Monthly Archives: September 2012

“We Are Not Frightened Anymore”

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Ok, so I just discovered this song, by A Fine Frenzy…Wow. Just. Wow… I love it. I’ve listened to it four times already and am listening to it for my fifth time as I write this. I love music but I rarely hear a song like this, that so perfectly expresses everything I feel in and all around me. The energy, anger, compassion, determination, and hope of the present struggle for human rights (civil, gay, children’s, workers’, and women’s all together) all radiating around me and through me. Not since K’Naan’s “Waving Flag” has song captured my feelings so well.

Seriously, “Stood Up” should be the anthem for our battle. Because to hell with the bigotry, the sexism, the greed! We are not frightened anymore. We will not sit back down and be silent. We will stand and we will fight until every person on this earth can live in dignity and peace, free from exploitation and abuse at the hands of the greedy and the cruel. We will fight ’til we die if need be because we now see them for what they are; a bunch of scared little people clinging to the last vestiges of heterosexual, male, Christian hegemony. Well, we are no longer going to live under that yoke. Our kindness is stronger than their hatred. So they can call us abominations, faggots, and dikes; they can call us murderous whores, sluts, and cunts;  they can call us lazy, welfare sponges, and leeches; they can call us niggers, wetbacks, and towelheads; they can beat us and jail us and threaten us with damnation if we refuse to live by their standards; it matters not because their words are as hollow as their hearts and as shallow as their souls, and they cannot break us.

We are resolute and we are growing in both determination and numbers. We will spread our compassion for humanity like violence until we’ve laid waste to bigotry, sexism, and greed. The battle cry has sounded and “We will fight it ’til we die….’Cause we are not frightened anymore.”

I Need Feminism Because….

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Perhaps you have all seen the pictures floating around, “I need feminism because (fill in blank),” in which men and women alike hold up hand-written signs explaining why feminism is important to them. Or maybe you’ve seen the Facebook page, “Who Needs Feminism?” If not, check it out. This is great campaign designed to inspire open dialog about the need for and importance of feminism. I just discovered it myself a few days ago and I love it. Mostly because it pleases me to see how many people, both male and female,  understand that there is a real and urgent need for feminism; but also because it got me thinking about why I need it.

Honestly, I never really considered myself a feminist until I moved out on my own and had to start making my own way in the world. I was raised, for the most part, by my Dad. In my home, household duties were not relegated to only the women, my Dad did much of it (mostly because my mother was inebriated most of the time, but I digress). He did laundry, and dishes, and ran the vacuum cleaner. He helped with homework, tucked in we girls at night, and played nursemaid when we were ill. He played dolls with us and taught us to throw a football and a baseball. Most importantly, he never raised us to believe that there was anything we could not do. No matter what aspiration for a future career floated into my childish mind, and I had some really off-the-wall ones believe me, my Dad never once said to me, “Girls can’t do that.”

I didn’t grow up believing that being a girl had limits. I could throw a ball as well as most of the boys I knew, and I could out run most of them well into high school (it was my freakishly long legs). I was always at the top of my class; reading, writing, history, science, I excelled or did very well in nearly everything. On the rare occasions someone told me I couldn’t do something, my Dad was there to remind me that the only people who cannot do things are those who never try.

It wasn’t until I began to grow up that I noticed that the world was backward and twisted, and that there were certain things I couldn’t do; not because I lacked the capabilities or the intelligence to do them, but because society had drawn little lines in the sand around things that it did not want women to do. My first lesson in this came in high-school when my then boyfriend thought it would be fun to tell everyone he’d had sex with me. I was barely fourteen, I hadn’t even had my first real kiss yet and now, suddenly, I had supposedly had sex. Luckily I had a strong circle of friends and a Dad who was not above threatening the little prick, so the rumor never had a chance to spread, thus sparing me from the extreme slut-shaming with which so many other girls are forced to contend. That is not to say that I didn’t have to deny his story or defend myself against comments his own friends made, but my reputation was not irrevocably ruined by his lies. I was lucky, but this was my first lesson in the reality of the double-standard with which girls are forced to live; in which a guy is lauded as a stud and a girl is condemned as a slut where sex, real or imagined, is involved.

As I grew into adulthood and became aware of the world around me, as I went to college and learned more about women’s history, I learned newer lessons; lessons that were in many ways harder to bear than my earlier lesson. I became aware of the millions of  women all over the world who are still traded into marriage, most often as young girls, against their will. I learned that adultery is still punishable by maiming or death in many areas of the world and that women are far more likely to be the victims of such cruelty than men. I learned that girls and women all over the world are less likely to be educated, more likely to live in poverty, and more likely to suffer from disease for lack of health care. I learned that women and girls are more likely to be physically, sexually, and emotionally abused, raped, or murdered. I learned that for millions of women all over the world chattelry is the reality in which they live; being a woman in this world is as good being born a goat or cow.

I need feminism because women are not equal, not by a long shot and not even here in my own country. I need feminism because the world I thought I knew as a girl, the world that my Dad tried to build for me where everything and anything was possible, is not real. At the same time, though, I need feminism because I know that that world, the world of my girlhood, the world my Dad so deeply wanted for me, is possible.

When I was in sixth grade I participated in and won 7th place in a state-wide essay contest entitled, “An Influential Woman in My Life.” In the response letter, Governor Anne Richards told me that young ladies like me have the power to change the world. I still believe that. I will never stop believing that. And so, I need feminism…

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It is now the 11th Anniversary…and this is all still relevant. The only thing that has changed is my sons answer, he now of course realizes that a chocolate river for everyone isn’t feasible…Ok, so I guess some things do change.

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It is now the 11th Anniversary…but this is all still relevant, so I am re-blogging it. The only thing that has changed is my sons answer, he now  realizes that a chocolate river for everyone isn’t feasible, but he still wants a world that is by far and large better than this one.

Tomorrow marks the 10th Anniversary of one of the saddest days in our nation’s history, the day on which nearly 3,000 men, women, and children were murdered in what is still, in the opinions of many of people, a senseless act of violence (although, it did have a root cause, but that is a discussion for another time). As I reflect upon that  day and recall what I was doing on the morning we were attacked, I cannot help but think about what we have become since: a nation plagued by fear, driven by revenge…

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What I Am…

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I am not a whore or a slut or a tramp if I choose to have sex, be it with one man or many over the course of my life. What I am is a woman who enjoys having sex because sex is natural and good when entered into willingly between mutually consenting people of a reasonable age.

I am not a tease or bitch if I turn down a man’s advances toward me. What I am is woman who is free to choose with whom I will spend my time and to whom I will give my attention.

I am not a skank if I wear a short skirt or if I show some skin; for that matter, nor am I a prude if do not. What I am is a woman who has a right to wear what I want, to enjoy the fun of clothing, without stuffy kill-joys baselessly judging my character or sex life based solely upon the style of clothing I choose to wear.

I am not femi-nazi if I espouse women’s rights, demand respect, or expect equal treatment under the law. What I am is woman endowed by nature with the same rights as any man, by virtue of the fact that I, too, am human.

I am not the destruction of Western values if I choose a career over marriage and motherhood, or if I choose to balance both; for that matter, nor do I know my rightful place if I choose marriage and motherhood over a career. What I am is woman who wants nothing more than the right to make my own way in the world.

I am not an interest group, I am not public property, I do not belong to the men in my life. What I am is a woman with hopes, fears, goals, and desires and I have a right to dream as big as my imagination is able and chase those dreams to the ends of the earth if I am so inclined, and to live and to love as freely as my heart and my soul can bear.

If you do not like my opinions, fine; I am not interested in forcing you to change your own to agree with mine. If you do not like my lifestyle, fine; I am not concerned with trying to force you to live as I do. If you do not like me, fine; I am not inclined to twist myself and deny myself to make you value me. What I am is a person who respects your right to be you, all I demand is that you extend to me the same courtesy by respecting my right to be me.

I am not, nor will I ever be, whatever is expected of me by an arbitrary and antiquated system designed to limit me. I am an autonomous individual who has the right to make my own choices. I  have the right to make my own mistakes and learn from them, and to make my own achievements and be proud of them. I have the right to be me and to not be made to feel shame for being what I am as opposed to what strangers want me to be. What I am is a human being; a beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, and at times flawed human being and I deserve nothing less than to be treated fully and equally as such.

It’s Not Just About Me

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I choose to care about and fight for women’s rights because I care about women. It’s not just about me. It’s about all of the women I have known, do know, and will know, who have, do, and will influence my life. It is about my mother who, despite her failings and abuse, was a victim of a system that did not take her mental illness and addiction seriously because she is a woman. It is about my grandmother who wanted a career and the power to choose her own destiny but could not because women born in the 1920s had very few options. It is about my sister, my beautiful, brave sister, who is staring down bigotry to live and love another woman; for that matter, it is about her equally beautiful and brave partner, who is doing the same. It is about my best-friend, the most wonderful and strong woman I know, who works very hard and is raising three fantastic children as a single mother; and it is about her children, one of whom is my god-daughter. It is about all of the women, who I am proud to call friend, or rather sister. It is about all of the women all over the world who are made to believe that they are, by virtue of being born a woman, expected to behave in a manner that is chaste, reserved, and essentially second to men.

It is about my teachers and professors, male and female alike, who want all of their students to have the same opportunity to succeed regardless of sex. It is about my Dad, who loves his daughters beyond reason and has never stopped believing in us and who has never allowed us to believe that we can’t achieve our dreams, and who has also worried about how the world he was sending us into would treat us simply because we are women. Likewise it is for my Uncle and my dearly departed Grandpap, who love/d me and believe/d that I will achieve greatness. It is for my husband, who works hard to help me achieve my goals because he believes in me and wants me to shine. It is for my son, whom I do not want to inherit a world in which women, like the mother he loves and the wife and daughters he might someday have, are treated was anything less than equals, deserving of their own autonomy.

It’s not just about me. It’s about humanity.

Fuck Slut-Shaming, That Shit Has Got to Stop.

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For anyone with a TV, internet access (with it a Facebook and/or Twitter account), or who has ever stood in the check-out lane at a grocery store, the news over the break-up of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson has unlikely escaped your attention. Even if you’re not following it because, like me, you’re not a voyeur, you at least know the headlines. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about the “news” because I do not know either of these people personally, I’ve seen a number of their movies (“Snow White and Huntsman” was awesome, in my opinion, and “Remember Me” still makes me cry if I try to talk about it); however, after reading Nico Lang’s post on HuffPo, I have now taken an interest. Not because I have suddenly developed a twisted fascination with the relationships, break-ups, or sex lives of the people involved, but because I am now aware of and concerned about the public reaction to the story; and quite frankly I am both appalled and disturbed by the vitriol being hurled at Kristen Stewart.

People, many of them young girls and women, are publicly and bitterly flogging her all over the internet. Kristen is being called a “whore,” a “home-wrecking cunt,” and has even received death threats. There’s even Facebook pages, like this one and this, devoted to “slut-shaming” Kristen. There’s so much wrong about the public reaction to this, not the least of which is demented fascination and involvement that these people have with celebrities and their personal lives; but that’s a discussion for another time. Right now I am most worried about the “slut-shaming” taking place. From the flogging Kristen is receiving, to pompous windbags like Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” for wanting access to birth control, to the unsettling reaction to Secretary Clinton’s lack of make-up, our society has a very medieval attitude toward female sexuality that is nothing less than fucked-up.

Through the comments of misogynists like Limbaugh, the obsession over Secretary Clinton’s face, and the public outcry over Kristen’s actions we are teaching young girls some very unnerving lessons. We’re teaching girls that men can do whatever they want whenever they want with little to no adverse reactions because, well, they’re men and it’s just the way men are. Case in point, Ashton cheated on Demi and I barely heard a whimper; Rush has cheated on two of his previous wives, no one says shit. Do you think there is a Facebook page devoted to slut-shaming Rupert Sanders, the man with whom Kristen had an affair? Nope. Not a one. Kristen has about a dozen hate-pages, all of which have people cursing, shaming, and wishing death upon her, but the married man, the one who betrayed his wife and kids, is getting by virtually unscathed by public opinion.

We are reinforcing the antiquated notions that Women and girls are supposed to keep our legs closed until our boyfriend or husband wants use of our lady bits; that we are supposed to dress modestly, never leave the house without a bit of make-up, and act respectably; and never, for the love of all things holy and good in the world, are we to ever make a mistake because if we do the world will rain down upon us a fire-storm of insults, death threats, and stigmatization the likes of which would make the fire-bombing of Dresden look like a back-yard barbecue. We are perpetuating a culture of patriarchy in which women are ostracized from society; our careers ruined and our reputations irrevocably demolished for daring to not be virginal little ladies. We might as well just sew a scarlet letter on Kristen and get it over with.

Fuck that shit.

Personally, I am rallying along side Kristen. Not because I think she’s a stellar actress or because I agree with or condone in any way, shape, or form that she slept with a married man; that was wrong. I feel baldy for the wife and kids whom Sanders betrayed, but beyond that it’s not my place to judge Kristen or Sanders. This is a very private matter and people need to mind their damn business. Kristen is not a whore or a slut, she’s a very young woman who made a mistake. The only people who get to be mad at or name call Kristen, are those people directly affected by the affair. Everyone else needs to shut the fuck up and stop slut-shaming every woman who dares to have sex. For this reason I’ve got Kristen’s back. I am standing up for her and with her because I am sick and fucking tired of the double-standard. I am sick and goddamned tired of women being called whores, sluts, cunts, and trash while society essentially gives men a free pass to use and abuse women as they see fit. This shit has got to stop. Fuck the double-standard, fuck the slut-shaming.

Religion, Misogyny, and Patriarchy: The Triad of Control in the Throes of Death

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They fear it. The misogynists and the patriarchists, at least most of them do. They are anti-woman and they fear the power of vagina because thoughts of it consume their brains, because they lack the personal fortitude of stronger, more open-minded people, to control their sexual thoughts and urges, they seek to own and control the vagina and, by extension, the women to whom said vaginas belong.  This is not because they do not want to enjoy sex, they just want to be the ones to decide when and where to have it and to ensure that the vagina, like a plot of land to which they have laid claim, remains theirs and theirs alone.

They cannot have liberated women running around, popping birth-control pills, daring to choose their own sexual partners and the number thereof, and  having the audacity to decide if/when they become wives and mothers. This would not only end the misogynists and the patriarchists long held domination of the world, they would also lose the power to own and control the vaginas of their choosing.  A woman with personal autonomy and with access to birth control, education, and careers is a danger to those who are anti-woman because such women, in their eyes, rob them of what they see as their “God” given right to dominate both women and the world.

It’s no small coincidence that the majority of misogynists and patriarchists are extremely conservative and religiously zealous. In the (carefully selected) pages of their religious texts –namely the Torah, the Bible, and the Qu’ran– these “men” find the source of their power. Never mind that these texts were written by men, for men because (facts be damned) God totally wrote them, conflicting information and all. I say that these texts were written for men because the vast majority of the laws on marriage and sex within these texts and traditions were written to control female sexuality and limit it to the confines of marriage and motherhood.

In historical Judaism, for example, ritual purity laws (niddahplaced a greater burden on women than they did on men. The rabbinical laws of niddah, which were  derived from the ritual purity laws found in the book of Leviticus, required a menstruating women to separate from her husband for a period of twelve days, to check her vagina with a cloth for bloody discharge at the beginning and end of her menstrual cycle, and that at the end of the twelve days the woman must take the mikveh. Moreover, the Jewish people placed a profound emphasis on marriage and family, which lead to efforts, that were often intense, to control female sexuality. For example, the laws pertaining to sex and marriage found in Deuteronomy 22:13-29 place expectations for virginity solely upon the woman. What this passage and others, like this one and this one, demonstrate is an attitude toward women that viewed them as little more than a commodity to bought, sold, and discarded as men saw fit.

While laws of ritual purity were abandoned by Christians, early Church fathers and later leaders nonetheless found new an inventive ways by which to control female sexuality. Since as early as the second century A.D. the image of Eve as the harbinger of death and the cause of man’s fall in paradise provided the church with justification for viewing women, the daughters of Eve, as being subordinate and secondary to men. Building upon the Pauline depiction of Christ Jesus as the “new Adam” and the redeemer of the sin which Adam brought upon man, early Christian theologians created a similar parallel between Jesus’ mother, Mary, and Eve. As the Eve/Mary parallel became part of official church doctrine, women’s salvation no longer depended upon their imitation of Jesus, but rather upon their imitation of his mother, the ever-virgin, Mary. By the medieval period, women were either condemned as wicked and sexual in the image of Eve or praised as obedient and sexless in the idealized image of Mary; as a result chastity became the only lifestyle by which women could disassociate themselves from the evil which Eve had come to symbolize. Sex outside of marriage, be it pre-marital or adulterous, was a punishable offense, particularly for women. If licentiousness could be proved then the offending woman would be punished, typically via public humiliation or expulsion from her home and from the church, depending upon the severity of the debauchery.

Similarly to Judeo-Christian traditions, Muslim tradition teaches about male domination and female obedience, blesses men with a measure of sexual freedom by either allowing them to have multiple wives and concubines or turning a blind eye to licentious acts of men, allowed men to divorce their wives with ease while restricting women’s rights to do so (although, they at least had the right, as limited as it might be), and strictly controlled the sexuality of women. As with both Judaism and Christianity, women were expected to guard their chastity and preserve themselves for marriage; women who dared to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage risked punishment, from forced marriages to stoning.

Not all ancient religious traditions treated female sexuality as a thing to fear and control. In a number of ancient religions the vagina, along with the penis, were symbols of power. It was the vagina that birthed new life into the world. It held within it the power of creation, renewal and life. The feminine was depicted as divine, and goddess worship took precedence over that of male gods. But the majority of  human tradition has predominately been based on a patriarchal and misogynistic desire to own, control, and repress female sexuality.

Thus, in the grand scheme of Western history, the fervor over female reproduction that we are presently seeing within the GOP (Grand Old Patriarchs, for all intents and purposes), is nothing new.  Men have vied for and maintained control over the vagina since time in memoriam. What is new, however, is the society in which such efforts are being employed. The world now is different from the world then. What is different between then and now, is that now men do not have all of the power. What is different between then and now is that strict religious observance and trust in organized religion is on the decline, as are rates of marriage and child-birth. Unlike nearly every point throughout human history, particularly Western history and much of Near Eastern history, women today have more power, and it is growing even globally. We can vote, own property, initiate divorce, control our own reproduction, have sex with whomever we choose, travel where we choose without a chaperon, go to college, cut our hair, and wear pants.

These are different times. The world is changing, and it’s changing fast. The religious zealotry, misogyny, and patriarchy that for so long repressed sexuality, especially female and same-sex sexuality, are on their collective deathbed. What we are witnessing within the GOP is not resurgence of the male-domination from which women have fought so hard to break free, rather we are witnessing the death throes of the Triad of Control.

However, this is not to say that we are safe. Like a wild animal sensing its own demise, the misogynists and patriarchists will not go down without a fight. The GOP’s 2012 platform should be seen as gnashing of teeth and a showing of claws; a desperate attempt to cling to life. In their death throes they are as dangerous and volatile as ever, if not more so. They see the vaginas breaking the bonds of servitude, they know that they are not long for this world, and they’re afraid. Thus it is essential that we not back down. We must push back, and keep pushing back until the Triad of Control has drawn its final breath.  And I must say, no death will ever be a more welcomed, a more beautiful, or a more glorious sight to behold.

(Note: Throughout my undergrad studies I wrote several papers on the role of women in the both the Jewish and Christian religions, over the course of the next few days I shall reformat them and paste them under a new page, which I shall call “Research Papers,” for those interested in learning more about female sexuality and the Judeo-Christian traditions.)