5:50 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze.
6:00 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze again.
6:30 am: Backup alarm goes off. Wonder what you did wrong that the ten-minute snooze didn’t work. Make mental note to pay more attention to which way you swipe the button on your phone, maybe you’re turning it off by mistake. Make mental note to delete alarm and set it up again, maybe it glitched somehow. Mentally bet yourself that you’ll immediately forget both mental notes. Resolve to yourself to get up at the first alarm tomorrow, you have to, your hair is getting greasy and you really need a shower.
6:35 am: Jesus, your hair’s even greasier than you thought. Consider the merits of wearing a hat. Consider that it’s going to be warm today and the only hats you have are hand-knit beanies. Remind yourself that it’s possible to take showers in the evenings, too, dipshit.
6:36 am: Wash your hair in the sink.
6:40 am: Finish brushing teeth and stare emptily into the mirror for a second, trying to remember what comes next. Notice you forgot to put in your earrings. Recall for the billionth time how your friend said that gauging your ears would make the earring-holes look like cats’ buttholes. Agree for the billionth time that she was right, your earlobes do look like cats’ buttholes. Make mental note to put in earrings. Maybe match them with your shirt or something.
6:41 am: Push the actual cat off the bathroom counter for the billionth time, that’s not where you belong silly kitty and you know it.
6:42: Fucking A those claws are sharp.
6:45 am: Stand in front of an open drawer in jeans and a bra, holding a still-folded pair of socks. Debate merits of various tee shirts. Realize tee shirts don’t have merits, they’re fucking tee shirts. Grab the one off the top.
6:45 and a half am: Fuck, that’s what you wore yesterday. Grab the second one. Pull the cat out of the drawer, jesus christ cat what if you get stuck behind the drawer somehow, that’s no place for kitties, you could die or something
6:45 and three quarters: Close the drawer. Open the drawer. Grab the folded socks out of the drawer, you’d forget your damn head if it wasn’t attached.
6:49 am: Finish tying your shoes as quickly as possible. You have to leave in one minute exactly or you’re going to miss the bus for sure.
6:50 am: Realize as you’re locking the front door that one shoe is tied noticeably tighter than the other. Too late now. Fuck it. You’ll fix it when you get to work.
6:52 am: Put in headphones and start audiobook. Realize you never put in earrings. Restart the chapter because your inner monologue about cats’ buttholes distracted you from the story and it’s a good part.
6:58 am: Arrive at bus stop. Smile awkwardly at the lady you lent a cigarette to and made small talk with that one time. Feel guilty that you don’t really want to talk again. She’s got her headphones in too though, it’s probably fine. Maybe.
7:01 am: Check OneBusAway. Scheduled arrival for the express bus, 7:01 am. Expected arrival in three minutes.
7:04 am: Check OneBusAway. Expected arrival in two minutes. Ponder the possibility that people on buses do not experience linear time.
7:10: Get on bus. Try to smile politely, cheerfully at the driver while also tapping your pass on the waist-high reader. Fail at both. Now you’re holding up the line, good job.
7:10 and a half: Try not to step on anyone while walking to the back of the bus. Try not to sit on someone’s coat as you squeeze into the middle seat. Fail at both. Good job.
7:10 and three quarters: Find the one small angle where you can look out the window, without looking too close to someone else’s line of sight where they might think you’re staring at them, but also without cricking your neck for the whole ride.
7:30: Give up and stare at the floor.
7:32: Give up on that and just close your eyes.
7:40: Disembark bus. Adjust shoulder bag to account for the crick in your neck. Walk another several blocks to work. Briskly. You’re late.
7:46: Hold the elevator door for someone just a little too far down the hall.
7:46: Come on buddy, the least you could do is hustle just a little bit.
7:46 and a half: Oh, he’s not going up. Let doors close. Press button futilely a few times, mildly panicking alone in the elevator, until you remember you have to scan your access card because it’s the morning, dipshit.
7:46 and three quarters: Wonder at what time the elevator lets people ride it without having to scan an access card.
7:47: Probably 8.
7:48: Open office door. The lights are off. You’re the first one here. Again.
7:49: Almost 20 minutes late. Fuck it. Make coffee anyway.
7:55: How many different ways are there for an automatic espresso machine to avoid doing its job?
7:56: At least one more. Wonder if baking soda removes coffee stains, or was it just grease stains?
7:57: Use up the last of the creamer. Make mental note to buy more. Remember mental note to delete and re-set alarm. Make mental note to remember that mental note later.
8:00: Do the thing.
9:15: Do the other thing.
9:20: Ugh, almost forgot that thing. Do that.
10:00: Go outside for a smoke. Try not to make eye contact. Someone asks for a smoke anyway. Tell them it’s your last one. It’s always your last one. Hope they’re not still hanging around this block at lunchtime.
12:05: Oh good, they’re gone. Smoke. Buy lunch. Bring it back to your desk because you don’t want to sit somewhere and eat alone in a sea of suits talking about their business-related business.
12:05: Oh good, the suits in the office are talking business-related business. Glance significantly at the empty conference rooms as they part just enough for you to get to your desk. Try not to murder the suit who’s leaning on your cubicle wall.
12:06: Where did you get lunch? Lucky Noodle. It is neither lucky, nor is it noodle. Inwardly kick yourself for the horrible dad joke. Kick yourself because that it’s not the first time you’ve told that joke. Stay so busy kicking yourself that you don’t even care that no one laughs. They’re right not to.
12:35: Wonder, not for the last time, if bamboo chopsticks are compostable, recyclable, or none of the above.
12:36: Compost? We’re going with compost. That can’t be the worst thing that goes into a city compost bin today.
12:37: Pretend to work while you finish reading that article you started over lunch.
12:50: Fuck, that was a longer article than you thought. Decide to skip your last break to make up for it.
3:00: Remember you forgot to get creamer when you were out for lunch. Make a mental note to get it on the way in tomorrow. Remember your mental note about the alarm thing.
3:45: Leave 15 minutes early, because you skipped your last break.
4:15: Wonder how it is that the bus home is so much longer than the bus in. Wonder if it’s actually a longer ride, or just feels that way because it’s at the end of the day. Wonder if time maybe actually is non-linear and timekeeping is just a man-made construct.
4:16: Oh that’s right, the bus is super late in the evenings because fucking everyone in the goddamn world rides it.
4:19: No please, don’t worry about taking up space sir, your elbow between my ribs is quite refreshing and will certainly keep me awake and standing for the remainder of the trip.
4:36: Try to politely, cheerfully wave goodbye to the driver while also gauging the distance between your foot and the curb without really looking. Fail at both.
4:37: Don’t light your cigarette until you’re past the park. People will think you’re deliberately poisoning their children.
4:39: You’re definitely the trashiest person in this neighborhood. At least since the truck with the Trump bumper sticker stopped coming around. Not that you’re actually trashy, you’ve just never seen anyone else in this neighborhood with a cigarette in their mouth. Or anyone under the age of 60, for that matter. Or anyone who looks like they might not own the house with the view of the water that is every house in this neighborhood.
4:40: Oh look, the million-dollar house is up for sale.
4:41 So are two others on this block.
4:42: Maybe it’s me. Trashing up the neighborhood. Scaring the neighbors out.
4:45: Unlock the door. Immediately discourage kittens from scratching at the rug. Encourage them toward the cardboard scratcher literally six inches away. Wonder if catnip really does anything.
5:00: You have the house to yourself for the next couple of hours, you can do anything you want.
5:05: Anything at all. Just… pick a thing.
5:07: Eh, it’ll come to you.
6:45: Only realize you’ve been hate-reading Facebook for two hours when you hear the key in the lock. Greet partner. Suddenly remember that you wanted to knit and write and read that comic and listen to that audiobook some more, you’re at a really good part, and you were kinda planning to surprise him by having dinner ready when he got home. Dammit.
7:00: Watch TV while eating pizza.
10:00: Consider going to bed early.
10:05: Consider staying up late because who cares.
10:15: Fall asleep watching a movie. Apologize to partner. Get up to brush your teeth and get ready for bed.
10:25: What is so sleep-inducing about the couch that is simply not true about the bed?
10:29: Does toothpaste have caffeine in it?
12:30: Try to pretend you’re not still awake when partner comes to bed.
5:50 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze.
6:00 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze again.
6:30 am: Backup alarm goes off.
So I’m not sure how far this has spread, but apparently yesterday this little gem of a book got funded on Kickstarter. It’s called Above The Game: A Guide To Getting Awesome With Women. (You can find it on Seddit, the Seduction section of Reddit. Or with the simplest of Googlefu. The thought of linking to it here makes me feel icky.)
It’s exactly as problematic as it sounds. There’s already been several voices raised around the blogosphere, pointing out that the chapter “Physical Escalation & Sex” endorses assault and rape. So much so, in fact, that the author has already posted a response, which I feel a little better about linking to.
People took advice from a section on “Physical Escalation & Sex” and posted them online. Devoid of context, they appeared to be promoting sexually assaulting women when that wasn’t the case at all.
The gist of the controversial advice is “Don’t wait for signs before you make your move. Let her be the one who rejects your advances. If she says no, stop immediately and tell her you don’t want to do anything that would make her uncomfortable. Try again at a later time if appropriate or cease entirely if she is absolutely not interested.”
The thing that the commenters on social media are leaving out is that the advice was taken from a section in the guide offering advice on what to do AFTER a man has met a cute girl, gotten her phone number, gone on dates, spent time getting to know her, and now are alone behind closed doors fooling around. If “Don’t wait for signs, make the first move” promotes sexual assault, then “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid was a song about rape.
Um, well. I guess I never liked Prince Eric anyway. (Wait – was Ariel really not giving him any indication that she wanted to be kissed? Oh jeez, is kissing sex, you guys? I’m going to have to re-watch me some Disney movies.)
Look, here’s the thing: there’s one glaringly obvious piece of advice missing from this chapter that would, honestly, make the rest of this advice tolerable….
ASK HER WHAT SHE WANTS. WITH WORDS. OR MAYBE PICTURES IF YOU’RE MUTE.
Holy shit, you guys, I should write a book and shill it on Kickstarter. Problem is, it’d be really fucking short. You just read the whole thing.
It’s not rocket surgery, is it? But this guy – and the 732 people who were willing to pay him for his advice – seem to forget that women are individual people, with individual likes and dislikes, who can and will tell you what those likes and dislikes are if they’re given the opportunity. I’m not sure what mysterious signals these folks have been waiting on – like, are you waiting for the Bat signal, only with a vagina or something instead? – but in my experience, it’s not super hard to tell if a person wants to do things with you. There’s no need for forcefully coming on strong until she has to stop you. You’ve spent time getting to know her, right? So spend some time getting to know what she likes and dislikes in the bedroom. Spend some time getting to know what turns her on. Spend some time getting to know whether or not she’d like to jump your bones. My turn-ons include talking about what my turn-ons are.
This whole argument also neatly and completely erases the possibility of rape, abuse, and assault within a relationship. It assumes that once a woman is in a relationship with a man, she will of course submit to his every sexual desire, every time. So really what Mr. Hoisky is saying here is that once you’re dating a girl, it’s totally okay to be physically aggressive with her until she either gives in or is forced to say no. (Note: That’s exactly what the two worst boyfriends I ever had did. Both of them sexually assaulted me.) There’s absolutely no mention of communication or negotiation. There’s no mention at all of giving the woman in this relationship agency and a voice. In fact, it specifically instructs men not to:
Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.
Right. Ick. This isn’t a matter of taking things out of context; even in the context of an established relationship, this shit is Officially Not Okay unless you’ve already confirmed with the particular girl whose hand you’re placing on your dick has TOLD YOU it’s ok. Within the context of a pre-negotiated scene, sure, this would be perfectly okay. Probably pretty hot for everyone involved. If she’s already told you that she likes it when guys do that, then game on. Get freaky. If she thinks this is just a make-out session and suddenly you force her to touch your junk, you’ve officially just become a creep. Communication makes all the difference.
Oh, shit, I apologize. He does actually advocate communication. Here it is:
Ask her what her favorite positions are.
That’s, uh, that’s it. That’s all of it. That’s in the second-to-last paragraph of the second-to-last section of the chapter on sex… which is chapter 7.
Your problem, Mr. Hoisky, is not that you’re being taken out of context. Your problem is that you’re giving advice on how to manipulate and assault women. And we are calling you on your bullshit.
Quick update: As of this morning, Kickstarter has issued an apology and updated their guidelines to prevent seduction guides like this from being funded on their site. They will also be donating $25,000 to RAINN, a non-profit dedicated to preventing rape and abuse.
So I’ve decided to try and eliminate “I’m afraid” from my vocabulary. As in, “I’m afraid my date will find me unattractive,” “I’m afraid my girlfriend will leave me,” “I’m afraid of the dark.”
Instead, I’m replacing it with the phrase, “I’m aware.” As in, “I’m aware of the possibility my date may find me unattractive,” “I’m aware my girlfriend may someday leave me,” “I’m… aware of the dark.”
This serves two purposes. The first, and most relevant, is that it re-phrases certain fears. “I’m afraid my girlfriend will leave me” is a phrase laden with insecurity and anxiety. It’s ever-present; there is no time frame around her leaving. It could happen at any moment. It connotes a desire to hold on, to prevent the leaving from happening. It connotes a clinginess, a neediness, an ever-tightening grasp.
“I’m aware that my girlfriend may someday leave me” is not only a more accurate phrase, but also a calmer and less insecure one. We’re aware. It could happen. That’s kind of okay. Sure, it would suck if she left – but we were prepared. We knew. She’s free to leave, here. We can let her go. And we’ll survive being left.
Or let’s go with an even more literal version. “I’m aware my girlfriend will leave me.” Here we’ve directly swapped afraid for aware and left everything else the same. While the sentence itself is a bummer – she’s definitely leaving, we already know about it – it’s a much more confident voice that speaks than the one that says, “I’m afraid.” In fact, this sentence almost sounds like the speaker is making a choice. The leaving is a done deal, a foregone conclusion – so no use worrying about it or fearing it.
This highlights another purpose: the groundless fears. “I’m afraid of the dark” vs. “I’m aware of the dark.” The second sounds almost nonsensical – almost everyone is aware of the dark. Or what about “I’m aware that darkness may happen.” Also silly. Using “aware” helps pinpoint fears that are not exactly grounded in reason – fears that needlessly hold us back.
That said, here are some of the fears I’ve been wrestling with lately:
I’m afraid of living on my own and failing to pay the rent.
I’m afraid I’ll end up alone.
I’m afraid of being judged and left out of my community.
I’m afraid no one will believe me.
I’m afraid I don’t deserve to be happy.
I’m afraid I’ve wasted my life.
I’m afraid I’ve made a huge mistake.
I’m afraid of what everyone in my life will think when I tell them I’m gay.
I’m afraid the divorce will be hard.
I’m afraid I’ll lose my friends and end up lonely.
So, to rephrase:
I’m aware that I may fail to pay rent once I’m living on my own. (I will have to budget carefully, work hard, and remember that I have options if I can’t afford to live on my own.)
I’m aware that I may end up alone. (Part of me is almost comfortable with this notion. The other part of me thinks it’s only a very very remote possibility anyway.)
I’m aware that some people in my community may be judgmental and want to exclude me. (That’s life. They’re assholes anyway.)
I’m aware that many people may not believe me. (This is a lot of big heavy news to swallow. It may take some folks time to process. And if strangers don’t believe me, well… they don’t have to.)
I’m aware that I may not deserve to be happy. (Okay, that’s just patently untrue.)
I’m aware that I may have wasted my life. (Also patently untrue. I’m not done living it yet.)
I’m aware I may have made a huge mistake. (Yeah. Wouldn’t be the first.)
I’m aware of what everyone in my life will think when I tell them I’m gay. (Well, no. If I knew what they’d think, I wouldn’t be afraid of it now would I? But I can’t control it anyway, and I don’t know what they’ll think, so why spend the energy?)
I’m aware the divorce will be hard. (Truth. But I can prepare.)
I’m aware I’ll lose all my friends and end up lonely. (Wild hyperbole and also untrue.)
So there it is. I have a lot of big changes ahead of me, but they’re not quite as scary anymore.
And, yes, all of the above is true. About a month ago, I finally came out to my husband as a lesbian. The story behind why and how I know I am is one for a different time, and telling it will probably involve the consent of a few involved parties. Suffice it to say this is a period of massive upheaval for both myself and my husband, and I am currently re-evaluating nearly everything about my life as he and I navigate what will eventually be a separation and divorce. I am posting this publicly not to gather support or sympathy, but merely to give anyone who regularly reads this thing a heads-up. I do my best to post every Friday; there will probably be a period coming up here where I can neither vouch for the regularity or quality of these posts. I am aware that I could burn myself out on this, and I like this blog too much to blow it off and just let it die. I’d rather take it slow for a while.
If any of you writerly types would be interested in doing a guest post and giving me a week off, I am certainly open to the thought. Send me an email at pennypennybobenny [at] gmail [dot] com and let’s bounce some ideas around.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I’ll keep you posted.
So I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while now: why aren’t there more women in comedy?
I have a theory. Google the term “women aren’t funny” (if your computer’s anything like mine, you can just type in “women aren” and Google will take it from there) and the first half-dozen links are articles discussing, in all seriousness, exactly why women aren’t funny. There’s a lot of evo psych in there – it’s because of their brains, see? It’s because women have to raise children, see? In fact, the Vanity Fair article (yes, Vanity Fair, the WOMEN’S MAGAZINE) goes so far as to suggest that the placenta is actually made of brain cells, and that most of those come from the humor center of the brain. It’s on page two, if you really think you can wade that far through that much bullshit. (And don’t give me the Lighten Up, It’s Just A Joke line – that’s not a fucking joke. Jokes are supposed to be funny.)
There’s a lot of misogyny in there, too – ohh, women are the oppressors of the male sex because we police what they wear, and eat, and how their bodies look; we control their access to medical care and legislate what they can and cannot do with their own bodies; we commit horrible violent crimes against them that we then blame on them because they didn’t conform to societal expectations rigorously enough, and…. oh, wait. I think I got my genders backwards. I’m actually not sure how women became the oppressors in this scenario. But apparently humor is a reaction to that situation – which is why women don’t have any.
I think the reason there aren’t more women in comedy is because there are men that just don’t fucking want us there. I went to an open mic night last week. There was a dude there whose entire five-minute set was about his divorce. I’m sure there can be funny material in there, folks. This guy did not find it. He “joked” about how much of a whore his wife is. He “joked” about how she still bosses him around three years after the divorce (because she asked him to spend more quality time with their son). He “joked” about how she makes everyone around her fat.
In five minutes, I knew why his wife left him. It’s because he’s a massive asshole.
I was there that night because I want to get into doing standup. I’ve been told I’m a pretty funny person, and I figure I’ve got an interesting perspective to share. But, fucking hell… I would never want to go up on stage after a set like that guy’s. If all the dudes in the bar were chuckling and guffawing over the horrible things he said about his ex, then I can only imagine they must believe those horrible things about me, too.
I’ll admit, I struggle with being a humorless feminist. I love humor; I love jokes and comedy and making people laugh and being made to laugh. I love it all. And whether a joke is actually funny or just makes me uncomfortable, my first reaction is to giggle anyway. It’s like a compulsion.
So when someone throws up the straw-man of “Well if we have to be PC all the time, what on earth will we ever joke about?!” it gets me thinking. After all, jokes usually have some element of insult to them, do they not? Humor is about finding and pointing out the differences between expectation and reality. Or it’s slapstick, I suppose, and you can only watch a dude get kicked in the nads so many times before it’s just completely lost its appeal. (For me, that number is one.)
What on earth would we ever joke about? We couldn’t tell racist jokes, obviously. Nothing to do with violence or disrespect against women. No political jokes. No religion jokes. No jokes about little people, or disabled people.
My God. It’s almost like we’d have to make jokes about….. ourselves.
I’ve realized that my favorite comics all have one thing loosely in common: they all make fun of themselves, first and foremost. Brian Regan talks about how badly he did in school, and it’s hilarious. Gabriel Iglesias pokes good-natured fun at his own weight, and I’m rolling in the aisles. Wanda Sykes fantasizes about leaving her vagina at home, and I’m right there with her. Eddie Izzard tells us about leaving his makeup in a squirrel hole, which still makes me giggle a good decade after he said it. And he makes fun of Hitler – I think most people can be comfortable with that.
None of the jokes these people tell ever make me go “Oh, that one was bad.” I never feel weird about laughing at their humor. And I think that’s because it’s all self-directed. Contrast that with someone like Tosh or Adam Corolla, who seem to do nothing but sit in a place of supreme privilege and spew hatred down upon anyone different and, thus, inferior to them. That’s not funny – that’s bullying. And society just goes right along with it. They wouldn’t have gotten popular unless there were enough people out there agree with them, who don’t think they’re total assholes, and who are willing to give them money.
Look. It’s hard to self-monitor, I know. I’m sure I’ve made off-color and disrespectful jokes from time to time. The hardest thing about a blind spot is that you don’t know it’s there until it’s too late. That’s why it’s so important to speak up. That’s why it’s so important that the minority be heard and not silenced by the majority. That’s why it’s so important to examine your own privilege when someone says “Hey, that wasn’t cool,” instead of just telling them to stop being so sensitive. Just because it isn’t a big deal to you doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal to someone.
When the reaction to dissent is an avalanche of hatred and vitriol, it makes one wonder what, exactly, is being defended. Freedom of speech? As Captain Awkward so deftly put it: “‘Freedom of speech’ means you can’t be locked up by the government for expressing an opinion. It doesn’t mean you can’t be kicked out of a party where you’re peeing on the carpet.” Freedom of speech isn’t the entitlement to thoughtlessly spew whatever vitriol is floating around in your head. Your fist ends where my nose begins. You aren’t free to say anything you want, free of social consequences – you are merely free of legal consequences. That is a massive difference.
I think it’s time we were more sensitive. Why is sensitive a bad thing? Because it’s inclusionary? Because it means asking you to admit you may have done something wrong? Because it means you might have to re-examine your beliefs and attitudes? Because it’s considered a feminine trait?
And if asking you to do that means getting an earful of name-calling and profanity… maybe I’m not the sensitive one, after all.
In rather timely other news, there’s a very funny and talented woman in Seattle who is putting together a female-friendly open mic. You can check it out on the Faceyspaces or here. There will be an open mic performance every Tuesday in April, with half the slots reserved for female (or female-identified) comics. There are also a few spaces left in the workshop next week, if you’d rather be onstage getting laughed at and just don’t know how to get started. Either way, if you are in the Seattle area, I strongly recommend you check it out.
What fresh hell is this? Some feminists are upset at First Lady Obama for not, uh, feministing enough?
The article itself is pretty well-balanced and raises some good points. I have no beef with the overall tone of it. I guess I’m just annoyed that there even needs to be an article like this. Once again, folks are looking around on the front lines and going “Well, I’m way more feminist than that woman over there.”
Seriously. Stop it.
So First Lady Obama likes gardening. And being a mother. So freaking what? I highly doubt the solution to the struggle that women face – really to any of the struggles that anyone faces – is to point to someone and say “She’s letting down the team!” “She’s not a REAL feminist!” “She should be feministier!”
When are we going to get it through our heads that what works for us might not work for everyone? That looking down our noses and pooh-pooh-ing the work of others is part of what reinforces the kyriarchy that holds us all back from living full and engaging lives? Accepting that everyone has a right to live life on their own terms means accepting that some people like to garden, that some people like being mothers, that some of us actually enjoy makeup and clothes and fashion magazines. That doesn’t make those people any less feminist.
Hell, the days I do wear makeup, I consider it a radical act of feminism. That’s because I’m wearing it for no one’s gratification but my own. I don’t wear it to please the men around me; the only ones I care about couldn’t give two shits about my makeup or lack thereof. And I certainly don’t wear it to please the feminists who would call me out as a traitor for doing so. That leaves… just me. I do it because I like it. I figure, if I’m ever late to work or an event because I simply couldn’t leave the house without a full face on, then I’m no longer doing it for me. Till then, the “must reject feminine things to be a feminist” camp can bite me. I’m not here to please them, any more than they’re here to please the men in their lives.
“Are fashion and body-toning tips all we can expect from one of the most highly educated First Ladies in history?” asked author Leslie Morgan Steiner in an online column last January.
Well, yeah, if we have a highly educated First Lady who’s passionate about fashion and fitness. What’s the problem there? Or, sorry – did you want to try and force her into a preconcieved model of what your ideal woman should be, regardless of her individual talents, passions, or circumstances? Hmm, that sounds familiar somehow…
Of course, the same writer then generously throws the First Lady a bone.
“I’m sure there is immense pressure — from political advisors, the black community, her husband, the watching world — to play her role as First Black Lady on the safe side.”
Ah, yes. She can’t show interest in something because she’s interested in it; it all has to be engineered by The Man. She’s only conforming because she’s being pressured to conform. Poor soul. If Michelle Obama could really be herself, of course she’d drop her interest in her children and her garden and run off to… I don’t know, become a radical butch dyke polyamorous oil rigger? Or something? She can’t like that stuff just because she likes it, right? She must be bending to pressure somewhere. Nobody actually likes raising children and gardening and getting schoolchildren to eat healthier.
Look, it’s easy to fall into the trap. The system we live under now has us believing that in order to get to the top of the dogpile, we have to throw someone else father down. It’s easy to forget that the only way we win is by walking away from the dogpile altogether. That’s what equality is, right? Equal footing, level playing field?
Let’s stop sneering down our noses at each other, okay? Let’s stop trying to pretend like our way of life is the only one that works. We talk big about acceptance; let’s start by nurturing that seed of acceptance within ourselves. No one will take our demands for acceptance seriously if we’re just as prejudiced as the folks we want to accept us.
I don’t care what the First Lady likes to do with her time. She has every right to do it without being criticized as “un-feminist” for it. It’s her life.
So, another person calling herself a feminist has posted another public rant, filled with hate and abusive language, targeting a minority group (of women, no less!) lower on the totem pole than herself. I found pieces of it – along with a well-written and delightfully snarky retort – on Consider The Tea Cosy . (As of yesterday or so, the original article was taken down and an apology posted – though I believe one of the Tea Cosy commentariat posted a link hosted elsewhere, if you really feel like slogging through the schoolyard name-calling vitriol.)
It got me thinking: What is the goal of feminism, exactly?
For some, it seems, feminism is about raising the status of women in the world. For some it is about taking power back from men, away from men. For some, it is about the expression of sexuality, gender identity, conformity or non-conformity to societal norms. For the writer of the article in question (a self-described “militant feminist”), it seems to be about pointing out all the ways men have more freedom than women – even people described as men at birth who would prefer to live their lives as women, who have a need and a desire to live as women – and how unfairrrrr that is. As tempted as I am to go into that more, I think Ms. O’Riordan has already covered it wonderfully. Instead, I will say this:
I think feminism is about freedom. And here’s the thing: if we can’t all be free, then none of us are free.
Feminism is about basic human rights. The right to be oneself. The right to live free of hatred. The right to live free of violence. The right to live free of shame. Feminism is more than just a women’s issue. And if I accept that feminism is a human rights issue, then I accept that feminism is about supporting the rights of those around me.
Feminism means supporting the rights people of color have to be seen always as equals, as peers, as who they are and not their racial history. It means supporting their right to be free of hatred, shame, persecution, prejudice, bias, violence. It means supporting their right to have a voice. I lend that support gladly.
Feminism means supporting the rights the LBGTQ community has to live life in the open, to seek and find and celebrate relationships as freely as the straight community does. It means supporting their right to be free of violence, hatred, shame, persecution, prejudice, bias. It means supporting their right to have a voice. I lend that support gladly.
Feminism means supporting the rights that trans people of all genders have, to be called not by the gender they were assigned at birth but by the gender they have always known themselves to be, to live life openly, at home in their own body. It means supporting their right to be free of bias, violence, hatred, shame, persecution, prejudice. It means supporting their right to have a voice. I lend that support gladly.
Feminism means supporting the rights that women have, to be treated as human beings and not decorations or toys or children. It means supporting their right to be free of prejudice, bias, violence, hatred, shame, persecution. It means supporting their right to have a voice. I lend that support gladly.
Feminism means supporting the rights that men have, to be treated as human beings and not cavemen or animals or simpletons. It means supporting their right to be free of persecution, prejudice, bias, violence, hatred, shame. Yes, it means supporting their right to have a voice. Yes, I lend that support gladly.
And I hope I can rely on that same support in return.
Feminism is about educating oneself. It means not just pointing out the privilege of others, but examining one’s own privilege and realizing the ways in which we, too, are flawed and prejudiced. It means re-structuring our beliefs to be more inclusive. Feminism is not about taking away rights; it is about extending them. It is about recognizing the humanity in every living soul; it is about respecting that humanity. It is not enough to support the rights of those like us or those that agree with us. Believing in equal rights means believing even in the rights of our oppressors. That does not mean supporting their presumed “right” to oppress us; but it means recognizing the humanity even in those we consider the enemy. It means understanding that the system, the kyriarchy, The Man, screws us all up; it implants false belief systems and skewed world views in all of us. It means realizing our jailors also live in a cell.
Regardless of who we are or how we live our lives, we are all in this together. Screaming angry slurs across lines drawn in the sand will not get us anywhere. It doesn’t matter which side of the line we’re on. We are all human. We are all in this together.
Until all of us are free, none of us are free.
Last week, I finally summoned up the courage to tell my father that I’m bisexual.
For a lifelong Catholic, he took it pretty well. He made sure to tell me that he still loved me, and that having feelings for someone of the same sex wasn’t wrong.
It was my actions, he said, that mattered.
Sure, it’s okay to have these feelings – you can’t control feelings – but to act on them would be what constituted a sin. He asked if I’d had sexual partners other than my husband – to which my response was “No,” but honestly should have been “That’s none of your damn business.” He said that he was only worried because if I went outside the bonds of my marriage, that would be a violation of my vows to my husband. I told him that was for me and my husband to decide, and I’d thank him to stay out of my marriage. He said that he would always love me, and that I just needed to be myself… and I knew, in the back of my heart, that the version of me he loved was not the real me. The version of me he loves is the one that would never act on such sinful urges, the suffering saint who lives a moral life while plagued with demons.
In a way, I suppose that’s not too far off. I am plagued with demons. Accepting my sexuality, discussing it with my husband and being given the freedom and opportunity to understand it and explore it, has helped quiet those demons. My demons are not created by temptations of the flesh; they were created by long imprisonment and starvation of the soul. I am happier now, exploring the possibilities that come with embracing my sexuality and asserting my true nature, than I have ever been.
This is the problem that I have with preaching tolerance. Don’t get me wrong – it’s in the right vein, and it’s a damn sight better than intolerance and prejudice. But tolerance isn’t the whole picture. What we need is acceptance.
Tolerance says, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Acceptance says, “There’s nothing sinful about living in the way that makes you happiest.”
Tolerance is the hands-off, “That’s not what I would choose, but it’s your life to ruin” attitude. Acceptance sits down, has a conversation, asks questions, tries to understand.
Tolerance states opinion as fact and, in an expansive and generous gesture, agrees to disagree. Acceptance shares viewpoints and is open-minded enough to accept that faith is personal and truth is not universal, but highly subjective.
My father tolerates my sexuality, but he will never accept it. He will love the sinner but continue to hate the sin, even if it is a sin that brings fulfillment, confidence, satisfaction, and joy to me and my husband. He will magnanimously continue to let me skip merrily down the path I’ve chosen, even if he believes it leads off a precipice into a lake of fire. He will pat himself on the back for being such a loving and caring parent in the face of such adversity as having a sexually deviant daughter, and continue to worry for my poor everlasting soul.
I’ve tolerated my sexuality for some fifteen to twenty years now. In that time my heart has been beaten to tattered shreds as it searched for love, acceptance, and fulfillment in every corner of the empty cell my father’s religion confined me to. His tolerance will always be a cold and impassible wall, and my heart knows not to seek refuge there.
Now I have accepted myself as I am, and had the good fortune to find a lifetime partner who does as well. Now my heart steps, blinking, out of the cell and into the sunlight of a wide and wonderful world. There is pain in this world, too, and dark places to beware of… but I have a measure of acceptance, and with that my heart is free.
Ok. I’ve got a problem with the friend zone.
I’ve seen this applied in memes more than I’ve heard it in real life, but it seems like it’s friggin’ everywhere. And I know what it means: something along the lines of “Duude, that chick is totally hot but you’re being all nice to her and she’s just USING you for it! You are so not getting laid right now, brah.”
Right. Because every guy wants to, immediately and without exception, fuck every woman he spends more than two minutes around. And holy shit, if you ever actually DO anything for her, she’d better be willing to put out, man. Especially if you spend money.
Friend zone as a concept bugs me mainly because it gets held up as this example of utter failure on the guy’s part, and by some weird inference paints the girl in question as some heartless bitch. So let me tell you about a guy I “friend-zoned,” and you can tell me if a) it was really that bad, and b) I’m getting the term right.
I’ll call him Ty.
I think we met over a game of New World of Darkness; he is, to this day, one of the best damn GMs I’ve ever had the pleasure of roleplaying with. (And one of the most infuriating; it took about five years after the game ended for me to get him to tell me the story arc he had planned for my character – a policewoman who came home to find her husband brutally and ritualistically murdered, and her son missing. As a player, I didn’t know who committed the murders, but my character was laser-focused on finding the bastards. The game eventually disintegrated when I realized the group I was working with wasn’t interested in finding out who killed my husband and took my son. Then he refused to tell me what the answer really was. FOR. FIVE. YEARS. Like, I seriously only found out a few months ago.)
He is a generous and funny guy. His sense of humor is wretchedly offensive but unmistakably hilarious; and he is offensive toward everyone pretty much equally, which somehow makes it ok. I do remember early on I had to ask him a couple of times to lay off the rape and dead baby jokes; they are particularly triggery for me. Once he understood where I was coming from, though, he was good at remembering that Those Topics = Not Funny for me. He is also the type that will do absolutely anything for a friend in need – and I have been a rather needy friend over the years.
Here are some of the things he and I have done together:
Had dinner many times. Complete with drinks. He paid.
Had lunch many times. Both with drinks and without. He paid.
Had breakfast together. Crepe cakes are amazing. So is breakfast pot pie.
Been blindingly, vomiting-so-hard-I-peed-my-pants drunk. He brought me a fresh pair of (his) pants to wear. I spent the night on his futon.
Played Fallout: New Vegas. Apparently I’m a better shot than I thought.
Went to opening night of Iron Man.
Gone furniture shopping. He needed a better couch that wasn’t bachelor furniture.
Talked about going clothes shopping. For him.
Vegged on the couch and watched TV together. Lots of Top Gear and Mythbusters.
Played more board games than are probably healthy for any living being.
Taught me to play Magic: The Gathering. He gave me an embarrassing amount of Magic cards as a birthday gift when he saw how much I enjoyed it.
Got thrashed as a team at a Magic tournament (Two-Headed Giant format). Had fun anyway.
Fixed my computer when I got a virus on it & couldn’t afford to pay Geek Squad.
Talked an hour or more on the phone to keep him from getting so bored he drove off the road on his way home.
Talked on the phone to keep me from getting bored at all.
Tried sushi with steak in it (it was delicious). Yeah, he paid then, too.
Talked about sex, cross dressing, the female orgasm, the male orgasm, why my breasts are actually not too small at all, why people say and do stupid things, why work sucks, just how much of an asshole his boss is, just how much of an asshole his clients can be, just how much of a bag of dicks my various employers and customers can suck, computers, cell phones, government conspiracies, cake, how many parts he’s had surgically replaced and for what reasons, why one nut is just as good as two, why high school sucked particularly hard for me, and just about anything else under the sun.
Got two different kinds of cake for my birthday because apparently “Chocolate or carrot cake sounds good” is not actually making up my mind.
Got coffee together. He paid (except for that one time when I totally ninja’d the bill).
Rushed me to urgent care when I suddenly turned white(r than usual) and couldn’t stand up because I was in so much pain. Pushed me around in a wheelchair till they could get me in. (Ovarian cysts suuuuck.)
Packed, moved, and unpacked all his stuff once.
Packed, moved, and unpacked all my stuff multiple times.
I’m looking at this list right now, and even in my head I’m going “Jeez, when is this chick going to put out? Why hasn’t he made a move yet?”
But here’s the thing. I happen to be married to the guy who introduced me to Ty. In our six or so years of friendship, there has never been a time where I wasn’t dating, engaged to, or married to this dude that Ty calls friend. And I guarantee you this: you will see a unicorn jump out of a pile of leprechaun shit and play Calvinball with Jesus and Santa Claus* before you’d ever see Ty break up a friend’s relationship. Plus, he’s had a girlfriend for a significant portion of that list.
He never did these things to get laid, and certainly not by me. He did these things because that’s what friends do. He did these things because he gave a shit about me, saw me as a real person with needs and desires and not a hell of a lot of expendable income, and wanted to spend time enjoying my company. And that of my husband. If we tried to pay him back, simply for the meals and events he’s covered in order to have us along, we’d go bankrupt tomorrow. If we tried to pay him back for the support and friendship he’s offered in addition to that… well, we’d never be able to. I’d like to think that the friendship and camaraderie we enjoyed was enough; Ty always certainly seems to think so.
He has been a loyal and steadfast friend, the kind that you can depend on for absolutely anything. He has been there for some of my worst moments; and for some of my best. And there has never been anything that was too weird, too ugly, too nerdy, too girly, or too anything-else for him to accept. He’s never asked for anything in return.
Yeah, I have a friend zone. It’s where my friends are.
*Unicorns lack the necessary fine motor skills for Calvinball.