Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Feministing - v. To be a feminist

For the most part, and maybe I'm just lucky, but every class I've ever taken or encountered that studies women - be it psychology, media or something as simple as a self-help seminar - has never been anti-men.

Which is funny because feminists and women studies classes get a bad rapport for being "anti-men" thanks to a select few (like all journalists are liars and scum). So I get really excited whenever I take a women's studies like class, which is why I've decided to minor in it (i've taken 4 already, and 2 more this semester. I figured it can't hurt especially with where I want the magazine to go).

Yesterday I had Women and Men in the Media (seee, we love men!) In about half-hour I have feminist ethics. I'm intrigued. I have about a 2 hour break between classes today so I've been sitting in the library reading my WMM homework that's due at 930am tomorrow morning. I stumbled across a blog, and an excerpt of the writer's book and I'm practically running out the door to go buy it.

With that, here's the excerpt and a link and all of that good stuff. Remember -- FEEL GOOD about yourself =]


Copyright 2007 by Jessica Valenti from Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters. Reprinted by permission of Seal Press (, an imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What's the worst possible thing you can call a woman? Don't hold back, now.

You're probably thinking of words like slut, whore, bitch, cunt (I told you not to hold back!), skank.

Okay, now what are the worst things you can call a guy? Fag, girl, bitch, pussy. I've even heard the term "mangina."

Notice anything? The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that's not royally fucked up. Recognizing the screwed nature of this little exercise doesn't necessarily make you a feminist. But it should. Most young women know that something is off. And even if we know that some things are sexist, we're certainly not ready to say we're feminists. It's high time we get past the "I'm not a feminist, but ..." stuff. You know what I'm talking about: "I'm not a feminist or anything, but it is total bullshit that Wal-Mart won't fill my birth control prescription."

Do you think it's fair that a guy will make more money doing the same job as you? Does it piss you off and scare you when you find out about your friends getting raped? Do you ever feel like shit about your body? Do you ever feel like something is wrong with you because you don't fit into this bizarre ideal of what girls are supposed to be like?

Well, my friend, I hate to break it to you, but you're a hardcore feminist. I swear.

Feel-Good Feminism
For some reason, feminism is seen as super anti: anti-men, anti-sex, anti-sexism, anti-everything. And while some of those antis aren't bad things, it's not exactly exciting to get involved in something that's seen as so consistently negative.

The good news is, feminism isn't all about antis. It's progressive and -- as cheesy as this sounds -- it's about making your life better. As different as we all are, there's one thing most young women have in common: We're all brought up to feel like there's something wrong with us. We're too fat. We're dumb. We're too smart. We're not ladylike enough -- stop cursing, chewing with your mouth open, speaking your mind. We're too slutty. We're not slutty enough.

Fuck that.

You're not too fat. You're not too loud. You're not too smart. You're not unladylike.There is nothing wrong with you.

I know it sounds simple, but it took me a hell of a long time to understand this. And once I did, damn, did it feel good. Why go through your life believing you're not good enough and that you have to change?

Feminism not only allows you to see through the bullshit that would make you think there's something wrong with you, but also offers ways to make you feel good about yourself and to have self-respect without utilizing any mom-popular sayings, like "Keep your legs together," or boy-popular screamings, like "Show me your tits!"

Really, imagine how nice it would be to realize that all the stuff you've been taught that makes you feel crappy just isn't true. It's like self-help times one hundred.

But all that said, I really do understand the hesitancy surrounding the f-word. My own experience with the exercise that kicked off this chapter -- "What's the worst possible thing you can call a woman?" -- was presented by a professor on the first day of a women's literature class after she asked how many of us were feminists. Not one person raised a hand. Not even me. My excuse-ridden thinking was, "Oh, there's so many kinds of feminism, how can I say I know what they're all about? Blah, blah, blah, I'm a humanist, blah, blah, blah. Bullshit. When I think back on it, I knew I was a feminist. I was just too damn freaked out to be the only one raising her hand.

Most young women are feminists, but we're too afraid to say it -- or even to recognize it. And why not? Feminists are supposed to be ugly. And fat. And hairy! Is it fucked up that people are so concerned about dumb, superficial stuff like this? Of course. Is there anything wrong with being ugly, fat, or hairy? Of course not. But let's be honest: No one wants to be associated with something that is seen as uncool an unattractive. But the thing is, feminists are pretty cool (and attractive!) women.

So let's just get all the bullshit stereotypes and excuses out of the way.

But Feminists are Ugly!

Yawn. Honestly, this is the most tired stereotype ever. But it's supersmart in its own way. Think about it, ladies. What's the one thing that will undoubtedly make you feel like shit? Someone calling you ugly.

Back in fifth grade, the love of my life was Douglas MacIntyre, who told me I'd be pretty if only I didn't have such a big, ugly nose. I shit you not when I say that for months, every day after school I would stand in front of the three-way mirror in my bathroom, staring at the offending body part and trying to figure out how a nose could go so horribly, horribly wrong.

Ugly stays with you. It's powerful, and that's why the stereotype is so perfect. The easiest way to keep women -- especially young women -- away from feminism is to threaten them with the ugly stick. It's also the easiest way to dismiss someone and her opinoins. ("Oh, don't listen to her -- she's just pissed 'cause she's ugly.")

Seems stupid, right? I mean, really, what's with this na-na-na-boo-boo kind of argument? Have you ever heard of a Republican saying, "Oh, don't be a Democrat; they're all ugly"? Of course not, because that would be ridiculous. But for some reason, ridiculous is commonplace when it comes to the f-word.

For example, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh says that feminism was established "to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society." Okay -- have you ever seen Rush Limbaugh? Yeah, enough said. Oh, and by the way -- I think I'm pretty hot now. So screw you, Douglas MacIntyre.

But Things Are Fine the Way They Are! What do I know? Maybe things are fine for you. Maybe you're lucky and superprivileged and you wake up in the morning to birds chirping and breakfast in bed and all that good stuff. But chances are, that's not the case.

There are plenty of folks who argue that feminism has achieved its goal. The 1998Time magazine article "Is Feminism Dead?" said, "If the women's movement were still useful, it would have something to say; it's dead because it has won."

There's no doubt that women have made progress, but just because we get to vote and have the "right" to work doesn't mean things are peachy keen. Anyone who thinks women have "won," that all is well and good now, should ask why the president of Harvard can say that maybe women are naturally worse at math and then have people actually take him seriously. Or why a teacher can still get fired for being pregnant and unmarried.

Seriously, are things really cool the way they are when so many of us are upchucking our meals and getting raped and beat up and being paid less money than men? And being denied birth control, and being told not to have sex but be sexy, and a hundred other things that make us feel shitty?

Methinks not. It can be better. It has to be.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Love Catch-22

It seems that in this millenium we are stuck in a love catch-22. What do I mean?

I mean we often fall in love and find the person we want our happy ending with wayyy before we are ready for it. This makes sense though. Biologically, we are made to mate in our teens and twenties. That's when we're most fertile. However, we've been socialized to not worry or even think about mating until our thirties or later.  It's okay to spend years in college and building a career and because of this we know more and we make more money. But our love and relationships suffer to an extent.

What happens when you fall in love at sixteen with a firey passion and that doesn't fade?

In centuries past you were encouraged to marry - whether it was a love match up or not. Today we're encouraged to have fun and not be tied down.

We've gone from relationships (leading to going steady to marriage) in the early to mid 1900s to "it's complicated."

And well, it's complicated is not always fun. An increasingly liberal society is putting us Gen Y-ers between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand I've found myself in love but unsure how to fight through our tribulations. on the other side I'm 21 and I want to have fun. I want to go out and flirt and "live" - since that's what we call it. Anything other than having fun and partying must not be truly living.

Obviously,. I have some issues with this concept. But it's also something I'm living by. It's hard to escape socialization and society's pressures especially when it occasionally becomes very apparent that due to the society I grew up in, I am not ready for this large love that I have.

So I guess I'm stuck waiting.
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