Feminism and the Chill Girl

2 Apr

This one is for you, Chill Girl. I have been you. I understand that makeup and women’s magazines bore and embarrass you, that so many women’s preoccupation with pleasing men and objectifying themselves makes you ill, and that you desperately want to be holding up a sign saying that you care about the things that really matter. That not all girls are Cosmo girls, that Cosmo girls aren’t even real girls. That you are not squeamish, not slutty, not narcissistic, not sensitive. I get it, I really do. I have felt unwelcome in all-girl spaces and been disgusted with women who seem to be intent on confirming every stereotype about them.

But laughing along with jokes about slutty, stereotypical women is Not Helping.

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with being (ethically) slutty or liking makeup. That’s a big conversation, but I’m just going to say it, black box it, and move on. * I think a lot of Chill Girls, in addition to just trying to be one of the guys, are embarrassed by women who they feel are ‘holding the gender back’. They’ve fallen into the trap of thinking every woman is standing in for Women and therefore it is each woman’s duty to be a model minority. But women are people and people are sometimes dumb, selfish, affectionate, slutty, witty, generous, narcissistic, strong, and prudish and they each have every right to pursue that as long as they aren’t hurting anyone. They don’t speak for you and you don’t speak for them.

There’s no reason a woman should be more responsible for how her behavior made you feel than a man. The girl whose revealing dress you’re discussing may have made a legitimate personal choice you don’t understand – or she may be doing something stupid. It probably was incorrect office-wear.  It’s not like being a feminist means you can never say something bad about a woman ever again.

But it holds the gender back when you assume stupidity before choice.

It holds the gender back even more when you blame her for not having anticipated the reaction men would have to her clothing.

You don’t have to be extra-harsh to prove you’re not part of the dreaded underclass. The girl could be dumb as a rock and make poorly thought out sexual decisions daily – you, had you met her, could hold whatever opinion of her you wanted to as a person – and that still shouldn’t make it open season to comment on her body. ** Her dress was unprofessional and you’re allowed to say that without losing your feminism club card, but so was your boyfriend’s stained South Park t-shirt and that didn’t get nearly as many laughs.

Mr. Geek Feminist Lite, don’t get me started on you today. Since Chill Girl is not actually an avatar of Women, she does not have the power to hand out get out of saying-crap-about-women-jail-free cards. It’s not secret!not-sexist because your girlfriend laughed.

For god’s sake, tell me a funny story about how she couldn’t stuff envelopes right and I’ll laugh. I’m not a saint, I haven’t  had my sense of humor surgically removed. Incompetence stories are funny and we tell them all the time. But don’t tell me about how much of her boobies you saw and how it was great in the same breath that you tell me how you embarrassed her for it. If you like seeing boobs, try treating their owners respectfully even when they’re in view.

Ladies, gentlemen, in-between folk, your house is made of glass. Everybody’s house is made of glass. There are a thousand things about you that are laughable and embarrassing. Think about them before you speak unkindly about someone else.

And Chill Girl. You don’t need to like someone to stand up for them and you don’t need to throw anyone under the bus to feel secure. Or maybe you do, and that’s part of the problem.

* There are many more eloquent people on the internet to un-black box it. I’d advise reading all the Pervocracy ever, for instance. A Practical Wedding and Offbeat Bride/Family/Home also have a lot of little essays on why judging women for liking girly and/or impractical things is bullshit.

** In case someone’s an obtuse reader – I’m not saying this girl was dumb or slutty or that being ‘slutty’ is a bad thing. My point is that for the purposes of this conversation, it shouldn’t matter.

The Marriage Post

1 Apr
Wedding_dress_princess_seams

Night of The Living Brides.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wedding_dress_princess_seams.jpg

Given the recent cases before the Supreme Court, I figured now is as good a time as any for the marriage post. I’ve been trying to edit it up to my satisfaction for the last day or two and I’m officially giving up and just posting it before the moment’s past and I’m eaten by camp nanowrimo anyway. This post is pretty near and dear to my heart, so I may try to do a revised version of it one day. Or it may just stay here in all its sprawly glory.

This decision of Squiddy’s and mine to get married has actually been rather controversial in our circles. Our friends in Altlandia have a variety of reasons for being uncomfortable with and suspicious of the institution of marriage. My mom isn’t crazy about it either; my parents got married by a judge (by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actually) almost a decade into their relationship, pretty much only because they were about to have a kid. Though my parents weren’t really Altlander parents per se, my mother is as marriage-skeptical as the best of them.

Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg

How married are my parents? So married. The marriedest.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg.jpg

So it seems reasonable for me to try and explain why Squiddy and I want to do this.

First off, I think there are two major kinds of marriage that get conflated – marriage (legal) and marriage (social). Squiddy and I want both, but I’m going to start with the one that I think is easiest to explain. I don’t think I need to tell you that marriage opens up a wonderful world of legal protections and connections between two people. Taxes, property ownership, medical decisions, child-rearing, you name it, marriage makes it easier and safer.

Let me get this out of the way right now and say that in my perfect world, marriage as it stands would not be the only way to get allthese legal rights and responsibilities with someone(s). I’m not even going to try to encapsulate all my problems with how our governmental bureaucracy categorizes people and relationships – in my utopian fantasy its role would be descriptive rather than prescriptive anyway. In my universe, when you came of age it would be de rigeur to march off to a lawyer and explicitly state who’s making your medical decisions if you’re incapacitated and who’s getting your money if you die. There would be a family registration form of some kind and it would be totally possible to register with whoever you liked. You could register with more than one person – poly families could have the same advantages as monogamous ones and sexual/romantic/familial relationships wouldn’t get automatically privileged over all others. Squiddy and I happen to be monogamous and romantic in a way that pretty much fits the current standard model, but it shouldn’t be everyone’s default.

Wow. I am...never googling rainbow unicorns again. I got some weird shit in results.

Wow. I am…never googling rainbow unicorns again. I got some truly weird shit in results.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HappLand!.jpg

However, that’s not the world we’re living in and in these matters I’m rabidly pragmatic. I’ve had a lot of experience with the intersection of law, medicine, and family. I am viscerally aware of what it means for you and your loved ones to have a medical power of attorney and a written will when shit hits the fan. Even ignoring my qualms about marriage in general, the marriage Squiddy and I will be having doesn’t come with the full suite of legal protections yet. The legal security blanket of gay marriage is pretty thin. But does the inadequacy of those advantages mean we shouldn’t go get them anyway? Really no. The perfect, in this case, is the enemy of the good. Squiddy and I whatever chunk of security we can get for each other and practicality trumps everything in that area for us.

Practicality! Safety! Worrying about sad things! Real romantic. So why haven’t we moved somewhere gay marriage is legal, tied the knot in a judge’s office, and called it a day already? I think the explanation for why we want a legal marriage is pretty clear-cut, but why do we want a wedding?

This part’s more complicated.

Continue reading

The Case For Gay Marriage

26 Mar

Supreme Court

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/robcrawley/3114271990/

Well, today’s a big day. I can’t be back in my hometown on the courthouse steps, but I’ll be following along on the net as the Supreme Court hears arguments on Prop 8 today and arguments on DOMA Wednesday. From what I’ve heard, we can expect to hear rulings on the fate of gay marriage some time in late June.

Here’s hoping.

Rainbow_flag_breeze

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fb/Rainbow_flag_breeze.jpg

Well, they found me

25 Mar

Internet_Troll

Internet troll sourced from here: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Internet_Troll.png

That was fast :p Before I’m even entirely certain my friends read this blog regularly, I appear to have attracted some sort of internet troll who wants to save me from the Zionist feminist Zsa Zsa Gabor (?) sexual deviant murder conspiracy via Jesus and venerating manhood. (Sorry kids, the comment isn’t actually going up for your loling pleasure)

Well then. I think I am the Jewish queer feminist conspiracy?

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Queer_turkey.png

Nebekeh, zi hot a mamoshes vi der goyisher gott.

Oh snap.

On Violence

23 Mar

I sort of wanted my thoughts on violence to be a paragraph or two in another post on feminism and/or raising kids, but I think it might warrant its own space. I am a huge advocate of not just learning about violence but learning violence in a controlled space. Particularly for women. I would also like to note that I believe that the responsibility for violence rests squarely with the aggressor, but until we live in a world where irrational violence never happens I’m going to advocate everyone taking the necessary steps to feel safe. My stance on this is pretty deeply rooted in personal experience and I’m hesitant to speak for other people on something this sensitive, so let’s open with that.

[I’m also, on reflection, not sure if this deserves a trigger warning or not, but to be on the safe side – contains descriptions of violence.]

I started taking Tae Kwon Do when I was six or so. I don’t remember the exact impetus. Certainly I was an aggressive, rambunctious kid and I went to a school where it wasn’t unusual for kids to get into fistfights now and then. I definitely had no hope of keeping my mouth shut enough to stay out of trouble, so that might have had something to do with it. My dad was no stranger to fisticuffs himself, having grown up in rough neighborhoods where fighting the local bully daily until you beat him was de rigueur. He always wanted me to be able to defend myself, particularly as a girl, and I definitely idolized him for his stories.

My mother was less enthusiastic about the whole thing than my father and neither parent wanted me to be a little thug, so there were rules: 1) You absolutely never hit anyone first; 2) If someone hits you, tell them to stop, walk away, and if necessary tell a teacher. You must try all three of these things first; and 3) If you’ve tried all of these and this person is still hitting you, you are not in trouble for hitting them back.

It might seem surprising, given that I followed these rules pretty religiously, that number 3 was usually triggered once or twice a year until I was in 9th grade. All I really have to say about that is that public schools in DC are crap-funded and you’d be amazed how ineffectual and apathetic teachers can be under those circumstances. Also, there was no rule against being a loudmouth, and I was. The ritual when one of these incidents happened was my dad running through the checklist with me (Did you tell him to stop? Yes! Did you tell a teacher? Yes. Really? Ask Ms. Brown! I did!) and when I passed the test asking, Did you win? Not always, but I got a high five when I did.*

So I got into fights and, separately, I started learning martial arts. My teacher was a tiny, scowling Scottish man who was improbably gifted with children. We did not backtalk him or goof off in class, and somehow we all liked him. Now, I should say right away that martial arts and real violence are very different things. In some ways it’s odd that I’m advocating Tae Kwon Do as a way of learning violence, when I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve employed it in an actual fight. ** But here are the things I got out of Tae Kwon Do*** that helped me handle violence:

Continue reading

Chivalry: The Ladies Auxiliary

21 Mar

Source:http://openclipart.org/detail/169702/odd-knight-by-j4p4n

Source:http://openclipart.org/detail/169702/odd-knight-by-j4p4n

I think I have a lead on where some of my :flailflailgender: feelings come from – regardless of how I am physically, the cultural ideal I’m striving for is masculine. Not because it’s the only legitimate or important way to be (please), but because it’s what feels authentic and desirable to me. My D&D etiquette alignment is masculine. Alignments feminine, neutral, or chaotic are all a-okay by me, but I’m currently running a neutral-masculine Paladin. (I think this metaphor got away from me? I am okay with this.)

I like being a gentleman. What do I mean by saying gentleman instead of just decent, polite person? Some things that are probably old-fashioned and Neolithic. I like opening doors for people and offering to carry things for them, etcetera. I occasionally go out of my way to do these things. I’ll give you an extreme example of the sort of thing I mean. When I was eight or so, I carried another kid my age (named Leia. I just thought you ought to know.) through a swamp after she got tired and sulky on a hike.  And I felt great afterward. It was a ridiculous thing to do – kid could have walked just fine. But doing this for her was 1) extravagant 2) unnecessary 3) and implied that I was a person with strength. I like doing nice things that have those connotations, though obviously it’s generally a bit more subtle than that.

Pictured: Subtlety.

Pictured: Subtlety.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/starwarsblog/512401447/

In general, when I’m being polite or particularly gentle, I want to be perceived as a muscular kind of polite, if that makes sense. One where people understand my behavior as an act of control and see that I am striving to be a good curator of my potential to do harm. People often do the ‘wrong’ nice thing for me or react oddly to my polite gestures because this is not the paradigm they’re looking at me in.

As far as doors and heavy boxes go, I’m not sure there’s much moral weight on whether you hold them or have them held for you. Someone needs to go through the damn door first and I’m not silly enough to insist that people act like every human being has biceps of equal size. But as it happens my biceps are pretty capable, it makes me feel good about myself to carry my own things, and delivering small gallantries gives me pleasure while also being useful. I also like it when these actions are regarded as, you know, a touch of dashing politeness instead of  as something mildly incongruous.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to a bus door at the same time as a man and had us both awkwardly stand there, gesturing for the other to go. I genuinely want to be polite and let them go first–I’m not trying to be weird or make a point per se. I just feel vaguely virtuous doing it. But sometimes, more often than you’d think, the man in question actually won’t go until I do. It’s a game of chicken–who feels awkward standing here first?

One way or another, we both need to get on this bus.

One way or another, we both need to get on this bus.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/superwebdeveloper/4141564307/

Sometimes it’s me. Sometimes we both try to concede simultaneously and bump into each other, making it worse. And you can always read on their faces; why is she making this awkward? Why doesn’t she know the unwritten rule that she goes through the door first? I’m trying to be polite here. Well I am too, and I like expressing politeness of this kind. Who knows why. I’m etiquette-masculine. (Another candidate for the Altlandia hanky code? Maybe I could write my character stats on my shirt?)

I’ve been told by a friend of mine that I talk about my masculinity more than most men he knows. This is probably true (keeping in mind this is also probably skewed by the kinds of men we tend to know). Separate -or maybe not, I don’t know- from whatever secondary sexual characteristics I’m sporting, I have a very masculine personality and I enjoy that. I grew up reading a lot of mythology and 19th century boy’s own stories. I have some truly old-fashioned ideas about the kind if person I want to be that I’ve worked hard to try and make play well with my modern, liberal beliefs. But when I think about self-improvement and the habits of daily life, I think about how I want to be like Edmond Dantes, Robin Hood, Diomedes, or some other classical old bastion of Roman Virtue. I’m aware this can be problematic and try to avoid those bits accordingly (yes, I’m also aware it’s a somewhat silly). But I like being a little chivalrous, and I guess on someone with ladybits that ends up being subversive. Which makes me more okay with it, actually.  It’s just that sometimes I’d like my behavior to be taken in the spirit it’s meant.

In which closets are exited

19 Mar

Only my mother would try to make her daughter’s lesbian relationship easier for the Christian missionary branch of the family to process via the old ‘It’s not that strange; it’s like how my friend is trans’ gambit.

Go big or go home I guess?

I’m skeptical, but if this is somehow successful I think I have to bake everyone involved cookies.

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