Friday, December 18, 2009

New Life Goal

Reclaim the Virgin Mary as a patriarchally subversive figure in the bible.

Write a book about it.


Monday, November 2, 2009


It all started one night as I was doped up painkillers, immobile and watching 28 Weeks Later. Even with the percocet, my hip throbbed with pain--I've been diagnosed with trocantaric bursitis, an inflammation of the connective tissues that hold my muscles in place. I sustained this injury as a result of some overzealous laps around our athletic track two years ago, and since then, I have had three injections, two anti-inflammatory drug prescriptions, and endless litanies of OTC Tylenols, ibuprofens and Advil--none of which are covered by my insurance. In desperation, I went to a specialist who recommended physical therapy, which is not covered because it's not considered an accident. Bastards knew I lost the ability to walk and function normally for a little over two years to cheat them out of $100 for the initial and $20 for each subsequent visit. Fortunately, the physical therapist sympathized with my situation (and found my social awkwardness and fear of stretchy plastic bands amusing) and taught me how to do the stretches on my own. While I feel that a fundamental right is being deprived of me, I can't even imagine what it's like for others with worse conditions than my own and those who have no insurance.

As I sat on my couch wallowing in pain and self-pity, it dawned on me: we need to move beyond this us/them, Democrat/Republican partisan dichotomy in regards to health insurance reform because when the zombie apocalyspe comes, we'll need healthy, mobilized (and accomodations for the differently-abled, of course) citizens to stand and fight against the undead menace. How many million Americans don't get regular checkups a year? Or how many million Americans use the emergency room as their primary source for healthcare? Hospitals are a big no-no come zombie apocalypse, as many will be unaware that bites sustained by the infected transfer the virus to your blood, then kill and reanimate you into a mindless nomming machine. For those of us with easily treatable conditions that aren't covered by our insurance companies, how are we to prevent ourselves from desiring braaaaaains if we aren't able to, say, run or hold and utilize zombie skull-crushing weapons? Is it really fair that socioeconomic status determines whether or not you live or die-and-rise-again? We need to come together despite ideological differences in order to secure a better and safer future for America--we need to mobilize, people! MOBILIZE!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shit List

-Keanu Reeves

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hate the Game, Not the Player

Although I began Deborah Siegel's Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild much earlier in the summer, I just began to get really into it yesterday (when prose is more academic jargony than funny, it takes me a while to get into it). The particular passage I'm interested in and blogging about kind of requires a backstory if you're not familiar with second-wave going ons:

[Backstory, abridged-- The 1968 Miss America pageant was protested by feminists who felt that the power of held male-defined standards of beauty were detrimental to women's liberation. They threw bras, girdles, fashion magazines, Playboys, high heels and makeup into "freedom trashcans" in protest of these unfair standards. Hench the image of bra-burning feminist emerged, although the cans were never actually set ablaze because of fire codes. Select feminists crowned a sheep in all its metaphoric glory, and from there feminists were divided as to whether the sheep crowning was helpful or harmful to women.]

In the harmful to women camp, Carol Hanisch argued that "such woman-hating tactics were not feminst, political, or a promotion of sisterhood:"

Crowning a live sheep Miss America sort of said that beautiful women aresheep, she wrote, with disdain. She further argued that by failing to make it clear that women are forced by men and a system of male supremacy to play the Miss America role--andnot by beautiful women themselves--the protest came off as an attack against beautiful women in general and the contestants in particular.

While my feelings on beauty pageants are mixed at best, their relevance in terms in feminism really aren't that relevant. Yes, they are essentially the epitome of pseudo-political feminine vapidity for the male gaze. But isn't feminism all about giving women the power of choice? Though it pains me on a personal level to watch their implicitness in patrirachy and socialized patterns of behavior, it's a discredit to women to say they aren't acting with their own agency.

I suppose my feelings are contradictory on the matter--while I would love nothing more than to see the end of pseudo-political vapidity, it is not my decision to make, and should be up to individual women themselves. What is inherently feminist (and nonfeminist, for that matter) to me is going to be different with other women (and men!), and I suppose I shouldn't judge them based on their pageantry decisions.

...but I still kind of do.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I Can Has Healthcare?

For the first time in months, I was beside myself and nearly in tears (as I almost never cry, this is significant). I have trocantaric bursitis (an inflammation of the connective tissue that holds my muscles in place) in my right hip, an (believe it or not!) athletic injury from last summer's every day hour-long runs. I got a steroid shot last summer, which made it go away, so when it flared up again this summer I made another appointment. Problem is, I'm insured through Allegheny--and Allegheny doesn't insure over the summer (which, incidentally, is the only time I've ever needed it).

So I'm sitting in the waiting room, baby blue Allegheny sweats and all (in preparation for the pants-pulling-down), when the doctor asked if I had insurance.

"I'm not insured over the summer."

"Oh. It's over a hundred dollars. When do you go back to school?"


"Can it wait?"

"I'd like to not be in pain."

Don't get me wrong, the doctor was sweet and very well-meaning. She suggested I try an anti-inflammatory, then proceeded to give me an asston of free samples.

I appreciated the sentiment, and maybe it will work. Regardless of whether it works or not, what upset me so much was that I could not get a simple shot to alleviate a dull-to-sharp pain I feel nearly everyday.

It is now Friday, August seventh. I got the shot for 85 dollars four days ago and have continued to be in moderate to severe pain ever since. I have $6.23 in my bank account, I can't get coverage under my mother to go to St. Vincent's hospital even though she works there, and I'm forced to pay for my painkillers with my credit card because I cannot afford my existence.

Imagine I have a good transition here.

Jesus was a socialist. That's what I find so puzzling about religious conservatives opposed to public healthcare. They're all up in arms (to be fair, there are other political parties and individuals that are opposed to public healthcare, but religious conservatives in particular really piss me off). I suppose it isn't so puzzling that they're hypocritical, but when it's an issue that directly affects me I guess I care that much more. The city of Sodom didn't epicfail because of homosexuality; they fell because they had so many people living in poverty and the tiny percentage that was wealthy lived excessively and did nothing to help the poor (thanks, Nikki).

Health care industries make billions. I have to see an orthopedic surgeon, possibly get an MRI or a CAT scan, and I don't know how I'm going to afford it. I waited to get the shot in the first place because I don't shit money, and that probably made the problem worse.

I would really like the ability to walk without a gimp or roll on my side without incredible discomfort.

Fuck you, American healthcare system.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Caffeine [and Brain] Farts

I've just begun the process of paper writing: ingesting nearly dangerous amounts of caffeine and popping my mom's nerve pills like Skittles. It didn't hit me until yesterday that we only have five weeks--FIVE WEEKS--until classes start up again. So, maybe I should finish up those incompletes, consisting of a five-to-six page paper (which I previously thought was four-to-five) and two 2-3 page take home essays. Seems fairly simple, but because I had missed so much class and got so far behind in the readings, I have had NO IDEA what to write about. I've finally gotten some inspiration for the five-to-six, but I (as usual) have no idea how to organize it. I feel like I'm at a point where I just need to sit down and get it DONE, regardless if it's my best work or not. My GPA this semester is quite unfortunate, but I suppose all I can really do is be an academic superstar this upcoming semester. Good thing I'm taking two junior seminars and a lab. Good.

Anyway, what's really been eating me up lately is the whole studying abroad thing. I'm thinking I'm going to post a Facebook note since that's more accessible for everyone to comment on, because I am in some serious need of life direction. While showering in the Wise Center, I came up with a list of pros and cons which I will now divulge to you:

1) Finding myself; I normally define myself by other people
2) Being independent; I am way too clingy
3) Being in England in general
4) Assimilating myself in a different culture FTW
5) Learning to really appreciate the people back home that I take for granted
6) Care packages
7) ADPi mail
8) Being able to apply my experience successfully to the rest of my life
9) Learning to appreciate American cuisine
10) Accents
11) Applying CHEL knowledge and attempting nonsubjectivity in regards to the preservation of standard English
12) Making family proud (only Stanko/Allessie to leave country for educational purposes)
13) Bragging rights; while this may be a less-than-fantastic reason to uproot everything I've ever known for five months, I want to prove that I am good enough and smart enough to do such a thing. Wanna PWN the haters.
14) Pictures! Who doesn't love pictures!
15) Chance to prove to myself that I am capable of just about anything.

1) Away from comfort zone. Extreme anxiety.
2) Away from Sarah and Becky. How will they get anywhere?
3) London. Will she forget that I'm her momma?
4) Muffin (and Stormy by default). She's old, what if she thinks I abandoned her?
5) My humor is largely pop culture based (Disney, Family Guy, 90s songs). Will I still be funny in England?
6) ADPi. I kind of sorority girl failed last semester, and I want to get more involved now. I don't know how much I'd be able to do with the course load I have this semester, and I almost certainly won't be able to hold a position. Also, my Big graduates and I don't wanna miss that or my Little getting a Little and me being a Grandbig.
7) Nanimals in general. I seriously can't function without some form of pet therapy. Will Lancaster professors be cool with me taking their pomeranians into my dorm or staying in their office til ass o'clock because I can't handle being away from my own cats and dog?
8) Death. Everyone in my family is old and they all seem to have a penchant for getting into automobile accidents.
9) Women's History Month. God help me if they bring Jennifer Baumgardner or someone equally cool to speak and I'm not there. I will pitch a bitchfit.
10) All my dear ones being so far away. This is sad face in general.
11) Kraft macaroni and cheese. If they don't have it there, that's a deal breaker.
12) The weather. I'm a very weather/mood oriented person, and lack of sunlight does take a toll on my mental health. Add to that the fact that I'm on a different continent? Yikes.
13) Not having people who understand my social awkwardness or overcaffeinated, sleep-deprived antics. I think it's rare to find people who genuinely find these traits endearing, and I'm worried I won't find that. I'd feel so alone.

Alrighty...guess I should work on that paper, considering that I won't even have to make a decision if I don't get my GPA up to an acceptable Lancaster standard.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm This Awkward and Incomparable Thing

Since the whole 'play-the-Sims-during-work' thing didn't pan out on account of me not bringing the install disc, I decided to start YET ANOTHER women's studies book to pass away the long, uneventful hours at my job. (I say YET ANOTHER not out of women's studies sarcasm, but because I have yet to finish a book that isn't Pride and Prejudice and Zombies this summer, despite my 35-hour work week.

Although only about thirty pages into it, Sisterhood, Interrupted has held my attention and, in addition to citing Ariel Levy's Female Chauvinist Pigs and Jennifer Baumgardner in general, has given me lots to blog about. While some things are more socially and politically important, I'm going to (yet again) blog about things that are most relevant to my interests. More specifically, the "personal is political" mantra of the second wave.

Here's one of my favorite excerpts thus far:

Fighting the mechanisms of oppression in one's own life by dealing with one's personal "hang ups" became an act of political engagement. It was the kind of thing that transformed personal decisions into political statements. Politics, then, became how you lived and not just who you voted for.

You know, I am all about dealing with personal hang ups, so the fact that these hang ups can be politicized is a very exciting concept for me. I deal with hang ups in several different ways, including but not limited to therapy, feminist dialogues, dialogue in general, writing and the somewhat less-than-fantastic bottling it up and breaking down. I can see these politicized in several ways:

therapy: Insitutionalization FTW. Like, literally. Mental health screenings, awareness, prevention, social programs that foster healthy mental and emotional development--all these are examples of personal problems (or "hang ups," to quote the author) that, through social and political action, have been made public in the hopes of both preventing mental illness and providing adequate care for people suffering from it.

feminist dialogue: A wise woman [Joreen] once said that "only with other Bitches can a Bitch be truly free." While this may not work for every person, it has given me an amazing emotional outlet that not even therapy or hospitalization could provide. This blog is an example of that--while I may be dialoguing with myself for the most part, just knowing that even if just one person reads and agrees (or even disagrees, but for valid and intelligent reasons which they respectfully discuss with me), I am not alone. And that is the best feeling in the world.

dialogue in general: I suppose this is pretty self-explanatory. Is srsly gud to not shut yourself off from the world. I'd argue that it's probably healthier to have real life conversations with people, but I suppose the interweb can be useful as well, especially in long distance cases.

writing: Pretty much what I'm doing now. Plus I journal, which is not for everyone, but seeing where I've come from, where I am now, and how far I have to go is refreshing, frustrating and mind-numbing all at the same time. English major that I am, I also enjoy making marginal notes about how things I'd worried about turned out or just how damn overdramatic I can be. And of course, writing is as political as you make it.

[less-than-fantastic] bottling up and breaking down: Well, you've gotta start somewhere, and what better place than rock bottom? The answer is anyplace. Rock bottom is one of the ultimate buzzkills, but sometimes that's just what it takes. It definitely makes you stronger and more resilient, and if you're lucky enough you get a snarky, smart-ass sense of humor that I think (hopefully) most people enjoy. You can politicize this experience by fast and furious blogging, inserting swear words into English papers for that extra rebellious snark, or even the more or less obvious "mental illness [wo]manning." [I borrowed this term from an African American English class--a "race [wo]man" is someone who uplifts her/his ethnic group by being an upstanding citizen on several levels. My reappropriation of this term would describe someone who past or present tense experienced mental illness but does not fit the loony bin stereotype who can't get a grip on real life.]

So I guess the short of it is, I feel feminist theory has transformed my less-than-ideal childhood experiences in the way that I have politicized it through my writing in the hopes that I am not alone, and that maybe I will one day reach out and change the life of someone in a similar situation. I guess that's all a gal can ask for.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Don't Try Suicide

I guess I should preface this by saying that I'm not suicidal. That being said, I started writing a suicide note last night.

Re: not suicidal.

I began writing it on the premise that if I die, I want everyone to know what they mean to me. As I am infinitely more articulate on paper than in real life, I felt that writing out my feelings and thoughts would be far more effective than actually discussing what people mean to me to their faces. And I guess that's a cop out in a way, because I don't like communicating my feelings to people in person--writing is a way of keeping a safe emotional distance, lest my feelings be rejected or unreciprocated.

While I'm not going to post any specifics of my note (which is conveniently located in my journal, so that I can look back on it in a few years, or so someone else can read it and get an upcloseandpersonal glance into my thoughts, because I'm narcissitic), I will state that it's very much written from the heart--in verbose, flowery-but-snarky, emotionally-charged prose. And honestly, I don't think I've been prouder ( FTW) of anything I've written before because I specifically didn't write it to show it to anyone but myself. At least not yet (re: narcissism). I mean yes, I'm blogging about how I wrote it, but the fact that I spent two highly overcaffeinated hours word vomiting my inner most thoughts with an appropriately red gel pen by myself, with my own thoughts, is very romantic (thanks, Katrina).

I realize that suicide note writing may not be for everyone, and that I may be slightly psychologically disturbed to think this is a fantastic idea, but I'd highly suggest writing one--even if you'd prefer to write it under the premise of a will rather than suicide note [cop-out].

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let Me Know the Way Before There's Hell to Pay

On average, 99 young people between the ages of 10 and 25 die every day in the United States.

Death has never been so real.

Prepare yourself for the most daunting experience of your life: my snarky blog on what was supposed to be the most daunting and life-changing experience of my life: The 99. What is The 99, you ask? Courtesy of, the 99 is a walk through theater that graphically reenacts the five leading causes of death in teenagers and young adults. Many of these deaths are influenced by drugs or alcohol and a vast majority of them can be avoided. Or, a state-of-the-art production designed to portray the very real consequences of poor decisions that claim almost 37,000 young lives every year. The production is not based on fear or scare tactics, but rather is based solely on reality with each room designed from real life situations.


It begins harmlessly enough as you stroll through the tent over to the nice ladies with hauntingly white smiles. Write your name, address, e-mail and phone number on this paper, they say. Your information remains private. Hell with that, you think. But if you're thinking you'll just write a fake name (Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves) and the number 123-4567, you're forgetting one important thing--gender. Does it matter? you ask snarkily. Well, sometimes you can't tell from the name. Icyglare. Somehow, they know you're doing this for kicks--but that's okay, the power of scary-ass Jesus will set you straight and you will be SAVED bold italics capslock.

Things get trickier as you pass through the gendered wandings--yes, gendered wandings--and enter the pre-exhibit, which I like to think of as pre-Jesus'd purgatory. You got your motor vehicle accidents, pictures of before and after meth addicts and sweet little political prop children taking your dollar entrance fee. Suddenly, your line moves into the official entrance--halleluiah!--only to realize that you're being instructed to not touch the actors, even if they touch you. Bitch please.

The first legit Jesus haunted house room you enter looks suspiciously similar to a strip club--that is, in the sense that you're standing in a circle around what can only be described as a stripper cage with a single beam of red light. Then it goes dark, ack! Garbled demon voice from speaker then tells you that you're beginning a decent into your worst nightmare--you're decending into Hell! (I didn't have time to tell our demon guide about my horrific dream about the Keanu Reeves spider...Hell pales in comparison.) Stop 666, here we come.

The next room features a clusterfucked car wreck. And by clusterfucked, I mean two junk yard cars collided on account of a young female driver who was intoxicated and used excessive amounts of blood packets to convey DEATH, DUN DUN DUH. The non-toxicated car featured a man driving, his wife being passively passengeristic and an overturned car seat. While well enough to take out his cell phone to dial 911, the man was unable to speak--I found I was not surprised at this, as I'm sure speaking would be difficult for anyone with seven packets of fake blood in their mouth. Stream of white blood flowing down white car door: dramatic effect win.

I was horrified at the next room--not because of the excessive amount of in-your-muthafuckenface-screaming, but because of the extreme racial stereotyping. After five black girls scream incoherently at each other while our demon tour guide garbles incoherently over poorly-placed speakers, they run and place a bag over a mixed-race girl and beat the shit out of her. Bag o'Half-and-Half.

At the risk of boring anyone or being repetitive, I'm going to sum up the subsequent rooms in a nutshell:
(1) Crazy-haired, child whipping, fetus aborting (at least I think so?), toilet-hugging, George Forman grill-having drug addicts,
(2) Shakey pretend crack addicts that I probably pissed off by taking the lord's name in vain,
(3) Long black haired, black eyelinered suicide girl who broke more than one statistical probability rule by shooting herself in the chest,
(4) Also, suicide girl had a Twilight poster on her wall--comes as no surpise that she had no self-respect,
(5) Some graveyard or something with a video of how young, sweet children binge drank themselves to death--they had pretty projected stars there,
(6) Some elevator with a stereotyped hip muthafucken black man where we were instructed to juuuuuuuuust dance--I may or may not have pulled out some ADPi Ice Ice Baby moves, just saying...

(7) S&M HELL. Complete with whips, chains, poles and stripper cages. Oh, and did I mention we met the devil there? I had my shoulder grazed by a demon, whom I promptly to the lord's name in vain to.

Whilst in S&M Hell, I subtly pulled off some Gaga moves and disrespected the lord by complaining about being forced to go into the light...yes, forced. While I wanted to stay and party it up in S&M Gagaland, the security guards forced us (much like cattle...metaphor?!) to walk towards the blinding white light. Where we were exposed to none other than THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Did they even have the rights to show the movie? Probably not. Then the movie disappeared and Real Jesus came out behind the curtain and we were instructed to follow him and the roman guards to the next room... [insert suspense]

JUMPING GYRATING JESUS H. CHRIST ON A CROSS! That Jesus had more ooph than Christina Aguilera and more fibulaic honesty than Shakira. And I mean that in the most awkwardly respectable way possible. Directly after gyrating Jesus, they plop you down for a movie, which strangely relates God and Jesus to Ralph Fiennes and token small child. Token small child gets smooshed by train (indirectly) by his father so that heroine addicts, self-involved women who wear makeup and loney people with large glasses could be Saved. And doesn't Ralph Fiennes see heroine addict a few years spinning happily around with a young son in the MIDDLE OF A HEAVILY TRAFFICKED SIDEWALK with no regard for the several people she almost carelessly runs into.

Then they pray for you, blah blah blah only people who don't believe in Jesus drink, commit suicide and get in car accidents, etc. and ask you to take a survey at the end. Survey, as I previously understood it, meant filling out a sheet of paper gauging my interests or reactions to certain topics on a numeric scale. Not so in Haunted Jesusland.

For a half hour, I was badgered into Christianity by a Jesus Guru who insisted that while she did not approve of scare tactics, this was perfectly acceptable and did I know God doesn't like religion? Hmm. While I genuinely enjoyed engaging in a dialogue with a person I normally would avoid like fanatic Twilight fans, she was very manipulative in the way that she would dodge my direct questions (how do you feel about people who use Christianity for political means? How can you argue that abortion doesn't cause infertility or breast cancer when it's a proven fact?) and go all anecdotal and sob-story on me. I refused to give her any personal information, which irritated her, and when I explained that I had been at rock bottom, she dismissed it on the grounds that no one gets out of rock bottom without Jesus. I told her that although we were at ideological stand stills, I appreciated her time and enjoyed talking to her. At that, I stood and shook her hand, which I'm pretty sure
stymied her and walked away.

Then I went back the next day ready for round two with Nikki.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Smile Time

Goddamn motherfucking bastard. Possibly the best line in the best chapter of Amanda Marcotte's It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments--Being Told to Smile by Strangers.

In my case, it isn't limited to just strangers. I get told to smile constantly from the man who calls me "Sammy Girl" at work. While there is a certain amount of misogyny in this practice, I don't think he's being purposely malicious--he was just conditioned to think that women like to be told to smile.

Newsflash: We don't.

According to Marcotte, the premise behind the "Smile!" brigade is to "remind a woman that she shouldn't forget [that] her first duty to the world is to provide a vacant but pleasing smile to everyone she encouners." While I don't necessarily disagree with her assertion, I believe there's a deeper level of socialized misogyny behind this frown-upside-down movement which actually ties in with more serious issues of verbal/sexual harassment. When you really boil down to why men (and I suppose in some instances, women) think they have some sort of duty to tell women to smile or think they have a right to cat-call or scream CUNT out of motor vehicles, it's because women are second-class citizens. Possibly stemming from Victorian era gender divisions where men were a part of the public sphere and women the domestic, women have less of a right to move freely through public space. Whether it's a (seemingly) benign "Smile!" or an aggressive slur (which, you'll notice, are female, because female=negative), these verbal cues remind women that they don't carry the same social merit that men do.

Last summer, I was walking down North Main on my way to the gym. A car drove past me and a man leaned out the window and cat called, and I called him a mutherfuck under my breath. As much as I hate to admit it, the first thing I thought about was my clothing--I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt that even my grandmother would consider conservative. Huzzah, another instance in which my feminist consciousness fails me and I revert back to the nineteen years of whatdidYOUdowrong socialization. Of course, the problem was not what I was wearing, regardless if I were to hypothetically to ever wear booty shorts and anything that didn't go at least 3/4 past my shoulders. The problem is some jackass who thinks it's okay (and possibly even flattering, yuck) to remind me that I am less than he. All the power was taken from me in that situation, because regardless if I were to ignore it, scream YOUFUCKINGASSHOLE back or go the passive-aggressive route, his attitudes would remain fundamentally unchanged.

If I want to smile, I will smile. If I want to walk with my trademark neutral expression that I've been told looks like I'm pissed off or aloof, I will walk in all my neutral-pissed off-aloof glory. There's little I can do to prevent stupid assholes from shouting things from car windows, but I can begin to stand up for myself and womenkind at work by (politely and demurely) calling out sexist behaviors. When I'm asked if I'm happy or grumpy, I'll ask if I have more than just two mood options. When asked (this happens continually, for some reason) if I drank over the weekend, I'll half-smile and not even dignify an answer. Ditto for the weight-loss questions.

I like to smile. In fact, I love smiling. But only on the condition that it is a genuine smile. I will not smile for the sake of vacancy and I will not be an emotional dichotomy.

In effect, I will be a person.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Deliberately Accidental Examination of Casual Footwear

Reading through Amanda Marcotte's It's a Jungle Out There: A Feminist's Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments, I excitedly (and excessively) scribbled poignant comments in the margins, just waiting for a free moment to write this blog. Before stumbling across There are No Good Options for Feminist Footwear: The Perils of Dressing While Feminist, I planned to blog about like...choice. Or something.

Then I had EPICRAGE and completely forgot.

Right under the title, I scrawled untrue, flippy floppies. Ha, that'd show her. Marcotte goes through shoe groups and explicates her reasoning for why each will bring you some feminist backlash:

birkenstocks (openly repulse sexual attractiveness),
high heels (bad feminist! fucks up your posture and feet),
steel-toed doc martens (if you want to be treated like a relic),
sneakers (don't want to be taken seriously?),
flats (more subtle than flaunting armpit hair),
bare feet (at the cost of looking like whatever the female version of a tool is [Ann Coulter]),
ballet flats (cuteness over pragmatism),

[you'll understand why I've isolated this last one]

flip flops (the favored footwear of sorority girls nationwide...blonde girls with full faces of makeup and their fair done wearing sweatshirts, shorts and flip-flops...they make it really hard to walk at more than a snail's pace, giving the wearer the proper feminine hobbled aura, presumably making her less threatening to men).

Ahem. Fuck you, Amanda Marcotte.

Before I go on a tirade about why flippy floppies are the best footwear known to humankind and why you're an asshole to assume that sorority girls are hobbly blondes who wear makeup, let's get to some unsettling assumptions she makes about the inherent feministness of footwear.

What is inherently feminist, or antifeminist for that matter, about footwear choices? Is it not the freedom of choice, rather than the actual choice that is feminist? If a woman choses to wear high heels and fuck up her back, that is her prerogative. I used to be all oh noes I'll never wear heels again, they're all about the patriarchy, but then I realized how GOOD my calves look in them. Plus, who doesn't like a challenge? I'd like to see a man try and walk when they're three feet off the ground. So go you, high-heels wearing girlfriend. I respect your decision to wear whatever footwear you damn well please.

Insertion of irrelevant personal story time. So, I have this dress. It is ADORABLE. I decided to wear it on the last day of classes, because I wanted to feel pretty on the last day. My choice. However, I have these cute little white sandals that go with it--but I didn't want to be too feminine, like I was trying too hard. I wanted to shake it up a bit, add an element of badassiness to it to show that while I can look pretty, I still won't take misogynist bullshit.

Enter BAMF boots.

Now, the only issue with these boots was that is was ASSJESUS hot outside. So I kind of looked like a doofus. So after my WS class, I decided to give my poor sweaty legs a break and switched up my footwear. But wait, I thought, am I going to lose face if I cave and wear the cutesy sandals? It was rough, but I chose comfort over BAMF gender transgression.

I chose my flippy floppies. Which didn't even match.


So back to why this irrelevant personal story ties in with the theme of the blog. My footwear switch was at matter personal choice. The decision to change my footwear was for no one other than me, and I what was so feminist about it is that because I felt that sandals would be too over-the-top cutesy, I compromised my BAMF boots with my green, unmatched flippy floppies.

So step the fuck off my hobbly flippy floppies, Amanda Marcotte, because my decison to wear them was inherently feminist because it was my decision and I'll be damned if I let someone tell me or any other person that I'm compromising my feminist beliefs by donning a certain style of footwear.

You're on my shit list.

[End SNAP]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Take This Hand 'Cause I'm Out

Yesterday, my mom called to tell me that my grandmother is in the hospital. She's doing okay, but has pneumonia. The first thing I think of? Jesus Christ, I hope my uncle isn't there when I visit. Second thought was how I had neglected to call her this past weekend, but I'll save my guilt-riddeness for another time.

See, my uncle is creepy as fuck. Fairly certain there was some unwarranted early childhood inappropriate touching, but as I have no means of verifying that, I've let it go. In the sense that I don't bring it up at family gatherings. However, I have a physical aversion to this man. Physical, not just psychological or emotional. As I epic win at male character judgement, I trust this instinct and follow it to the best of my ability. Problem is, empowered as I may be within a feminist and women's studies context, I feel that I have very little control over who touches my body in the real world.

Now, not all touches are bad. I've recieved hugs and kisses and such from well-meaning friends and family that have made me feel uncomfortable, but I'd chalk that up to my extreme uncomfortableness with physical contact. I've definitely grown in the not-freaking-out-at-people-showing-me-physical-affection department, but I'm still fairly reserved when it comes to my space bubble. Unfortunately, I think this makes me come off as aloof. I am aloof to a certain extent, not because I think I'm superior or uncaring, but because as a rule, am emotionally baggaged and lack the social skills necessary to function in touchy-feely group contexts (re: sorority).

My goal this semester (strikingly similar to last semester's goal, sans my life being one long emergency) is to be more social. Not just attending sorority functions, which are uncomfortable to me on several levels (opposite sex, drinking, being around more than three people in general), but engaging with people beyond the superficiality of so how are your classes? (Not that I have anything against asking people how their days were, I'd just like to talk about something beyond first-day-of-orientation topics.)

I just realized that I'm way the fuck off topic.

So back to the reason that I wrote this before I spilled out my feelings about my life for the past six months, I'm afraid to visit my grandmother because I don't want my uncle to try and touch me. Sadly, he has all the power in this situation. (Backstory: He was in a motorcycle accident that gave him brain damage after he was running from the cops in Kentucky and was coked out and drunk, and now the family babies him even though I know he knows what is and is not appropriate conduct. Oh, and rather than coke and alcohol, he's addicted to Jesus...much worse, in my opinion.) Hypothetically, if I were to say fuckoffyoufuckingpervdon'ttouchme, that wouldn't go over so well with my grandmother, who is unaware that I'm a flaming liberal who *gasp* swears. (PS, I love my grandmother dearly. Just not entirely sure she gets me.) Potentially, I could get away with him not touching me on account of he doesn't bathe, but even then I feel that my family would look down upon that. My feminist consciousness is like, what the fuck, it's your body, do what you want but my social consciousness is like, holy shit, don't make your family mad, you're a girl and who are you to police who hugs you?

So, I have an unsolvable problem. I don't want to piss off my family, but I feel nauseated when he's in my general proximity. When my mom is around, he doesn't mess with me. ('Nother backstory: he sexually propositioned my mother after my father died, he stares at me, and once when he and my grandparents were at dinner, he stared at my mom who shouted WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU STARING AT and he hasn't bothered her since. Love her.) My strategy for contact avoidance now is not going to my grandparent's before five, without my mom, or at all, and when he IS around, always staying low to the ground and generally ignoring him. It works in theory, but I don't want to avoid him at the expense of seeing my grandparents, both of whom are in their eighties. I'm going to have to stand up for myself eventually, but as I've been pegged as the good-girl sweetheart of the family (my competition is coke addicts, alcoholics, drop-outs and violaters of the law, so it's not like I have to even try), I feel like breaking out of that is going to hurt my family in some way. They all love my mom and appreciate her outspokenness, but for some reason, I think they'd be less than enthused if I went fucken ballistic and told my uncle off. And I can't just politely say gee uncle greg, you haven't bathed since '96, i'd prefer if you didn't touch me because he'd make an ordeal out of it. Subtlety is not his strong suit, so I'm pretty sure this is going to be pretty much a big deal.


Monday, June 15, 2009

It is My Most Sincere Wish That Bill O'Reilly Choke on His Own Shit and Die

There are few things in this world than I hate more than right-wing religious bigots. So, it should come as no surprise that Bill O'Reilly is at the top of my "I Hope You Choke on Your Own Shit and Die" list. Let me explain. Amy Richards, co-author of Manifesta (alongside girlcrush Jennifer Baumgardner) went on O'Reilly's rightwingasfuck talk show The O'Reilly Factor. Wouldn't you know, it addressed the topic of abortion, specifically the services provided by the late George Tiller.

Barely allowing Richards a word in edgewise, O'Reilly goes on a ultraconservativerepublican tangent about "baby killing" and how clinics exacerbate the problem of rape by not releasing the rapists' names (he has proof they have the names, though he neglects to name his source). Now, one (meaning me) could argue that rather than releasing the names of rapists and jailing them (which, incidentally, is less jail time than if you're caught with MJ), society could deal with the rape epidemic by not socializing men to think that the bodies of women are ohsoavailable to them. Or, rather than up to a year of jail time, cut their fucking dicks off and feed them to wild boars. Problem solved.

I understand that the problem of rape is not limited to male aggression towards women, but for the purposes of this blog I'm sticking to the status quo. And interestingly enough, I came upon another instance in which O'Reilly discusses rape--this time, he blamed two moronic young girls for their car breaking down.

Were these girls asking for it? Well...not exactly. But they were moronic and their car did break down. And the girl was wearing a midriff-bearing halter top (perish the thought!) and a mini-skirt. Victimblamingvictimblamingvictimblaming. Good on you, Bill. Good on you.

Oh, and did I mention that ACLU is hypocritical?

I'm not even going to touch that one.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Look Both Ways, Except for Straight

So because of my extreme girl crush on Jennifer Baumgardner, I ordered her book Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics even though it's not all that relevant to my interests. Only, after getting through the first couple chapters, it actually kind of is.

Although not a blatant heterosexual, I am attracted to men--a very specific kind which I don't too often come upon, hence the familial assumption of gayness (I covered this in an earlier blog). Although Baumgardner is clearly writing her book for very specific reasons and to a very specific audience (re: bisexual), I feel like any open-minded person can relate in some way to this book. I haven't exactly finished it yet, as I am all too often prone to staring out the window and spacing the fuck out, but I've come to notice some very specific behaviors I display around the physical book itself: I flip it to the back cover. To be fair, I'm the token flaming liberal within the pocket of conservatism that is Allegheny Security, and as I do not enjoy my Fox News-watching employers making jabs at the unfairness of Miss California's firing (rly?!) or Obama-smashing, I can only imagine my irritation at the discussion that would surround the scandalous topic of bisexuality. (Sorry my sentences are so long-winded.) I do not wish to be teased, however playfully (though I'd challenge the notion of playfulness as it is a means to ridicule under the guise of humor) about my sexual preference, which is really no one's business in the first place. So, I turn the book over. If I am quizzed about it, I can always reply honestly--I'm not a bisexual, but I'm interested in the topic and things that relate to gender, sexuality and politics are always relevant to my interests.

This frees me in a way that real-life bisexuals are not. I'm not suggesting that they're not sexually free in and of themselves, but within the context of society (and patriarchy!), there are limitations set on sexual expressivity (may or may not be a word). I'd argue that for anyone not a WASPy male, there are societal limitations on sexual expressivity, but Baumgardner has made me realize that even non-WASPs pose limitations on bisexual expression, including my beloved Elizabeth Wurtzel, who stated something along the lines of "you've gotta choose sometime."

Ah huh.

Currently, I've got Look Both Ways face up. Though it's kind of a lame gesture to make up for all my heteronormative heterosexism (that was probably redundant), I feel like I am, in some small way, making a political statement. I think it is perfectly fine to be bisexual. You fuck whomever you want to fuck, regardless of what's between their legs.

I guess what I'm trying to convey here is that if you try and step outside your own sexuality (be it straight, gay, lesbian, queer, bi- or omni-sexual), you can learn about your own conscious or unconscious prejudices that result from years and years of heteronormative socialization. And you may develop crushes on brilliant authors who you'd probably not want to sleep with.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Political Activism 101, or Why I'm Paranoid as Shit That I've Become a Manic Depressive

Jessica Valenti is coming to Allegheny. I've decided.

Problem is, I have no money and really poor persuasion skills. As the VP of Young Fems, I feel it is my duty to bring Valenti to speak to our campus as she can cater to both a feminist and nonfeminist audience. In addition to being the center of my universe, she is an incredibly witty and talented writer and speaker.

To shift the focus to me for a moment because I'm narcissistic, this sudden JESSICA-IS-COMING revelation was somewhat disconcerting to me, as I have been terrified of developing bipolar disorder since I learned the first episode generally occurs by the time you turn twenty (which, incidentally, happened to me yesterday. The turning twenty thing, that is). My last blog was about my general disinterestedness in Valenti's Purity Myth, so this dramatic shift was like ZOMFGNOWAI WHERE DID THIS COME FROM? But, I've decided that rather than seeing this mood shift as signs of my inevitable manic depressive doom, I'm going to take this as a sign that I'm on my way to mental wellness.

Shifting focus again, sans narcissism.

So as I'm sitting bored as shit at my job, I start thinking about my future as VP of Young Fems. What should we do this semester? I've always been a fan of speakers, but I don't know that everyone shares that sentiment. Also, they're hella expensive (I apologize for my use of the word hella...I've been trying to bring it back but it's just not happening and the sooner I get that through my subconscious the sooner my writing will be less post-Just a Girl Gwen Stefani-esque). I thought it would be neat to have a woman come in and teach some self-defense moves, but after reading several passages of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape (edited by Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman) I began questioning the need for women to have to defend themselves. That, of course, is tied in with women's bodies being marketed as cultural rather than personal (as in, the woman's) property, which ties in with the way women's sexuality is commodified and how men are socialized to believe they have some sort of, I dunno, RIGHT to women's bodies and sexuality. Therefore, Valenti. Her books are a huuuuge FUCK YOU bold underline exclamation point to the social, political and ecomonic powers who have specific interests in perpetuating the commodification of the female body. (Sorry I insert waytoomany words into sentences but I am an highly caffeinated feminist English major.)

I guess what I'm going for here is that I think I'm finally in a place where I am mentally well enough to really push for a speaker like Valenti on our campus. Ghandi wants me to be the change I want to see in the world, and I can see no better way to change the world than to open my campus's (goddamn I can't figure out how to pluralize that correctly, I hope that's right) eyes to feminist consciousness. I'm ready to rally Young Fems with the FMLA (Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance), SPEAK (Students Promoting Eating Disorder Awareness and Knowledge--may be a bit of a stretch, but the pres is my sister), ASG (student government) and the Women's Studies department to get her on campus. Plz can has?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

STOP. Summertime.

It's only been about a month into summer, and I am bored as shit. I miss blogging. I miss Women's Studies solidarity. I miss reading and discussing articles, or listening to other people's opinions of articles I don't underfuckingstand. Since I don't have to blog anymore, I haven't been keeping up with my regular dose of feminist literature, which is unfortunate, to say the least. Actually, I've been reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but that's another story entirely.

A few weeks ago, I finished Jessica Valenti's The Purity Myth. Although Valenti's books are pretty much the center of my universe, I found that I was disappointed with it overall. It's difficult for me to discern whether I really thought it was lacking, or whether I was just too goddamn depressed and involved in my own issues to care about right-wing propaganda and funny, intelligent feminist prose. I'm guessing it's the latter, because Valenti is practically Jesus in my eyes.

This brings me to the point of this blog: a definite lack in mentally ill or psychological feminist literature. Elizabeth Wurtzel notwithstanding (Prozac Nation is incredibly relevant to my interests), I'm hard pressed to find feminist survival guides to, well, myself. I mean, is there a feminist way of coping with mental illness? I certainly think so, but I would love to read up on some discourse on the links between patriarchy and mental wellness (or the lack thereof). In the self-help/improvement section of Barnes and Noble, I found a memoir of a woman who struggled for (literally) decades with anorexia and bulimia. I find memoirs to be feminist in themselves, but after reading through just the second chapter, I found this woman to be an incredibly feminist inspiration. I'm always unsure about memoirs, as there is an element of narcissism in their very nature. However, I'm much more open about them since Wurtzel's Prozac Nation, and I think they can certainly be beneficial to people in similar situations.

Anyway, the link between the eating disorder memoir and feminism is that at practically infanthood, the woman was subjected to unhealthy attitudes about eating. Body image is thematic throughout (obviously), which is very much a third-wave issue. Why, then, is feminism not addressed at all? It's certainly not necessary to market feminism in a memoir about eating disorders, but the two are inextricably linked. Perhaps it was the choice of the author, or it may have been the publishing house itself. Maybe I'm making too big a deal about the inclusion of feminism within psychological/mental health literature just because I believe it would be beneficial to me. Soapbox soapbox soapbox.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Choosy Moms Choose Selective Abortion

Wow, that was crass. But this is something that I feel pretty strongly about, as it relates to women's reproductive choice. Garland-Thompson's Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory touched on the subject of selective abortion, citing a source that seen it as "a coercive form of genocide against the disabled." That's a pretty bold statement. As I am not in the strictest sense disabled, I am probably fairly biased in my belief that selective abortion is an okay thing. Of course, like all grey issues, there are some lines that shouldn't be crossed--selective abortion of females in India is actually not okay. The problem with line-drawing, however, is how the lines get decided and who decides them.

When dealing with severe mental disabilities, you have to consider that not only will the child in question be affected, but you, your family and Uncle Sam will as well. Even though it can be argued that you can't prenatally determine quality of life, you CAN determine your own social and economic standing to assess your ability to properly care for a special needs child. In no way am I suggesting that mentally or physically disabled people can't live fulfilling lives; I'm just pointing to important and apparently overlooked facts to consider when bringing another human being into the world.

Arguments against selective abortion describe it as eugenics. Which, honestly, I don't see as that bad of a thing. With all the medical technology available nowadays, natural selection has been placed on the back burner of society. Just to clarify that I'm not that big of an asshole, what I have in mind right now are artificial methods of preserving life. Talkin' Terri Schaivo here. Social Security was not meant to provide for people living into their eighties and nineties, and the burden of providing for their care is going to cripple the system (I'm talking to you, baby boomers). I think there's a definate connection between anti-choicers and anti-let-suffering-old-people-diers in that the life and death cycle become unnatural. The Catholic Church is all "from conception to natural death!!1!" but with modern technology, death isn't natural anymore. Unless you get run over or something. With so much technology to prolong life, there's less of an emphasis on death as an inevitability. I mean, yes there is, but not as an immediate kind of thing, and the likelihood of women dying in childbirth nowadays is much less than way back when.

So I've kind of been all over the place, but what I'm trying to articulate here is that the cultural anxiety of controlling and regulating death is what people are making a fuss about, because it's taking the control out of the hands of society and into individuals' hands. And since individuals inevitably have different ideologies and values, there's a lot more grey as opposed to your cut-and-dry 'abortion is bad because it kills babies and gives you breast cancer' arguments.

Monday, April 13, 2009

beauty in ambiguity

[For the record, I didn't capitalize the title of this blog for a]

I'm just going to put this out there right now--I'm an ignorant asshole. No really. I hardcore judge myself for it, too. When I see a person whose gender is not clearly definable, my mind inevitably wanders where I try to keep it from most...I wonder if they're a boy or girl.

Ass. Hole.

I guess what I'm trying to convey here is that despite all my women's studies training and my own personal values of basic human (excepting right-wing evangelicals) rights, the topic of transgenderism is uncomfortable for me. I want so badly to understand them and to make them feel comfortable, but the very fact that I'm categorizing them as a 'them' separate from myself is so anti-women's studies it makes my head spin. I want them to know that I support them, but I don't want to just support them for the sake of supporting them because I don't really know them. Them them them them them. I'm grouping them as thems rather than as the individuals that they really are. I can't even imagine the struggles they face--although I perform a feminine gender, I have the mouth of a sailor and other various traits culturally constructed as masculine, and I've gotten shit for it. If I get policed for violating my gender, I can't even fathom what they face daily. I don't want to be "that girl" that has to ask them a series of what I would feel are really personal questions about their gender identity if I don't know them. That would be like calling them out on their gender variance, and I'm not cool with doing that. And there I go with grouping them into a collective again--I feel like I'm being narrow-minded despite my desperate attempts not to be.

I just want to know more. And I feel like I'd be imposing if I just walked up to someone and was like "well hello, I'm awkwardly forward in conversations and I'd really love to know which third-person pronouns you prefer." So then, the academic nerd in me is like, "oh! I'll read books on them with personal narratives and the like!" And while I feel that knowledge and research is good, I feel like I'm being clinical (and very much patriarchal) in the way that I feel like they're so different from me that I have to check out a book to understand them. They're not fucking calculus. They're people.

I'm just really, really confused about this and I don't want to be an ignorant asshole anymore.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Society Without Feminism

All throughout my copy of The Handmaid's Tale, there are marginal marks like "What the fuck," "Are you serious?!" and "Asshole right-wing religious rhetoric." Actually, when I say marks, what I mean is I literally scribbled in the margins about how fucked up the Gilead society was. I think what really frightened me (as well as pissed me off) was that it could really happen.

And, more importantly, I could let this happen.

I'm not suggesting that if given the opportunity, I would don a long red dress and a hat with unflattering white wings and prostitute myself for an impotent son of a bitch patriarch. I'm saying that when it comes down to it, my self-preservationist instinct would (more likely than not) lead me to be a complicit participant in this society. And that bothers the hell out of me.

A particular passage relevant to my interests is in the aply named Salvaging (chapter 41): "By telling you anything at all I'm at least believing in you, I believe you're there, I believe you into being. Because I'm telling you this story I will your existence. I tell, therefore you are."

There's a lot going on in this relatively small passage. Not only does Atwood rhetorically draw you into the story and make you an active participant, but she makes it your duty to prevent this kind of world--she makes you accountable. The "I tell, therefore you are" is more likely than not an allusion to Descartes' "I think, therefore I am," but again Atwood shapes and creates her own meaning with it. Rather than think, which has been associated throughout history as masculine, she choses tell--the reclamation of women's stories and validation of their experiences is integral to feminism. The final you are in opposition to I am once again draws you into the story; our existance is affected by Offred's experience in that it forces us to look at how we are oppressed in our own lives, and makes us accountable to both ourselves and human kind in general so as to not let something like Gilead happen again.

But the thing is, Gilead has happened in one form or another. And women as well as men have let things like this happen. Decent people who were too afraid of the consequences of rebellion. Fear is a powerful tool, and under the regime of our highly-esteemed former president Bush, reproductive rights have slowly been chipped away, phones of people who don't fit the description of WASP have been (illegally) tapped, and thousands of American soliders have died (or been emotioally scarred) for the almighty fucking dollar.

And we let it happen.

I'm not saying that it's any individual's fault, or that there hasn't been feminist (and non-feminist) resistance to these injustices, but the fact that a son of a bitch like George Junior could get away with things like this is inexcusable.

I guess what really made me blog about this is that sometimes I feel like I'm not a good enough feminist because I'm not out on the front lines marching in equality parades (or what have you). Instead, I sit and blog about how pissed I am. Sure, going to school is a pretty legit way to forward and enhance my feminist consciousness...but am I being too academic at the expense of political activism that's going to actually invoke change?

Oh, and here's a really irrelevant picture of me being Rosie the Riveter:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An Unhappy Vagina Happy Fact

Two days ago, I participated in The Vagina Monologues. As in, I was a vagina happy fact. Although I had like, three lines, this was pretty much a big deal for me as I am bug shit terrified of all things related to being the center of attention. But I was okay. I mean, sure, I was nervous and all, but all in all I think I did fairly well. I was a happy Vagina Happy Fact.

The next day rolled around, and I was still a happy Vagina Happy Fact. I got complimented by a couple fans, which made me feel fantastic as I half-expected to have a panic attack on stage and die. I was all 'tra-la'la' in my little Vagina Happy Fact world, pleased to know that Young Feminists' first big event had been a success. All was well in the world. Then, per usual, my happy feminist world was confronted with patriarchy. See, I was going to wear my VM t-shirt today. I was thrilled to wear it. But then I remembered that I had work. (I should preface the following by saying that I love my job and the people I work for--it's the socialized gender norms and [un]conscious sexism that they've internalized.)

The first thought that popped into my head when I thought of work was that vaginas are inappropriate in the work place. And then I was like, why the fuck is that? Why is me supporting a play that supports victims of domestic violence inappropriate? Really, it's not. What's inappropriate are vaginas. Did you know Family Video carries a movie featuring Jenna Jameson as a zombie stripper, but it refuses to carry a piece of legitimate art like the Monologues? Apparently, vaginas are not family-friendly. How's that for irony.

Vaginas have been perjorated. Vaaaaaaagggggiiiiiiinaaaaaa. It's not an attractive word by any means, but why is it such a taboo to say it? I'll admit that I feel awkward saying it. Vagina. I don't like saying it in class. Vagina. Mostly it gets called 'female genitals.' I've personally never heard of the penis being called a 'male genital.' 'Cause it's okay to say penis. Penis penis penis penis. But not vagina.

A few of my family members came up to see the show to support me, which was really fantastic of them. My mother almost called my grandmother to invite her, but she said (and I quote): I just couldn't say 'vagina' in front of your grandmother. And honestly, my grandmother would have probably had a heart attack and would come back to haunt me for having the audacity to say 'clitoris' on stage. As this was my first and probably last public performance, I want to tell people about it and I want to be proud that I was a part of it. And I am. Only...I can't say vagina. It offends people.


It is not okay to have a vagina and to be proud.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Territorial Pissings

In Gender Trouble, Judith Butler breaks down the dualistic sex structure by stating that "a culturally specific epistemic a priori establishes the naturalness of 'sex.'" She conceptualizes the body as a social construct--a cultural artifact on which the values of society (or the individual) are expressed.

Given all my thoughts on LeVande's talk, this is somewhat disconcerting.

I had the misfortune of having Beyonce's Single Ladies stuck in my head all day. And the thing is, I had no idea what the hell she was saying besides "If you like it, than you should have put a ring on it" (which incidentally sounds like "Iffyoulikethenyashuddaputtariingownit," just saying). I decided to Youtube the video last night after SAMS, a lip-syncing contest in which the song appeared not once, but three times (one by the dance team, and twice by fraternities--'cause it's funny when boys act like girls). And I was pretty much appalled:

'Cause if you liked it then
You shoulda put a ring on it
If you liked it then
You shoulda put a ring on it
Don't be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it then
You shoulda put a ring on it

I got gloss on my lips, a man on my hips
Hold me tighter than my Dereon jeans
Acting up, drink in my cup
I could care less what you think
I need no permission, did I mention
Don't pay him any attention
'Cause you had your turn
But now you gonna learn
What it really feels like to miss me

Hokay. So. The you being addressed here is both subject and male, while the it, the object, is female. And if the subject likes the object, then he should probably mark the object as his own lest another subject encroach upon his territory.

Among many things, what is particularly disturbing when considering this song through the lense of Judith Butler's Gender Trouble is the body as a cultural artifact. If the single ladies of this song are indeed cultural artifacts, what's that saying about our culture if cultural artifacts are meant to be owned? Does this once again connect to the fucking prehistoric association of men with culture and women with nature? Are women's bodies meant to be controlled and regulated by patriarchal social, political and governmental forces that have economic interests in keeping women in subjugated positions?!

Although it's hard for me to choose what's most alarming about this song, I'd have to say it'd be how Beyonce portrays this as empowering. She don't need no permission and could care less what you think...but you really, really have should have put a ring on it several times over because now it has the self-satisfaction of knowing that you're in psychological distress over the loss of patriarchal power over it.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Losing My Faith in Humanity One Lap Dance at a Time

This blog began as a rant on why I hate Tila Tequila, but shifted after I joined the Facebook group "Boycott N.E.R.D." I actually hesitated joining at first, because I thought they were probably harmless, and there was no need to make a big feminist fuss about it. Well, upon further investigation, I discovered I was wrong:

You got somethin boys can't deny [here's a hint] / It's like apple pie / Cut ya open and you're just WIDE / You ain't tired / You are the cause of riots who could say no to you? / Wait till they get a load of you /A hundred dollar bills look (at you, at you) / A hundred dollar bills look (at you, at you) / A hundred dollar bills look (at you, at you) / A hundred dollar bills look (at you, at you).

Where to begin. Well, for starters, boys can't deny that those of the feminine gender (I'm hesitant to say 'women' because that connotes personhood) have something they need--because all boys are straight and categorizing them as 'boys' indicates a kind of exploratory sexuality, connoting a variety of experience (and/or partners). Much like apple pie, females are delicious baked goods that are soley for the purpose of consumption (specifically MALE consumption in this instance). And don't forget the intersection of violence and sexuality! 'Cut ya open' implies a forceful opening that is more likely than not, as consentual sex (to my knowledge) does not involve sharp pointed objects (and no, a penis does not count as sharp). Wide has a disturbing connotation to women "wanting it"-- after all, if they're wide open (by sharp pointed intruments or otherwise), they're clearly asking you to sexually violate and degraded them. If she ain't tired, that must mean she's either fucking you like a porn star or she's struggling against you--and although these often get conflated, I think it's contextually safe to suggest it's the latter. Women being the cause of riots makes me think of the devastating effect wars have on women--their bodies are violated as a sign of triumphant victory. What could be better for conquering nations than to spread their victorious seed to the defeated peoples? Wait 'til they get a load of you--'they' being a collective of predatory males and you being a non-being. The final chorus of "hundred dollar bills" is especially disturbing in the video, because it shows women's faces being covered with, well, hundred dollar bills. I wonder what they had to do to get it?

The optimist in me was hoping that this would be the only song in which women were not considered to be people. That, however, was shattered upon discovering Lapdance:

Chicks nick-name me pilot / They get high off my dick / I take 'em to my home, they call it the cock pit / Time for take off, their panties they drop quick / Now that's first class fuckin, and that' some fly shit.

Chicks. As baby chickens made no appearance within the music video, this term was decidedly imposed upon those of the feminine gender. Honestly, I don't even need to do an analysis of this--the words speak for their mysogynist selves. What really disappointed me about this song, though, is when you first go through the lyrics, it sounds like it's politically charged:

It's this society / That makes a nigga wanna kill / I'm just straight ill Ridin' my motorcycle down the streets / While politicians is soundin' like strippers to me / They keep sayin' but I don't wanna hear it...

I wasn't really sure about the strippers part, but I figured it could be something along the lines of them selling themselves out for money. That made a lot of sense to me. However, upon viewing the first, say, ten seconds of the music video, I was sadly mistaken. I don't know that I've ever seen more booty/boob/crotch shots than I have in the first seventeen seconds of that video.

I'd like to end with two lyrics that I find to be particularly intriguing:

Oooh baby you want me? / Well you can get this lap dance here for free.

"Oh, wait, you're sexually attracted to my gyrations and booty shorts? Well, let me just tell you that because I have been socialized to devalue myself by patriarchal media, I will gyrate myself towards and onto you for no charge. See, normally it would cost you, because the only value I hold in society is tied to my sexuality, but because you're oppressed as a black man and because you are a societal rebel you can have this for free."

I am astounded that they are bringing this musical group to campus.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Location, Location, Location

I find a lot of what we've been reading over the past couple weeks to be a bit overwhelming, as it is difficult for me to grapple with the isms and posts of different schools of feminist theory. So I think that when feminist authors give me their social location, it helps me conceptualize WHY they've invested themselves in a certain facet of feminist theory. I suppose it makes it a little more concrete (and interesting!) when they specifically relate their life to the theory they're arguing for, and it helps me to evaluate where my own thought and experience falls based on my social location. bell hooks' article does just this, and her explanation legitimizes her personal experience as a kind of feminist theory:

"Growing up in a black, working-class, father-dominated household, I experienced coercive adult male authority as more immediately threatening, as more likely to cause immediate pain, than racist oppression or class exploitation. It was equally clear that experiencing exploitation and oppression in the home made one feel all the more powerless when encounter dominating forces outside the home."

bell hooks is absolutely fucking cool. Not only is she investing the reader in her article by giving her social location, she's also deconstructing the patriarchal belief that theory is only legitimate within broader societal contexts. She is owning her own experience as feminist theory. So. Cool.

One (of the many) things I like best about feminism is that it helps me understand how power dynamics in my family have shaped the person I am today. My mother had me when she was nineteen, and my father was mid-thirtysomething. He was an alcoholic, and because of his gender, economic status, and age, he was a domineering force over my mother. I suppose I can't fault him overmuch on the way he was, as it is a long-standing male Stanko tradition to be domineering alcoholics who tend to emotionally damage the younger generations. This longstanding tradition was influenced by poverty, world wars, and ethnic oppressions that have influenced the power dynamics of my family for more generations than I can count.

So, rather than be pissed off at the way I am because of longstanding mental illness tradition of my family, feminist theory has allowed me to understand and come to terms with the person I'm becoming. It is a vehicle in which I have kind of reclaimed some elements of my past, let go of others, and it's something I hope to share with other feminists (and non-feminists, if they're willing to listen) in the hopes of changing the patterns of anger and abuse I see all too often in my family and in other families.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Straight and Narrow

I'm straight, but I don't advertise it. In fact, I am aggressively private about my love life. I feel like it's no one's business but my own, but unfortunately, this doesn't always translate well with a certain sect of my biological relations. They're conservative Republicans, you see, and although I love them dearly despite their conserviosity, it genuinely pisses me off when I have to explicitly state that I am indeed not a Big Bad Lesbian. Incidentally, this relates to Wittig's The Straight Mind. Wittig states:

"For heterosexual society is the society which not only oppresses lesbians and gay men, it oppresses many different/others, it oppresses all women and many categories of men, all those who are in the position of the dominated."

Hey wow, I am oppressed for being straight! Now, I'm not suggesting that I am oppressed to the same extent as lesbians or bisexual women. I'm simply stating that I'm oppressed because I refuse to subscribe to touchy-feely heterosexual norms. I refuse to enter a relationship unless I am absolutely certain that it would be egalitarian. Basically, I'm oppressed because I don't flaunt my heterosexuality. I'm not attracted to muscular Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque men; I think intellectual nerds in sweater vests are damn sexy. But, that's a different story.

A certain relation once asked me what my major was. When I replied, "English and Women's Studies," I received what only can be described as the stink eye. Rather than asking me what exactly Women's Studies was, he snidely asked me what exactly I'd be doing with those majors. When I replied that I'm definitely going for a Master's and (hopefully!) a Doctorate, I was then lectured on when and when not to have my children. According to this relative, I should definitely wait to reproduce until after my Master's, but because Doctoral degrees take several years, I could have them during that time. Because marriage is the only option for a woman, and as such, I should care more about my biological clock than my education. After all, my linguistic prowess and feminist inquiry will be utterly useless when pitted against The Infant.

And the heteronormative fun doesn't stop there. Because I am a feminist and believe that women are indeed people and NOT doormats, my sexuality is often called into question. As if wanting equal pay for equal work was a bad thing. Never being in a serious relationship has also raised some serious suspicions. Of course, they're too polite to boldly come out and ask me which gender I am sexually attracted to, so as an alternative, they backhandedly make comments and innuendos to get me to 'fess up. Which is a) really fucking irritating and b) none of their goddamned business.

Essentially, this article made me realize that although I have certain privileges that bisexual women and lesbians don't, everyone is affected by heterosexism: "the straight mind cannot conceive of a culture, a society where heterosexuality would not order not only all human relationships but also its very production of concepts and all the processes which escape consciousness."

I can only imagine what a clusterfuck of greatness would result in the end of heteronormativity.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I'm Just Being Honest, Asshole. I'd Expect You to Know the Difference.

I was really hesitant to write about this, mostly because it makes me feel like I'm being condescending. Which, incidentally, I kind of am, but I'm not really trying to's just kind of how it is. See, after my first Women's Studies course (Spring 2008--Women, Suffrage, and Political Participation with Nina Kasniunas, who is epically awesome), I really started growing into and becoming more comfortable with feminism. In fact, I thought it was the absolute bee's knees, as did my two best friends who also took Women's Studies 100 that same semester. During first semester of Freshman year we were like, "Feminism? Piffle! That's for bra-burning crazies." We went under a kind of feminist transformation during the course of Freshman year, and by the end I had decided to take on a second major in Women's Studies.
Okay, so this is the part where I connect my seemingly irrelevant story to our class, via Joreen's BITCH Manifesto: "...Bitches who have not succumbed totally to self-hatred are most comfortable of all only in the company of fellow bitches. "These are her true peers and the only ones with whom she does not have to play some sort of role. Only with other Bitches can a Bitch be truly free."
The thing is, this is really, really true, and in a lot of ways that feels frightening to me. I love my friends from home dearly, but try as I might to get them interested in feminism (I've even loaned out my beloved copies of Jessica Valenti's ""Full-Frontal Feminism" and Inga Muscio's "Cunt") it doesn't seem to be sticking. I usually get this kind of glazed-over look when I start talking about the pay disparity, and when I try and explain what androcentrism and heteronormativity are to my family members, they kind of dismiss it as me trying to sound more intelligent than they are. Granted, I am intelligent, and I can understand why they think I'm just being an ass, but feminism is something that has completely transformed my life and is constantly challenging my own assumptions and how I view the world. It's just so fucking awesome and I want to share it with everyone that I love and care about because re: FUCKING AWESOME.
So back to why this is relevant to the BITCH Manifesto. Around non-(not to be confused with anti-) feminist family and friends, I often feel uncomfortable bringing up why I don't think it's okay that gays and lesbians are denied the right to marry, why pro-choice is actually pro-life because it's pro-people-who-are-already-alive-who-have-every-right-to-do-with-their-bodies-as-they-see-fit, and just what exactly Women's Studies is. I have not and will never deny that I am a feminist, but I feel like I'm forced to play a role when put into certain social (usually surrounded by Republicans) situations. I have never felt this way around my best friends, nor in any of the Women's Studies classes I've taken. Even if I don't agree with someone's views, I never feel as if I'm playing games around self-identified feminists, because like them, I've Just Said No to patriarchal bullshit. It's only around the feminist types that I feel truly free to be myself, and while that's empowering in many ways, it also makes me feel limited in other social situations with people I care about. And honestly, I'm not quite sure what to make of that.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Period Control

Margaret Sanger's "Birth Conrol--A Parents' Problem or Woman's?" addressed the historically controversial issue of maternal regulation of infant production. She argues that women have been enslaved by their biological reproductive function, and she alone has the burden of "carrying, bearing and rearing the unwanted children" (139). Yet because the nature of human reproduction requires two parties, she urges that "responsibility of controlling the results should not be placed on the woman alone" (138). Although concluding that birth control is indeed a woman's problem seems to be contradictory to her "persistent urging" that it should not be, it actually highlights an underlying issue in regards to sexual activity that continues today. If consensual, the responsibility of safe sex should fall onto both parties. Logical, right? Unfortunately, because of biology and patriarchy, the responsibility more often than not falls on to the woman.

And you've just gotta love a society with heath care coverages that offer aging men the chance to recover some semblance of their erectile masculinity (Viva Viagra!) yet deny sexually active women of all ages the right to control and regulate their baby makers as they see fit.

Although Sanger's article still (unfortunately) continues to be relevant in the so-called "liberated" twenty-first century in terms of birth control being a "chick" thing, there isn't as much outward social resistance to birth control as there was in her time. Sure, we've got relgious right-wing extremist groups like Army of God who declare that "women using an oral contraceptive are committing abortions on themselves," anti-choice pharmacists that deny medical prescripions on the basis of brainwashed conservatism, and papal denunciations, but for the most part, birth control has become a socially accepted practice. That is, if you're using it to control your periods.

Sarah Haskins, a writer and performer for the 24-hour news channel parody Current has a bi-weekly segment entitled "Target Women." For approximately three minutes, Haskins shows media clips on a specific topic (Yogurt, Weddings, Sarah Palin, Number Two, etc.) and points out how sexist and stereotypical ads are that targeted to women. She did a segment on birth control, and how it's marketed as period rather than baby control: "Fewer periods, yaaay. Now we don't have to leave the tribe and go sit in that hut for a week. That was a bummer." Although satirical in nature, the birth control segment of Target Women illustrates Sanger's main argument that birth control is essentially a woman's problem. However socially accepted period control is now, there continue to be threats against women's control of their bodies. Until sexual responsibility is shared between partners and the religious right dissolves, women's access to affordable birth control and safe abortions will continue to be compromised. Though we still have far to go, it's important to remember that we've come a long way and to continue to fight for Margaret Sanger's reproductive justice: "Woman must not accept; she must challenge."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Feminism: A Many-Headed Monster?

Last semester in WS100, we did an activity where we had to ask a few people what their definition of feminism was. Naturally, I wanted to know what my non-feminist friends and family thought it meant, considering all the times that I've gotten those glazed over and uncaring stares when I get on a tangent about societal injustices committed against women. I got a couple "I don't knows" (which really bugged me, because hello, I've explained it how many times?) and generic "women who fight for women's rights" (which is true, yes, but it's so much more than that). I'd have to say that the most interesting was from my grandmother, who said that while she thought they did some good things (equal pay...which, incidentally, I didn't bring up the twenty-four cent disparity on the grounds that she a) probably doesn't care and b) is retired), she thought they took some things too far. She was rather ambiguous on what exactly the thing they took too far was, but she did say with some degree of certainty that she doesn't like their short hair because it isn't feminine enough. So, in shifting from my socially conservative grandmother to my liberal feminist textbook, I was somewhat taken aback when feminism was described as

"A many headed-monster which cannot be destroyed by singular decapitation. We spread and grow in ways that are incomprehensible to a hierarchial mentality."

Now, maybe it's the overly imaginative English nerd in me, but the words "decaptation," "spread," and "grow" were somewhat unsettling to me. Decapitation makes me think of the loss of head, which is incidentally where the brain is located. The brain is an important organ not only in terms of the whole "living" thing that humans do, but going along with bell hooks' article, it is also essential to feminist theory and to our early feminist life experiences as well. Spread makes me think of incurable diseases, namely the Black Plague, and grow (within the context of the sentence and being right after spread) evokes mental pictures of those weird pus-filled boils that grow under the armpits of plague victims. Essentially, this disturbingly visual definition took me back to the plague-infested fourteenth century rather than our so-called "liberated" twenty-first century.

After we discussed it in class, however, I did consider it from a different standpoint. The many heads of feminism fight on many different fronts to fight against patriarchal injustice, and because there isn't just one head (or rule of the father), hierarchies are powerless to stop or contain it because it doesn't understand feminism's multiple mentalities. Although I still don't care for the definition based on the heebie jeebie factor, I can understand what the author is trying to convey about the nature of feminism. Incidentally, this happens to be one of the really great things about feminism. Because of the multitude of different theories and opinions of the meaning of feminism, you (as a feminist) are forced to think outside of your own experience (and oftentimes, comfort level) to listen to the experience and views of others. On the same token, however, this can also be a downfall, because many self-identified (and some non-identified who still fit the general "yea women's rights" definition) feminists disagree on fundamental women's issues, the most obvious being choice. I identify myself as ardently pro-choice; I'm all for easy and affordable access to all forms of contraception, including abortion if the woman so chooses. Although I myself would probably not choose to have an abortion, I recognize that not all women are as fortunate as I to have a family support system with all kinds of financial and emotional aid. On the other hand, I have a friend who was Catholic School pro-life brainwashed who still identifies as feminist (gotta love publicly-funded sex education programs that scare the abstinence pants onto unsuspecting young pubescents). I personally don't believe you can be feminist if you don't support a woman's choice to do what she feels best for her family and for her body. But who am I to say that just because I have a fundamental belief in a woman's choice that someone else who believes in the "sanctity of life" (which, in my experience, loosely translates as "women aren't people, because their bodies aren't their own sanctuaries") doesn't have the right to identify as feminist?

Because there are so many different feminist identifications and definitions, I like to stick with my own. It's short, simple, somewhat inappropriate, and really reflects my personality. It implies a sort of stubbornness that results from many, many years of taking too much patriarchal bullshit; it has a confrontational nature in which efforts to contain and control will be met with resistance; and finally, it has a conclusiveness that lets the perpetrator know that its power is limited and its days are numbered.

Feminism is a big fuck you to patriarchy.