All For a Strawberry Milkshake-Selfishness and Activism

Last weekend, I was running around, looking like a fool.  I was running around, picking up food for several of my friends, during a lunch break at a conference.  Carrying three bags of stuff, I was approached by an older woman.  She looked homeless, with a slightly vacant look in her eyes.

Homeless Lady - Hollywood Blvd

Homeless Lady – Hollywood Blvd (Photo credit: Chris Yarzab)

She asked me for a dollar, and I told her that I didn’t have cash.  “I’m sorry,” I apologized, and I offered to buy her a sandwich.  She nodded and said that she wanted a chicken sandwich, a side of fries and a strawberry milkshake.  Feeling broke, I nodded and went into McDonalds.  I ordered my lunch, a water bottle for another friend, and a daily meal for the lady.  She followed me in and interjected, “Where’s my strawberry milkshake?”

Glaring at the cashier, she snapped, “I ordered a strawberry milkshake!  I didn’t want any water!”

I looked back at the cashier, and just signaled to continue processing the order.  While I was waiting for the order, the woman went outside.  I picked up the order, juggling the bags, a drink tray, and went out to find her.  She took the food and sat down and ate it, without saying thank you.

I was so annoyed that she hadn’t said thank you.  That she had followed me into the store, and complained about food that was for someone else.

Then I remembered my own philosophies of being decent for decency’s sake.  Why should I expect her to thank me?  I had just given her food, and I hadn’t bought her the strawberry milkshake she wanted.  I hadn’t listened to what she wanted and had just given her what I thought she should have (aka the cheapest full meal on the menu).  Was I expecting cookies for buying food for someone who needed a meal?  I’m a big proponent of no cookies-the notion that basic human decency doesn’t deserve praise.  It’s the bare minimum of decent behavior.  So why did I feel annoyed at Strawberry Milkshake lady?

Why can’t I practice what I preach?

Readers, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Got a Pocketful of Sunshine (Award)

First of all, a huge thank you to Sara of Project Sara for nominating me for this award.  I love Sara’s blog and want to meet her in real life.  She reminds me of my roommate, with her funny anecdotes and sharp social commentary.  On the subject, thank you roommate, for being awesome and helping me deal with numerous blog induced panics.  Because my roommate is awesome.  Also, if you’re reading this, I will replace the soy milk I borrowed to put in my coffee.  Sara, if you’re ever in the Philadelphia area, I will gladly take you out for beverages of your choice.

Anyway, back to the blog and blog awards.  The Sunshine award is an award given to bloggers who inspire other bloggers.  It’s so easy to get frustrated, and I’m flattered to be a ray of sunshine in someone else’s day.  That’s actually one of the reasons I started this blog; I was frustrated and reading about feminism and inequality made me angry.  I wanted to change, and I didn’t know how.  So I decided to start profiling awesome people who were inspiring, or to show people easy activism, “social justice to go,” if you will.

I”m thrilled to receive this award, now to fulfill the requirements of the award, I’ll answer the questions about me and nominate ten other bloggers who inspire me.

Q&A:

  1. Who is your favorite philosopher?  Whoever I’m not reading for class this week.  Sorry, I’m not much for philosophy.  Ask me about my favorite author, my general worldview, etc, and I’ll write you a novel.
  2. What is your favorite number? 42.  It’s a nerd thing.
  3. What is your favorite animal? -Owls.  I’m a night owl and they’re beautiful, powerful, and strong creatures.  Plus, the owl was the pet of ancient Greek goddess Athena, goddess of wisdom.
  4. What is your favorite time of day?-Nightime.  I love the contrast between soft lights and stars.
  5. What are your Facebook and Twitter?  I use Facebook to see pictures of my cousin’s really adorable kids, and to check up on my old classmates.  A surprising number of them have babies, and I wonder if I’m getting old.  My twitter account is affiliated with the blog, and that’s pretty much all I use it for.  Not much of a fan of Twitter, honestly.  I just don’t have the time.  Plus, the format is #annoying.  I am on Pinterest though.  Check me out.
  6. What is your favorite holiday?-Hands down Halloween.  I love costumes, dressing up, creativity, and free candy.  I was a bat as a child, I’ve been a gypsy, a stewardess, Pokerface (out of cards), sixties girl, and when I was little a ballerina/fairy/princess.  In my defense, i was five and liked all the pieces so I wore them together.
  7. What is your physical favorite activity?-Kayaking.  I’m terrible at it, but I love the feeling of being close to the water, powerful and one with nature.  I’ve kayaked on lakes, rivers, and in the ocean.  It’s so much fun, especially ocean kayaking.    I’d love to learn to surf, but i can’t balance to save my life.  I also love ice skating and wish that I hadn’t quit gymnastics before I learned who to do handsprings and tucks.
  8. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?-Coffee. (You couldn’t tell from my blogger ID is cafeaulait (coffee with milk) or my blog’s name; Confessions of a Latte Liberal?)   Slit my wrists open and I will bleed coffee.
  9. What is your passion?-reading, feminism, writing, drawing stick figures, and historical fashion.  Fun fact, when I was younger, i wanted to be a costume designer for the BBC period dramas.
  10. What is your favorite flower?-Sunflowers.  They’re tall, proud and strong.

I’m honored to receive this awesome award.  So I’d like to pass the award on to:

    • Reasonable Conversations -the author describes issues well.
    • The Dancing Professor– an academic mix of history, privilege and real life.  Plus, she teaches at the University I attend, so I especially get her posts.  Full disclosure, I’ve never taken her class.
    • Make Me a Sammich: Rosie, you are awesome beyond words.  I love this blog, its design, content, and style.  It has serious discussions of feminist issues, complete with Rosie the Riverter imagery.   Nothing says we can do it like Rosie the Riveter.
    • Online Dating-While I’ll Soon Be a Crazy Cat Lady: This woman is hilariously chronicling her exploits in online dating.  I read her blog just to laugh at all the crazy people in the world.  Especially when I blog a lot about serious issues, it’s always nice to have a funny anecdote to read to brighten your day.
    • End Rape Culture: Exactly what it sounds, and it profiles people who are fighting and tells about what they do.
    • Captain Awkward -Love the advice style format.
    • BroadBlogs: Broadblogs has a really good combination of serious theory with real life examples.  I like her links and she doesn’t despair or rant.  She explores the issues with a critical eye and is definitely worth reading.
    • Small Girl, Big City-Blogmistress Meg is delightful, and has been really supportive of me.  She is really cheerful and writes about living in Paris.  Remind me to catch the next plain to Paris, so I can have un cafe au lait, sil vows plait.
    • Damn Right I’m a Feminist: This blog is amazing.  Although the blog mistress swears, she has great feminist songs of the day, feminist quotes of the day, and is always to the point and inspiring.  She finds the best material.
    • Shakesville-for anyone who doesn’t know the magic of Shakesville, I’d highly suggest reading it.  It’s a safe space with clearly written articles that articulate all the little things that bother you..   Best of all, it includes suggestions for activist men, and a healthy community for discussions.
Not a nominee for the award, but I just want to also recommend Prego and the Loon.  I love her blog, about escaping an abusive relationship and as a survivor, I emphasize with her.  She is a powerful writer, and I want to share her strength.  Warning: her writing is gritty, real, and sometimes dark.  It’s well worth the read, but not a sunshine inspiring blog.  Sorry, Prego, I really do love you.
Other shout outs include: The Human Rights Warrior, who profiles international efforts for justice.  She always has new issues to learn about and is a role model.
Happy blogging, and check out the awesome work these bloggers have already done.

Time for a Party-Picking a Theme

College Party Themes are Terrible

Toga party

Toga party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My roommate and I want to host a party.  So we found many suggestions for party themes.  They fall into four categories: Non-offensive but overdone, Sexist and Offensive, Just Plain Offensive, and Just Because it Rhymes, It Doesn’t Mean that it’s a Good Idea.
Non-Offensive, but Overdone Party Themes
You can find these in every depiction of college life ever.
  • ABC parties
  • Letter parties
  • Rubics cube parties
  • High School Steroeytpe parties
  • Blacklight parties
  • Decade Parties
  • Toga Parties
  • Movie Themed parties
Sexist and Offensive Party Themes 
These parties provide two options for costumes, one a slutty female costume, and the other, a powerful male complement.  They inevitably have the word “Ho” in the title.
  • CEO’s and Corporate Ho’s
  • Pimps and Ho’s
  • Kingtuts and Egyptian Sluts
  • Lawyer Bros and Prison Hoes
  • Lifeguard Bros and Surfer Hoes
  • GI Joes and Army Hoes
  • Gangsters and Flappers
  • Golf Pro’s and Tennis Hoes
  • Pirates and Wenches
  • Yoga Hoes and Workout Bro’s
Just Plain Offensive Party Themes:
These parties are built on stereotypes of cultures and treat these cultural trends as novelties, instead of real people’s lives
  • Crossdress party
  • Colonial Bros and NavaHoes
  • Fiesta Party
  • Cowboys and Indians
  • White Trash
Just because it Rhymes, Doesn’t Mean it’s a Good Idea Party Themes 
These party themes are either pointless, mix unrelated things or have unsavory implications.
  • Bathing Suits and Cowboy Boots
  • Kegs and Eggs
  • 80’s Lady or Pagent Baby-Three words-Honey Boo Boo.
  • Guys in Ties and Girls in Pearls
  • Black Out or Get Out-Because nothing says fun like alcohol poisoning.
Roommate and I aren’t big on drinking and want to host a party that doesn’t emphasize drinking and is still fun, clever and creative.
Any ideas for a fun, inclusive and novel party theme?  Tell us about your best parties in the comments.

Speaking Up While Female

A while back, I wrote a piece initially titled “Dear Men, You are Not Rapists.”  I received many criticisms of it, some useful and productive, while other critiques chastised me for a wide variety of offenses.  In the backlash, I became frustrated, especially with comments about how I can’t write about this on the grounds that I’m female and can’t know what it’s like to be profiled as a rapist.  So I should stop writing because well Joe Commentator thinks so.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt, asking what specifically I could write to write a parallel piece.  He hasn’t sent me any constructive criticism on how it feels, nor has he answered my requests for submissions from the male perspective.  He didn’t want to remedy the injustice.  He just wanted me to stop blogging.

I didn’t recognize it at first, but then I remembered that Daniel Tosh and the etiquette of comedy club heckling.  I remembered Anita Sarkeesian and the backlash to her comment that there might be sexism in the gaming industry.  The author in who complained about Daniel Tosh, Anita Sarkeesian, Jennifer Helper of Bioware, and Rebecca Watson of Skepchick, to name a few.

These women have nothing in common except for being guilty of Speaking Out While Female.  They receive criticisms on their techniques, asked about the validity of their arguments, their tone labeled as off-putting, or accused of not knowing what they’re talking about.  In short, they are asked to be silent.

This piece is for them.  It’s about being silenced, the shut up and leave mentality, the whole “If you don’t like comedy Daniel Tosh does, leave.” or “STFU, he wasn’t actually threatening to rape her.”  It was just a joke.  Lighten up.  Chill out.  Don’t go there.  Don’t watch that.  And if you happen to see it inadvertently, tough cookies.

 

Why is the responsibility of half the population to avoid situations that are aggressive toward them?  Why isn’t the onus on making welcoming to half the population?  We chastise people for being lewd in public because of the impact it has on other people.  Youtube is public.  The internet is public.  So, shouldn’t the same basic rules of decency apply?

Look, I’ll laugh at a good rape joke.  But not when rape is the punchline.  Because the fear of rape is ingrained in my life in ways that it is not in my male counterparts.

For example, one night I was walking from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to the bus station, waiting for my uncle to pick me up.  It was getting dark, and I was wearing shorts and  a tshirt.  I was female and alone at night.  I waited, pacing the corner across from where I was supposed to wait.  I couldn’t actually go to the corner where I was supposed to because there are these three guys who were aggressively hocking water bottles and every day.  In fact, just that morning, they had told me to smile sweetheart.  I had had the audacity not to be smiling because I had been in a rush, and trying to get past their stand to the Metro station.  I had responded with mental finger, but I didn’t feel safe around them; they were three young guys who were pushy and much larger than me.  I knew statistically that they were no threat, but I still felt uneasy.

If I was a man, instead of evaluating would haven watching and waiting for my ride, not wondering if they would try to rape me, what restaurants were open so that I can seek shelter, I would have been able to wait in relative ease.  But because I’m a woman, socialized to be afraid, my thoughts were racing.  My backpack was heavy, and I’m not a fast runner; I debated, should I drop my laptop?  But I just bought it!  I moved around, shifted the weight in my backpack and watched and waited for my ride.  After what seemed like forever, but was really only fifteen minutes, my uncle picked me up.  Nothing had happened, just like I knew that nothing would.

This is the story of the time I almost flipped off my uncle when I was walking with my teenage sister.  He drove up behind us and honked at us.  I nearly yelled, “watch it a******!” when I asked him later, he asked, honestly befuddled, “Who else would it be? ”

My sister, barely sixteen, understood right away.

And these stories are two of many.  Only two of mine.  Ask about street harassment, sexual assault, and you’ll find that nearly everyone has a story

That, my friends, is why we are speaking out.  This is why joking that someone should be gang raped isn’t funny.  So, yes, I will speak out.  Yes, I will continue to ask people to behave decently, and to be aware of the impact their actions have on other people.

Because these things that we are just supposed to let drop, to ignore, to treat as just a joke, do not exist in a vacuum.  They exist in a culture that reinforces those same messages over and over again.  These admonitions or “suggestions” to avoid these things whittle away at our basic freedom to exist in public without being threatened or intimidated.  Don’t like the comments on Reddit?  Just ignore the “front page of the internet,” and all the news it delivers.  Don’t like rape jokes, don’t go to comedy clubs.  Don’t like the fact that the only character option you have in every single video game is a sex object with unnecessary, pixelated cleavage?  Don’t play video games.  Don’t like people asking you out in elevators?  Don’t go in elevators.  Don’t like people harassing you on the street?  You didn’t have to be out of the house in the first place.

For each cut at our personal freedom, we fight it, and each time, critics accuse us of over-reacting.  We are accused of speaking up, of over-reacting, and are subject to nasty insults and threats.  So, when we’re speaking up, we’re not speaking up in a vacuum.  We’re just asking you to listen before you accuse us of overreacting.  Think of the context in which we’re speaking.  Or ask us for a bigger picture.  Contrary to popular mythos, women don’t freak out irrationally.  There are reasons for our actions, but it’s easier to call us crazy and dismiss our claims without merit than to look for the cause or change your behavior.

Motivational Monday-Stop -splaining and Start Listening

For People Who Like to Explain Things

I’m particularly fond of the word priv-splaining.  It is a useful term describing a wide variety of communication problems.  In short, it means someone with privilege speaking to someone with less privilege, and they assume the other person ignorant.

I have been guilty of priv-splaining, to a boyfriend.  I’ve probably priv-splained more than I can remember, but this particular incident stays in mind.  We were at an awards ceremony and I assumed that he didn’t know about classical music.  I told him something that turned out to be wrong, and I found out when he revealed that he knew more than I did.  Oops.  I felt weird at the time, but I couldn’t put a finger on what I had done wrong.  I priv-splained.

So, that’s why I found this checklist particularly useful.

1. Do you know how much the other person knows about the subject?

If you don’t know how much they know about the topic, you should find out first.

2. Are you using your supposed expertise to prove something?

If you’re out to prove something, find a more subtle way to talk about the subject without turning into a college lecturer.

3. Are you actually listening to what the other person is saying, or are you already formulating your response?

You have to listen to the other person and then figure out what you’re going to say.  Or else you’ll miss information.

4. Are you talking about your own experience, or are you universalizing about how everyone feels? Are you explaining an experience of theirs to them?  

  Actually listen to the other person’s words, and don’t explain their experiences to them.  They have no doubt thought of your very insightful criticism before.

5. And most importantly: Do you actually know what you’re talking about?

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you shouldn’t pretend you do.

So here you go.  Simple guidelines for having a polite, productive, and positive conversation.

I Don’t Want Anything For Christmas

For my US readers, Thanksgiving has come and gone. We have given thanks for the good things in our lives and then spent the next day queued up to buy more stuff on Black Friday.  In the past, people have been trampled to death.

This year, this whole notion seems absolutely futile.  My family is dealing with the estate of my late grandfather and he kept everything. Books, pots, pans, receipts from twenty years ago. It’s just stuff, stuff, stuff.  When we die, we leave this stuff to our families and loved ones to care for. They have to battle their grief while deciding which vase to keep.  Why do that to people you love?

I don’t want that to be my legacy. So, I’ll make it easy for you. Don’t give me any stuff. I don’t need it or want it.

(Unless it’s food or coffee. Edible gifts are always welcome!)

Whatever

Another in my series of “post once, refer people to later” entries, this time on gift giving:

For a number of years, I’ve told people who have been thinking of getting me something for Christmas or whatever holiday excuse they have for gift giving that I’d simply prefer they not get me anything at all. The reaction to this often ranges from confusion (i.e., how can you not want gifts?) to exasperation that my insincere “no, no, you don’t have to get me anything…” ways just means they will have to be extra crafty in getting me a gift, since I’m not helping them by hinting at what I want. This is when people ask my wife what I want, and she tells them that I told her years ago to stop getting me Christmas gifts. At which point I suspect their heads explode.

So, honest and truly: If you’ve…

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Motivational Mondays-Keep Faith in Feminism

From Gloria Steinem’s “Halfway into a Feminst Century,” available in this month’s Ms, Steinem wrote an inspirational piece on the eve of the election to inspire women.  The article isn’t available publicly online yet, but I wrote down the key parts of the article, for your speed reading pleasure.

Steinem argues that we’ve gotten much further than we believe.  She reminds us, that you can’t have a backlash without a front lash.  I was moved by the lines, “Only if we get discouraged and give up our power as the major-to act, speak out and use our dollars, and votes, can the clock be turned back,”
and “But we’re not crazy- the system is crazy-and knowing that it is one of the deepest gifts of feminism.”

Steinem provides a list of the next campaigns that feminists need to wage:
  • Reproductive freedom as a human right.
  • Make reproductive freedom as a basic freedom
  • Women will only support revolution who don’t treat them as disposable and actually support their goals.
  • We will eroticize equality, with women being portrayed as equals not as sex objects.
  • Women’s movement will take up gun control.
  • Women will no longer be perceived as moral, but will promote peace
Steinem concludes her piece with this compelling argument,
“The very force of the opposition, especially to our control of reproduction should tell us how powerful we are.”
We are powerful.  And only if we surrender and cease to fight will we lose.

The Things We Google

Slut Walk

Slut Walk (Photo credit: wdroops)

Author’s Note: All stereotypes of liberals, feminists, etc. are not mine and do not resemble my political beliefs in any way.  Apologies in advance.

For those of you who don’t use WordPress, the software keeps track of how people find your blog, how many are reading it, and other useful statistics that allow us bloggers to find out what people like, so they can write more of the same.

So I check how people found my blog, and one of the google searches that lead to my blog was “slutty liberal.”  It linked to my posts on slutty halloween costumes.  (Links here, here and here, for those of you who are interested.)  My first reaction was horror- I’m not a slut!  Just because I blog about my life, and that means I share my experiences with sexual assault, and write about rape culture, I’m not a slut!

And then, I stopped myself.  I’m becoming defensive about my love life, and I have started questioning the wisdom of blogging.

As much as I say I won’t judge you for your sex life, I still twinge at the label of slut when it’s applied to me.  I’ll defend you to anyone who calls you a slut, but when the insult comes at me, I’m flustered beyond recognition.  I have to remind myself that to others, sex life that I disapprove of=woman who shouldn’t be taken seriously.  I have to remind myself that the word “slut” is a silencing technique, not a censure of their beliefs about my behavior.

I have to ignore that people associate young liberals with sluttiness, forgetting that your morals are not my morals.  I have to ignore that this is the steroetype that many critics refuse to see past.  So I continually have to prove that despite what you think of my sexuality, based on your assumptions, that I am still worth listening to.  That’s why I’m angry about being googled as a “slutty liberal.”  Just because I vote liberal doesn’t mean that I have a raging sex life.  And even if I did meet your nebulous definition of slut, it is none of your business and it has no impact on the validity of my opinions.

But I know that this won’t convince you.  So ahead and google “liberal slut.”  Or my new personal favorite, “confessions f******* my landlord sex stories.”  You’ll find political comments and women proudly claiming the title.  So to let those searching for lurid stories of threesomes and ecstasy-fueled hookups: you’re looking in the wrong place.  Also, these pre-conceived notions of slutty liberals and feminists, having abortions willy-nilly, turning innocent women into lesbians* and witchcraft, or whatever else goes on in your darkest nightmares, these notions are absolutely ridiculous!

So if it takes you calling me “slutty” to land here and you learn something, then I guess I’ve done my job.  Read on and educate yourself, my friend.

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Help Victims of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy Floods Brooklyn

Hurricane Sandy Floods Brooklyn (Photo credit: Inhabitat)

For all my United States readers, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast a few weeks ago, and the clean-up efforts are still going on.

Although we just want to send food, or money or something, it is always best to ask the organizations what they actually need.

So, without further ado, here is a list of organizations and what they need to help Sandy’s victims.