Monday, January 28, 2013

Blog Merge

After some thought, I have decided to merge my two blogs. As I said in my first post on my new blog, the theme of this blog made me feel restricted in what I could and couldn't write. I felt I had to write not only about feminism, but about "important" feminist issues. And now that I have the two blogs, I feel like I have to keep my feminism-related posts off of the new one.

But there's no reason to separate my writing about feminism and my writing about everything else in my life or my thoughts, because they aren't separate. I think about feminism when I think about current events, such as the attempts to close down Mississippi's only abortion clinic, but I also think about feminism when I think about my obsession with style blogs, or when I argue with myself about whether or not going to the gym and trying to be in shape is anti-feminist. (FYI, my conclusion is that trying to be healthy is never anti-feminist; the trick is sticking to "trying to be healthy" without slipping into the mindset of "trying to be hot," a difficult path to navigate.) Feminism sneaks into my writing without my planning on it, because that's how the human brain works; nothing is completely compartmentalized.

So as of today, I will do all of my writing, be it an overt feminist rant or a recreation of an argument with my sister, on this blog. I'm not taking down Feminism: Not a Naughty Word; I just simply won't be adding to it.

I hope you'll stick with me during this transition. I want to write more and about a range of topics, and I've decided that A Genie in a Blog is the best way to do that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

40 Years and We're Still Fighting for This?

Wow. Over a month (coming up on two actually) without a post on this blog.

To be honest, I got a little overwhelmed, feeling like I had to write about "Important Issues" on this blog. I often wanted to write but was afraid that my topics weren't feminist enough, and I found myself not writing at all, and feeling guilty for not keeping up the blog.

I decided to take a break and start a new blog, a blog where I could write about anything and everything, whenever I felt like it. And I really enjoy it. I don't feel restricted by a theme or topic. I think eventually, I may just merge this blog into the new one, since writing about feminism fits pretty easily under the "writing about anything and everything" umbrella. But I'm not ready to let this one go just yet. So here we go with the first post!

I was going to write about this piece, A Letter to the Guy Who Harassed Me Outside the Bar, because it's awesome. And you should absolutely read it. Everyone should read it. But then I found this: Fifteen Women (and a Few Men) on Aborting.

Today is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and abortion rights are still very much (maybe even more so?) in danger. In my home state, our governor and legislators are actively trying to shut down Mississippi's only abortion clinic. My Facebook feed today was full of women (women I'm so proud of, by the way) standing outside the clinic in Jackson with signs saying, "This clinic stays open!" and "You trust me with an assault rifle but not my own uterus?" Diane Derzis, the owner of our clinic in Jackson, said, "...while Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, it is totally inaccessible in Mississippi." (For more on this, check out this video from MSNBC.)

Photo courtesy of Cristen Hemmins, an amazing advocate
in Mississippi.
With abortion rights still very much in question, I think it's important for women (and men) to share their stories and experiences, and that's what this article does. The piece is full of short stories about all types of women who have all types of feelings about their abortions. Some women just didn't want to have children. Others felt they had no choice. This particular quote broke my heart, "I was made that there wasn't some kind of support system that would allow me to raise the child not in total poverty." (BTW, did anyone notice that in Obama's inaugural speech, when he mentioned a person in poverty, he specifically said she? Because he did. Because that's accurate. Women and children in poverty, often because of the lack of support for mothers in this country.)

What I love about this piece is that it's not full of emotional stories. Or, I should say, only emotional stories. One woman simply write about the difficulty of paying for the abortion. The point of the article is that abortions are complicated and the lives of the women who have them are complicated. There are lots of reasons to have an abortion. For lots of women, abortions are the right decision. And I think the best reasoning I've read in a long time for why abortion should remain a legal and viable choice for women to make for themselves came in story #9, written by a woman who had an early abortion and then had children later in life:

"Being pregnant is like having a parasite literally sucking the life out of you. You should be totally onboard."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Mindy Project and Weird Conclusions

So, I've been watching The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling's new show, and mostly I enjoy it. I didn't think I would since the previews made it look like her whole life was about finding a man. And I was sort of right; Mindy can't get it together when it comes to relationships. But it doesn't portray her whole life as falling apart because of this. She's a good doctor and she has a fun relationship with many of her colleagues. So the fact that a large part of her energy is focused on relationships with men doesn't completely bother me, since it's the main part of her life that isn't working the way she wants it to.

But I have to say that the latest episode, "Thanksgiving," kind of disappointed me. For one thing, she spent most of the episode worried about whether or not she and Josh, the guy she's been dating, are exclusive or not. This bothers me mainly because when she met this guy, she didn't like him, and I'm still not sure when he went from being annoying to charming (in her eyes; in mine he's only annoying).

The worst part of the episode had to be Betsy's storyline. She took the British doctor from their practice (honestly, I don't know what his name is) home with her for Thanksgiving. She told him that she doesn't enjoy spending time with her family because they treat her like a child. When they arrive, everyone is given a beer except Betsy; her father hands her a glass of strawberry milk instead. Even her brother, who as far as I could tell was younger than her, got a beer. They also insist that Betsy sing a song about Thanksgiving that she wrote when she was about 4 years old. Betsy gets angry and storms out and British Doctor follows her upstairs.

This is the part of the episode that made me so angry. He talked about getting treated as an adult too early and not having a childhood. He says that being treated like a child isn't the worst thing in the world. And the episode ends with Betsy, twenty-something adult Betsy, singing her weird, childish turkey song to her whole family.

WHAT?!?! The moral of this story is let your family treat like you a child for your whole life? Really?

I understand that families aren't easy to deal with, and everybody has something about their family that they'd prefer to hide or never talk about. And some families have a hard time communicating with each other. But are we really saying it's better to get treated like a child every time you go home for a holiday than to attempt to sit down and have an adult conversation with your parents and siblings?

This week, you disappointed me, The Mindy Project. I don't expect all my feminist dreams and needs to be met by this one show, but I would expect a show written by a smart, capable woman, and about smart, capable women, to understand that adult women being treated like children is not okay. The idea that women need other people making decisions for them ("You don't want a beer, you want strawberry milk") is what gives us anti-woman legislation ("You don't really want an abortion, you just need to hear your baby's heartbeat first").

I'm paying attention, The Mindy Project. Let's get it together.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Today's Racism and Ole Miss Events

I'm not even sure about how to talk about what happened at Ole Miss Tuesday night. It's embarrassing and upsetting. I don't think it was as big of a deal as people made it sound, or at least, as big of an incident. Anyone using hateful and racist language is a big deal, and not ok at all, but what I mean is that the number 400 has been used in a lot of reporting on the story, and I don't think that 400 people were involved. 400 people may have been outside, but based on the video I've seen floating around online, I think that most of those people are watching the events unfold and not participating. I think this was the result of a few (40ish) students who felt (unrealistically) confident in their candidate winning, and felt entitled to share their disappointment and anger with the world when it didn't go their way.

Of course, I hate how this event makes Mississippi look. It allows people who have never been to Mississippi to say, once again, "See! They just want to secede! They are waiting for the Confederacy to rise again!" (Which, by they way, the commenters who say that Mississippi should go ahead and secede are totally unhelpful; do they really believe that this kind of incident is representative of the whole state?) It allows them to believe that the entire state is full of racist hicks who don't wear shoes.

Don't get me wrong. Racism still exists in Mississippi (as well as in the South, and in America). But what's interesting to me is a new kind of racism that I've witnessed. The racism that exists in Mississippi, and the South, today is so much more insidious than the racism of 50 years ago. Everyone knows that it's bad to be a racist. Everyone knows that it's unfair to discriminate. And so there is this group of people who are racist, but don't acknowledge that they are. They don't believe that they are.

Example: I was at a party, and a friend of mine got into an argument. Others at the party had been casually tossing around the n-word. And this wasn't white frat boys calling each other "my nigga", imitating rappers and thinking they were cool. They were using it in a derogatory sense, generalizing an entire group of people and speaking negatively and offensively about them. Shocked, my friend asked them to please stop using that word. Their response? "It's not offensive if there are no black people here."

What? My friend has just told them that he was offended. But he can't be offended, because he's white and from Mississippi and we just all know that this is ok, right?


But this is the kind of racism that exists today. This is the kind of racism that allows a person to tell themselves, "Of course I wouldn't pay a black person less than a white person for the same job; that's racist. But I wish black people would stop begging for welfare so they can stay at home and not work." The fact that this contradiction exists, the fact that people are comfortable thinking this way, is very scary to me. They truly don't recognize their role in a society that continues to disenfranchise many of its citizens.

I believe that this is the racism that sparked the events at Ole Miss. I don't think these kids were thinking, "I'm so pissed that a black man was re-elected!!!" I think they were upset that a Democrat was re-elected; I think they were upset that it was specifically Obama, whom they've been told is the WORST PRESIDENT TO EVER EXIST. And, without thinking about it, they used racial epithets because they have been taught that it's ok. They've been taught that white southerners say these things.

I think these are white kids, from middle and upper income families, for whom Ole Miss is the first real integrated experience they've had. A lot of wealthy students in Mississippi go to private schools before college. And private schools in Mississippi are primarily white schools. These students have been isolated. They don't know how to be around non-white students. They don't understand how to talk to or socialize with non-white students. And their parents, who are mostly white, upper class, Mississippi parents, haven't taught them any of this. These segregated situations are what perpetuate racist ideas in Mississippi. And by the time these people are 18 and thrown into college with a diverse population of students, they are set in their ways. They've been encouraged that what they say and think is important. They've been taught they have a right to do what they want. And when they don't get what they want (like, I don't know, when Mitt Romney loses the election), they feel they have every right to be vocal and violent with their disappointment.

These students are not representative of Ole Miss or Mississippi. These students are not representative of the south. These students acted stupidly, celebrating their ignorance and close-mindedness. These students believed it was fine for them to spread hateful messages in public without having to deal with any consequences. These are the Americans who feel they are entitled, who refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cards and Candidates, or, Keep Talking

Ahhh! Election day!!

I found myself at a card game last night with several Mitt Romney supporters. While I mostly stayed out of the politics conversation, other than predictions about who would win, I found myself wishing I had spoken more. This was a group of mostly men who are older than I am, and who I don't know very well. There was one other woman there, probably about my age, and a couple of guys around my age. The rest were older, established men who I'm pretty sure are all wealthy. Wealthy Mississippi businessmen voting for Romney? I'm not surprised. And I wasn't insulted, and I didn't really feel like talking about the election. We were all nervous, no one was 100% confident in their candidate's victory, and I just wanted to play poker.

But I do wish I had brought up a couple of things. I wish I had pointed out that I can not, can not, vote for someone who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. I can not vote for someone who has supported/still supports personhood. I can not vote for someone who says they are for small government, but thinks it is OK to for legislators (or employers!) to make decisions about a woman's healthcare coverage. I can not vote for someone who refuses to come out with a stance on fair pay for women.

I don't wish I had made these points because I think I would have changed any minds. I don't wish I had gotten the table into a heated debate. But I do wonder what these men would have said when faced with a young woman legitimately concerned about her future in a Romney administration. I wonder what their reactions would have been to my concern about my place in the world, financially and socially, with extreme Republicans in control. I do think that these issues do not cross the minds of these men often, and I wish I had seen their reactions when forcing them to think about, even for a second, my side, a woman's side.

So today, on election day, don't be afraid to talk. Even if everyone has already voted, even if you're exhausted, these issues are important and we need to talk about them. Always.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Abortion Question and what the VP Answers Reveal

I know I'm so late getting to this, but I really want to talk about the Vice-Presidential debate, and specifically, the abortion question that Martha Raddatz asked at the end. 

First of all, it did kind of bother me that she formed the question in terms of religion. She asked,

We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country. Please talk personally about this, if you could.

We live in a country that, officially, separates church and state. We live in a country that is supposed to advocate for religious freedom. We live in a country that is supposed to keep God (any and all of them) out of our legal practices. But of course, we don't actually live in that country. We live in a country in which a large number (the majority?) of our political leaders constantly make laws based on their religious (Christian) beliefs, regardless of how those laws may affect others with different beliefs. So while I hate, hate, the way she asked this question, I understand why she did it.

Now, their answers. Paul Ryan answered first. He talked about his Catholic religion informing his belief that life begins at conception, and he said, "I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do." This answer makes me so angry, mainly because there are so many people who think he's absolutely right. It's a total disregard for the separation of church and state. And I think this answer proves that in all things, not just abortion, Ryan has no problem pushing a purely Christian (and of course, that means whatever he deems to be Christian) agenda in his work as a politician. He also managed to bring up how women wanting contraceptive coverage, and Obama in supporting them, are infringing upon his, and others', religious liberty:

Look at what they're doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.

You know, because employers should have the right to tell their employees which medications to take, and for what reasons. Because that makes sense. (To Paul Ryan: the insurance company's pay for that, not the Catholic institutions. The institutions, and you, need to get out of women's personal lives.)

Joe Biden, on the other hand, also mentioned his Catholic faith and how it affects his personal life (presumably, I'd say, he would not want anyone in his family having an abortion), but went on to say,

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the—the congressman. I—I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that—women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere with that. 

I have been trying to go back and find a full transcript of both answers, which I haven't found yet, but I'm pretty sure that Biden is the only one who even used the word "women". He acknowledges that women have a right to make their own decisions, and that he has no right to be involved. By mentioning women, he acknowledges that the abortion question is one that he, as a man, should not really have a say in. (As my mom always says, "As far as I'm concerned, if they aren't gonna ever be pregnant, they just need to keep their mouths shut.")

He also acknowledges keeping his religion out of his politics. Though I was disappointed with the religious framing of the question, I was yelling "Yes!" at my computer screen when he mentioned refusing to make laws based on religion. 

I also loved when Martha Raddatz directly asked Paul Ryan if those who do believe in legal abortion should be worried with a Romney administration. He looked shocked, and then said, "We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination." You know, like how all those people have voted and agreed to grant full human rights to fertilized eggs. Oh wait, those measures have ALL been voted down?

The truth is, we absolutely should be worried about reproductive rights with a Romney/Ryan victory. And we should also worry about an aggressively Christian agenda. We already know that Romney doesn't care much about 47% percent of the population. I'm guessing non-Christians make up a pretty large percentage of that group. 

For more reading on the VP Debate and abortion question, check out:

This one, with its mention of what Ryan's "bean" comments implicate, is my favorite.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

America Victim Blames So Easy

"Some girls rape easy."Wisconsin  Rep. Roger Rivard said this. When trying to clarify his statement, he said,

"[My father] also told me one thing, 'If you do (have premarital sex), just remember, consensual sex can turn into rape in an awful hurry,' " Rivard said. "Because all of a sudden a young lady gets pregnant and the parents are madder than a wet hen and she's not going to say, 'Oh yeah I was part of the program.' All that she has to say or the parents have to say is it was rape because she's underage. And he just said, 'Remember, Roger, if you go down that road, some girls,' he said, 'they rape so easy.'"

I'm so sick of this conversation about women changing their minds about sex the next day, or down the road. Sex is consensual in the moment, then the woman changes her mind and calls it rape the next day, because she feels guilty, because she feels ashamed. I'm sure this has happened, but let's stop talking about it like this makes up the majority of rape accusations. There are several problems with this narrative.

1. This implies that women should, and do, feel guilty about sex. Of course women feel guilty about sex, especially young women, when their culture is constantly telling them to be sexy but don't have sex, to be desirable but not to feel desire. Women are more connected with the image they are putting out, with how they look, than how they feel. Peggy Orenstein, in her book Schoolgirls, spoke to one young girl who told her about a "hooking up" situation with a boy. When asked how it felt, the girl responded, "I felt like I looked good."

2. This narrative leaves every victim wide open to accusations of lying about a rape. This allows policemen, parents, bystanders to ask "Are you sure you didn't want it?" It allows people to call into question what the woman was wearing, if she was drunk, how she was behaving, if she agreed to some sexual encounter and then changed her mind. It calls into question every woman who is brave enough to report a rape.

3. This narrative also leaves out men in several ways. First, it doesn't allow for the possibility that a woman did feel ashamed, because she was coerced by another person. But this narrative paints the guy (or the woman if it's a man, but I'll get to that in a minute) as a victim. HE just had sex and then suddenly she's going back on everything that happened, she is lying, she is embarrassed and trying to cover her own ass. He is just an innocent bystander. Also, this narrative doesn't allow for a male victim, either as a victim of rape, or as someone who feels confused or ashamed about sex after the fact. Men have feelings too, people. I know men who have had sexual encounters that they regretted, or were confused about. I know a man who lost his virginity to a confident, aggressive older girl, a girl who didn't know he was a virgin and didn't ask if he wanted to have sex. And afterward, he was suddenly sad that he had lost his virginity in this quick way. Some people, especially if the genders in this scenario were reversed, would absolutely call this rape. He doesn't call it rape (and he doesn't have to). But my point is that he has never really been able to work through any regretful or confused feelings about his first sexual encounter because in our culture, he should be nothing but excited about having sex. And a girl initiated it? Awesome! He's a stud. End of story. It's just not fair.

4. In the same way that this narrative doesn't allow men to feel bad about sex, it doesn't allow women to feel good about it. It says that women should feel bad about sex. It says that if their parents find out they had sex, of course they are going to lie about it, because they should be ashamed and secretive about it. It doesn't allow for women to enjoy sex or for young women to admit that they are responsible and safe about sex.

We need to talk about sex, openly and honestly. We need to acknowledge that women feel desire the same as men, and that men feel confusion about sex the same as women. We need conversations that acknowledge sex as something good and pleasurable (and to be done safely and responsibly), instead of as something bad and shameful.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Who Run the World? Girls

I have been flipping through the latest issue of Time magazine and I was reading Bill Clinton's article, "The Case for Optimism," in which he lists the five ways he says are evidence that the world is getting better all the time. Reason #4 is equality for women all over the world. He mentions the improvements for women in countries like Rwanda, Malawi, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. I especially like his discussion of the ways in which improvements in women's lives are beneficial not only to the women themselves, but to their larger families, communities, and societies.

When I first came across this article, I was reminded of how much we take for granted in America. The problems these women are dealing with are totally different, and in many ways more basic, than the problems many of us are dealing with. And it's probably a typical American reaction for me to see the subtitle "#4: Women Rule" and think, What? That's not happening at all, because I was only thinking about the anti-woman movement that has dominated my mind, my writing and my (little bit of) activism the past year or so. Yet there's so much more going on outside of my world.

Part of me didn't want to write this post. Because part of me was thinking, If you focus on these women who are fighting for rights that seem so basic to us, then our fights will seem petty and unnecessary, or even greedy. Don't give any ammo to those people saying that women have been fooled by the Obama campaign into thinking that their rights are in danger.

But it doesn't have to be them or us. It is not about whose problems are more worthy. The point is that women deserve equal rights. In less developed countries, the most immediate rights to be fought for may be the right to work in decent and safe conditions, or the right to seek political leadership. In our country, we have to fight for what is being attacked: the right to safe and legal abortion, the right to preventative health care. We have to fight for the right to speak up without being called "sluts" or "feminazis". We have to defend our right to be angry, and loud, and not always submissive or demure.

The rights of women are important. Everywhere. Different women may be fighting for different rights in different places at different times, but we are all human, and we all deserve to be heard and respected. As Bill Clinton said in his article, "No society can truly flourish if it stifles the dreams and productivity of half its population."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Stop talking! Men are around!

On the way to work this morning, I heard a radio host talking about some alleged controversy between Nikki Minaj and Mariah Carey on American Idol. I don't watch American Idol and I'm not really interested in the controversy. What interested me was the way this host (who was a woman, if that matters) talked about it. She said that people are talking about controversy because, apparently, whenever Nikki Minaj tries to critique a performer, Mariah Carey interrupts and/or talks over her. Then the host said something like, "Men don't like it when women talk over each other. Think: The View."

What? The reason that Mariah needs to stop talking over Nikki is because men don't like it? Not because it's rude, or inconsiderate? Not because it probably makes for a bad/ confusing/ incomprehensible critique for the performer?

Then she throws in this comment about The View, and that men don't like it because the hosts are constantly talking over each other. Guess what, radio person? I don't really like The View because the women talk over each other. And I'm a woman. It's just frustrating to watch sometimes. If I care enough about what they're talking about, sure, I'll watch, but I tend to think "Wait, she was saying something interesting! Stop interrupting! STOP!"

Truthfully, my mother, my sisters and I tend to talk over each other in the same way. It drives my boyfriend crazy, true, but it also drives me crazy, and yet I still do it.  Sorry. We are comfortable with each other and this is the way we tend to have conversations. We aren't going to change it because my boyfriend, or my sister's boyfriend, or anyone else is around. The way we talk to each other has nothing to do with other people or what they might think of us.

I get so sick of the media always bringing up what men may think of what women do, and imply that women should constantly be concerned with this. And maybe I'm unaware, maybe there are more women out there who really are censoring themselves based on what men might think. But I don't know many of those women. And the older I get, the more I think that there just aren't as many women out there doing that. (Girls are a different story, I would argue, but that's a whole different age group and for a whole different argument/post.)

What do you think? Am I just lucky to happen to be around women who don't constantly care about what men are thinking? Are there more women listening to the radio this morning thinking that they need to be careful about talking over each other when men are around? Or is the media just feeding us more bullshit and playing into very old, very tired stereotypes that don't exist?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tavi Gevinson is My Hero

Do I need to say more? Maybe, especially if you don't know who she is.

Tavi Gevinson. She was a fashion blogger at the age of 11. I first read about her in this article from Bitch magazine, published in the Old issue in 2010 (scroll about 2/3 of the way down to find Tavi mentioned; when you see a picture of a 13-year-old girl showing off her clothes, that's her). Apparently a lot of people thought her blog was too smart/clever to actually be written by a 13-year-old; others simply thought she was unimportant because of her age. I kind of missed out on the haters, since I didn't know about her until later.

Now, however, 16-year-old Tavi is doing really well (she was doing well before, of course, there just seem to be fewer haters now). She has started an online magazine for girls, Rookie, and she has a book out, Rookie Yearbook One, which I haven't read but looks totally awesome even though I'm well out of middle and high school. She was recently a BUST magazine cover girl (looking both very adult and very much like Michelle Williams, right?). She has given her own TED talk.

What made me decide to write about her today? Well, thanks to Jezebel, I discovered that she recently appeared on Jimmy Fallon's show, and her interview is totally cute, especially the part where she and Jimmy practice their "bitchface." (I wanted to get the video on this page, but couldn't figure it out since it's not on YouTube, so do yourself a favor and click that link so you can watch it. Absolutely worth the 4 minutes.)

Basically, at 16 years old, Tavi Gevinson is doing plenty of the things I am still just dreaming of at 24. She has started a magazine. She studies and advocates feminism. She is very comfortable with herself and with her life, and aims to make others (especially girls) feel the same about themselves. She fights against the media's narrow representation of women and girls.

I'm so happy she is getting lots of attention for doing such great things, and I think everyone should know who she is.

She. Is. My. Hero.

Since I couldn't get the Jimmy Fallon interview video, I will leave you with her TED talk.