Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Call Me a Bitch

This quote is about the situations women face involving inappropriate behavior, such as catcalling, unwanted touching, and other forms of male aggression.

I posted this quote and received the following comment:
"But then people get on you for being a bitch and it becomes another problem. Gotta find a middle ground."

No. No women don't have to find middle ground when faced with sexism and misogyny. Finding middle ground requires respect. No one who calls me a bitch for standing up for myself is interested in finding middle ground. This comment also implies that when a man calls a woman a female dog, she should internalize that comment and adjust her behavior to his liking.

Some men have the audacity, as a result of growing up in a society that endows them with privilege, to believe that they can treat women any way they want without consequence. They believe that degrading women by calling them names or otherwise implying that a woman who commands or demands respect is undesirable is a legitimate way to empower themselves. When women talk about the issues we face, they come in to our spaces to argue against the importance or even the existence of these issues.

A friend of mine posted another quote shortly after I posted the one above.

It's not only the culture mired in patriarchy that contributes to the issues women face; it's a culture mired in ignorance. The same person who implied that being called a bitch is somehow a woman's problem later denied the existence of rape culture but doesn't understand the concept of date rape.

Anyone who is truly interested in furthering the cause of equality and in empowering men and women will take the responsibility to inform themselves seriously. Anyone who expects me to take them seriously will undertake that responsibility with respect. Otherwise, prepare to meet a bitch who doesn't care what you call her.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bathroom Things

While scrolling through my feed this week, I came across a post saying that talking about the "bathroom things" is not good political strategy in one person's opinion. That talking about it, "helps us lose."

In the words of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, "This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and a country, have enacted to protect them - indeed, to protect all of us. And it's about the founding ideals that have led this country - haltingly but inexorably - in the direction of fairness, inclusion, and equality for all Americans."

Republicans are using fear and discrimination to rally support from their base in order to increase their chances of winning in November. They are using the most vulnerable and marginalized among us as their pawns and not caring if they are sacrificed. To them, it's just a game.

We must ask ourselves, is this what we are? Are we merely opponents playing the same game? Are our actions just moves in an attempt to win a round?

Real people are hurt by the "bathroom things." They are hurt by  the bullying and discrimination that leads to depression and suicide and violence. There are people advocating carrying guns and even using pepper spray against transgender people who enter a bathroom. This is not a game.

The battles we've fought for civil rights in this country have never been easy. The victories that have led to expanded rights and opportunities for our neighbors have come from those with the courage to take a stand. They've come as a result of bloodshed and imprisonment. They have come at the expense of lost friendships, broken family bonds, and yes, even lost elections. They've not come instantly, but as a result of being patient and persistent. They've come from those who have had the strength to march on, even when what's right is not what's popular.

Now, our President has shown the courage to talk about the "bathroom things" and stand up for all public school students across the country. In doing this, President Obama has not only shown his willingness to fight against bullying and discrimination, but that he believes in all of us. He believes we will also demonstrate the courage of our convictions and stand up to those who refuse to acknowledge that a trans woman is a woman and a trans man is a man. He believes we will stand up whenever someone starts talking about "boys in the girls' bathroom." President Obama believes that we will march on.

Yes, the stakes in this election are high. We must do our part to elect representatives that will continue to protect and expand civil rights. But we must also look forward to the elections of the future. There was a time when people advocated segregated water fountains. Now, saying something like that in public is almost unheard of because enough people, over time, became members of the chorus of voices speaking out against those kinds of discriminatory actions and attitudes. It took time, but we changed the reality millions of Americans have to deal with in their daily lives, and it has been reflected in our politics.

Regardless of the outcome of this or any election, we will march on. It's not enough to say, "We are not this." We also have to define who we are.

Yes we can.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Go Fish

If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card." - Donald Trump

Let's play.

The King: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "It's not women's liberation. It's women's and men's liberation."

The Queen: Hillary Clinton, "I have always believed women are not victims; we are agents of change, we are drivers of progress, we are makers of peace- all we need is a fighting chance."

The Jack: Wendy Davis, "Women all over the country deserve leaders that care, that listen, and that work to protect their interests."

The Ace: Gloria Steinem, "Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon."

The 2: Cecile Richards, "If [women] aren't at the table, we're on the menu."

The 3: Madeline Albright, "People everywhere, including the United States, are still prone to accept stereotypes, eager to believe what we want to believe, anxious to believe while others take the lead, seeking to avoid both responsibility and risk."

The 4: Elizabeth Warren, "Do you have any idea what year it is? Did you fall down, hit your head, and woke up in the 1950's? Or the 1890's? Should we call for a doctor?"

The 5: Kirsten Gillibrand, "We need more consensus-builders, we need people who will listen more, who are less ego-driven and partisan."

The 6: Nancy Pelosi, "Women are leaders everywhere you look- from the CEO who runs a Fortune 500 company to the housewife who raises her children and heads her household. Our country was built by strong women, and we will continue to break down walls and defy stereotypes."

The 7: Loretta Lynch, "It's the choices you make and the things you're willing to accept and not accept that define who you are."

The 8: Claire McCaskill, "It’s important to me to encourage more women to run for office…But equally important is encouraging more men to sometimes just shut the hell up. It’s not that women don’t value your thoughts, it’s just that we don’t value all of them."

The 9: Rachel Maddow, "I can't be frustrated with you because you're stupid but I can be mad at you because you're evil."

Go Fish, Donald.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Qualifications

Yesterday, I wrote about the relationship between women advocating for their own pleasure and advocating for their own power. Last month, I wrote about the underlying sexism directed at women, Hillary supporters in particular, who are active in the political sphere.

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders laid out reasons he disagreed with Secretary Clinton at a rally in Philadelphia. But that's not all he did. He said she is unqualified to be President of the United States.

This morning, I posted the following on Facebook:  "Sexism: When a Wellsley and Yale Law graduate who served in the Senate and as Secretary of State and has both more delegates and more total votes than a man does is called unqualified."

My sentiment was posted in solidarity with many other women who support Hillary Clinton and even some women who support Bernie Sanders. The reactions many of us have gotten after expressing ourselves on this matter: "What he said wasn't sexist."

Let's say I go to a club with one of my girlfriends. We're having a good time when a guy comes up behind us and puts his hands on both of our rear ends. My friend doesn't mind. I turn around and tell the guy off. He says, "She didn't mind, so you shouldn't mind."

Many would be quick to defend my decision to treat his behavior as sexist because it was overt. But when the sexism is more subtle, it suddenly becomes okay to dismiss a woman expressing that an action or behavior has made her feel disempowered. And when these sentiments are expressed in the political arena, further attempts to disempower a woman by devaluing her feelings are defended as a mere difference of opinion.

When we tell you how we feel you don't believe us unless you agree with us.

Now please continue to mansplain to me how rape culture isn't connected to our politics and talk about how unqualified I am to make my own decisions about my own body, attempting to shame me when I don't make decisions you like.

Also, for those who didn't like my choice of Beyoncé yesterday:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Body Politic

From panties that allow you to bleed on the faces of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, to increasing awareness of the tampon tax, to a coordinated effort on behalf of women to inform Indiana Governor Mike Pence about what's happening during our menstrual cycles, periods are on-trend for Spring in the political arena.

Just about every girl in health class or in sex education, even in abstinence only sex ed, learns about menstruation. Do you know what girls aren't learning? They aren't learning that the way to tell if a guy likes you or not isn't whether he still wants to talk to you after you give him a blow job.

In the absence of any real connection to female empowerment, yet another generation of women is starting to have sexual experiences that are focused solely on men. While we need to continue to take action to improve outcomes for future generations through comprehensive sex education that encourages women to advocate for their own pleasure, we also need to take action to improve outcomes through civics education that encourages women to advocate for their own power. When a girl answers a question about her first sexual experience with, "I think my body looked okay, he seemed to enjoy it," that's not just a reflection of our prudity when it comes to women's bodies. It's a reflection of our politics.

When women turn down a man's advances because we don't like their actions, we get blamed and told we have a bitchy attitude. When we show up at the Governor's Mansion to demonstrate for our reproductive rights, we're given a plate of cookies and told, "God bless you." We shouldn't dress too provocatively because if we do we're both "asking for it" and undesirable at the same time. We shouldn't shout when we're giving a stump speech because that makes us unelectable but we shouldn't speak too softly because then we're not powerful enough to lead. When we have the audacity to expect those we choose to be intimate with to be intimate with us, we're dirty whores. When we have the audacity to expect those who are elected to represent us to protect our rights and access to services, we're dirty whores.

When young women are confused about whether or not to send a picture when a guy asks for it, when they don't enjoy sex at all but feel like "getting sex out of the way quickly" is the only way to get their boyfriends to watch a movie, when they pinkie promise their fathers that they'll remain virgins until marriage instead of deciding for themselves what they want, they relinquish power. When young men turn to pornography for sex education, when they base their identities on what they can take from women, when they label and value women based on what they will or won't do in the bedroom, they learn that objectifying and coercing is the way to attempt to obtain pleasure and power. If more women start to truly respect and value ourselves, we'll expect men to do it too. If more men start to truly value and respect women, they'll expect other men to do it too. This is on the top 10 list of what Conservatives are most afraid of. If the patriarchy breaks down, if rape culture breaks down, and if equality advances, they will be the ones relinquishing their power.

I'm thrilled period politics are on-trend for Spring. Those of us women who get it need to continue to demonstrate that we're not ashamed to not only talk about our bodies but are also not afraid to demand our legislators listen to us talk about it. Talking about periods, something young women regularly experience, are informed about, and therefore can relate to, and directly relating this with the laws that are designed to regulate our bodies and the lawmakers who attempt to enact them is a powerful demonstration that young women won't get in their Civics 101 textbooks. And maybe, just maybe, if we can continue to demonstrate to young women that we're capable of demanding that our lawmakers respect us through deeds not words, it can help them to be more confident in demanding respect through deeds in their personal relationships too.

Our society should not be working based on a system of coercion, control, and relinquished power, but more like this:

Friday, March 25, 2016

Destinations

It feels only right to start this post here on my little blog. This started because of an attack on the LGBTQ+ community that forced me to not only pay attention to what was going on around me, but to find my place in the issues and decide how I, at barely twelve years old, fit into those issues and could take action. Almost three years later, my journey has taken me places I never could have imagined back then. My destination point today is my state passing one of the worst pieces of discrimination legislation

This is not a total shock to me. I knew a month ago we were in danger. Let me explain why I, as a straight cisgender woman, am using the term "we" here. I listened as much as I could to the proceedings on HB2. While listening to the public testimony before the judiciary committee, a girl my age said this as transcribed by Indy Week:

"'Changing in front of my girl peers is already stressful enough due to societal standards from Hollywood etc. Now the possibility of males changing alongside of me makes me even more self conscious.' Girls should never be forced to undress in front of boys. She says being a teenage girl is as confusing as being confused about your gender orientation, and that she has rights not be forced to change next to boys. 'You shouldn't change laws to punish and single out most of us.' This is a threat to her safety. Knowing a man could easily walk into a bathroom is completely frightening. There is no stopping what people may do. Charlotte is the first city and if lawmakers don't fix this more would follow. I am not the only girl who is scared, we deserve protection."

Over the last three years, my journey has involved many destinations. After starting to get involved standing up against LGBTQ+ discrimination, some of the first issues I found my place in were a woman's right to a safe abortion and rape culture. I've written a little on the inherent sexism often involved in the stereotyping of teen dating and how it negatively impacts both men and women. I've written a lot about slut shaming and the ridiculous dress codes that treat female bodies as impediments to the education of boys. I've written about equal pay, undergarments, and Conservative women trying to impose their life choices on other women and about the Equal Rights Amendment. I've written about the adult war on teen sexuality and how we are being failed by not being provided with adequate, comprehensive sex education. Of course, I've written a lot about voting rights, the regressive actions of the North Carolina state legislature, and the failure of Pat McCrory to exemplify the qualities of leadership our young people deserve after he called me a prop at the age of 12. I've also written a lot about the importance of young people getting involved in creating the future in which we will lead by getting involved in the political process.

The public testimony made by that teenage girl in support of the bullying and discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community brought home why it's so important to continue to speak out on all of these issues. Her testimony highlights why the work feminists do is important not only to continue to expand rights and opportunities for women, but to expand rights and opportunities for all.

The reason that girl is so stressed out over the "societal standards" she perceives as coming from Hollywood that she feels uncomfortable changing in front of her peers is because she has been taught to judge her body against others based on what men are supposedly supposed to want and has been given no alternative. Yeah honey, that's not just Hollywood, that's patriarchy, and it is ingrained in many elements of society, not just the entertainment industry. It's also why she can't see gender in any other way than through the most simplistic definitions of girls and boys. She can't understand that a trans woman is not a man and is just as much a woman as she is because she's been taught gender is based on genitalia. She doesn't understand how she is contributing to rape culture by disempowering not only women with her assertion the mere act of being a teenage girl is confusing just because she's confused, but she's also disempowering men by her assertion that everyone in possession of a penis is a threat and we should all fear all penises. She also doesn't understand that when a transgender woman enters a woman's bathroom or locker room, it's not because she is confused about her gender orientation. It's because that woman has determined her gender identity and feels safer and more comfortable peeing and changing around others who share her gender identity.

I'm not ashamed of my body. I'm not uncomfortable changing in front of anyone. I'm not uncomfortable in a bathroom stall when others are in the bathroom. I'm not threatened as a teenage girl by the idea of sharing a bathroom or changing in front of someone who might or might not have different body parts than I do. I'm threatened by my lawmakers.

I understand that the answer to combating rape culture is not fear culture. There is nothing legislating bigotry will do to prevent sex offenders from sex offending. When a woman, or a man, is sexually assaulted or raped, the person is responsible is the assailant or rapist. Sexual assault and rape occurs in every setting imaginable. There are laws against sexual assault and rape, whether it occurs in a bathroom, changing room, school, church, home, wherever. I know we will never prevent all rapes or assaults, but the way to prevent more of them is to strengthen these laws and to make sure that victims have equal standing in court, regardless of gender. We should be investing in testing rape kits instead of in special legislative sessions for the sole purpose of passing discrimination laws that only contribute to making it more dangerous for the LGBTQ+ community, who is at increased risk for sexual assault, especially in light of the fact passing non-discrimination ordinances that guarantee access to bathrooms have not resulted in increased cases in sexual assault. I'm aware that a lack of sex education, and the fact that even when sex education is offered it is often extremely lacking and reflects inequality in terms of what young men and young women are respectively taught, contributes to negative outcomes.

It took around 12 hours yesterday to move HB2 from committee, through the House and Senate, and to be signed by Governor Pat McCrory. The fight ahead of us, not just in terms of having this law overturned by the courts, but also in fighting against the attitudes and ignorance that creates unacceptable outcomes for not just the LGBTQ+ community, but for all of us.

It was discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community that started me on my journey, and the latest actions of NC Republicans have awoken many citizens not just around the state but around the nation who, some for the very first time, are asking what they can do to stop the assault on our rights. My hope is that many of these people will start journeys of their own. I hope that as they realize how long the path is, they do not get so wary they permanently drop by the wayside. That's what the legislators who continue to attack our rights are counting on.

It's not good enough to express your outrage today and quit. Constant vigilance and regular action is required. Even if you're not eligible to vote, you can volunteer. You can contact lawmakers. You can inform your friends, family, and neighbors and hold them accountable. You can donate. I've been doing all of these things since the age of 12 and I have continued to do them along with school, a continuous string of theatre productions and other extracurricular activities, a public speaking schedule, my writing, and a social life. You have zero excuses.

We can't get so wrapped up in what we're fighting against and who we're fighting against that we lose sight of what we're fighting for. The things I and other feminists fight for are things that can help generations to come grow up in a more equal and inclusive society. Young people like the one who, through her public testimony, demonstrate that bigoted attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community are intertwined with attitudes shaped by policies that are anti-equality not just towards the LGBTQ+ community but towards all men and women, deserve better. They deserve better education, stronger laws and the equality under the law necessary to fight discrimination, the right to decide what to do with their own bodies, and a culture that empowers them.

Start today. Start a journey. Find yourself in an issue. Don't quit. Stay woke.

I end a lot of these posts with music videos. As I thought about my own journey leading up to today, I pulled up a Spotify playlist I made back in my early days as a writer. Since this is a marathon, not a sprint: here you go.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Multiple Choice

It's a lazy Saturday morning, cold outside, raining, and I happened to click on a friend's link to a site full of online quizzes. We've all taken them. Sometimes it's fun to share them with our friends. Seeing some of the ones that were created on this site though and knowing that many of them were created by young people made me weep a little for humanity. So, I've decided to provide some answers on the topics, no multiple choice needed.

How much sleep do you need? Infinite amounts I will never obtain.

What kind of woman are you? One who doesn't need a quiz to figure this out.

How big is your banana? Cannot even.

What reactions should your profile pic trigger? Currently: votes.

How far would you go for love? The refrigerator is about 15 feet away.

Are you easy? Easy to piss off with this misogynistic bullshit, yes.

Of 229 people, how many are willing to go out with you? 538 and the answer is no.

What Barack Obama thinks about you? He seemed to like me okay.

What's the best part about kissing you? I kiss like I organize.

Who dreams of being spanked by you? I like to think I haunt the nightmares of at least one elected official.

What is your warning message to others? If more people don't stand up for comprehensive sex education, the number of these ridiculous quiz topics is going to continue to grow.

What is your market value according to the opposite sex? Currently about 79 cents for each dollar a man earns and as much as 2 million dollars less over the course of my career.