Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Our invitations are here!


Guess who's going to be doing a lot of envelope addressing in the next few days....


It's getting more and more real :-) :-)

I can't wait to be married to JD!

Monday, December 27, 2010

family

As I fly through the air at highspeed, far above the clouds, I'm realizing that I've been pretty quietly lately, and yet I have a LOT to say.  Ironically, I've pretty much lost my voice.  The first thing I want to talk about is family.

JD and I have spent the last week in Ohio, at my parents house, and were joined by my older brother and his wife for a few days over Christmas.  I love my family, and every time I see them, I don't want to leave.  My father has four children, and my brother and I are also my mother's children, and all four of us kids live in different states-- none of us in Ohio.  So, my parents have four kids, four grandkids, and one great grandchild.  In a few years, my brother and his wife may start having kids, and in five to seven years, JD and I plan to start thinking about kids.  We're continuing our family, even as we spread out-- though my parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents all stayed in the same region of Ohio the rest of us are moving on-- and while I grew up with family close and present, my future children will likely not have all their relatives close at hand (though since we are moving to JD's hometown, we may be near his family at least).

It always always surprises me how much I don't want to leave, how much I wish I could stay near my parents, and how much my parents age between each visit.  They both still look younger than their 65 years, and generally act younger too, but their age is starting to show in their joints and their health-- they've both had cancer, and my father had to go into the emergency room yesterday, the day after Christmas.  As I write this, they've likely completed surgery to remove his gallbladder-- a relatively minor ordeal compared to other health issues, but still more than I'd like for him to have to experience.

I know I am incredibly lucky to have such wonderful parents, and I wish I could do more to show them appreciation and to help ease their lives, but I just don't know what to do, except to keep moving and living my life, which becomes more adult with every day.

I do think that the family we grow up with does a lot to shape us-- I'm of the view that nature makes the kind of clay, and nurture shapes it, so to speak, so I do think our families have a lot of influence--- and I do fel extremely lucky to have the family I do, with wonderful parents and a great older brother, and half sisters who ahve always been there if I needed them even though they're twenty years older than me.  It's a good antidote to all the people in life that suck.  and in a few months, I'll be married, and JD and I will be our own new branch of family, inspired and influenced by both my parents and his parents, and the lessons we've learned.

Basically, I guess what I'm trying to say is that family is important , and if your family has been good to you, you should appreciate that.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guess what I'm not going to be buying? Truvia!

JD and I are watching TV.  And we just saw a commercial. That I thought was going to be for some delicious jello type snack.  But!  No.  It was a commercial for Truvia*, which is apparently an artificial sweetener.  But all I really got from the commercial is that if you're using real sugar in your recipes, you should hate food and your body and eating!

Well, yay.  Because it isn't like women  aren't already hung up on food, and eating, and healthy ingredients.  So now, we need things to convince us that sugar, in and of itself, is going to make us fat-- not even a focus on health here, it's one that's completely on appearance.  You know what?  I'm going to stick with cooking with sugar, and eating a healthy, balanced diet, and continue to not buy products which are targeted at making money off of women's insecurities, especially when the product is not even necessarily related to those issues.  Because you know what, Truvia?  Sugar isn't making "my butt fat" or driving me insane, or ripping away my self control.  I've... got a pretty good handle on those things, actually, even with using sugar in recipes!  So, truvia, you and your add campaign designed to make women doubt themselves and stop eating real food?  You are something I will not be purchasing, and that I will encourage my friends not to purchase.  Granted, I don't purchase artificial sweeteners anyway, but I have friends and family that do, and I'll be doing my best to encourage them to patronize other companies.

I'm just-- furious that an add like that would be accepted for TV.


* Transcript of the commercial: I loved you sweetness, but you're not sweet, you made my butt fat.  You drove me insane, self-control down the drain. We're over I'm so done with that.  I found a new love, a natural true love that comes from a little green leaf.  Zero calorie guilt free no artificiality, my skinny jeans zipped in relief it's name is truvia i had no idea no more sprinkling my coffee with grief.  Truvia: Honestly Sweet.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Performing Femininity

This is a little disjointed, and mostly a bit rambling.  I haven't really read a lot about the idea of performing femininity, and maybe I should because I'm sure there's someone out there who has said what I want to say, except more clearly and concisely, but this is my blog, and that means I get to ramble when i want to.

I just started reading Gender Trouble.  The introduction, combined with some blogs I've seen and other things filtering through my mind has gotten me thinking about how much of my appearance and actions are performances of gender, and how much are totally natural.  For example, the other day I wore a denim mini skirt, patterned tights, and a cute yellow-green sweater, along with some spf providing tinted moisturizer and mascara.  If I hadn't left the apartment, I'd probably have just worn sweatpants and a tank top. So my appearance definitely changes based on who I think is going to see me, and though I enjoy the clothing I wear in public, I tend to choose mainly for comfort at home.

So-- why do I like what I like in what I wear, and how much of what I wear is explicitly feminine vs. more gender neutral?  How much of my appearance is actually a conscious effort of performing femininity, and how much is innate desire?  What is the balance in MOST women?  When I look around the area I live in, I see a lot of people dressed in very gendered ways, from college students wearing leggings as pants, to stay at home mom's in long skirts and long sleeves.  Plenty of women in the area wear jeans, but very few wear jeans that are not cut or tapered in ways that are specifically feminine-- and while part of that is because it's more comfortable to wear properly tailored jeans, part of it is also that it makes it easy to send a quick message that you are fashionable and female.  But jeans, even trendy ones, paired with a plain sweater and natural or no make up comes pretty close to not performing femininity, because its so similar to what men wear on a daily basis.

Performing femininity seems to be more about doing things that are feminine rather than neutral, of playing up female characteristics, of emphasizing gender.  It seems like a much less extreme version of drag performances-- drag performers don't dress up in a sensible sweater and jeans and ballet flats-- they instead tend to wear long hair, high heels, and flashy dresses-- in fact, they dress a lot like burlesque dancers, another art form that is also very much about performing femininity-- except that burlesque goes beyond mere appearance and also performs a sort of sexy sexual coquettish stereotype of a shy but available woman.  Those are both obvious examples of performing femininity, and even a woman doing burlesque is being feminine in a way that she isn't likely to be in real life-- because that portrayal is fake, and simply based on a societal ideal.

So-- what I'm wondering, then, is how much those of us who are not on stage who are not being paid to exaggerate the feminine and slip into idealized views actually perform femininity-- that is, exaggerate feminine characteristics-- beyond what is most natural and comfortable to us?  And further-- why?  Most women do not find high heels and pantyhose professional, yet many women working in professional settings wear them daily, and many women wear heels in their free time.  Heels are often framed as sexual, but when you're wearing them to work, or going over to a friend's where there will be no one you are sexually interested in, it's clear that we wear them for more than purely sexual reasons.  Many people-- myself included-- will say that we wear them because we like them, we think they're pretty, we enjoy certain styles or aesthetics.  Some of it is also generally to fit in-- society has dress codes, and it sets the standards for what is feminine appearance more than any internal sense, or images of femininity wouldn't have changed over time-- yet some things, like finding different ways to emphasize or hid parts of the female body-- are timeless trends.  The fact that a lot of femininity is based on cultural trends ought to be undeniable though, especially given the influence Mad Men has had on the cut, colors, and styles of clothing-- making images of femininity a little more whimsical, and a little less modern/urban.

Still, when I pull on jeans and a black sweater, I don't really feel like I'm performing femininity in the way that I do when I wear a black dress with patterned stockings.  Even though both are cut for a female body, and both do read as feminine, the jeans and sweater combo feels neutral to me.  But when I wear a dress or a skirt that i really like, I am conscious of being female, and of my appearance, and of the image I create in a way I am not when I wear jeans, and I even have to be conscious of acting differently-- no sitting with my legs in a pretzel on the couch.  I also get a different response from strangers, more doors getting held open and more compliments.  Whether it's my intent or not, the way I dress sends signals-- and while I'd like the main signal i send to be "Hi, I'm a human worthy of basic respect", some outfits send a main message of "I am a woman!  i like pretty things!".  We all know that clothing sends messages-- it's how we identify hipsters, and people will treat the same man differently if he's wearing a suit than if he's wearing jeans and a stained t-shirt.

I want to be taken seriously-- I think most people do-- but I wonder if some forms of femininity make people tune out what the performers have to say.  There's a difference between a casual dress, a skirt suit, or a dance-party dress-- each dress sends a different message.  I actually, um, own exceedingly similar items to the three linked outfits, and I know that where one of them would be appropriate, the other two probably would not.  But the first dress is a stand in for jeans, and the second is a stand in for a pants suit.  it takes some amount of thought to decide between them and their less obviously feminine alternatives... yet I often choose the ones that emphasize femininity more.  I'm unsure how much of it is that I like the aesthetics of myself in skirts and dresses more (though I do) and how much of it is the fact that law school bashed into my head that women should wear skirt suits to interviews and how much of it is a reaction to my utter hatred of skirts as a youth.  (the switch came some time in college, when I briefly transferred to All Skirts All The Time.  Now I'm just Skirts When I Think About It (unless cold or rainy or lazy).)

I know I like a lot of stereotypical things, and I know that when I do stereotypical things that I am, in a way, performing femininity, if only because I am often conscious of them being feminine at the moment.  But I still like them, even if I'm a little suspicious of why I like them, and I still choose to do them.  I don't think choosing to behave the way I do is some betrayal of feminism (as I've discussed before), and I still want to work, and I still have a number of interests that aren't in the same old-school realm of femininity.  But at the same time, a part of me does get weirded out when i think about the performance aspects of it, and when i think about the fact that people may get a different impression of who I am on the days I blow dry my hair and wear mascara.

(Incidentally, I also think that guys can perform masculinity-- and that certain styles of suits or gym wear or Jersey Shore inspired outfits are doing so-- but at the same time, I think that because so much of things defaults to male, its easier to be neutral and unthinking in dress. I guess I probably should have referenced Naomi Wolf's There Is No Unmarked Woman at some point, but...lazy.  But i did read it, back in college, and it did talk about how people interpret different clothing differently on women with the underlying idea that there is no neutral outfit for a woman and there is one for a man, but i kind of disagree, in that I think men are also marked by whether they wear a suit or jeans, but I get that in the workplace they have a go to suit uniform and are neutral, where for a woman there are more options and no option is truly neutral, so we're always sending a message.  But it doesn't talk about performance and exaggerated femininity beyond natural inclinations, to me memory, although it might!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

advance consent

There's been a lot of talk lately about the idea of advance consent.  While the case that caused the talk is interesting, I'm more interested in the concept itself and its implications.  I've seen posts saying that of course advance consent makes sense because people in relationships in the real world need to be able to get all up on their partner without worry, and I've seen posts saying that advance consent is a terrible thing because it basically reopens the door to marital rape, and really, rape in any relationship.

So.

Advance consent.

It think it can be a good idea, especially for people in kinky relationships, but i think if you're going to do it, you need to be specific.  Saying "Hey, lover, you can do whatever you want to me while I'm passed out/asleep/tied up and gagged" isn't the same as making a list saying what can be done and when.  The first doesn't talk at all about boundaries, and is relying on your partner to somehow psychically intuit what is and is not acceptable.  The later means that you get specific about what you like and what you don't, and when its ok to do certain things.  It's dangerous to just say that your partner can do whatever, because it means they might do something you really dislike, or that hurts you, or that is against your morals.

People aren't likely to be giving advance consent to acts they hate-- but if they just say sure, i give consent to sex, then "sex" is up to their partner's interpretation, and they've put themselves in a potentially precarious position.

But I do think that certain forms of it can be quite useful!  People giving their partners consent to wake them up with a blowjob, or consent to hit them and ignore the word no, or even just consent to switch from vaginal sex to anal without talking about it are all things that happen in a lot of people's relationships.  People like these things.  I think it's key, though, that people talk about these things, and don't just assume that their partner will know when to stop, and it's also key that if consent is revoked (in the "ignore the word no" scenario, this would generally be through the use of a safety word or safety signal) that it is listened to, and that the action is stopped.  Advance consent is ok if it means "you can try this without verbalizing it first".  It isn't ok if it means that the other person gets more of a say in what they can do to your body than you do.  It also doesn't mean that consent transfers-- consenting to A should not automatically mean consenting to B.   Consenting to B should not automatically mean consenting to A.

But kink happens, and some people like surprises, and some people just really enjoy being groped by their partners and not having to always verbally negotiate every damn sexual interaction.  It's important to talk about sex and make sure you're both on the same page, but most people in a relationship don't stop kissing to ask if they can put their hand on their partner's genitalia, or massage their body, or shift angles.  It's just... not how sex usually works.  So most people do rely to some extent on an implied form of advance consent, where it's assumed their partner is ok with some groping or kissing-- but at the same time, it shouldn't be assumed that a partner is always in a state of perpetual consent.  But maybe we can operate on a platform where people are ok with certain acts, and certain initiation, without them automatically consenting to sex.

So-- I can see, definitely, how it can be problematic.  And I don't think it should at all be interpreted to negate the ability to revoke consent.  But I do think that in the real world where people are not perfect and where their sex lives do not always fit into neat packages that I can see the utility of a form of advance consent that is specific and easily revoked.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Half Your Shit

The idea that if you're a man*, and you get divorced, that the woman "takes half your shit" really, really, bothers me.  Because what it's implying is, that if marital assets are split fifty-fifty...  and she takes half the assets... and she's taking "half his shit"... well, it's implying that none of it was hers to start with.  That everything is his, his, his.  And that's pretty problematic.  The easiest angle to address this from is that where both partners are working and making similar amounts of money.  Is she really taking half your shit, when half of the money that bought that shit came from her?  No.   That should be obvious.

So, what about when she isn't working, when she's a housewife, or a stay at home mom?  Guess what-- even if the income is solely yours, it still isn't all "your" shit.  Because one of the fundamental parts of marriage is that the two of you are becoming a unit-- and if one partner doesn't work, they're still a full part of that unit.  Things that are brought into the marriage belong to both partners, not just one of them-- because this is supposed to be a joining of lives, not just a convenient roommate situation.  Everything belongs to one partner only in the sense that everything also belongs to the other partner. They're both co owners in everything.  Because it's a partnership.

If your view on marriage is one where you're suspicious that your partner would "take half your shit", you might be a little too selfish for marriage-- and if your partner is the kind of person who might try to screw you over in a divorce, maybe you should think again about why you want to marry them.  I guess part of this just goes back to my belief that marriage should be a partnership, a unity formed of two souls, in which you both really care for each other, and in which anything one of you has is freely shared with the other, in which both people act for the good of the partnership, and act with love, rather than with reality-tv style selfishness.  I know that divorce has got to be absolutely awful, but it's no excuse for either partner to become overwhelming selfish and possessive-- even though I know that a lot of divorces come down to couples fighting over who gets the china that they both hated.  But hurting people shouldn't be the norm, and it shouldn't be expected, and it especially shouldn't be encouraged.  And when you're talking about her taking "half your shit" and it's a hypothetical, then you are encouraging that selfish behavior and you are encouraging it from both sides.  And that is reprehensible.

*I'm assuming a straight couple for this, because while I see straight guys complaining about the possibility of a future partner someday "taking half his shit", I haven't seen it from gay men or women.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Movember

So, November is also known by many as Movember or no-shave November.  To many people who participate in it, this is just an excuse to grow a caveman-style beard and piss of their significant others, but some people have actually taken this idea and turned it to a good cause!  The basic premise being, grow a mustache, raise awareness of men's health issue, and raise money for (if you're in the US) Livestrong and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Yes, mustaches have about as much in common with prostate cancer as pink ribbons do with breast cancer, and if you know me, you probably know that I'm not a huge fan of the commercialization of disease.  Still, we don't do a lot of talking about men's health issues or prostate cancer, and while prostate cancer isn't one of the deadliest of cancers, it does do a lot to harm quality of life.

In general, men don't go to the doctor as often as women.  As a result, many illnesses go undiagnosed or untreated.  If you're a guy who hasn't had a checkup in awhile, consider getting one-- because there are a lot of other diseases that men are susceptible to, and while going to the doctor does suck, you deserve health.

 

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Glee Photoshoot

I've got to say, I'm not really a fan of it.  Like most of that photographer's work, it looks pretty tacky to me. I'm not terribly offended by it, though.  I get why it's problematic, I get why it does offend some people, but...  the only thing about it that really bothers me is that it looks cheap and trashy.

I do think that it was a bad decision to dress the women--and at 24, they are women, not girls-- in school girl outfits.  They obviously don't look like they're still highschool aged, but there is the problem of sexualizing youth, and putting the image of schools as sexy out there.  Yes, teens are often sexual, and the women do play sexual teens on Glee (hell, Quinn gave BIRTH.  That's about as sexual as it gets!), but they are not actually their characters.  The photoshoot isn't a couple of schoolgirls posing in lingerie-- it's a couple of adults posing in lingerie that is vaguely reminiscent of schoolgirl stereotypes, posed in a school setting.

Ok, so it is a little creepy.  But it isn't creepy because of Dianna Agron and Lea Michele.  24 year old women posing sexually for money isn't creepy-- and it wouldn't be creepy if they were stripping or having sex for money either, although it would be a questionable career move-- but dressing adults up as kids so that you can get a sexy teen photoshoot?  Well, that is creepy.  But... I don't really think anyone is supposed to be fooled into thinking they are teens-- the school theme is just because of the characters they play.  Still, it wouldn't have been hard-- and would have been much more interesting-- to do a photoshoot that wasn't a direct reference to the show and their characters, or that allowed them to be sexual in classier way.  Afterall, the shoot was for GQ, not Maxim.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The irrelevance of Gawker's attempt to shame Christine O'Donnell

I get that hypocrisy in our elected officials is an important thing to take note of, and I'm all for calling people out on it, but... Gawker's little "expose" on Christine O'Donnell did not do that.  True, she's totally a joke of a politician, and we know that she had sex back in college, so her current anti-pre-marital sex attitude seems a little do as a say not as I did-- the exact kind of attitude that gets parents to lose their children's respect-- but Gawker's piece is just-- not serving any real and legitimate purpose.

The piece says its about a one-night-stand, but all the details it actually gives are that he managed to get her clothing off, they didn't have sex, and she was aggressive about pursuing some kisses earlier in the evening.  Oh, and that she was utterly WASTED.  She made it clear she wasn't going to have sex.  That checks with her political positions, so that doesn't fall into the realm of important hypocrisy.  She wanted to do some making our and kissing.  Ok, but has she said that kissing isn't ok?  If she has-- which, ok, wouldn't shock me-- it isn't something I've heard about.  So again, not seeing hypocrisy.  Her clothes came off-- ok, I can see why that's problematic with the family values set-- but there is absolutely no reason to detail the state of her pubic hair.  That's utterly irrelevant, and exists only as a salacious detail-- plus, who really cares what her pubic hair is like?  Are they really trying to shame someone for not waxing?  I've been in women's locker rooms, and I can tell you that, while widespread, being hairless isn't as universal as some people make it out to be.  Also, theres' a curious lack of detail regarding how the underwear got off of the utterly wasted woman-- did she take it off?  Did he?   I'd honestly be curious to see what her recollection of the night was, especially since the anonymous author does represent her as being drunker than he, and since once they were in bed, his early and repeated descriptions of her as aggressive ended.

So, what's the take away?  She was aggressive about making out, but adamant about not having sex and seemed sexually inexperienced.  I don't see how this is an important expose on hypocrisy.  All I see is an attempt to embarrass her.  Quite frankly, her politics do a good enough job of that on their own-- and this just makes me think poorly of Gawker, for trying to use previous legal drunken sexual actions to shame her.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bi-visibility

In most conversation I have with people regarding sexuality and orientation, it usually seems that we talk about people who are straight or gay, rather than bi or the even broader label of queer-- and in my personal life, I know far, far, far more straight or gay people than I do bi people.  I can think of... three bi women that I know in real life, and only one of them is out as bi-- and she's poly and in an open relationship.  So it's sort  f surprising to me-- and awesome-- that there's been some bi visibility on tv lately!  I don't watch a lot of tv, it's true, but in two of the... three, if you count Jeopardy... shows I regularly watch, there have recently been bi characters.

How I Met Your Mother is definitely one of my favorite shows.  The characters aren't perfect, but they're so fun-- and Barney, the consummate playboy, reminds me a lot of one of my real life friends.  But even though all the main characters exclusively date people of the opposite sex, one of Ted's exes was recently shown getting married to a woman!  Without discounting her previous interest in Ted!  Meaning, she's bi!  And it's treated as no big deal among the rest of the characters!  To me, this is awesome-- but then, Lily occasionally alludes to sexual fantasies involving Robin, Robin briefly had a sexual fantasy involving... herself, and Barney and Marshall briefly fought over which of them Ted would be most likely to have a crush on when they thought Ted was interested in men.  So, there has been some nonchalance about sexuality in past episodes, but Rachel Bilson's character is the first to actually get involved with both men and women!  Go HIMYM!

Also doing good things in bi-visibility is Glee, with the darling Brittany and less darling Santana.  Both date boys, and yet also make out with each other and even SCISSOR!  Brittany loves Santana, but Santana just likes sex with anything or anyone hot!  And they're main characters!  And the rest of the main cast doesn't care!  Sure, their sexuality had been alluded to in the past, and they've used the idea of girl on girl action in seducing guys before, but of the the recent episodes showed them in bed together, making out for their own pleasure, no guys involved.  And acted like it was normal!  And they get to be real characters with both good points and bad-- well, they're still caricatures, as are all the cast members of Glee, but they're just as real and developed as the other kids are!

So, I've got to say, I'm pretty pleased with that, because I feel like anything outside of pure straightness gets ignored by a lot of society, and anything outside of pure straight or pure gayness gets ignored even more.  So yay for Glee and How I Met Your Mother.  Yay for treating bi people as completely normal.  And keep it up-- we need more of this in the world, because no matter what people are into, as long as it doesn't harm others, it's ok.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Birthcontrol

Planned Parenthood has a petition out right now to encourage congress to add free birth control to the new healthcare reform.  The text of the position is simply


"I support making prescription birth control available at no cost. The new health care reform law should make prescription birth control available to every woman without co-pays or other out-of-pocket costs to ensure that every woman has access to the birth control that works best for her. This will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and help keep women and children healthy."

Let's be honest, here.  No matter how many signatures this petition gets, I highly doubt that it will succeed.  So why do I think it matters, and why do I think it's important to sign it?  Because even if it does not pass-- the fact that individuals put down their addresses means their representatives will see that people do care about birth control.  And birth control is important.  It keeps women from getting pregnant, it regulates periods, and helps treat serious illnesses like endometriosis.  Even when women can't control their sex lives, if they could afford birth control, they can have a say in controlling their reproduction-- condoms take the cooperation of both partners, but a woman who can obtain birth control can take it without telling her partner.  This can be especially important for young women who still live with their parents, women who have abusive partners, or women who simply do not trust condoms.

As someone who is currently unemployed and who uses birth control, I've got to say I am a big fan of it being affordable.  I've been on it since I was 18, well before I ever had sex, and it does amazing things for my productivity during the week before my period.  I always took it for granted, because when I was in school, the copay was amazingly low-- and now it's gone higher, but it's still something I'm not willing to live without.  It-- and healthcare in general-- are free in many other countries of similar status to the US.  Having free birthcontrol won't turn us into a nation of Godless heathens who sleep with everything in site, but it will reduce the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies.  And I think most people can agree that those are good things-- both for the women and for society at large.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Full Frontal Feminism

I'm currently wondering what the ideal way to introduce a young woman to feminism is.

The first book of my quest to read a bunch of feminist texts was Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism.  Ostensibly, it's an intro guide to a feminism for young women-- highschool aged is my guess.  I wouldn't give it to a girl that age, though-- especially if she isn't already inclined towards feminism.  There is a lot of worthwhile information in the book, but I'm not a fan of the way it's framed-- a ton of swearing, and jabs at Republicans and religion.  I'm certainly not opposed to swearing-- I um, swear rather a lot-- but in something like this, an at least mildly academic introduction to a serious and important topic, it doesn't hurt to sound a little more serious.  It's serious stuff!  And, contrary to what some people might think about accessibility, if you're a young, confused, slightly uptight young woman, a bunch of swearing isn't terribly likely to speak to you.  It sure wouldn't have got through to me or my friends back in highschool.

And speaking of getting through to people?  I'm glad that Valenti noted that Republicans and conservatives aren't automatically bad people-- sure, some are, but a lot are just people with very different viewpoints who are also trying to do what they think is right.  Still-- she makes a lot of jabs at Republicans and religion, and i can't imagine that sitting too well with someone who was raised by religious or Republican parents that they love.  Though JD is liberal like me, when we met he was registered as a Republican, and one of our close friends here in Boston is also a Republican-- and you know what?  They're both genuinely good people who I (fairly clearly) respect!  Talking about the politics of the Republican party is one thing-- but the generalities there are my idea of wrong.

i also got annoyed at a little bit of hypocrisy there.  As I've said before, i don't think that being a feminist means you don't get to wear make up, enjoy all sorts of sex or enjoy not having sex, love your shoe collection-- or change you name when you get married.   Feminism doesn't demand that every choice and action we make be determined solely by our politics.  Valenti totally agrees on the makeup front-- after all, she wears it too!-- but she argues against changing your name at marriage.  I get that makeup and names are different thing, but I still think it's a bit hypocritical to say one is aok and the other is not.

All this said-- I'm a huge fan of her blogging, and her blog.  It's just that I'd rather direct them to Feministing than to Full Frontal Feminism.  Feministing isn't an intro though-- so what IS a good intro?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Numbers

I have a formspring account.  I got it back when they were all the rage with the cool bloggers, and it languished for awhile, without people asking questions.  A bit ago, I finally got one! But... it wasn't exactly the sort of thought provoking conversation starter I'd been hoping for.  Instead, it was "how many men/women have you fucked?".
What I'm curious about is, in what will would that information actually further understanding of my writing-- or anyone's, for that matter.  In what way is knowing the number of people someone has slept with relevant?  I mean, I guess if I've slept with women, that could be relevant, because queer individuals often have different experiences than straight ones.  And I guess the experiences of a virgin vs. a woman who has slept with a ton of partners can also be relevant in a blog that talks about sexuality.  But as things stand-- it's pretty obvious that I'm not a virgin, and that I'm partnered to a man in a monogamous relationship.  So whether or not he's the first or the 100th person I've slept with seems... rather irrelevant.  One of the things I do here, as I mentioned before, is try to talk about sex without dwelling on my own sexuality.  I'm just one data point in a sea of people, so i try to think about the more interesting and unusual stories of friends, and the trends I've seen in people my age compared to what the media seems to think we all do.  But me, personally?  I'm kind of boring, people.  I'm monogamous and engaged.

So, the question remains-- why do some people think numbers matter, and that knowing how many people someone has sex with will give them insight into his or her mind?  the truth is, it just doesn't matter.  Knowing someone's number really tells you nothing about them-- a virgin can think of herself as pure, or just be someone who hasn't been in an environment conducive to finding a lot of compatible sex partners.  Someone promiscuous can be having sex because they enjoy it, or they might secretly hate themself and feel like they are sinning.  There's no way of knowing what someone thinks just from knowing their number, and someone's views on sex and sexuality equally do not predict the number of sex partners they've had.

The very idea that a number is relevant seems to stem from a rather old-fashioned view of sex-- the idea that good girls don't put out-- or from the idea that people will always defend their experiences, regardless of what they are.  The falsity of that can be seen easily, though; while some people who were promiscuous in their youth grew to be sex-positive educators-- like Susie Bright-- the opposite can be seen in Christine O'Donnell, who has a well known anti-masturbation and promiscuity stance, but has also said in interviews that she did have a lot of sex in her youth.  For all we know, the two might have had similar numbers of sex partners, but they have vastly different views on sex and sexuality.  The numbers just don't matter.  Like anything else someone has done, people will use a person's numbers and twist them into being an explanation for nearly any attitude.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How much does text play into your life?

I'm very much a feminist, but I haven't read a lot of feminist writing.  In fact, I've read almost none-- and most of what I have read is fiction, rather than theory.  One of the things I'm planning to do in the next couple weeks, in addition to job searching and wedding planning, neither of which are exactly my idea of fun, is to go read some of the actual text that's been published on feminism and gender studies.  Here at home I have the new translation of The Second Sex, a copy of The Feminine Mystique, and a very short book by Andrea Dworkin (which, based on the quotes of hers that I've read before, is probably all I can take of her in one dose).  I've got a couple of Jessica Valenti's books on order from the library, as well as Butler's Gender Troubles.  To even things out a bit, I'm even thinking of getting some books on gender studies from a male point of view-- Lionel Tiger style, or Warren Farrel, or someone else who I'm highly likely to disagree with-- but as with Twilight, I'll do them the justice of  reading their material so I can back my distaste up.   I think it's a pretty good starting base, but I'm very open to other suggestions as well.

One of the things I'm wondering is how much reading most people do on things they strongly believe in-- whether it's feminism, or religion, or a lifestyle path-- and how much of our decisions and opinions we come to on our own.  For me, my mindset is mostly a product of experience and observation, with some internet reading thrown in once I hit college.  In high school, I was a feminist, though I didn't really know what the term meant, and I certainly didn't realize that there were people out there who might disagree with me.  My parents were super egalitarian in the way they raised my brother and I, and I was always the smartest kid around.  I didn't watch TV, and I played super heroes with my guy neighbors, and went to ballet lessons. It wasn't until I got older and started paying more attention to the rest of the world that it hit me that something was off.

It started in highschool I guess-- but there, it started with religion, not feminism.  One of the ministers at my church had been caught in an affair with a married member of the congregation when I was in 8th grade.  I refused to attend church-- suddenly the authority I'd placed in ministers and religion had been smashed.  I read the entire Bible from start to finish my freshman year of highschool and concluded that I was totally cool with God and Jesus, even if humans sometimes messed up in pretty awful ways.

My embrace of feminism didn't start until sometime in college though, because I still was naive and insulated somewhat from sexism as sexism-- but I discovered it in college.  I still hadn't read anything at all that could be classed as feminist discourse, though-- I had to formulate my thoughts on my own, and came to decisions that, for the most part, I still hold to.  When I joined a sorority, when one of my roommates became a sugar baby, when I went to frat parties-- I hadn't read any of the things out there that talked about the implications of any of it.  And as a result, I made the decisions that made me-- and though my sorority may not have labelled itself as feminist, it was the first truly feminist group I ever became a part of.

I came to feminism and to identifying as a feminist, even with the negative stigma from the unrealistic stereotype, without ever reading any major feminist texts.  I came to feminism without even reading any of the major online blogs!  And yet, my take on feminism seems to be fairly consistent with the modern view-- that agency, autonomy, and choice in lifestyle and actions matter, that equality is what is important, and that women-- our bodies, our health, our decisions, our opinions-- are not disposable.  And yet, I still feel like I ought to read older texts, and any new ones that have prominence, whether I'll agree with them or not-- because I feel like I ought to know where feminism came from, and what ideological changes have occurred along the way.  It's funny, because I've never really been tempted to read any theological books-- I'm fully satisfied with my take on Christianity being based on my understanding of the Bible and discussions with ministers-- but for feminism, I want to read the ideological texts.  I want to know what other people are saying, what they think, and why they think it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On tradition

Tradition!  Tradition!

When you are planning a wedding people really like to talk about tradition.  A lot.  And at length.

Tradition and I are on shaky grounds right now.  See, I like tradition in some aspects.  Having fillet mignon for breakfast Christmas morning directly after opening presents, with some nice music in the background?  That's a tradition I like.  It's something I've done every Christmas I've spent at my parents' house, and it's significant to me because it's tied up with my childhood memories.  It's a continuation and reminder of my childhood in many ways.  I also love some of the tradition you get in a sorority-- the outfits we'd wear to initiation, the ritual you know every other chapter also follows, and has been following for decades-- that's pretty awesome, and it's a way of having continuity throughout the group, and something that will link and bind different chapters of women who have never met together.

But wedding traditions?  Well...  they really don't have that much significance to me, and in a lot of cases, I just plain don't like them.

Let me be clear:  I think doing something, solely because it is tradition, is stupid.  I think NOT doing something, solely because it is tradition, is ALSO stupid.  The fact that something is or is not traditional is not what makes me like it or hate it-- but I feel a bit that when I reject things that are "traditional" as if I might be disappointing people-- yet if I do them, I'll be disappointing myself, and tainting the wedding in my mind.

It's very rough for me, as much as I like to please other people, to try to be true to myself and JD here and not just give in and having a wedding that I will hate that will make me sad.  But I just can't.  I can't start out marriage off with something that feels alien to me, something that makes me feel uncomfortable.

So in a lot of cases?  I'm rejecting tradition.  Not because it is tradition-- but because I don't like the connotations of it, or the origin of it, or even the aesthetic of it.

I will, for example, not be wearing a veil.  I don't like the aesthetic of the veil, and I don't like the ideas behind it-- hiding my blushing pure face from people?  Please.  I want to get married with my eyes wide open, staring at JD as we affirm our love and commitment.  I don't want anything to get in the way.  I also don't want to be walked down the aisle by my father.  This is the one I feel the most guilty about, but the connotations of it just deeply disturb me.  It feels like a transfer of property-- like I belong to my father, and then am given to my husband.  Like I am not making my own choice, like I am not a person with agency.  The fact that it is one man, and then i am transferred to another man just bothers me, even though my father is wonderful.  What I would like to do is actually borrow from another tradition.  In many Jewish weddings, the groom is escorted down the aisle by his parents, and the bride is escorted down the aisle by hers.  I like the symbolism and imagery of that-- both of us are leaving our family, both of us are equal, and there isn't the same connotation of woman as property, since we would both be shown to be parting from our parents.  I also like that it incorproates both of my parents, because they're both absolutely wonderful people who, I think, did a great job of raising me.

I'm not parting from all tradition-- I'm planning to wear a white(ish?) dress, and I will incorporate something old, new, borrowed, and blue-- largely because incorporating something blue gives me an excuse to paint my nails a fierce blue :-)  (and yes, I know the something blue is usually lingerie, but nail polish is So. Fun.)  I'll admit, the connotations of a white dress-- with purity and innocence and all that-- do bother me.  But here, I guess my vanity is winning out over my principles-- because I look AMAZING in my wedding dress.  It also isn't technically white-- it's ivory-- which makes me feel at least a touch better.

It's just hard, in thinking about all this, to balance my principles and the expectations of others.  I'm not doing traditional things for tradition's sake-- but the times when I refuse to do traditional things, it isn't simply because I'm trying to flaunt tradition.

We want our wedding to reflect us.  To be purely JD and Amanda.  And if we stick to pure tradition, well-- we'd just be playing roles, instead of being ourselves.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I said "Yes" to a dress

JD and I spent the past ten days visiting his family in Oklahoma, and as part of our trip, his mother took the two of us to Dallas so that she and I could look at wedding dresses there.  I had already looked some in Ohio, and had found one I liked... then looked a bit more in Oklahoma and found a few other good ones.  But in Dallas...

Well, I found the perfect dress, and surprisingly enough, it doesn't have a lot of what I initially wanted.  It doesn't have straps, it isn't a v-neck, it has a high waist instead of a drop waist, and it isn't the material I had in mind, or even quite as creamy colored as I wanted, being much closer to a true white.

But when I tried it on... people, I can TWIRL in this dress.  I look like I stepped out of Swan Lake or something.  I AM AN ETHEREAL FAIRY PRINCESS!  Which is, you know, hard when you're taller than the height of the average American man.  The hilarious part is that one of the dresses I tried on was everything I said I wanted coming in.  It was the perfect dress that I'd built up in my head.  But... it just wasn't perfect.
And the dress I'm going to wear... oh, it is.

We've now accomplished a total of one step on our giant wedding checklist, but hey!  They say starting is the hardest part.  And now I just have to momentum it all forward!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Angry Feminist Rant. Probably Slightly Incoherent.

Questions people often ask feminists online:

Why would you choose to align yourself with a group with such negative connotations?

If you really believe in equality, shouldn't you call yourself an equalist or a humanist, not a feminist?



You know what?  As novel as my understanding of feminism may seem to some people, I didn't blindly come up with it and pull it from whole cloth.  Nope.  I'm a creative person, but I'm not THAT creative.  Instead, I looked around at the prevailing use and definition of the word feminism in feminist circles.  Because really, who are you going to believe-- haters or people who have never bothered to read up on the topic, or people that are immersed in the topic, and have an understanding of the topic, and are part of the community?  It's like when non-Christians try to tell me I'm not Christian because I don't go to church every Sunday, or believe every tenant of whatever Christian denomination they're most familiar with.

And like Christianity-- or any religion, or any political movement, or any other thing someone can self-identify as, there's a lot of wiggle room inside one broad definition.  There are some crazy feminists out there!  I don't know any feminist who denies that!  But there are crazies in Every. Single. Movement.  Modern feminism-- the feminism of women in my age group, the feminism of third wavers, the feminism that is what most people on the internets are talking about when they talk about feminism-- it bears very little relation to radical feminism or the feminism of Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon.  Sure, there are still radical feminists out there!  And there are enough of them that if all you want to find are radfem blogs, you could probably do that!  But that is not what the MAJORITY of the modern feminist movement is.  It's incredibly stupid to disavow an entire movement because of radicals who share the label.  You don't throw the movement away-- you get active IN it, and do something!  Granted, most of what I do is just blogging and talking to friends and leaving comments on the blogs of people who drastically disagree with me, but I want to do more, and I want to hold on to feminism, because I believe in it.  I believe that women are every bit as valuable and capable and worth respect as men are.  I believe that who you are should matter more than the genitalia you bear.

As to the name?  Well, the movement is about equality, yes, but with a focus on women, and on advancing women to be equal with men-- as well as on changing some things that do go beyond pure equality.  The equality feminism wants isn't to make men's situations worse to match women, but to make women's better to match men.  But it's true-- while equality is the core, much modern feminism goes beyond that, and looks to ways to better life all around.  Extending paternity and maternity leave, for example, are feminist goals-- yet this goal isn't just pushing for equality, but to expand the status quo into a better situation for both genders.

I think it's kind of awesome, actually, that feminism wants to make things better for everyone, and I have no shame in belonging to a group that prioritizes women.  Every group must have some kind of focus, or nothing will get accomplished.  Feminism is ultimately, fundamentally about women's rights.  By the definition of feminism, things that fight for women's rights are feminist, even if they also fight for other things!  And you know what?  Something having equality at it's core doesn't preclude it from saying "Hey!  Situation X is bad ALL AROUND, let's fix it!" or "Situation Y affects women only, but let's fix it!". (What, you might be wondering could possibly affect only women*?  How about breastfeeding.  Or menstruation.  Or policies surrounding childbirth.  Parenting sure as hell is a men's issue as well as a women's issue, but the choice between a diva cup or tampon or pad and dealing with it when you get one break every X number of hours but have a very heavy flow is an issue most men don't face.

Feminism is still needed.  We've come a long, long way from when my mother first started teaching and was required to wear skirts, and a longer way from when my grandmother was a girl.  Married women and women with children are allowed to hold down jobs.  The wage gap has gotten a lot smaller and isn't as simple as a company literally setting different pay scales for men and women.  It's illegal for a man to rape his wife.  But really.  We've still got a long, long, long way to go.  And I think feminism is necessary to get us there.

Quite simply-- I'm proud that I'm a feminist.

(ok, this is being very cis-centric, and I realize these issues may also affect transmen, but please stay with me.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sex Offenders in Church

Apparently there's been some discussion on whether or not sex offenders should be allowed free access to churches, rating an article in Time, and even discussion in court cases-- but I heard about it in an article at Jezebel.

My reaction to this is basically to wonder how there is even a question here.  Yes, I'm very much against sexual assault, and don't think someone who assaults someone else should just be able to go back to their life as if nothing happened-- but not all sex offenses are actually harmful (public urination, statutory rape committed by a teen to hir close-in-age significant other), and I believe in a deterrence and rehabilitation model of justice, rather than a retributive one.

As both a Christian and a feminist, the double bias is going to show.  But I believe that churches should not only be for those upright citizens who are paragons of virtue.  You shouldn't have to be as "good" of a person as the minister to take part in worship, and you certainly don't have to be blameless to ask God to "lead you not into temptation".   Granted, a large part of church is the community, and adults do have a lot of interaction with children in a church setting-- but unless that adult is a youth group leader or Sunday school teacher, chances are they don't have much one-on-one time with kids.

Note, I also do not think that sex offenders should be ministers (exception-- teenage mutually consenting statutory rape and teenage/college public urination type activities, as long as, you know, that sort of disregard for public spaces didn't stay with them as an adult.).  Ministers should be devoted to living a Godly life in a way that really can't be expected of ordinary people-- that's why it's a calling, instead of just a profession.  That's why they're ministers, instead of parishioners.

But, a regular member of the congregation?  Someone who comes to church to worship in community and who tries to better hirself?  Well, I totally and completely think that sex offenders ought to be allowed to do that, if they're out of jail and living in general society.  And I think that disallowing them, even out of concern for children, is rather unChristian.  Jesus wouldn't shun someone for the crimes ze's committed, and leading people out of lives of sin is supposed to be one of the main functions of churches.

Ugh.  This ties into my problem in general with many modern churches-- the expectation that everyone coming is there to celebrate their own comparatively sinful lives, rather than to unite as sinners who are trying to be good to others and help lift others up.  Part of being Christian is extending love and help to the unloveable, after all.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Handmaid's Tale: The Fragility of Equality

This is a guest post by JD, my fiance.  He graduated law school in May, and like me, is currently looking for work.  He has previously written a published legal article, and is a part author of a chapter of one of the authoritative texts on federal civil procedure. .  He is one of the most insightful and wonderful people I know.


I picked up a new novel last night with the idea of reading for an hour or so before bed. At around 4am, I finally put down The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood after absorbing its startling epilogue. Atwood spins her dystopian fiction as a disjointed narrative that approaches stream of consciousness, a style that seems to mirror the mind of the novel’s protagonist. Attempting to summarize the plot would not do the book justice, but suffice to say I couldn’t put it down and it gripped me with an odd emotion I don’t normally get when reading: fear.


Fear isn’t actually a response I encounter often when reading dystopian literature. Classics such as 1984 I took in as warnings, with the knowledge that their goal was to teach us to be on our guard, to teach us that being aware of the possibility of such a future was a step in combating it. But 1984 didn’t leave me with a feeling of immediacy, a feeling that such a future could easily come to pass. Though it dealt with sex somewhat, and was partly about the freedom to love, 1984 did not have as its focus a theocratic dystopia based around the subjugation of women. Such a world is the focus of The Handmaids Tale.


Why does that particular structure frighten me more than the dystopia imagined by other authors? Why should I be any more disturbed by that than by Orwell’s emotionally repressed world? The answer is that it hits too close to home. At one point in the novel, the protagonist asks her “Commander”—one of the male leaders of the new theocracy—the all important question: why? His answer is multi-faceted, but mainly is concerned with giving men something to live for again. The rise of feminism and the status of women as equals removed men from their role as protectors, usurped their former place in the world. Rather than combat that emptiness with a new goal, they sought to return to the former status quo. There is no adaptation here, but rather true conservatism on the part of the men; a refusal to adapt to changes in the world and in society. Part of the “Commander’s” defense is that they were merely returning to the way it always had been, that feminism was the anomaly and merely a blink in the course of history.


Those words fill me with fear because in a way they are true. The equality of women is a recent accomplishment, and in a non-legal sense there are still many battles to be fought. The 19th amendment, granting women’s suffrage in the U.S., was not ratified until 1920—less than 100 years ago. What women have fought so hard for is truly a recent attainment, and parallels the civil rights movement in that regard. The Handmaid’s Tale is frightening because it contemplates a step back and an unraveling of all that has been achieved and that has helped make women more than brood mares and domestic slaves.
               

Even more frightening is that there are those out there who still argue that women belong in a situation like that portrayed in The Handmaids Tale: they are lesser, they exist only for breeding, they shouldn’t be educated. The source of those views is irrelevant, they could be biblically justified, as those in The Handmaid’s Tale were, or they could be the result of individual hatred and stem from individuals who went through bad divorces or have grown to hate all women because of some unfortunate personal experience. Regardless of their origin, people who would embrace the world of The Handmaid’s Tale exist.  They exist, and they must be fought. The battle is not over, and The Handmaid’s Tale shows us a world that might be if those who still believe that women should not have the same rights as men succeed.  In that way it is more than a parable and is to some extent, a call to arms. We cannot take for granted the equality of the sexes; we must remember the struggle it took to get here, and we must continue that struggle against everyone who would try to take that equality away. Regardless of who uttered these words originally, they remain true: the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Usually, the search terms that get people to my site are random phrases, about sex, love, love letters, porn, law, or random phrases I've used.  Today, I got one that used a real question.  So.

Dear Chicago, Illinois reader,

Yes, women CAN masturbate while on medication.

Love,
Amanda


Tomorrow is the second half of the bar exam.  I expect to be too busy partying/moving to write until around the fifth, but then expect a flood of more posts while we look for an apartment for next year, plan our wedding, and look for jobs.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Talking About Sex Without Talking About Myself.

One of the main topics of this blog is, clearly, sexuality.  I think that sexuality is something people need to discuss more often and in more detail.  I think our society focusses too much on overt depictions of sexiness and not enough on people actually examining their own desires.  I think we are, strangely, overexposed to images of sex, and underexposed to discussion about sex.  Talking about how much sex kids are having, or different sex posititions, or how many partners you've had doesn't really get into the issues of what sex is and means and can be-- it's all just skimming the surface of an issue that is central to most people's lives, but unexamined.

And one of the problems I have is that when I write, I want to be candid about my own experiences and desires, so that people can know my bias-- know where I come from and know how I've expereinced things, because I do think that an author's expereinces are relevant to his or her writing.  I want to be as fun and candid as Mary Roach is in Bonk-- but I just can't bring myself to be a "sex blogger" instead of a "sexuality blogger".

Part of it is my own personal sense of privacy-- I don't really want my parents or employers reading about my sex life.  It's strangely hypocritical in a way, because I think those sorts of things shouldn't matter to people, and because I think people should be open-- but my ideals are ideals, and the society I live in doesn't always mesh with them well.  It's enough to have people judge me on my political opinions;  I don't need them to think about what I do or do not do in the bedroom.

A second reason is that it's not just about me-- its also about JD, and if I go into my history, any previous partners.  Even if JD doesn't care in general, there might be specific he'd care about-- or he might disagree with my characterizations of things.  Regardless, it's his life too, and he should get an equal say in what gets discussed.

Talking about sex without talking about myself is limiting.  It makes it harder to write about sexuality, but at the same time it forces me to go outside of my personal zone and consider a greater depth of experience.  I think that's a good thing, really-- it's challenging to me as a writer, and also challenging to me as a person.  I have to think about what I think society ought to accept, while disregarding my own personal limits-- something I think we should all do more often.

It does limit my posts though-- because I do want to talk about my own experiences, very much, but I feel that morally, I can't.  Not with my name attached, and not in a public forum where anyone I personally know can easily read my writing.  It's also egotistic, in a way-- why on earth would my sex life be important?  Isn't it enough that I know other people to whom things apply, without it applying to myself?  It should be-- it is-- but when writing, I'm driven to want to be more confessional than I let myself be.  In part, I think it comes from the modern confessional style of writing-  the New York Times modern love series, sex blogs, tell-alls, and reality tv (which sure, I don't watch, but I hear about it, and so it does affect me.

So, talking about sex without talking about myself.  It's hard, but ultimately, it's worth doing.  And I'm going to endeavor to keep it up.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Dating Jerks

I am a woman who has dated jerks.  I've also dated guys so nice you might mistake them for a puppy dog, but this entry?  This is about the jerks*.

And in a way, it's a thank you to them.

Because I think everyone should, at some point in their life, date a guy or gal who is a huge jerk.

This is counter-intuitive.  Relationships are supposed to be good, to make you happy, to lift you up.  Yeah, that's what they're supposed to be, but anyone who has had multiple relationships often knows that that isn't always true-- and I think dating the jerks is a great learning tool.  True, you can end up in a great marriage with your first serious partner (as my mother did, when she married my dad), but I still think there is a huge benefit to dating a lot, and a lot of different types of people, in your youth.

But there is especially a benefit to dating jerks.

Jerks teach you what you aren't willing to take, and what you aren't willing to compromise on.  They teach you what issues you really care about, and sharpen your ability to argue and to stand up for yourself.  they teach you patience and tolerance, and make you realize how awesome your eventual awesome partner really is.  I would not, at this stage of life, want to date a jerk.  JD is a great guy, truly kind and wonderful, caring and giving, and most definitely not a jerk-- but I think our relationship is actually better because I've dated jerks in the past.

See, JD occasionally does things that make me roll my eyes-- and he isn't afraid to point out when I do things that are also eye roll worthy.  But we talk about those things, and really?  None of them are huge.  We haven't had any huge ideological clashes, and when we do disagree, we're both mature enough to talk it out and come to some sort of compromise.  I am a person who likes to make others happy, so bringing things up can be... well, difficult for me.  As can facing criticism.  But after the personal insults, cutting descriptions, and unreasonable behavior of jerks in the past?  Well, the thought of a small discussion is just not. that. scary. anymore-- really!  Because I dated jerks, I learned that there is nothing someone can do with words that should, or can, stop me from expressing myself.

I also learned through the jerks what sort of things I like... and don't like. See, all the jerks had some of the traits I liked!  Otherwise-- why would I have dated them?  But the also had a lot of traits that I didn't like.  Because I was an obsessive journaler up until, oh, after JD and I started dating, I managed to record a lot of self-analyzing thoughts on the good and bad points of relationships, and I've been able to learn from them and apply them to each successive relationship.  This is the sort of learning that should, ideally, work for most people-- even the non obsessive, non overly analytical-- because we do learn from our past and our mistakes.  I'm hesitant to call past relationships mistakes, because they have shaped who I am today-- but in some cases, staying in them as long as I did WAS a mistake.  But you know, that long lasting annoyance with flaws and characteristics really taught me a lot about my tolerance levels.

I think one of the best parts about dating jerks is that when you do find someone who fits with you just right, you think to yourself wow... so THIS is what this is supposed to be like! and you get to experience a relationship of mutual care, love, and understanding without taking it for granted.  Taking things for granted is, I think, one of the problems a lot of people have-- yes, your partner SHOULD be awesome to you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be glad that your partner IS awesome, and it doesn't mean you shouldn't appreciate them and show them that.  Memories of a jerk mean that you don't take that partner for granted.

In short:  They'll teach you what you'll like, what you'll tolerate, how to argue, and you'll appreciate a great partner when you find one.

So thanks, jerks that I've dated.  You've helped make me a better partner, and helped get me into a better relationship.  It probably wasn't your intent, but it sure is a nice side effect.

*This entry also, as JD mused, applies to bitches, if it is ladies that you're dating.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Women, Sexual Desire, and Medication

So!  Hypoactive sexual desire disorder and Flibanserin!  If you read other feministy blogs, you're probably already heard about it-- but if not, the FDA is currently considering the use of Flibanserin as a way to treat premenopausal women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder.  This is a really interesting thing to discuss, and there are different angles to tackle it from-- the fact that science is paying attention to female sexuality and desire, to the fact that it's a further form of medicalizing sexuality, to a discussion of what normal or desirable or hypoactive even mean when we're talking about sex.

Miriam over at Feministing posted a really good question-- "Who decides what is hypoactive (aka not active enough or under active) sexual desire anyway?"  It's a good question because the way we frame issues and discuss them is important-- so here, what is hypoactive sexual desire?  How low does it have to be?  How much of an effect does it have to have-- on the individual woman, or her partner, or the relationship?  What is it being measured by-- her own perceptions, or a comparison to her partner's desire?

I think one of the most important questions to address is how it gets measured-- because I think it's really interesting that we're discussing the hypoactive sexual desire of women... as opposed to, say, hyperactive sexual desire of men.  It's also interesting because a lot of the social messages that people my age got when we were young were that men were interested in sex-- but that to be a good girl, and later a good woman, you shouldn't be interested in those things.  That's changed already, but instead of getting rid of problematic messages, their direction has just changed.

Still-- in most relationships, there will be some level of mismatch between the desires of the people involved.  most of the people I've discussed this sort of thing with are straight cisgender women, and most of them do mention mismatches, however small, in the ways they want sex.  Some women I know have been in relationships where they want more sex than their partners, but most do fit into the stereotype of wanting less sex.  In most healthy relationships, people compromise-- maybe having less sex than partner A wants, but more than partner B wants-- but when the differences are extreme, a true compromise is less likely to leave either partner satisfied.  I have, though, seen women agonizing over what's wrong with them when they don't want to have a lot of sex-- instead of thinking something is wrong with their partner, or acknowledging that really, nothing might be wrong with either of them.  I think that any level of sexual desire is fine, and not something "wrong", but I do think it's interesting how many women tend to blame themselves for any problem in bed.

It's like a modern of application of treating male sexuality as the norm, and female sexuality as abnormal, or an application of how in science, the male body is treated as the default human, and women are-- exceptions.  Hell, there are plenty of commentaries out there on how female biology was not studied, and as such, women were told to look for the same disease indicators as men, even when the illnesses manifested differently.  And still, women are told "Good girls don't, good girls don't", and that men will want sex, and they have to not put out or he won't respect him, but then once they grow up, they have to magically switch their thoughts around and become sexually giving and good in bed, and really embody that virgin/whore dichotomy.

So, what is hypoactive sexual desire?  The most obvious answer is any level of sexual desire that is lower than an individual's partner.  That is clearly not nuanced enough.  To be a disorder, things typically have to interfere with an individual's life, or cause great distress.  I can easily see a much lower sex drive causing distress-- but the question then is, is it causing distress because the individual misses her previous sexual desire, or really wants to have the experience of sex-- or is it causing distress because she has to turn down her partner, and has been socialized to think that one of her main areas of value in a relationship is the sexual pleasure she can give to her partner?  Doing things to please your partner is not wrong, of course-- it's something both people in a relationship should be doing anyway-- but putting an inordinate amount of your self-worth into your sex life is a problem, and one that should maybe be addressed with talk therapy if its part of the motivation in seeking treatment for hypoactive sexual desire.

However, even if there are a lot of troubling things in the way society views female sexuality, the fact remains that there are women who want a higher sex drive and a greater ability to desire and be aroused.  Sure, it does matter why they want a higher sex drive-- but regardless of the reason, isn't treating something they view as a problem a positive?  The medication doesn't seem like it's guaranteeing more orgasms-- but more desire.  Most partnerships are based on a combination of elements, but sexual desire is usually an important part of them-- especially in younger couples.  While I understand the resentment of at least one asexual woman, the point here is that there are people who are not asexual, but who are not feeling sexual desire.  A lack of sexual desire can be truly troubling-- I've read stories before about women who want to want their partners, and how a growing gap of desire causes problems in relationships.  If this drug does

Thoughts?  Concerns?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Wage Gap and Women's Choices

Some thoughts on the wage gap, women's chocies, and Clay Shirky's A Rant About Women, courtesy of my Feminist Jurisprudence class.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sex Robots

Two days ago while browsing Reddit, I ran across a really looooong thread dealing with.... sex robots.  Not Real Dolls, but robots that are actually.. active participants.  And then a short while later on one of the women's interest subforums... another thread, asking what women think about sex robots.

You want to know what I think?  I think they're creepy.  Effing creepy.  And I think they can't come soon enough.  Seriously.  Just because something creeps me out (in this case... it's like a person!  But not!  And it doesn't have emotions or feelings, but it pretends to!  And it probably doesn't feel/look/act like a real person!  And what happens when the robots take over, figure out how to make themselves look like YOU and then steal your identity?  Huh, what then?) doesn't mean I don't think it is perfectly fine for other people.

Just think about it:

Guys/gals who can't get laid for whatever reason?  Sex robot!
Guys/gals who really like variety?  Sex robot!
Guys/gals who think women/men are only good for sex?  Sex robot!

Come on now-- how awesome would it be?  The people who really are good partners would most likely still keep dating and being good partners-- after all, a sex robot is a SEX robot.  Not a love robot, not a cuddle robot, not a talk about your favorite fantasy series till 2AM then jump around making animal noises robot.  It's a sex robot.  But a lot of people on the thread seemed to think that it would be a terrible threat to women.

I get the threat, but I just don't agree.  I don't think it's there.  I also get the worry that sex robots will lead to more men thinking women are only good for sex, but I don't think that's true either.  I do think it will reinforce the guys that are already misogynistic jerks but-- like porn-- I think it's only going to amplify what's already there, not make it from whole cloth.

I do get that sex toys that look just like women reinforce the idea that a woman's worth is in sex.  I do.  But I do think it's healthier to keep guys who think like that away from real women.  There is the danger, of course, of how sex bots would be used by people in relationships-- if they'd be used by men as tools to make women jealous and control them, or ways to diminish a partner's sense of his or her own value.  After all, sexual attraction isn't everything in a relationship, but it is pretty damn important to most people.  A partner who says "I love you and you're attractive, but this robot is so much hotter and more fun to fuck" is going to be REALLY BAD for the other person's self esteem, and for the relationship itself.  Sex robots would be completely different from vibrators in this way-- vibrators are generally not used as an alternative to sex, but a way to enhance sex, or a way to get off when sex isn't an option.  Sure, there are likely a few people out there who prefer using a vibrator to doing their partner, but... for most, I think the real, actual, human contact wins out.

Another upside to sex bots?  They can provide youths of all genders a way to explore sexuality without risk or STDs or pregnancy.  They can allow individuals to explore kinks that their partner isn't into.  They can allow someone who is in a long term relationship a more satisfying masturbatory experience.  But the bottom line to me remains that they would give sexually frustrated jerks an outlet without harming any real people-- including prostitutes, who always face the risk that a client might decide to take things too far and leave her with lasting harm.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Skirt Challenge!

So.  There you go.  Six more days of me wearing skirts.  I did it!  I wore skirts or dresses for a total of seven days straight!  I couldn't manage to gt blogger to put them in the proper order, but you can get an idea of the shifts in weather by the shifts in clothing-- from stifling heat the day I wore the mini skirt, to fifty degree weather the days I wore the sweaters.  I do like wearing skirts and dresses.  I used to wear them more often than pants, but jeans are more durable, and I somehow have just ended up with less skirts, and less shirts that go with my skirts.  Wearing skirts doesn't really impact my day to day life-- I spend most of my time sitting down, studying.  It does make me automatically feel more "put together", though I do think that some outfits with jeans are more flattering than some of my outfits with skirts.  It also sort of helps trick me into studying more when I'm in the more "professional" looking clothing.  Skirts definately aren't appropriate for everything though-- hiking or the gym?  I'd get all tangled up, and be uncomfortable.  But for everyday life, well... I'm going to make a conscious effort to wear them more often.  I might wait until it gets warmer again though, because right now?  it is COLD and I hate stockings.  They just aren't comfortable, and comfort is a high priority to me during exams.

Amusingly, the days it was warm it seemed like nearly everyone else was wearing skirts too.  But it's been a ridiculously cold spring.  I'm also likely to keep taking pictures of my outfits, and posting them at my flickr account.  So.... outfits behind the jump!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Challenge: skirts and dresses!

I love a good challenge.  And so when I saw a challenge to wear skirts or dresses for a week, and post the pictures as proof... well, I couldn't pass it up.  Spring has finally, finally come to Boston!  Unfortunately, today has not been amazing for me... what you see to the right is me, in glasses, a shapeless dress, having showered with Boston's aquapocalyse dirty water and gone back to bed, ill, till after 1:00.  So, not really at my best.  Plus, it's an iPhone pic.  But still.

The challenge for this came from a site I don't actually frequent, from a blog I do read-- if you follow the links, you'll notice I'm pretty far, politically, from them.  So... why am I (sort of, ok, my skirts are probably not quite as long as they'd like) taking part in their challenge?  Well, it seems like a fun idea.  It isn't intending to prove any point.  And I like fun ideas, regardless of who comes up with them-- we should judge all ideas on their merits, instead of based on whether or not we agree with the speaker.

Also, I think it's really interesting to read about people who aren't like me-- who have different values, different beliefs, and different lives.  It's one of the things that makes blogs and the interent kind of awesome, really-- especially when people who disagree can actually talk civilly about things.

Plus?  I just love streotypicaly "girly" and "feminine" stuff.  I'm a feminist, but I understand that that has nothing to do with whether I enjoy wearing skirts and cooking.  I remember in college, one of my sorority sisters asked me one day if I ever wore anything but skirts.  But here in Boston... well, it's just so much easier to wear jeans every day!  But I'm not going to.  One week.  We'll see if it sticks.

Also?  The shoes aren't pictured because I've been barefoot most of the day.  Being sick will do that!
The beer is Abita Turbodog.  I figure, if I'm showing off my wardrobe, I might as well show off what I drink, too.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Choice After Death?

A large part of feminism is about the importance of choices-- the importance of making them freely, and the importance of trusting women to make them.  The political discourse usually centers around the choices about what to do regarding a pregnancy-- but really, the relevant choices extend into every aspect of life, and feminism is about letting women have agency and not making important choices for them.

So where do those choices stop?

I saw something today about the idea of opt-out organ donorship rather than opt-in, and some of the reactions were a little surprising to me-- but honestly, they were fairly in line with the ideal of choice. Though I see a dead body as simply a body, some of the Feministe commenters worried that less well off individuals would receive worse treatment under an opt-out policy, and some felt that bodily integrity and choice, even after death, ought to be paramount.

I do see the issues.  There is a large chance that if there is improper behavior it would impact the poor gar more severely than others.  There is also the fact that, if it is an opt out system, people without licenses or state ids would unwittingly be taking part and consenting, merely by existing.

The thing is, to me at least, that once we are dead-- well, choice no longer matters so much.  Or at least, our choice.  After all, we're dead.  Maybe it still matters to our living loved ones, the people we've left behind, but I highly doubt that nay higher power will hold the actions of others against us after we die.  And if my organs or body can do someone else good-- through a transplant, research, or study-- well, that's a hell of a lot better than letting my organic remains be preserved and stuck in the ground.  And I am admittedly biased, in that I have opted in to organ donation, and in that I would like my body to have use after my death-- but this is one case in which I think making people opt out is not that large of a harm.  We're all part of a complex system of living things, and our preserving corpses in the ground is, to me, a strange denial of that fact.  I think that once the consciousness leaves, the body itself becomes just an empty shell-- and as such, if it can give someone else life or promote research-- well, thats a definite positive.

Compulsory Heterosexuality

One of the most simultaneously interesting and annoying concepts I learned about this semester in feminist jurisprudence was the idea of compulsory heterosexuality*.  At first, I was pissed off-- I don't like being told that my feelings are the result of some societally programmed false consciousness-- but at the same time, I do know that socialization has a huge effect on who we become as people-- nature creates a map, but nurture provides the force to guide us around that map.

So I ended up thinking more about compulsory heterosexuality, and how it might apply to me and to other women I know.

The idea of compulsory heterosexuality is fairly simple-- it's based on the idea that we are always presented being straight as a default and as inevitable.  And culturally, that's really true-- or at least, it has been in the past.  The end of every fairy tale is a heterosexual union, many people grew up never knowing any out queer* individuals, and it was assumed when everyone entered middle school that you had to have some sort of male heartthrob to crush on.  Some of this is changing-- there are definitely more out queer individuals and gay couples, and there exists a growing number of kid's books that lack the traditional heterosexual pairing.  It might be that the toddlers of today reach their consciousness in a world in which being straight is no longer the default assumption-- but in today's society, many people treat others as straight until proven not.

So, for someone of my age-- how much has compulsory heterosexuality affected me?  I don't think it has, all that much.  There definitely has been social pressure to be straight rather than gay-- both from family and from the peers I grew up with-- but I also grew up with social pressure not to date outside my race, and I certainly managed to do that in college.  I'm also given to a little too much introspection-- over-analyzing all my feelings, towards everyone.  Plus, I grew up with the idea that while being gay might not be socially acceptable, it certainly wasn't something bad-- yay fantasy novels?  Books were definitely my first introduction to the world of non-straightness, as they were to many other ideas and concepts.  I have dated men exclusively, and will be marrying a man.  I do not, however, feel as if I have entered into this relationship with no choice.  Instead, I have evaluated my life and my relationship choices.  I have made choices along the way regarding who to date, and I have always chosen to date men, though I have certainly not chosen to date all the men who were available to me for dating.

There's another side to the compulsory heterosexuality theory though, and that side suggests that women ought to give up relationships with men to invest more deeply in relationships with other women, including sexual relationships.  In this regard it lines up pretty well with the concept of political lesbianism.  I am pretty much the opposite of a fan of this aspect.  I find it to be completely ungenuine, and to be asking individuals to behave in a way that is unnatural for them-- just as a society that pressures everyone to act straight is asking some individuals to live in a way that is unnatural for them.  I am completely in favor of investing more in same sex friendships, but I think trying to force a sexual relationship out of a friend-bond is problematic and unfair to both partners.  Instead, I think it would be healthier if we could somehow remove the expectations of what gender someone should date, and encourage people to examine their emotional and sexual feelings on a case by case basis.

I do think that examining our views on sexuality is important.  It is important to know what shaped us, what expectations ourselves and others have had for us, and what desires we might have that we don't consciously know.  I do not think that heterosexuality is always a result of false consciousness though, and I think that both straight and non-straight sexual experiences can be equally fulfilling-- but that they are not likely to be equally fulfilling for any given individual.  Just like there is nothing wrong with not being straight, being straight ought not have any judgement associated with it.  And with a continually changing landscape, maturing individuals have a great opportunity to come to age more aware of themselves and their options than ever before.

What do you think about the idea of compulsory heterosexuality?  How have expectations shaped your romantic experiences?

*Compulsory heterosexuality, as a term, was originated by Adrienne Rich in her essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.
*Why do I use the term queer?  Because it's a broader and more encompassing term than "gay or lesbian".  Queer includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, those who are flexible, and those who feel no label fits, among others.  Queer can also include people who are genderqueer.