Monday, April 26, 2010

In which Jenny and I talk about Boobquake and breast cancer, because I have Too Much Work to write an independent post.

(4/26/2010 11:44:26 AM) Jenny: it is SO COLD in the library
(11:44:47 AM) Amanda: mine is pretty cold too
(11:44:53 AM) Amanda: yet another reason not to do boobquake!
(11:45:06 AM) Jenny: boobquake is stupid.
(11:45:14 AM) Amanda: it is enough that people can probably see my nipples even in this sweater
(11:45:16 AM) Amanda: I agree
(11:45:19 AM) Amanda: I think it's a terrible idea
(11:45:29 AM) Amanda: I have been debating in my head whether or not it's unfeminist
(11:45:35 AM) Amanda: bc on the one hand: agency! choice!
(11:45:43 AM) Jenny: it's along the lines of the "save the tatas" shirts for breast cancer
(11:45:51 AM) Amanda: and on the other... lets all flash as much tits as we can!
(11:45:52 AM) Amanda: right
(11:45:55 AM) Jenny: using the power of breasts for good
(11:46:01 AM) Amanda: I kind of like the spirit, but I hate everything else
(11:46:02 AM) Jenny: still means you're nothing without those tits.
(11:46:11 AM) Amanda: it's like, you get an e for effort.... but an f for fail
(11:46:15 AM) Jenny: yeah
(11:46:28 AM) Jenny: here's a thought: you could just talk about why cleavage doesn't cause earthquakes.
(11:46:45 AM) Amanda: indeed
(11:46:51 AM) Jenny: or about how breast cancer kills men and women, it doesn't just take breasts
(11:46:58 AM) Amanda: also very true!
(11:47:11 AM) Amanda: and hey, I’m kind of sick of the fact that breast cancer gets so much attention
(11:47:15 AM) Jenny: OH MY GOD ME TOO
(11:47:15 AM) Amanda: I mean, yes, its awful
(11:47:23 AM) Jenny: not to mention that MOST breast cancer is incredibly treatable.
(11:47:27 AM) Amanda: but lets talk about the things that most people don't recover from!
(11:47:30 AM) Amanda: exactly!
(11:47:32 AM) Jenny: that means you're not going to die from it. SHUT UP.
(11:47:40 AM) Jenny: let's talk about pancreatic cancer.
(11:47:43 AM) Jenny: or liver cancer.
(11:47:51 AM) Jenny: or glioblastoma multiforme
(11:47:53 AM) Amanda: those are the first two I was thinking of, actually
(11:47:58 AM) Amanda: ok, that last one I don't know about
(11:48:01 AM) Jenny: oh god
(11:48:02 AM) Amanda: and that? is the problem
(11:48:07 AM) Amanda: why DON'T I know about it?
(11:48:11 AM) Jenny: don't read about it if you don't want to get terribly depressed
(11:48:15 AM) Amanda: noted!
(11:48:20 AM) Jenny: you should know about it.
(11:48:24 AM) Jenny: everyone should.
(11:48:36 AM) Jenny: because the symptoms are remarkably similar to depression and Alzheimer's
(11:48:56 AM) Jenny: depending on where the tumor is in the brain, you can get personality changes, depression, rapid mood swings, etc
(11:49:13 AM) Amanda: Also things we need to talk more about! Especially Alzheimer's, because there's so much research there, I feel like if they had better funding, then prevention might be close
(11:49:29 AM) Jenny: heh
(11:49:42 AM) Jenny: I'd take a working treatment, honestly
(11:49:48 AM) Amanda: well, that too
(11:49:51 AM) Amanda: that would be awesome
(11:50:08 AM) Jenny: there are so many things that are tons and tons more debilitating than breast cancer
(11:50:26 AM) Jenny: even non-cancers, like MS, diabetes, atherosclerosis
(11:50:34 AM) Jenny: things that can really affect your quality of life
(11:50:40 AM) Jenny: things that sometimes ARE preventable
(11:51:06 AM) Amanda: YES
(11:51:27 AM) Jenny: or cancers that are deadly but preventable, like melanoma
(11:51:45 AM) Jenny: breast and prostate cancer are small potatoes compared to some
(11:51:53 AM) Amanda: yup
(11:52:03 AM) Amanda: although I DO think it's great you're working on prostate cancer
(11:52:15 AM) Amanda: because that work needs done too
(11:52:21 AM) Amanda: it's just the media that bothers me
(11:52:30 AM) Amanda: if we can't make cancer "sexy", we don't care
(11:52:35 AM) Jenny: prostate cancer gets into serious quality of life issues
(11:52:48 AM) Jenny: yeah, you know what's not sexy? progressive loss of motor control.
(11:53:16 AM) Jenny: ugh
(11:53:24 AM) Jenny: GBM is so depressing it makes me literally nauseated
(11:53:35 AM) Amanda: <3

And that's that, because you really don't want the additional conversation about her lab and the random people who show up in my section of the library during finals. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is Feminist Sex?

Hestia over at The Coming Night wrote a piece asking just that question, and looking at it from a second wave and radical perspective, though she herself is not a feminist.  I came to a different answer than she did, since the feminism I and most of my feminist contemporaries embrace is not that of the radicals or the second wavers.

Feminist sex is that which is consensual, freely chosen, and takes into consideration the pleasure of all the parties involved.  I was curious to see if my friends had a similar take on it, so I asked a couple of them before writing this post.

"I think feminist sex is about getting what you want out of sex and not faking the Big O" --Jane

"Clearly consensual, with carefully sourced porn.  Takes into account the pleasure and preferences of both partners." --Jenny

Feminist sex is sex that realizes that what women want matters every bit as much as what men want.  Feminist sex is sex which is focused on pleasure and the journey, rather than solely the goal of male orgasm.  Feminist sex is sex where neither party is pressured to "perform" for the self esteem of the other.  Feminist sex can be man on top or woman on top, doggy style, include a element of S&M, vanilla, all oral, use sex toys, be inside a heterosexual marriage or happen during a lesbian three ways of strangers, be the best sex of your life or be just an average encounter.  The trappings of it don't matter as much as the spirit.

I know there are people who disagree with me.  Separatist feminists, radical feminists, and political lesbians all likely do.  Sex positive feminists, formal equality feminists, and liberal feminists are far more likely to agree with me.  It's actually really hard to try to pin down "feminist sex" because... well, it's hard to pin down feminism.  Different people automatically associate themselves with the different subsets.  I'm a liberal sex positive third wave feminist, as are most of the feminists I know- and I have a very strong feeling that liberal, sex positive feminism is what is currently dominating the feminism movement.  So I don't have any qualms saying that sex with a man, inside a heterosexual marriage, that includes giving oral sex and being tied to the bed for penetrative sex, is just as feminist as lesbian sex where both participants give and receive exactly the same actions, or heterosexual sex where the man is the one giving oral sex and tied to the bed for a session of pegging.  

I know some people will argue that whenever a woman is being dominated, it's unfeminist, and that if she thinks she likes it, she's a victim of false consciousness.  I'll admit that there are probably some women out there who are victims of false consciousness... but there are also those of us who are given to a lot of introspection and analysis of our thoughts, feelings, and desires.  Telling women they can't be submissive in bed as just as restrictive as telling them they must be.  There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that your desires are off the beaten path-- and if you have a partner that thinks it sounds interesting, there's nothing wrong with exploring those desires.  There's also nothing inherently degrading or demeaning about oral sex for either party-- because there is nothing unfeminist about wanting to give your partner pleasure.  If you are always only focused on your partner's pleasure at the expense of your own, that's like a problem, and likely not feminist sex.  But giving oral because you love your partner and want to make him or her happy, and because you delight in your partner's happiness?  I don't see any way that isn't feminist. 

Feminism is about choices-- and men and women having the equal ability to make choices that determine their lives and to have equal access and opportunity to act on their choices.  As such, any attempt to tell a woman that for her sex to be feminist it must stick to certain scripts and ignore any desires that place her partner in power over her must ultimately fail.  The keys to feminist sex are choice, communication, and having an active role in making sure all participants enjoy the sex they're having.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Why examining pop culture is an important part of feminism

A quick statement on why pop culture matters, inspired by a post at The Counter-Feminist.

Pop culture is important because it both reflects and establishes the attitudes of society and individuals in society.  Children learn a lot of their attitudes through observing the behavior of others-- and even adults adjust their norms and social scripts based on what they see.  So if pop culture presents an image of women as vapid and materialistic, and men as adult children incapable of domestic tasks and shut off from their emotions, people are going to internalize that that is what the typical woman or man is like.  The human brain uses heuristics, so whatever it sees the most of is what it's going to think of first-- and if what it sees the most are negative stereotypes, well, that's what it's going to grab at.  Pop culture influences attitudes and actions-- and pervasive attitudes can stop real progress.

Analyzing and writing about pop culture in these ways can act as a form of consciousness raising, challenging people to examine their own motivations and their surroundings.  It can help to short-circuit the messages culture sends and help people question everything, leading them to a more accurate and fulfilling notion of what life is and what life ought to be.  It also tells people who see misogyny in advertisements, movies, tv, or books that no-- you are no alone, and you are not silly for finding things offensive, even things that you enjoy on other levels.

Pop culture is a major part of modern life.  To make things better for everyone, we have to pay attention to how life is, now, and realize that even small problems add up over time.

Next post:  What is feminist sex?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sexual Fluidity

I've just begun reading this really fascinating book discussing a longitudinal study of young women and their sexuality.  I'm not very far in yet, but even the basic background topics are super interesting and provide a lot of material for fun thought experiments.  One of the  main ideas the book posits is that female sexuality is more fluid than male sexuality.  Its focus is, I think on the sex of the people one is attracted too... but it also does note that sexual fluidity can also apply to other areas of attraction.  And that made me think..

Most people I know have a "type", in some way, but the type itself.... varies.  I have one friend who mainly attracted to tall, broad shouldered, "jocky" guys, who are intelligent and a little aggressive.  She has had flings with men who don't fit the description... but most of the men she had always described as being interested in fit that narrow description.

I, personally, have a broader range-- men that are tall, intelligent, well read, funny, and a little arrogant.  But my physical standards-- other than that they're of a similar height to me or taller-- have never been as firm.  Hell, I don’t even stick to one ethnicity.  One of my friends in college described me as not having a type one time.  At first, I was a little offended, but after some reflection i decided that hey, that's a good thing!  I'm more open to men who might be different but awesome.  I've always been exceedingly picky about who I’ll actually be in a relationship to, but open to giving almost anyone a chance at a casual date. 

But what I’m wondering now is—how much fluidity is there in the average person, not in terms of sexual orientation, but in terms of taste and preference.  The book posits that women are more fluid in orientation, but are we also, in general more fluid in the type of people we date?   I really don’t have an answer on this one—I haven’t really observed too much about this, even though I do talk a lot with my friends about our dating lives.  As far as the small subset of over-educated nerds I know goes, it seems that most of us are fairly consistent in personality—or at least, consistent once you get past a few intro dates.  However, there does seem to be a large variation in the appearance of people my friends date, regardless of gender.  Granted, a few things remain consistent—everyone tends to go for people of around similar attraction levels—but specifics change.  It does seem like the guys might stick to a specific body type more than the women do—but part of that may also be due to the fact that society tells us that men are attractive with a wider range of physical appearances than women are.  Still, we can all write out a description of what we like, and there tend to be some characteristics we like more than outhers.  Really, it makes sense for us to not be too fluid, since our personalities tend to stay relatively stable as adults—and while a ton of personalities may seem fun, dating around helps us realize what personalities actually work with our own.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Money, Money, Money

One of the stranger aspects of being in a Real Grownup Relationship is that my financial decisions are no longer really... my own.  JD and I have separate bank accounts, but that still doesn't mean that my financial actions don't impact him.  One of the big decisions now is that  need to take out a bar loan, to be able to pay for the bar application, pay for the bar course, pay rent, eat, and if need be even buy some more business clothes so that if I get a job any time soon, I have something other than jeans and my interview suit to wear.

There are a few options for bar loans, with different interest rates, and different payment and deferment schedules, and I can determine the amount I need to take out, up to a set limit.  Except... I'm not deciding any of this.  At least, not me alone.  JD and I are going to go chat with an associate of the bank that seems to have one of the best rate/deferment options, and we're going to discuss our options, and then make the decision together.

And yes, this loan will be in my name alone, and technically my debt alone.  But we're starting a family!  A two person family, sure, but my financial decisions now impact him, because they impact my overall ability to do things, and the standard of life I'll be capable of-- and that's relevant, when you have someone who is your equal partner, and who gets a say in all important life decisions.

And this loan thing is one of the first things to really make it sink in that, WOW, this time next year I'l going to be a lawyer and married and a REAL ADULT!!!

Some days, I still feel like a 12 year old.

But then...  I think about the problems that I spend all day thinking about, and I think about the law, and I realize, hey!  I'm capable of complex legal thought an analysis, and I'm responsible, and I actually have life goals and I'm totally going to be married!  And I figure, well, if I managed to make it this far--  I can totally manage the rest of being a grown up ok.

Even when it means talking about how to spend "my" money.  Because we're going to be talking about how to spend "his" money too.  Because really?  We're in this together.  Marriage is about making a partnership, and making it work.  And everyone works on how to balance things differently-- especially in money-- but making sure the conversation is had, and that we're on the same page?  We'll, we're doing pretty good on that, even if it is mildly terrifying.  Money is one of the top three things couples fight about-- the other two being sex and childrearing-- and relinquishing independence in this area, and entering into a partnership regarding money puts me in a place of vulnerability.  I'm not giving up my independence-- but I'm joining it to this relationship.  And JD is too.  And from now on, all the important decisions either of us makes about our lives?  Well, they'll be joint decisions.  And that... is really, in the end, kind of cool.