities. The blog’s response? “And given that the practice of law involves lots of learning, maybe it’s best that those with JDs not have LDs.” I can see both sides of that argument. Who can’t? There are things I’d like to do with my life, but won’t because I know I lack the skill set. Doing crime scene investigation and evidence-analysis? My dream job. But I can’t because I lack the mathematical prowess.   

I’d like to merge the truths that I feel about myself with the truths that people feel about me. I know that everyone feels differently about everyone based on their situational relevance and proximity, but I would hope that someday I may merge all thoughts about me as a person in order to create a singular image of a composed, classy (but still fun), irreverent, intelligent, feisty woman. However, if anything, this has served as a wake up call to me that I need to reach out to the people around me and work on revealing my inner self rather than working on projecting something that may be an inaccurate reflection of myself.

My blog the other day received some criticism that I welcomed, although I was unsure as to how it fit into the scheme of the thought process. I had been intending for that particular post to be a contrite look at a past situation by analyzing and comparing it to a more recent situation. I wanted to show personal growth and make amends, even though those amends won’t be heard by those who need to hear them.
However, rather than let the commentary do anything other than annoy me, I will say one thing: when you’re going to call someone stupid on the internet, please make sure you do so after correcting your grammatical errors. It increases the power of your argument tenfold.

Think about whether or not your actions support the outward image that you wish to present. Obviously, that image might be different based on different situations, but if the end goal is respect, then hopefully even your less savory experiences (such as Friday nights out) might reflect your ability to support friends.
Today I was a better listener. That’s been a big goal for me. Listening is really hard for me, because I’m always brimming with information that I want to share. Today, I was quiet and I supported my friend while she talked.
See? Working on it.

"Money can’t buy you class" and other assorted random things

Two posts in a day, be sure to scroll down for pictures of the Mustache Bash bar crawl from Saturday.

I’ve been getting back into fiction lately. I went to the local library (where I’m not yet banned and don’t owe them large sums of money. Going to miss that small freedom once I get back to Denver) and got some books last week. Ah, the oppressive stacks of the cramped space reminded me of my youth, when I was quite a bit smaller and not as tall. I made an effort to look at the titles near the floor, but it was impossible to do. But I ended up picking out four hardcover books. Hardcover to remind myself what literature really is. The crinkle of that plastic wrap is a magical, comforting sound to my over-auto-tune-subjected ears. Two murder mysteries (um, because that is what I do best), a book by John Connelly called The Gates, and then Clinton Kelly’s fabulous etiquette book. Thus far, I’ve consumed The Gates and the fabulous book about being fabulous, which I enjoyed, but was thoroughly relieved I’d not spent any actual money on it. I enjoyed The Gates immensely. It was light-hearted, even though it was about Hell.

But it’s been making me realize that I should be writing. Seriously. I need to up the English levels on my blog. I need to stop writing such melodramatic trash so that you’re convinced you’re not following some sort of soap opera. Instead, I shall focus on social issues that I care about and whatever else I can drum up. Hence the teen pregnancy allusion in the last post. I will get to it. And when I do, you will come away astounded. (Not by teen pregnancy, hopefully. There’s really not much about it that might astound.) But I’m going to be a real (and by real, I mean completely amateur, un-official, writing from my apartment) journalist about this and do some research. You know, get the real facts before I spout off about stuff that no one really needs  to know.

I finally took the cover off of my laptop because I’m convinced it’s scratching my laptop more than it would be scratched had it remained uncovered. I’m in the market for a new case as of tomorrow, so perhaps a stop off at the Apple store is in order. I’d also like to check out the iPad, in case we do end up going to South Africa.

Um, did I mention the applications and deposits have been submitted? WE ARE GOING TO SOUTH AFRICA (most likely)! I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’m terrified, obviously, as I am about to embark on a mission deep into the unknown, however, I think that when it’s all said and done, my life will have been irrevocably changed. For the better, hopefully. Unless I’m not. But we can deal with that at some later point. But The Economist seems to be on my side. My mailbox today was full of a fourteen-page special report on South Africa, which I will read on the train tomorrow and report back on. I enjoy their coverage. I am keeping my subscription to their magazine, partially because I think the British spellings are cute.

Also, it’s not “for all intensive purposes.” It’s “for all intents and purposes.” I feel like an idiot. I want to issue an open apology to anyone I may have grammatically offended over the years. Just so you know.

The title of this post is in reference to a song, if it can be called that, sung by an over-privileged woman from New York (she’s on the Real Housewives, a show I can’t get enough of). It’s a horrible mess of song but it’s hilarious and catchy but not in a good way. Catchy in that it’ll be stuck in your head all day and you’ll be wishing for anything else. Even a Rickroll would be nice about now.
And on that note: a really bad song sung by a really annoying woman

I’ve realized that one of the things I love about my cat is the way he sighs. It’s so adorable. One thing I wildly disapprove of is his need to go bolting out the front door when I open it. Lame. Chasing him down the stairs seems to be his favorite game.