Thursday, October 23, 2014

#ThisIsWhatAFeministLooksLike

It should not be surprising to anyone why more young women are not taking an interest in or becoming active in feminism. I've noticed an increasing and disturbing trend in which young women are placed in either/or, do or die situations, made to feel as if they have no place in the political conversation. A Fox News personality recently expressed her opinion that young women shouldn't vote because they are, "healthy and hot and running around without a care in the world," and that they should stick to Tinder and Match.com instead. Because we all know that young women can't be politically active and active on Tinder at the same time.

Even little girls are not safe from the assault on their choices. A mom recently got a store to pull girly police and firefighter costumes from the shelves saying they were "sexualized." Instead of appealing to the store to provide more choices for girls, she instead chose to limit the choices of others. In the process she taught her own kids that the way to react to clothing we personally find is not in our taste is to slut shame. Is it any wonder why a little girl would grow up wondering if a sexual assault was her fault because her skirt was too short? 

Every time I post a picture or a video making a political statement, random people of the interwebs comment about my makeup or my fashion choices. I'm lucky in that I figured out early on that my self-defined femininity and feminism wasn't an either/or choice. But many young women haven't figured this out yet and while they want things like equal pay and access to healthcare, they don't see their place in participating in achieving these things.

When young women aren't able to find their place in the conversation, it keeps even more young women out of the conversation. Celebrities like Beyonce and Emma Watson have done a great deal in getting more young women to investigate feminism but the average girl can't talk to Beyonce. It's like arriving at a party where you don't know anyone. If you feel like you don't belong, you're going to leave.

This is why it's important that as feminists, we uphold the idea that all women have the equal opportunity to make choices and should be seeking to expand those choices, not limit them based on our own ideas of femininity or on our own personal lifestyles and preferences. Our collective power is increased by using the power we have as individuals to reach out to others like us, but we diminish that power when we exclude those who aren't instead of helping them find their place.

I'm not going to play the role of Phyllis Schlafly and fight against others who are trying to expand choices for my fellow women. I'm not going to play the role of a Fox News commentator and discourage ANY woman from voting, no matter how she plans on voting, because I know how hard women fought for that right.

I'm not going to play queen of the world as a young, white, cisgender, middle class girl and dictate the needs and preferences of other women. I'm going to shut up and listen and support the policies that help my fellow human beings. I'm going to be there for those girls who enjoy reading fashion magazines, listening to pop music, and dating when they start to investigate feminism and help them understand that feminism is about them and every woman having the opportunity to be the women they want to be and not be treated unequally based on their gender.

I'm going to be a big sister to kids like these http://samuel-warde.com/2014/10/potty-mouthed-princesses-drops-f-bomb/ who at their ages know exactly what it is they are saying and are part of the new generation of suffragists. I want these kids fighting beside me for equality, not against me when the message they get is that they aren't welcome in the conversation because some people don't like princess costumes or a word they used or think they are incapable of intelligent thought and understanding complex ideas.

Some feminists wear conservative clothing and don't use salty language. Some feminists wear short skirts and might say "shit" if they drop something. Some feminists dress up as princesses and drop F bombs.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Call of Duty

Young people, WAKE UP!

Hopefully, you are paying attention to what's going on right now in Colorado. What you might not know is that the efforts to control curriculum in Colorado are backed by Americans For Prosperity, a Conservative think-tank that is funded by the Koch Brothers.

Our access to comprehensive sex-education is under attack. Here in my state of North Carolina, the Conservative-controlled legislature has taken away the opportunity for 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote, ended the tax deduction for 529 College Savings Plans, and made cuts to public education affecting both teachers and students.

Our environment is in dire need of protection and our President just addressed the United Nations saying, “We cannot condemn our children and their children to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair."

The Koch Brothers and their friends, through organizations like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC, come up with policies and model legislation and then these policies go on tour. This means that what you've seen happening in Colorado and with curriculum materials in Texas could soon be coming to a school near you. It means voting rights and opportunities in your state could be coming under attack if they are not already. It means that you could have a better chance of seeing fracking in your state than policies to protect your environment.

The Koch Brothers and their friends are counting on your continued complacency. They are counting on you being too absorbed in your new iPhone or the latest video game to bother to register a single voter. They are counting on you not talking to others about the issues and the candidates you support. They are counting on you to think calling out the absurd and crazy ideas some of their candidates support is "negativity" and they are counting on you to feel powerless, helpless, and hopeless in the face of our challenges.

The future of our nation is counting on you to stand up, speak up, and take action. Your fellow citizens are counting on you to fulfill the promise of the leaders who came before us. We are part of the vision they had for our country and we have the responsibility to honor their legacy.

From now through the upcoming midterms and beyond, we must be engaged. Our challenges will not be met in one election cycle. We must remain vigilant and active to send a clear message to the Koch Brothers and their friends that the future of the United States can not be bought and that young people will not be discouraged by their messages that disparage and attempt to dissuade us.

There is no challenge we face that we cannot overcome through the power of the people at the polls. It has always been the young people of this country who have helped move us forward. If we stop, progress stops. This is our choice. This is our charge. This is the real call of duty.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Don't Stop Believin'

So I don't know how this happened, but today I'm packing my suitcase and preparing to go speak at a rally in Washington DC with some really epic people at the We Are Woman Constitution Day Rally on Saturday the 13th.

Over the last few days, as many of us have been working to promote the rally and continue much needed fundraising, I've read a lot of comments, most of them very supportive and encouraging, some of them not. It's important that, as we move forward, we don't get caught up too much in the not.

There is a segment of the population whose only purpose in life is to be against things. The interwebs make this easy for them because anybody with a keyboard can find posts they disagree with and type words, no matter how badly spelled and grammatically incorrect.

Phyllis Schalfly and the women who agree with her should have the opportunity to be the kind of women they want to be. What they shouldn't have is the ability to impose their standards on the rest of us.

When one group decides based on their interpretation of one of the many religions that exist that we should all live according to their beliefs and it's apparently too much for them to deal with others making different choices, we have to let them know this is unacceptable.

It's the way in which we choose to make this known that's important.

I'm very excited about the We Are Woman rally and I'm so honored to have the opportunity to represent my state and my generation of women.

The best way you can support all the men and women involved in organizing and participating in this event, is to make a donation.
http://www.wearewoman.us/donate

Also, on Friday, Sept. 12th, the names of those who have pledged to vote for economic equality for all, the Equal Rights Amendment, and ballot access for all citizens will be delivered to our members of congress. Please make sure your name is on the list and that you ask your friends to add theirs too.
http://www.wearewoman.us/take-our-pledge

We will not be deterred. We will fight for the rights of our fellow citizens, even the ones we might not agree with sometimes. We won't blame others for our problems. We'll work for solutions.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Beyond Madison Kimrey

Some people like to voice an opinion that I'm "too young" to be involved in politics. Some like to criticize my makeup or fashion choices. Others like to assume I have no life or interests that are separate from the ones I write about. To them, it's all about me.

Well, it's not. This is about my fellow citizens and most importantly, my fellow young people. This is about a program that pre-registered over 160,000 16 and 17 year olds in my state being eliminated for no good reason. This is about a Governor who insults the young people of his state rather than encouraging them to get involved in the political process. This is about the LBGT community being discriminated against and denied their basic rights. This is about misogyny, rape culture, and slut shaming. This is about women not having equal protection under the Constitution. This about one of my fellow young people being shot 6 times, twice in the head, by police. This isn't about me. This is about all of us.

So if I can write some words that make people think, I'm going to do that. If one of my friends takes one of my photos and pairs it with some words that stood out from something I've said or written, I'm going to post it. If someone in the media wants to talk to me and I feel like their reason is because they want to bring attention to ideas, I'm going to talk to them.

What I'm not going to do is wait until I have permission to speak. I'm not going to sit back and do nothing when I can make a real difference in shaping the future I will inherit. I'm going to speak my truth and be true to myself.

The challenges we face require us to look beyond ourselves as individuals. They require that we reach out beyond ourselves to those who have different experiences and beliefs. Our challenges require us to be aware, passionate, charitable, and to actively campaign for justice.


Here's the moral to the story We don't do it for the glory We don't do it for the money We don't do it for the fame So all the critics who despise us Go ahead and criticize us It's your tyranny that drives us Adds the fire to our flames

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Broken Hearts and Bloody Hands

How long will we allow being a young black male to be an offense punishable by death in our country?

Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old, was shot and killed by a police officer outside of St. Louis.


Michael was to start college this week.

I'm sad and angry over Michael's death, but my feelings right now are not the same compared to what is being felt in the black community. I, as a white person, with the privilege I was born with simply because of the color of my skin, cannot personally relate to the daily prejudice other people feel because of the color of theirs.

If you are one of those white people who says they "don't see color," what the heck is wrong with you? Seeing color and acknowledging the fact there is discrimination and prejudice based on color is what has gotten us this far in securing basic rights for our fellow citizens. But we still have a long way to go.

Are we to be satisfied with basic rights? And by we, I'm talking right now to white people because WE are the ones responsible for Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and countless others. Yes, all of us, even those of us who consider ourselves progressive, inclusive, and justice-seeking. Right now our culture has two primary ways of categorizing people of color. Either they are the enemy, dangerous, lazy dependent "takers" or they are "no different" from us.

We desire a world in which racial prejudices don't exist, and sometimes we desire this so much that we either fail to recognize differences exist or try to convince ourselves we don't need to understand them. When we want to talk about people of another race, we struggle with what words to use. We're afraid to ask questions about even the simplest things like how our haircare routines are different because we're told it's not polite.

While many people don't ignore racist ideas, it's easy for us to ignore that uncomfortable feeling we get when we are confronted with choosing a word or dealing with our cultural differences. When a black person talks about being watched in a store or seeing someone veer off their path to avoid them, many of us automatically think, "That's terrible! I would never act like that."

And even if we, as individuals, think we would never act like that, we as a culture are very much acting like that. Not only is another young man dead, but when Michael's community gathered to seek justice and to mourn together not only the loss of one young man but to seek comfort with others in the face of yet another demonstration of extreme prejudice, they were viewed as an angry mob. Police showed up with guns and dogs.

We can't handle being different and the same at the same time. We think having Black History Month, a black President, and Oprah makes up for the fact our culture continues to revolve around us. We want diversity without all the hard stuff that comes with being diverse. We want to create a pretty picture without first looking at our true reflection in the mirror.

We have to shut up and listen. Confronting racist ideas is not enough. We have to confront everything within ourselves that makes us uncomfortable with diversity. We have to acknowledge our privilege because failing to do so is just another form of prejudice. We have to embrace the idea that equality doesn't mean people are all the same, but instead that they are treated with the same dignity  regardless of their differences.

Basic rights are not enough. Basic rights are not going to prevent more kids from dying at the hands of those who might have been the very ones who would react to a anecdote of racism with the thought, "I would never act that way." Basic rights are not going to prevent headlines that read "Missouri Crowd After Shooting: Kill the Police" to stories that report no violence, only demonstrators leaving rose petals and stuffed animals in memory of their community's lost son.

Blatant racism is not the only thing killing these kids. It's our refusal to deal with being uncomfortable. It's those moments in which our desire to be politically correct overcomes the desire to correct the political mistakes we've made that have led to an ingrained fear and distrust. It's our failure to trust others when they tell us they are indeed different from us because from the cradle to the grave their everyday experiences are different from ours that have led to so many being placed in the grave.

It's time for some affirmative action. The action we must take now is to listen and to avoid making excuses and pointing fingers elsewhere. There are no excuses. We all have blood on our hands today.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sustaining Quiet

Blogger Yochanan Gordon posted an op-ed on The Times of Israel entitled, "When Genocide is Permissible." I would love to be able to link to this piece, but it was very quickly taken down. Here is a screenshot:

He asks: "I mean, whoever heard of a timeout in war?"

He concludes with, "If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?"

If you have to question if genocide is permissible to defend a country that was established as a result of genocide, you have officially failed at life.

I took a look at some of the other op-eds written by Yochanan Gordon, including "Reflections of a Blogger" in which he says:

"It’s my fervent hope that you find favor in my words and that it should continue to arouse important introspective thought and dialogue amongst others and ultimately effect positive change in the world..."

Well, Mr. Gordon, the internet has not found favor with your words today.

I then checked out Mr. Gordon's Twitter feed, where I was greeted with this:





Searching Google for Yochanan Gordon led to a piece from 5 Towns Jewish Times, a website founded by his father, called "The Duplicitous Mr. Holmes" in which Mr. Gordon discusses the horrible tragedy in Aurora Colorado, saying :

"
If we are to succeed in protecting ourselves and our children from dangerous people, it’s important to distinguish between sincere and insincere people. There are those who couldn’t care less about their public image, and it’s easy for us to avoid them. But those who present a facade of innocence, studiousness, and righteousness yet don’t represent those ideals in their hearts—they pose the greatest risk to society."

Yochanan Gordon, having deleted both his Facebook and Twitter profiles, seems to be seeking the kind of "sustained quiet" he suggested could be achieved for Israel through genocide.

I mean, whoever heard of a timeout in war?

Update:
Mr. Gordon has apologized, proving that perhaps timeouts are effective after all.
http://5tjt.com/apology-from-yochanan-gordon/



Monday, June 30, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

Many people are angry today. Many are upset, and rightfully so.

Now let's talk about the way forward.

Before we go any further, if you are female, I want you to go look in the mirror. If you're not female, I want you to find a picture of a female you care about. It can be your mom, grandma, wife, girlfriend, friend, sister, teacher, any woman you care about. Now I want you to look at the image you see and repeat after me, "This person is not equal in the eyes of the law." Keep looking at the image, let it really sink in what these words mean, and repeat again, "This person is not equal in the eyes of the law."

Now I want you to do something about that.

This is the text of the Equal Rights Amendment that will grant ALL people, regardless of sex, full Constitutional equality.

The Equal Rights Amendment
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

We must get the ERA ratified and it is within our power to do so.

35 states ratified the ERA before the deadline imposed by congress expired in 1982. Only 3 more states are needed to get to the 38 needed to ratify the ERA. Then we have to make sure we have the congressional representatives who will remove the deadline on the ratification so that it can move forward.

So here is what you can do.

First pledge your support to doing what's necessary to get the ERA ratified.
http://www.wearewoman.us/take-our-pledge
VOTE
Help OTHERS register and vote

Support ONLY those candidates who show through deeds, not just words, that they support legal and economic equality for all, the Equal Rights Amendment and ballot access for all citizens


It's important to pay attention to who is representing you in both your state legislature and in Congress. Even if you're not old enough to vote, you can contact your representatives, register voters, volunteer to help on campaigns, and talk to others about the issues.

You can also donate or purchase items to help fund the We Are Woman Constitution Day Rally in Washington DC in September. And you can make plans to attend the rally on September 13th.

To move forward we have to make sure that when women look in the mirror, they can say, "I am equal in the eyes of the law." It is only then that we will be free from the fear of legislation and decisions that limit our access to healthcare and our control over ourselves and our bodies.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Reflections

One year ago today, I was standing in front of a museum in Florida, standing up for the right of two moms and their children to be recognized as a family.

Today, I'm a writer and nationally recognized activist. I've done a lot of reflecting today. This is all so amazing. How did I even get here?

Well, a lot of hard work for one. I've taken it upon myself to learn a lot over the past year. I've also learned a lot about balancing the things that are important in my life. Doing what I love helps, but passion will only carry you so far. I have to work every day to get better. The more I learn, the more I can do.

I took a step down a path and before I knew it, I met others along the path and we started walking together. My friends and colleagues help me keep moving forward and I am continuously humbled at how many people continue to help me along my journey. I'm a writer, and I can come up with no words sufficient to express my thanks to so many.

We, all of us, have the power to work together and create beautiful things and build a amazing future. In order to do that, we have to start by paying attention to the present. All around us, there are issues in which individuals can make a real difference.We choose to listen to the voices telling us we can't and we don't matter or instead to the voices telling us that we can, that one ripple in the water can lead to a wave of change.

Figure out what it is you're good at. Figure out what you're passionate about. Don't try to be someone else. Stand up for what you believe in. Stand up for things that are really important. Figure out how you can help make a difference for others. Then get to work and don't give up. It really is that simple.

I continuously say that I don't know where the path I'm on will lead and that's the truth. But I truly appreciate every step I've taken so far. And despite all that's happened over the last year, I'm still the same person I've always been. That's because my pursuit has always been the truth and in order to speak the truth, you have to be true to yourself.

I have a lot of goals in life, legislative and otherwise, but one of my main goals has been to get other young people to speak out. I've seen a lot of that over the past year. I want to see more of it over the next one. There are so many things that hold young people back. They're afraid of what others will think, they're afraid of standing up for themselves, they're afraid of the truth that lies within themselves, they're distracted by things that don't matter. This isn't just holding these individuals back. It's holding our country back. It's holding our whole world back.

At least once a month, I find myself saying, "This was the best day ever." That's an awesome thing. An even more awesome thing is saying, "Wow, look at what we've done." And there are many more things we can continue to do by moving forward together and refusing to take one step back.

Believe in yourself and be the change you want to see in the world. I believe in the power of all of us.

Here is a list of every US Senator on Twitter.
http://www.socialseer.com/resources/us-senator-twitter-accounts/

And here is a list of all the members of the House of Representatives on Twitter.
https://twitter.com/cspan/u-s-representatives/members

Show them your truth.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Playing Possum

From fracking to coal ash, the NC General Assembly can't seem to get it together on environmental protections. One thing that will be protected, however, is opossums. Well, not the environment of the opossums or even the opossums themselves, just the ability for citizens of Brasstown, NC to engage in their favorite New Year's Eve tradition: the Possum Drop.



Brasstown, the self-proclaimed opossum capital of the world, in Clay County, NC, has a population of about 240 people. Every New Year's Eve, a celebration is held at which a possum is lowered in a plastic cage at midnight. The NC General Assembly recently passed in both the House and Senate, with bipartisan support, a bill designed to help ensure the survival of this event.

The bill exempts Clay County from state wildlife laws in respect to opossums between December 26th and January 2nd. So, when it comes to opossums between those dates within the borders of Clay County, it appears anything goes.

Republican Representative Roger West, who sponsored the bill and represents Brasstown, said that the, "marsupial community was in support of the bill."

Jeff Kerr, general counsel for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, begs to differ on that point. “Opossums are shy, reclusive animals, and humans are their primary predators. At the event, they dangle this opossum in a box above a rowdy crowd of more than 1,000 people and force it to endure a terrifying mix of screaming, thumping, music and fireworks -- all in the name of some kind of entertainment,” he told the LA Times.

The National Opossum Society states that these animals, "prefer to avoid all confrontations and wish to be left alone."

Founder of the opossum drop event, Clay Logan, says, "Rednecks have a lot of fun, and it don't take a lot of money or things to do. We just do plain old silly, stupid stuff, just Southern things that we do."

It appears truer words were never spoken.

Perhaps now that annual opossum-shaming is now legally protected, something can be done about solving the problem of the cancer-causing agents found in drinking water outside a Duke Energy coal ash pond in Salisbury.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Pure Nonsense

The concept of purity balls has been the subject of much discussion recently. The great majority agree that these purity balls are creepy. Having a girl pledging her virginity to her father to guard over until marriage is indeed a disturbing idea.

But the question begs to be asked, what is more disturbing, a ritual that only a small segment of the population participates in or the prevalent idea in our culture that a woman's virginity defines her character and worth as a human being?

Recently on Twitter, Conservatives have started attacking Planned Parenthood and the idea of comprehensive sex education using the hashtag #sexed. They are afraid of teens having any information, want them to feel the ultimate shame if they are curious about anything that deviates from the missionary position, and of course don't want them to have access to birth control.

Religion is a big part of what fuels the war on sex. Of course, many religious people ignore Song of Solomon and go straight for the "Thou Shalt Nots."

But if someone has made a decision, based on religious belief, to remain celibate until marriage, there should be no fear of information. There should be no shaming of others making different choices. These things negate the power of whatever deity is involved and speak more to obedience to man and to self-righteousness.

Even outside of religious context, humans have long considered the avoidance of "temptation" to be a virtue. The ability to say no has been seen as a sign of the powerful. Power in conformity defined by societal pressure? That doesn't sound powerful to me.

The very idea of upholding virginity as a virtue is a disempowering concept. Defining sex as an act instead of an art and saddling it with shame not only has the potential to lead to unwanted consequences of intercourse but also contributes to the fact that many women are not experiencing sex as the pleasurable activity it was designed to be, even after their first time.

The real question isn't are purity balls creepy or not. The real question is who's your daddy? If you're engaged in perpetuating shame or are defining your attitudes about sex based on anything but your own personal values and desires, the pledge you're making is a contribution to patriarchy. Consider empowering yourself and consider contributing to Planned Parenthood instead.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Digestion Problems

Behold: Teen's Digest. You'll need an SPF 550 to protect yourself from the RF (ridiculous factor) and possibly a barf bag.

Let's take a look at one of the articles from the site: Does He Like You?

#5 He's Touchy
"Guys usually show what they want if they want it. Is he touchy when you guys talk? Does he rub your arm? Or purposely nudge you? Or put his hand on your leg? If the answer’s yes for all three of those, he probably likes you! Guys want to be obvious and show that they want you. And the best way to show you, is to touch you. Don’t take being touchy in a weird way. Don’t think that he just wants to use you physically or anything. Some guys don’t even have that intention! They just want you to know that you should feel comfortable with their presence."

If guys you haven't defined boundaries with touch you without your consent, it doesn't mean they like you. It means rape culture is real.

#4 He's Looking at Your Lips
"Guys are so obvious when it comes to their body language. Usually guys are always down to kiss. You want to know if he wants to kiss you or not? Keep track of where his eyes are. Is he looking at your lips? He probably wants to kiss you if he is. Is he biting his lip? He probably wants to kiss you. Is he licking his lips? Oh, girl! HE WANTS TO KISS YOU. Now show him that you want to kiss him too! Look at his lips, lick your lips, and bite your lower lip! I’m sure you’ll get a kiss if you do so! You don’t usually just kiss anyone. Kisses mean a lot to some people. Kisses usually mean “I want you. I like you.” If he has the nerve to sneak in a kiss, that means he likes you. Because some guys are way to shy to make a move."

Girls, please. Please don't watch his eyes or sit in stalker mode waiting for him to lick his lips. It could just be dry outside or he could be thirsty. Oh girl! If he wants to kiss you, he'll kiss you. If you want to kiss him, take two steps toward him and look right in his eyes. You'll know.

#3 He Can't Stop Smiling at You
"I’m telling you, guys are so transparent. If he’s sad, he’ll show that he’s sad. If he’s mad, he’ll show that he’s mad. If he’s happy, he’ll show that he’s happy. When he’s with you, and he’s always smiling, he probably loves your company. He loves being with you and he loves just seeing you. He admires you beauty and is grateful at the fact that he is just staring straight at you. Guys also love the little things. They love seeing you happy. They love seeing you smile. They love seeing that you happiness is because of them."
OMG every guy I know wants me. NOT.

#2 He's Genuinely Nice to You
"Let’s be real. Some guys can be super rude! But when a guy likes you, he will be super nice to you. Not just a nice like he’d be to a random stranger, but a genuine nice. He will not be rude to you. He will not say anything to offend you. And he’ll compliment you a lot. And if he really likes you, he’ll even tease you. Literally, he will drop everything to be with you. He’ll ditch his friends to be with you. He’ll change his plans to be with you. No guy ever gives you the time of day unless he is interested in you."

Because the only reason a guy would be nice to you is because he wants to tag and bag you. Because relationships between men and women are defined by stereotypes. RIDICULOUS

#1 You Just Have a Gut Feeling
"Always trust your gut. You think he likes you? Then he probably does. He seems like he puts so much effort into impressing you. It seems like he does all this cute stuff for you and only you. It seems like he just wants to make you happy. It seems like he’s interested. Although, be careful. Try asking him and tell him to be straightforward. Be careful though. Because when asking him, you’re taking a risk and it could go either way. But their way, hope all goes well for you!"Try this. Live your life. Do your thing. Enjoy people. Follow the path, don't try to dictate it.

Want to know if a guy likes you? He truly cares about you, appreciates you, he's there for you, and most importantly, he does these things without any expectations except for your friendship. He's not the guy you meet on Saturday night and are "in a relationship with" a few weeks later. He's the guy who has been a part of your life and all the things that have created your relationship have made it real. There's absolutely nothing wrong with casual dating. It's fun, most of us do it.  But it's not a substitute for reality. 

If you're caught up in worrying about whether or not a guy "likes" you and your goal in life is to find yourself a "boyfriend," I feel sorry for you. You are missing out on some of the best parts of life and relationships. But, if this is your mindset, you might as well keep reading Teen Digest. They have great advice for you like:

WHAT GUYS WANT GIRLS TO WEAR

Please note that in the introduction, I advised the potential need for a barf bag.

A few personal words regarding one of my own relationships, a thank you of sorts. I found myself in a position of extreme hurt, anger, and disappointment last night. A good friend of mine was one of many people who were there for me, and stayed up until after 3AM even though he had to work today. This is not someone I'm "dating" but is someone who has taken the time to put up with my madness to the point he's earned my trust, which is something I do not give easily. I'm going to kill him via chat later. But still, THIS.

Distance

There she was. Her feet were blistered by the fiery pavement, but the miles she had traveled felt like inches. She had shoes at one time, but who had stolen them was a lost memory. Perhaps she had traded them for water. Perhaps they had not been stolen after all. Still, she knew she had a great way to travel, and all she could think of was the little she had left that could be stolen.

The hunger that gripped her was the kind you read about in fairytales. It was the insatiable kind of hunger that provoked witches to shove children into ovens and wolves to eat grandmothers. She knew she couldn't go on much farther without having something; maybe not enough to nourish her but just enough to keep her thoughts from cannibalism or self harm.

When she saw the camp in the distance and the otherworldly light of the fire, she confused herself with someone who would be accepted there. Before she knew it, she was standing in the midst of the tents with the people staring at her, some of them with the kind of ravenous hunger she sought to quench, but of a different sort.

She offered work to them, a few hours of labor for just a few morsels of food and possibly, if they could spare it, some scraps with which to fashion shoes. Before she knew it, she was coming to, everything around her a blur. The blood was dripping down her legs and the pain hurt so much it was almost as though she couldn't even feel it. She didn't remember what happened, only one of them touching her hair and her recoiling in disgust. But she knew. She knew that she had nothing left that could be stolen now.

She knew she had to get up, but she feared what the shadows hid in her already clouded vision. She had to run, but was worried she would fall either from pain, injuries, hunger, or all three. She knew the road was no longer an option. She was wild now. So, she crawled. Every twenty feet or so she stopped to lay down, unsure if this was for physical reasons or just because it felt good to have the safe ground against her body.

A dog passed. He paused for a moment and their eyes met. Once upon a time this would have delighted her, but now she felt only the pangs of hunger. As her hand raised, she suddenly remembered one of the bodies that had crushed her hours before smelled of burnt wood and ash. Striking the dog was like a gasping last breath. The brief moment of relief she felt as he ran away to safety quickly turned to thoughts of the distance.

Getting to her feet, the steps she took were heavy. She started counting them but then found herself unable to even quantify the energy she expended in simple terms like numbers. The blood had dried now and every time she moved she could feel it cracking on her skin. She wondered how far back the camp was. She could no longer see the firelight.

Suddenly, the air was punctuated by an ambience of brightness. It was a mystifying kind of air with periodic breezes that carried with them not just a scent but a feeling. At first, she shuddered in the wake of an emotion she couldn't classify. She could feel herself trembling but something in this air pleaded with her to keep going.

When she found herself standing at the riverbed, she didn't quite know how to interact with the water. She just stood there in still contrast to the gentle current. Finally, the sensation overcame her. Thirsty. She knelt in the water, watching tiny streams of the current turn pink as they carried away what the camp dwellers had painted on her. She cupped her hands and brought them to her face again and again. She noticed tiny fish swimming a short distance away and it was almost as though they were sacrificing themselves to her sustenance.

Days in the light were dreamlike. There was no concept of how many of them passed, endless time. On one of the nameless days a figure appeared from the shadow of the forest. Either he said nothing or she wasn't paying attention. But he held out a pair of shoes.

"No thank you," she said. "My feet don't hurt anymore."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dysfunctional Human Beings

I get a lot of ideas for things to write about from my Twitter feed. Many times, what defines the difference between, "Wow I'm gonna share that," and "OMG I am SO writing about this," is what I call the Ridiculous Factor, or RF. This morning, Twitter really delivered when someone Tweeted a post called, "Things Guys Do That Girls Hate."  It made me weep for every male friend I've ever had. The original post, in addition to having an RF that's off the charts, is kind of annoying to navigate but follow along with me.

#10 Complain About Her Friends
"So he sat there telling her all about how he isn’t her best friends biggest fan…he must have a death wish! Do not tell a girl you don’t like her friends, no matter how much you mean to her. Her friends have been there from the start and could be there forever. Relationships dint [sic] always last but friendships do so think twice before you insult her friends. Sometimes the less you say the better!"

Ladies, guys are not dating your friends. Sometimes your friends are going to do things that make the guy you're dating annoyed, angry, or frustrated. That guy you're dating, he's your friend too...or at least should be. As such, he should be able to express his feelings to you. If he's placing demands on you or attempting to control your friendships, that's different. But your friends don't have to be in love with your boyfriend nor does he have to be in love with your friends.

#9 Act Different Around His Friends
"He’s all cute and cuddly when he’s just with his girl but when he’s with his friends he’s a totally new guy! All girls think they have the most amazing guy, but when we see him with his friends our opinion can completely change. No one likes two faced people. Be the real you with your friends and your other half, don’t pick and choose how you’re going to act depending on who you’re with."


So, let me get this straight. Guys must love my friends but I don't have to like theirs. When I'm with a guy around my girlfriends, the guy should be #1. I shouldn't trade makeup tips, listen to girl music, or talk about chick flicks or else I'm being two-faced. I shouldn't expect my boyfriend to be mature enough to handle it if a hot guy walks by and my girlfriends and I notice. OF COURSE we ladies act differently around our friends and we shouldn't hold guys to a different standard.

#8 One Word Answers
"Ok…yes…no…Can anyone think of a more annoying way to have a conversation. If you don’t want to talk then tell them, don’t make conversation a chore. She’ll get annoyed and think she’s annoying you as well. Save the dramas and just say ‘can we talk soon, I’m busy’ rather than short one word answers. If you don’t have the time, let her know so you can have a better conversation later on."

If held to this same standard, I will absolutely end up alone in a house full of rescue animals. If there is anyone on the face of this Earth who can appreciate that sometimes a guy is engrossed in other thoughts, busy, or has simply used up all his brain power to the point all he can give is one word answers, it's this girl.

#7 Forget Everything
"So you have both arranged a night out, he’s forgotten the time, the day, and even the place…did he really want to go or did he just agree? If he is forgetting little plans like this then does he really want to do them or does he just say yes to prevent arguments. It would be nice if he remembered from time to time, even if it means he has to write it down 100 times for it to sink in, at least he made an effort to remember."

So let me let you into a little reality of my life. It's hard for me to plan stuff in advance. You want to do what at a specific time in 4 days? That's FOUR WHOLE DAYS from now. And then there is the reality that even after making plans, I sometimes have to cancel because something comes up. I wrote something recently where I said, "I can't be anyone's girlfriend even if I wanted to, at least the way most guys want." This. This right here is why. Also, my ADD is real. I constantly find myself in a state of, "OMG that's TOMORROW." So if a guy forgets little plans, or has to be reminded of the what when and where, I am the last person to ascribe that to him, "really not wanting to do them."

#6 Forget to Reply
"This might be done by accident, and usually it is so we can’t really get upset about it, but it’s still a bad move. Just apologize and get the conversation going again. She can’t stay mad forever but don’t argue over a mistake, it’s not worth it. Reply nicely and move on…don’t dwell on it, just try not to do it again."

What even IS this? What does this even mean? I will assume it's talking about text messages. Oh yes, because if I text you, and you don't reply, I'll be sitting in my room crying until I get an apology. Or maybe I'll send you 10 more texts asking why you don't reply. REALLY? I strongly suggest any ladies in this mindset go out and get a life.

#5 Pull Away In Public
"At home you’re all over each other and in public it’s like you don’t know each other, let alone in a relationship. We get that public affection isn’t everyone’s favorite thing but is hand holding really too much to ask for? You should be proud to call her your girlfriend not trying to hide it. If you can’t do that then how do you really feel about her? She’ll think the same and start panicking. If you love her show her, no matter where you are."

Yeah, guys, your mission in life should be to cater to insecure girls who need you to put your affections on display because they view this as proving their self-worth to themselves and others. No matter how hot things are in private, the only way to show a girl "how you really feel about her" means you have to put on a show to convince the public at large. PUH-LEEZ. If you want to touch a girl in public and she's fine with that, do it. If she's mad because you don't do it, back slowly away then RUN.

#4 Showing Up Late
"Girls are the ones who are supposed to be fashionably late so we expect you to be there waiting for us already, not the other way round. It can take girls hours to get ready and when she’s spent all that time making herself look amazing for you, after standing out in the wind for 20 minutes waiting for him doesn’t do the best of things for her hair. All that time will be wasted and she will be freezing cold and probably unhappy, a cheeky smile can only get you out of so much. Get there early next time."

So, the time girls spend getting ready is for guys and if a guy is exceptionally late, girls aren't worrying about whether he was in a car accident or something; they are worried about their hair. And if you show up 20 minutes late, you have completely wasted a girl's time because the whole idea was to get you to appreciate the way she looked and now there is no point in sharing an activity you might both enjoy or time together that could enhance your relationship. BULLSHIT.

#3 Being Messy
"We get that it doesn’t have to be spotless all of the time but, there’s a limit. We can stand a few glasses here and there and maybe plates but when they reach double figure, there’s going to be a problem. It’s not too much to ask to keep the place presentable and liveable is it? It’s easier to tidy as you go along then a huge clear up at the end of the week."

Yeah. This is such a big deal because if a mess is bothering you, you can't do something about that. And of course, when you snag yourself a man, ladies, you gotta "train" that man right, don't you? How about having real conversations about the division of responsibilities in your household and each person's preferences. How about compromise? How about that?

#2 Not Listening
"His favorite TV show is on, you won’t get him to listen to anything while that’s playing. When it’s over and he still won’t listen that’s when girls get frustrated. It can be like talking to a brick wall sometimes and that’s no fun. We don’t say things for our own benefit, we say them so you know what’s going on. We tell you then when the time comes there will always be that ‘well you never told me’ conversation. Guys, we probably did. You just weren’t paying attention."

So let's just go full-on stereotype on men, why don't we? There is nothing else to say to this except I am so so sorry to all the men in the world and let out a great big sigh of utter disgust that some women put you through this level of ridiculousness and drama.

#1 Not Appreciating What We Do
"We don’t want a bunch of flowers every time we do the dishes, but a thank you every now and then will work just fine. It shows that he is realizing what his girl is doing for him and that he actually does appreciate you. Don’t let all her hard work go unnoticed."

This is number one? You show someone you appreciate them through your actions. Doing nice things for others should be about making that person feel good, not to get attention from them. Self-esteem comes from how you feel about yourself and your work. If you don't care about yourself, no one else can fill that missing piece for you.

So ladies and gentlemen, we have now completed today's tour of the ridiculous.

Ladies, if you are treating gentlemen like this, shame on you. You're already miserable and are just setting yourself up for further misery. Try focusing on yourself instead of trying to make some guy as miserable as you are.



Thursday, June 5, 2014

Studs and Whores

I recently wrote about Wasatch High school's decision to arbitrarily Photoshop the yearbook pictures of female students for the purpose of modesty.

Jezebel reports that this same high school featured a page in their yearbook titled "Wasatch Stud Life: Studs doin' what studs do best."


As you can see, what studs do best at Wasatch High is bare their chests, pull up their shirts to expose their boxer shorts, and make hand gestures.

I wonder if Wasatch High School gives credits to their students for General Rape Culture, Honors Patriarchy, and AP Misogyny?

In the piece I wrote on Wasatch's decision to slut shame female students, I ended with an apology to the girls.

"Girls of Wasatch High School, I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced. I’m proud of you for standing up to it. None of your clothing was inappropriate to wear to school, and the only thing you have to be ashamed of is the fact your school is teaching lessons that reinforce misogyny and patriarchy."

Well, this is my message to the boys.

Boys of Wasatch High School, I'm sorry you are the victims of a toxic culture that has been reinforced by an institution that's supposed to be educating you. Soon you'll be graduating from this environment and will be entering into the real world. I hope that when you get out in the real world and seek to form relationships with women, you consider them equals. I hope that you won't objectify them the way your high school has. And I hope that you'll come to see that you've also been objectified. I'm sure you guys are more than bare chests and boxer shorts and know that girls exist who can appreciate you for the so much more that you are. If you want to be a real stud, speak up for the respectful and decent treatment of women, and get out there and help the men and women fighting for equality.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Yelling at the World

Writers write things. Shocking, I know. We write to inform, to get people to think, to rally the base, to spark discussion, and all kinds of other reasons. Imagine for a moment you woke up and all of us had disappeared. We'd all be somewhere together watching the internet react to this probably. Then when we decided to return, we'd all write about those reactions and restore balance to the universe.

Writing is only part of what I do. One of my favorite things that I do is working with kids. Right now, I'm planning a seminar on public speaking for kids. I'm always quick to answer messages I get from kids or from parents asking me how to encourage their kids.

I contact legislators, attend events, speak at events, participate in seminars, give interviews, and generally move forward every day never knowing what the next day will bring. I manage all my social media stuff. I'm also my own secretary.

Something I do that the public doesn't see is communicate with a lot of high school and college students, both inside and outside my personal sphere. We discuss not only the issues we face politically, but some very real and very serious issues we personally face, many as a result of how society has failed us. Some choose to belittle our issues. Some choose to see us as nothing but a bunch of rebels. The truth is we are organizing and we are the future. If that makes some people afraid, it should.

Something else the public never saw was the time off I took over Christmas break to do some serious reflecting. I hate attention. That was something I had to deal with because if I wanted to make a difference I had to learn to take the attention. I had to empower myself.

So, you want to be a liberal, pro-equality, pro-choice, sex-positive, cisgender, feminist, atheist, teen blogger and activist?

Yeah, think about how lovely this is for my personal life. Most girls have been taught to be "nice girls" and keep their opinions to themselves. Most guys...I can't even. The comments and whispers just don't happen online and I'm a helluvalot smarter than a lot of people think I am. I've always had trust issues, but now I'm even more vigilant about watching my back. There are a lot of people who only want to be fans of Madison Kimrey, activist and blogger, not friends. There are a lot of people who want to use me as social capital. There are a lot of people who objectify me and/or make assumptions. But despite all this, I do have some great friends and I've learned that dealing with real life trolls isn't all that different than dealing with them on social media. Most you ignore and some deserve to be made an example of. 

So go ahead, judge me. Make assumptions about me. Write me off. Not only do I have words for that, I have actions for that.

As I've said before, I'd rather be one person's shot of liquor than everybody's cup of tea. You might not like my style, writing or otherwise, but like it or not this is me. I have two choices, I can be what other people want me to be or I can live my truth and be the change I want to see in the world. In both my public life and my private life, I've chosen to live the truth and be the change. And I'll continue to keep moving forward. I'll continue to be thankful for the many people in the public sphere who are working together to make a difference for the future of this country and for the few people in my private sphere who truly understand.

Monday, May 26, 2014

All Men

Dear Members of the Human Race With Penises,

Many of you are not even aware there is a social media campaign going on right now called #YesAllWomen. To you, what the hell is wrong with you? Pay attention. Put down your gaming controller for 30 minutes and read something.

Some of you are aware of #YesAllWomen and are confused about it. You're telling yourself, "But that's not me." You're telling yourself, "Not ALL men are like this." You are missing the point.

The point is that right now, you have the opportunity to hop on da Twittah and learn something. You have the opportunity to see things from a point of view that you, no matter how much you think you understand, do not fully understand.

The point is that women all over the world are sharing their experiences right now as to what it's like living in a culture dominated by men. You have the opportunity to learn from this, and if you're not you are doing yourself and every woman in America a great disservice.

The point is that if you aren't paying attention, if you aren't trying to find your place in this issue, you are contributing to the stories behind all these Tweets.

Reading these stories and Tweets will make you uncomfortable. They should. But know this, they are making a lot of men uncomfortable. And a lot of men are learning from that uncomfortableness and getting it right.


What each and every one of you guys should be doing right now is learning. You should use what's happening on social media right now as an example to start today asking the women in your life, "Could you please explain this to me from your point of view?" Then you should realize that not all women share the same experiences and go ask another one.

Ask yourselves this question: What am I personally doing about this? Then ask yourselves this question: What policies and candidates can I support to do something about this?

Signed,

American Women



Saturday, May 24, 2014

Collective Realities

I live a very complicated reality. Even if I wanted to, I can't be anyone's girlfriend, at least not in the way a lot of guys want. The reality I live in tends to attract a lot of what I call fanboys, fascinated with the idea of Madison Kimrey but who have absolutely not one clue what it's like to have an actual relationship with a writer and public figure. Did I mention I'm also into theater, openly an atheist, and my nights don't generally begin until about 9PM or so? Yeah, I'm probably going to end up alone in a house full of rescue animals at the rate I'm going. And I'm fine with that. To thine own self be true and I still have one hell of a good time.

In my various circles of friends, there are a few guys who get me, don't run away at the speech I give people at a certain point, and surprisingly not all of them are 24. And even for these few, things are complicated. Women's liberation is real, and it's something I not only preach but practice. Case in point, I decided to go out with some of my girls last night and this morning, afternoon, whathaveyou, am greeted with a message asking about my activities over the past two weekends.

As a writer and public figure, I get my fair share of trolls and misogynistic messages ranging from laughable or worthy of making an example of to reportable. Messages I get outside of my public life get dealt with in a very different manner. And while I was dealing with this one, I was reading about the terrible tragedy in Santa Barbara that took place at the same time I was out with my friends the night before.

I decided I needed time away from reality, so I called up my BFF and asked if she wanted to go shopping. Silly me for trying to escape reality. Everywhere you look at the mall, there are so many conversation starters and things to mock. But the most disturbing thing we noticed was how many guys were not only checking us out, but checking us out in very disgusting ways. At one point, my friend even looked at one of them and said, "Come at me, bro." And of course, when these types of guys have the rare experience of actually being called out on their ridiculous objectifying behavior, they react with the most extreme immaturity and reinforcement of their embedded misogyny. In this particular case, the reaction was air humping.

So I get home and continue to read about the tragedy in Santa Barbara on social media. Yes, we have a gunsense problem in this country. Yes, we have a mental health treatment problem in this country. But at the heart of this tragedy lies the huge problem we have with women's rights and equality in this country. The heart of this tragedy is the inability of a great number of men to treat women with respect and decency.

This shooter, this vile pig who killed six human beings, was angry at women for not giving him the attention he felt he deserved. The fact he was still a virgin was the fault of women. The fact he was lonely was the fault of women. And right now on the interwebs, there are more than a few individuals expressing sympathy for this shooter.


I always say, you have to find yourself in the issues. In many ways, the issues that shape my reality are the same issues that contributed to the deaths of six people in Santa Barabara. Those guys ogling my friend and I at the mall today probably had no clue who I was but they still saw me as a prop, in the same way so many guys who do know who I am see me. That guy who made the grave mistake of thinking I owed him an explanation of my whereabouts or choice of company might not go on a shooting spree tomorrow, but he has some of the same attitudes of the animal who did.

So, yes. Yes. All women. ALL WOMEN. And I feel very strongly that what needs to happen right now is for all women to join our voices and speak out about our personal experiences.

As I also always say, even in the darkest times there is light. I've been watching men on the interwebs speak out about this tragedy and the attitudes that contributed to it too. When men do decide to treat women as equals and with respect, as real human beings instead of props, life goals, or trophies, they let go of the need to fulfill their own desires and open themselves up to real relationships. When men stand up for women's rights and equality without expectations, they open themselves up to a more promising existence for all of humanity. When men do this for writers, they open themselves up to this:

Notifications

Hundreds all the same
Sat and waited, wading through
Then they came
The words that once again said everything
Said nothing
I needed nothing
Everything is overrated
Intense days leading to nights of monotony
Broken up by moments of reality
Looking up for shooting stars that don't appear
Then finding them suddenly produced for my amusement
Confidences in a world full of headlines
Celebrations of the things no one celebrates
In a world created to hide
A world made beautiful by darkness
The endangered species that is sincerity
The scarcity of friendship
The worthlessness of worship
The divine found in the undeniable
The liberty of dirty little secrets


There are no fairy tales. The only endings are the ones we create, happy or not. Our individual realities are collective.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Status Symbols

Let me just say that I love Erin Gloria Ryan. She is a powerful voice for women and an epically talented writer who inspires me. I highly regard and learn from so many of her pieces, both in terms of information and style, and admired this piece she wrote about Facebook's newest feature that allows people to ask you questions about your personal information, including your relationship status.

But there is one particular point in this particular piece that I disagree with. "Teens will love this."

A young woman has just as much right to expect to be able to set her relationship status as "single" and have it not seen as an open invitation as any other woman does. A single status is not the bat signal, it's not a sign a woman has a problem that needs to be rectified, and being constantly questioned about it is not something this teen loves.

Perhaps Facebook was thinking along similar lines, that teens would love this, when they came up with this new feature. But if so, Facebook is buying into a stereotype that contributes to the disempowerment of young women and to patriarchy.

Let me say here that there are many young women who have wonderful, healthy relationships. If this is you, good for you, I'm not talking about you, read on. There are also many young women who are looking for nothing more than the ability to change their relationship status on Facebook, or the equivalent thereof. From the time they are little girls, they get the message they are supposed to have a boy band poster up on the wall and a "crush." (By the way, my celebrity mindcrush is on Chris Hayes, who once said my name and I died.) But when that mindset evolves and is taken too seriously, and instead of reading articles from great writers on Jezebel or hundreds of other fulfilling activities girls spend the majority of their time focused on their relationship statuses for status sake, they are setting themselves up for a life of disappointment and regret.

Girls do not exist to boost the self esteem of guys. We are not conquests. We are not trophies. This is not Chick-Fil-A and we are not here for your pleasure. Guys also grow up with stereotypes. That girl in the magazine, whether she's writing or posing for a photo, is something to chase. If you can catch her, you level up and you continue to level up based on how much you control her physically and emotionally. Welcome to rape culture. And if you're reading this and saying, "I would never," good for you. But stop and ask yourself if even though you'd never, exactly what it is a guy is doing when he asks some random girl about her relationship status and why he feels he has the right to do this.

There are multiple ways to approach Facebook's latest move. I could change my relationship status to being "in a relationship" with my dog, Chris Hayes, or the Oxford comma. I could hide and save myself a few hundred eyerolls. I could leave my "relationship status" as is, because it's honest and I honestly feel I should have every right not to have assumptions made based on the stereotypes of others. I'll take what's behind door number three.

Real relationships aren't status symbols. The fact that there are so many stereotypes to crack speaks to the fact we need more young voices out there speaking out against them. It's within our power to influence companies like Facebook based on our actions. It's within our power to empower ourselves through those same actions.



Monday, May 19, 2014

Click Click Boom

This morning, I saw this photo posted on Twitter of a couple of guys in their local Chipotle restaurant. I will not comment on the juxtaposition of the gun with the dude on the left, but I do know you don't have to hunt for your own food in Chipotle nor are you in danger of being invaded by a foreign country or anything else that requires you to carry around an assault rifle.

The "debate" on gun control and gun safety would be nonexistent if our world wasn't so entrenched in fear culture and extremism. The fact is that most people in this country, whether liberal or conservative, are not extremists and it should be possible for the reasonable among us to sit down at the table and come up with common sense regulations.

However, there is not only an element of society seemingly incapable of common sense, there are some also incapable of common decency.

Women who speak out and who promote common sense legislation to protect both members of the general public and the sportsmen and professionals who, for either work or hobby, treat guns seriously and not as toys or props, face attacks that should make anyone who reads about them disgusted.

Probably the saddest example of failing at reason and common decency I have seen is an extremist telling the mother of a Sandy Hook victim that the violent, preventable tragedy that killed her daughter was a hoax and her daughter never existed.

But the actions of ordinary citizens can defeat extremism and the attitudes and policies that fuel the vulgarity displayed above.

The circulation of this photo prompted people of the interwebs, young and old, representing a variety of political platforms and belief systems, to put the pressure on Chipotle, who as a result has asked customers not to bring guns into its stores.

This is the power of reason and of taking a few moments of time to put that reason into action. This is the power that can change the world.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Subjects, Objects, and Verbs

Right now I'm in my pajamas, but pretty soon it will be time to choose an outfit based on whether or not I want men to have impure thoughts about me. Not.

The war on sexuality, the pervasive fear culture in which we live, and the effects of the patriarchy don't just hurt women, they hurt men too. When our perfectly natural thoughts of finding someone attractive, even sexually attractive, are labeled as wrong or "impure," it's unbelievable anyone would suggest that feminism is irrelevant.

It's even more unbelievable that anyone would suggest feminism is irrelevant to my generation; that it's not only necessary but imperative members of my generation speak out and take action to combat the attitudes that contribute to unhealthy physical and emotional outcomes for our peers and put forth and support the policies that can bring about better outcomes.

Any time someone speaks out on the topic of female costuming and how what a woman wears doesn't give men the right to objectify them or disrespect their boundaries, the same argument is made:

"But when you dress that way, men are going to check you out. They are going to have thoughts."

Guess what? You're right. But your argument is invalid. It doesn't matter how a woman dresses, men are going to have thoughts. They are going to have perfectly normal and healthy thoughts. They are going to have thoughts about conservatively dressed women, scantily clad women, and all manners in between.

Very little attention is paid to the way men dress. Yeah, honey, so glad to know you want me to think your junk is so valuable that you're wearing $30 boxer shorts. I think I now hear the sound of a thousand guys now screaming, "THAT''S NOT WHY WE DO IT!" and I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for proving my point.

Trying to shame men or women or condescend because both sexes are capable of finding people attractive is bullshit. It's our behavior that defines us. Finding a man or woman attractive is not objectifying. Being unable to think of a man or woman as something other than a physical body or a toy for one's pleasure is. Thinking about a man or woman sexually is not impure or wrong. Not respecting boundaries is. Assuming that a woman is wearing a corset top or a man is showing the label on his boxers to beg for sex is ridiculous and puts confines on the ability of both sexes to express themselves for their own individual reasons. 

That's what it all comes down to in the end, our own individual expression. Feminism is not an anti-sex agenda. The policies feminists have advocated  have liberated both women and men sexually. Many of those policies, such as access to birth control, are under attack. Sex education that promotes and encourages healthy attitudes is under attack. Equal pay is not yet a reality.

My generation has a place at the table in the discussion and promotion of these, and countless other issues. Attempts to relegate us to the kiddie table are direct attacks on this country's future. Once again, it's our behavior that defines us and all over this nation, there are people from multiple generations working together to forward the causes they believe in. We fight for the expansion of opportunities for young people in our democracy so that those young people can act as individuals and the expression of their individuality is on equal footing with older Americans. We fight for equality so that both women and men are on equal footing with one another.

My public/writer/activist life is separate from my private life. There are many people interested in Madison Kimrey and who like to make assumptions about me. That's a form of objectification too that has nothing to do with sex. I'm very guarded in who I let get to know Maddie, but one thing that's true in both my public and private life is this:

I'd rather be one person's shot of liquor than everybody's cup of tea.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Headlines

The New York Times has a new executive editor. Dean Banquet has replaced Jill Abramson in this top position at one of the nation's largest media outlets. Normally, this would be just another headline to me. Until I saw this:

"Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. 'She confronted the top brass,' one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was 'pushy,' a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect."

This is my current reality as a young woman who has writing listed as a possible career choice. It is not surprising to me in the least.

I've only been in the blogosphere for almost a year now. In that year, I've run up against comments and situations, both publicly and behind the scenes, that I wouldn't face if I were a man.

Some people have problems with the direct tone I take in some of my posts. Some have issues with my sarcasm. I recently had another blogger refer to me as an "abortion advocate" in his discussion of a piece that has absolutely nothing to do with abortion. I've been called pushy, snotty, and I can't count how many times I've been called some version of a bitch or slut. I can't count how many times I've been contacted with messages from the general public that contain comments about things other than my writing, including one person's reaction to my Schaffly piece hoping the Easter Bunny would bring me chocolates and a sexy bra. I've been told I should be "ashamed of myself" for discussing the issue of teen sexuality even though this is an issue of utmost relevance to my peers.

I'm not alone here. Many other female writers face the same reactions I do. We blow it off in backchat and sometimes resolve to push the envelope even further in firing back at messages the product of a patriarchal society so often send. We empower and encourage each other.

It's going to take time and a great deal of effort to move our society forward to a point where female writers get less of these misogynistic reactions. I'm hopeful based on how far we've come, the power in the voices out there now, and the fact more and more voices are joining in our song all the time, that we will continue to move forward.

One issue that we do not and should not have to wait for, however, is the idea that women should have equal pay and benefits. The best way to achieve this is to grant women full Constitutional equality. Not only will this protect women in the workplace, but in the court system, the doctor's office, and the classroom.

On September 13th 2014, women and men will gather in our nation's capital to speak out to raise awareness and rally support for the Equal Rights Amendment. I'll be there with them, speaking about how the women of the past have helped me become the woman I am today and the vision I have for my future and the future of my peers.

Even if you cannot be there personally, you can donate to help make our rally a success or purchase T shirts and a variety of other products, some featuring my picture and quotes, to show your support.

The story of Jill Abramson is an all too familiar headline. It's time for a new news cycle.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Customer Service

I am not an expert on economic policy and don't play one on TV. I've looked over Governor Pat McCrory's new budget proposal through the lens of an ordinary young citizen keeping up with the latest important news from my state.

One of the main things that stuck out to me was the $77 million proposed to the Information Technology Reserve to, "fix our systems and increase customer service."

Customer service? Really? Because Governor McCrory, as far as I and the rest of NC's young citizens are concerned, your customer service sucks.

Do you know what technology is used to process? Pending applications from 16 and 17 year olds who have pre-registered to vote when they turn 18 and it's time to automatically add them to the voter rolls. The Board of Elections was able to do this with their existing software before our ability to pre-register was eliminated. It would be interesting to see how improved technology services could improve the process.

When that opportunity was eliminated, and we looked to the Governor's Office for customer service solutions, we were called bureaucratic burdens and props. I wonder if part of fixing our state government's customer service includes treating NC's young citizens with dignity and respect? I won't hold my breath.

Given that Governor Pat McCrory's reaction to teachers who marched to the capitol today to meet with him was to lock the doors, it's unlikely McCrory will do his job of being a public servant where NC's students are concerned.











Governor McCrory also proposes to invest in programs to help reduce underage drinking.  Blogger Greg Flynn had an epic tweet response to this news.







The NC Department of Transportation concluded through a 2009 study that 14.9% of NC teens had tried alcohol.  In the 2012 General election, only 55,029 18 year olds voted out of a population of over 130,000.

It appears Pat McCrory has transferred the customer service call of NC's youth to the wrong department.

Fingertips

Yesterday, I read about a 17 year old girl named Clare, who went to prom and was asked to leave because she looked so fierce, she was causing men to have impure thoughts. Actually, that's not the reason. The reason is because patriarchy and the war on sex. But Clare's dress did not break the preset dress code which stated the length of the dress must be long enough to extend beyond her fingertips when she had her arms by her side. Despite the fact Clare conformed to the nonsensical standards imposed on her, she was still singled out and shamed simply for being an attractive young woman.

The fingertip rule is perhaps the most irrational dress code standard young women face. I mean, do they think that short skirts and short shorts are going to cause the female genital organs to escape and randomly make their way into guys' pants? There is also the rule against spaghetti straps, because I guess showing one's shoulders is a surefire way to ensure you'll spend the majority of your day swatting away a swarm of penises. We won't even get into halter tops because stomachs are apparently a gateway drug that lead straight to stripper poles. It's a wonder how any young woman survives a day at the beach without getting raped.

RIDICULOUS.

I don't own a single summer outfit I could wear if I had to live under these ridiculous rules. And while I do own a few outfits that make other people's parents say, "I would never let MY daughter wear THAT," (some of which my dad has bought for me BTW) most of my clothes are just regular clothes. I have a lot of guy friends, some of whom aren't gay, and I have never once caught them looking at my body parts during a conversation nor have any of them tried to touch me inappropriately. Even if I'm going out on the weekend and decide to wear something completely baddastical, my friends are the ones who will put the smackdown on anyone who tries to act on any "impure thoughts" they might have.

I owe this to the fact that my bullshit tolerance is below the 3% threshold and I refuse to hang out with idiots. The men in my life all have mothers and sisters and girlfriends. The women in their lives have had open conversations with them about how to treat and support women, and they are genuinely interested in doing just that. Sure, the ones who like women sometimes have the pure and honorable thought that a woman they see is attractive and sometimes they even fantasize, but they know how to act appropriately toward those women and respect their boundaries.

I also have girlfriends who don't feel comfortable wearing short shorts or showing their stomachs. They don't deserve to have a message sent to them by society that they are anything but on equal footing with Beyonce. It's up to each individual woman to decide what she wears based on nothing other than what she's comfortable and confident in wearing. In the end, women and the men who actually matter fully understand where our true beauty lies.

You show me a fingertip rule and I'll show you my middle finger. Not only are such rules completely illogical, they contribute to the continuation of a patriarchal society. They place boundaries on women based on a stereotypical idea of manhood. They send the message to men who don't have mothers and sisters and girlfriends they care about and converse with that short shorts and spaghetti straps are a signal a woman wants sex. My mother's mother had to protest at her high school in order to be able to wear pants to school. We women have come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go.

We haven't come this far by sitting at home and waiting for our legislators to call. Women and the men who support them have gotten out there and worked for the rights women have now. And it's imperative that young women and the men who support them exercise the influence we have over our lawmakers, stand up to our authority figures, and use our voices to continue to erode both the patriarchy and the war on sexuality.

To Clare, let's change this world together, sister. Keep speaking out. This one's for you:                                                                                                                                                      

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Songs of a Revolution

I published a guest post yesterday on Liberals Unite about sex education. We cannot allow the GOP to control the conversation on this subject and must fight back, teens included. I spoke to the fact that abstinence-only education is the manifestation of adult fear. I spoke to the ridiculous pressures placed on both girls and guys which sometimes cause us to adopt dangerous and unhealthy attitudes about sex.

Adults are extremely uncomfortable with thinking of teenagers as sexual beings. This is true in the reverse also in that teens do not want to think about their parents having sex. I've seen more than my fair share of comments today writing off my opinions on the matter because I'm not an adult. This proves my point. It's up to us, members of my generation, to take responsibility and take action. We must control the conversation. These issues affect the reality we live in, a reality our parents and some other adults fail to fully understand because their judgement is clouded by fear and insecurity.

To get this out of the way, let me say I'm not sexually active at this time and have no immediate desire to become so. However, my personal feelings at this time are that I won't remain a virgin until marriage. This could change if I developed a deep emotional relationship with a guy and we talked through that issue together. In other words, the decisions I make on this subject will be made thoughtfully, not until the time comes when I feel completely comfortable and confident, and not until I am assured my partner feels the same way. So, for the members of the general public who are unclear of where I stand personally, there ya go. And I will not be, "ashamed of myself."

Let me throw something down here from my undeveloped prefrontal cortex. The fact I am informed and able to understand the ways I will develop emotionally and physically in the future are the exact reasons I plan to wait. But some of my friends are not waiting. There is absolutely nothing I nor their parents perceived rules and supervision can do to prevent this. I have a friend who comes from a very Conservative home and had the strictest rules possible. She ended up pregnant at 15 and was kicked out of her house as a result. Others I know are smart enough to use protection but have been in situations where their sneak-around experiences have not been fulfilling physically or emotionally.

When you look at your daughters, do you honestly want their first sexual experiences to be of the type that last 10 minutes after which both parties are awkward and unfulfilled because neither party was truly ready for the experience? Do you want that experience to possibly result in pregnancy or an STD? Do you want her first experience to come from a need to keep a guy in a relationship and have her suffer the emotional devastation that can happen when he rolls over, puts his clothes back on, and never calls her again?  These are all reasons your daughters should be waiting but if the only messages they are getting about sex is that it's not their decision to make or are uncomfortable thinking about and discussing the issue because of messages they get from adults and society, they are in real danger of devastating physical and emotional consequences.

The same reasons many adults are uncomfortable with teens talking about sex and being sexually active are many of the same reasons they are uncomfortable when we talk about participating in democracy. They discount our ability to make competent decisions, calling us confused, incapable, and irrelevant. They write off our issues because they don't understand them, don't see their importance, or don't understand how these issues truly affect us.

This is why it's time for us to stand up. It's time for the revolution. Change doesn't come from complacency, it comes from making people uncomfortable. It's time to stand up for ourselves and our peers. It's time to raise our voices, empower each other, and shake things up.

Raise your voices. Sing with me.