Why We Blog

Blogging actually matters.  It was blogger Melissa McEwan of Shakesville who got me into blogging, got me thinking about the issues of feminsim, sizeism, fat acceptance, got me to stop using ablist language, and taught me about the concept of privilege.

Rosie says it best, though.

Related articles

Advertisements

Awful Assumptions-Feminists

Cureafeminist

 

Did I mention that there are awful stereotypes about feminists?  Just in case you forgot, Maxim published this gem in 2003, and it has spread all over the internet.

Apparently, a feminist equals an “unshaven, militant protesting vegan” who needs to be turned into an actual girl.

I’m not sure how they define girl, or why a Maxim reader would want to have sex with a girl rather than a woman.  Isn’t it illegal to have sex with a girl?  Isn’t that statutory rape?   And why does the third girl from the left look like a child?  Semantics aside, there are other highly offensive feminist stereotypes portrayed here.

Feminism is a broad label applied to anyone who believes that men and women are equal as human beings and supports the movement toward equality.  Within that movement, there are a wide variety of individuals.  Some shave, some don’t, some are vegetarian, some are vegan, some eat bacon, some are angry, some hate men.  But most feminists love men, as lovers, as friends, as allies.  Most feminists are angry about injustice, rightfully so.

I’m absolutely horrified that I’m supposed to be turned into the girl on the right hand panel.  I want to wear clothes, have opinions, and actually make a difference, not “speak into your microphone.”  Classy, Maxim.  Classy.

You would think that Maxim would like Feminism.  After all, who said that women should pay for more of their own dates?  Feminists.  Who said that women should feel free to have sex without commitment?  Feminists.  Who invented birth control?  Feminists.  Who says that women should be confident and self-reliant?  Feminists.

Feminism taught women that it’s okay to be sex positive, to love life, to pay for your own dates, to use birth control, and to not rely on a man.  Isn’t that what Maxim wants for its readers?  Why on earth would they want to cure that?

Words to Ignore

Have I mentioned how much I love Rosie of Make Me a Sammich?  Last week, I reblogged one of Rosie’s posts about   how to change behavior in a social setting.

This post is also fabulous; it reminds you that you can be an ally, an activist.  These words are silencing mechanisms, not actual criticisms of what you’re saying.  This post was intended for women and feminists especially, but there are many other brands of activism that are silenced by shaming words.

Words that other readers suggested include

  • Sexist
  • Intolerant
  • Misandrist
  • You’re taking this too personally!
  • Slut/Whore
  • Whiny
  • Any diminutive word for women, (Princess, pet, love)
  • Typical
  • White Knighting

Non-gendered silencing words include

  • Bleeding heart liberal
  • White guilt
  • Stereotypical
  • Reverse Racism
  • Virgin
  • Neckbeard
  • Naiive
  • Loser
  • Do-gooder

Are there any other words that are used as silencing mechanisms rather than attempts to discuss problems?

List the ones you’ve heard in the comments.

Awful Assumptions about Teenage Girls

UPDATE: If you want to contact Seventeen, email editor Bernadette Anat at mail@seventeen.com.

Seventeen

Confession time: I love magazine quizzes.  So when I found a Seventeen quiz that  which TV character I am, I took it.

The very first question asks me what my favorite class is.  My options are lunch, English, Film Production, Art or Drama.  Science, Math, Shop, or anything that doesn’t involve creativity or emotions is not an option.

The next question asks me about my dream date. Do I envision it at a coffee shop, a gallery opening, a comedy show, a concert, or a candlelit dinner?  Assuming that I actually think about this, none of these options are realistic for the pimply-faced sixteen year old boys that the readers are pursuing.  Seventeen, setting young women up for perpetual disappointment.

The next question asks me which yearbook superlative I’m most likely to earn.  My options include most likely to appear on idol, best dressed, most artistic, biggest flirt, or most likely to succeed.  I get excited to see that we’ve finally acknowledged academics.

Still thrilled to have possibility of a career, I click on the next question.  Do my friends depend on me for relationship advice, gossip, “fun, spontaneous plans,” jokes, or listening skills?  I’m mildly annoyed that this is the second question about what other people think of me rather than my own perceptions of myself.

The quiz continues: What is my favorite website?  Is it Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube, Perez Hilton’s blog, or Pandora?  I’m surprised that Facebook or Twitter aren’t options and extremely annoyed that there is no option for a news site.

Seventeen’s final question inquires after my other magazine subscriptions.  Do I read Vogue, Glamour, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone or Marie Claire?
At sixteen, I read Time and Newsweek, and I currently subscribe to Ms.  Sensing that none of the above contain quite the same content, I settle for Rolling Stone, the magazine with the highest words to picture content.

While asking which TV character I was most like, the quiz assumed that I was into emotions, fashion, music, and dating boys, traditionally girly interests.  It didn’t ask me about my dreams, career aspirations, and values.  Either way, the quiz would have been wrong; I’m sure that even if Seventeen had asked about careers, Feminist blogger would not be a career option.

I end up as Mercedes Jones, the sassy, black soul singer on Glee.  (Because that’s not stereotypical at all.)  Mercedes, although a problematic character, captured my emotions best in her self-written number, “Hell to the No.”

This quiz makes it sound like teenage girls are all about their friends, their relationships and fashion.  It reduces the wonderful, complex young women they are into melodramatic, entitled mall rats with daddy’s credit card.  No, Seventeen, your readers are more than this.  They read smart magazines, have goals, dreams and want more than the latest printed reincarnation of skinny jeans.  They like all subjects, not just the creative ones.  They want to travel, to dance, to start their own businesses, to change the world.  Believe it or not, they care about more than their crush on the cutie in English lit (stop being so heteronormative while you’re at it.  Your readers aren’t all attracted to boys).

Seventeen is one of a few magazines that caters to teenage girls, and they have a unique opportunity to address the issues that teenage girls face, not to just write a one page insert about them and then show new shoes.  It’s a shame that their quizzes and content perpetuate stereotypes about girls instead of helping them.  But that doesn’t bring in ad revenue, does it?

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.

The Myth of the Angry Feminist

Image   

    I’d love to know where these angry feminists are.  You know, the ones that you deny any relation to, the ones that men fear.  I’m starting to wonder if they even exist, or if they are no more than boogie-men of the conservative imagination.

Look up the stereotype.  Google “angry feminist.”

The most extreme feminist I ever met didn’t believe in shaving and identified as trans.  H* is a vegan eco-feminist, who fights for all oppressed beings.  H is the most extreme feminist I know, and yet, H has never once became  the angry feminist stereotype, no matter how much I inadvertently annoyed her.

I suppose that I could be considered an angry feminist, given my penchant for feminist speeches, or my inability to see past the sexism in a commercial.  Or my addiction to reading feminist blogs, where the women speak out, uncensored.  But I don’t hate men.  I’m a cis-bodied straight white female, who is interested in getting married and raising a family.  I love working with men, I love being friends with men; I just happen to be a warrior against the patriarchy.

But even I defer from the “angry feminist” label.  I still shave my legs and my armpits, hating myself and the process as I do.  I shy away from using the word patriarchy, and I try to preface my feminist beliefs with examples, so that my cis, able-bodied, white male friends will listen.

Instead, they criticize my technique, saying that I don’t get to the point quickly enough.  It is another variant of the tone argument.  These boys can play Starcraft for hours on end, build robots from scratch, and can deconstruct all of the current political speeches, but they cannot listen to a three minute explanation of why something broke sexist norms or expectations.

We eschew the angry feminist label, as if we can make our opinions more legitimate and more palatable to outsiders.  As if distancing ourselves from the mythical demon makes us a more reliable source.

Instead, the very presence of a mythical “angry feminist,” serves to discredit all of us, even the most mild-mannered of us.  The presence of a mythical “angry feminist” forces us to distance feminists from anger, forces us to hold our tongues, forces us to be polite to the men who insist that we have achieved equality, that the real reason for pay discrimination is that women’s childcare interferes with the quality of their work.

The mythical “angry feminist” teaches us that no matter how furious we are, that no matter how wrong the injustice we are fighting, no matter how abhorrent the rape joke or rape apologist is, we still cannot be angry.

Cloaked in the language of power, we avoid anger at all costs.  We believe that if we remain rational, if we remain calm and devoid of emotion, then we will be taken seriously.  That our words will matter.  If we scream and shout, pounding our fists to the ground, we will be dismissed as hysterical, or asked the ever insightful, “Are you on the rag?”  As if women don’t have legitimate reasons to be upset.

If we scream and shout, we become the irrational “angry feminist” the thing to be avoided, feared and made the subject of endless jokes.  If we scream and we shout, nobody will take us seriously.  But even if we speak calmly, devoid of emotion, presenting the facts, does it make a difference?

On days like today, when I’ve just finished listing all of the latest news in the War on Women, I wonder if it makes any difference if I present Paul Ryan and the GOP and their supporters with a detailed list of facts, statistics, and scholarly research on rape and pregnancy.  The information has been presented, taught, explained to them again and again and again and again.  And still they don’t hear us.

If everyone is deaf, it doesn’t matter if you scream for help or ask nicely.

Just a Stereotypical Liberal?

Before starting this blog, I debated the merits of publicizing thoughts on feminism and social policy, especially in an  uncertain job market.  So I started posting anonymously, and I loved it.  I felt safe, like I could post anything, argue for what I believed in, and have a meaningful dialogue.  I knew the dangers of blogging about feminism under your real name; I saw what happened to Rebecca Watson, and Anita Sarkeesian.  Therefore, I decided to blog under cafeaulait, instead of my real name.

But in my youthful blog enthusiasm, I told a few friends that I had a blog and showed it to them.  When I showed a friend who works on Wall Street, he laughed.  He pointed out that the Ghandi quotation is overused to the point of cliche.  He’s right, but his valid criticism stung, and made me feel like a walking stereotype.

The truth is that I do believe in social justice.  And that involves believing in people, believing in their innate goodness, and believing that you can make a difference.  I believe in social justice because I have seen it work.

I have seen health clinics manifest from nothing out of sheer determination and hard work.  I have seen the offering of video games available expand to more female-friendly games.  I believe that one broke college graduate can change the perception of teaching in the United States, starting with nothing but a tiny apartment and a big idea, like Wendy Kopp, the CEO of TFA.But to those who don’t see the world like I do, I’m just an idealistic fool.

I am a latte liberal because I believe in social justice and because I have seen it work.  Not because I’m still too young or too naive to know better.

His words inspired a moment of doubt, and then a realization.  Speaking like I would to like-minded friends is not going to change conservative hearts.  My liberal roommate and my liberal coworkers will be inspired by the Ghandi quotation.  Unfortunately, those who don’t believe in the power of activism will dismiss the quotation as trite, overplayed pretty words.

He reminded me that portraying myself as a stereotypical latte-drinking liberal isn’t helping me spread the message that social justice matters.

I learned through my friend’s assessment, that I need to improve my communication skills.  Because he is happy with the status quo, and I believe that things can and should be better, I have to take the responsibility to learn how to better communicate with him and others like him.  After all, if I want change, I have to work for it, or else I’m not living up to my own mantras.

For now, I will try to reach to those who think similarly.   I will continue to blog as cafeaulait, and I will separate my blog life and my personal life.  In the meantime, I will work on improving my ability to communicate the importance of social justice and activism to more conservative family and friends, sharing techniques along the way.

If you have any advice on how to communicate with more conservative family and friends, leave tips in the comments!