I know when some people think of the way feminists use patriachy they imagine we believe that in man caves around the country men meet to cross swords (and by swords I mean penises) and then sit down and talk about how to make women miserable. But, as the poet Eliot once said “that is not what I meant at all. That is not it at all”
It’s quite weird to me to see comments like “Patriarchy doesn’t exist” or the attempt to rename feminist’s application of patriarchy as “patriarchal theory”. There are both sociobiological and social constructionist explanations of patriarchy.
Sociobiological explanations use human biology and genetics to explain male control, while social constructionist explanations say that individuals, male and female, actively construct gender roles.
It seems wholly doubtful to deny that individual acts of sexual discrimination exist, and I think most people would agree. Really then to say that patriarchy exists is only to claim that these acts of discrimination are not simply random acts of individual prejudice or individual bad behaviour, but a more generalized social prejudice that favors males as a demographic and/or masculinity as an ideology.
To show that Patriarchy exists, then, only requires that political economists–among other social scientists–demonstrate that a baseline of statistically significant violence and discrimination against women exists. A vast conspiracy among men, the oppressors in man caves, is not required.
Additionally, those who claim that patriarchy does not exist are not only in denial of the evidence at hand, their claim relies on and imagines a vast anti-male conspiracy among women and men, the courts, police and government at all levels in Canada (and many other places in the world) fabricating the vast evidence available that violence toward women is more than random. Or to put it another way:
Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence.
If you’ve ever argued that patriarchy doesn’t exist because men and women perform the roles that they are most suited to, you are using the same argument laid out by Steven Goldberg titled The Inevitability of Patriarchy.
Sociologist Sylvia Walby in her book Theorizing Patriarchy has composed six overlapping structures that define patriarchy and that take different forms in different cultures and different times. There are many examples of each so I have only selected a few. As it is if you read every link provided in this piece you are likely to be busy for sometime.
1. The state: women are unlikely to have formal power and representation
- The Rare Commodity on Canadian Boards–women
- Why Aren’t There More Women in Positions of Power
- women losing ground in positions of power
2. The household: women are more likely to do the housework and raise the children.
3. Sexual division of labour
Female MRA Karen Straughan has pointed out the gendered division of labour in a piece for The Good Men Project back in 2012. Though the two have long parted ways, her article remains and I’ve always found it interesting. She speaks here of some of the difficulty in writing in what is affectionately known as “The Manosphere”:
I have had to sit and grind my teeth when men in the movement complain that “That bitch got MY house. It was MY property because I paid for it while SHE stayed home,” and resist the urge to remind them that unpaid domestic labor has value too, and that women’s denial of that value in the early days of feminism is part of why men and women are in this mess today. That if she was the kind of wife and mother I’d been when I stayed at home, and he’d had to pay her a fair-market wage for her child-care, housekeeping and maybe even home/yard maintenance duties, her income might have been almost as high as his own during the marriage.
4. Violence: women are more prone to being abused
- 7 sobering facts about violence against women
- Violence against women in Canada
- Amnesty Internationals facts on violence against women
5. Paid work: women are likely to be paid less
The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics describes the gap between wages, something that economists have been tracking since 1890. Worth noting that although a pay gap exists between men and women in general, it is dramatically more pronounced among women of color especially migrant workers.
6. Sexuality: Women’s sexuality is more likely to be treated negatively
Again we tun to Karen Straughan (citation on #3), who when talking about her sexuality correlates possession of masculine traits prevents her from being labeled with slut:
“I’m not a traditionalist woman. I’m bisexual. I’m kind of a dirty old man when it comes to my attitudes about sex, and I’m masculine enough in some ways to pull it off without ever having been burdened with the label of slut.”
The word slut is an excellent jumping of point to the ways in which women’s sexuality is treated negatively. It is a word that has been used to justify rape against women (she was loose, she was asking for it, black women are viewed as unrapeable). We have slut-shaming, and policing of women’s sexuality.
Here’s a great piece from African Feminists about sexual pleasure as feminist choice.
7. Culture: women are more misrepresented in media and popular culture
The finding that international relations articles written by women receive fewer citations than those written by men. Women are sexually objectified to very detrimental effects on self-image and the perception of women as less than autonomous, fully realized humans.
What about the Menz? There is no question that masculinity is policed. Returning to hook‘s explanation of patriarchy she describes this application of gender roles through how her and her brother were raised:
We lived in farm country, isolated from other people. Our sense of gender roles was learned from our parents, from the ways we saw them behave. My brother and I remember our confusion about gender. In reality I was stronger and more violent than my brother, which we learned quickly was bad. And he was a gentle, peaceful boy, which we learned was really bad.
Although we were often confused, we knew one fact for certain: we could not be and act the way we wanted to, doing what we felt like. It was clear to us that our behavior had to follow a predetermined, gendered script. We both learned the word “patriarchy” in our adult life, when we learned that the script that had determined what we should be, the identities we should make, was based on patriarchal values and beliefs about gender.
Men are not allowed to play with dolls as boys, they are not allowed to wear pink .Men can be mocked for being the primary caregiver at home. The men use words like “faggot”, “mangina”, “pussy-whipped” to insult one another do so because this language positions the target of their insults as a less than masculine person. This reinforces the sociopolitical expectation that men be domineering or else they are not “real men”. Writes hooks: “Despite the contemporary visionary feminist thinking that makes clear that a patriarchal thinker need not be a male, most folks continue to see men as the problem of patriarchy. This is simply not the case. Women can be as wedded to patriarchal thinking and action as men.” Patriarchy doesn’t refer to men, it refers to a system and that is why women also buttress patriarchal expectations by demanding men be dominant, primary care-givers, or the ever moving target of a Real Man.
It is worth noting that many people prefer to use kyriachy to describe interlocking systems of oppression because patriarchy alone does not cover the entire scope of oppression. Patriarchy sometimes misses queer, class, and racial oppressions. Patricia Hill Collins in Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination moves us closer to an inclusive definition of understanding oppression,
Afrocentric feminist thought offers two significant contributions toward furthering our understanding of the important connections among knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. First, Black feminist thought fosters a fundamental paradigmatic shift in how we think about oppression. By embracing a paradigm of race, class, and gender as interlocking systems of oppression, Black feminist thought reconceptualizes the social relations of domination and resistance. Second, Black feminist thought addresses ongoing epistemological debates in feminist theory and in the sociology of knowledge concerning ways of assessing “truth.” Offering subordinate groups new knowledge about their own experiences can be empowering. But revealing new ways of knowing that allow subordinate groups to define their own reality has far greater implications.
Emphasis mine. My only issue with this quotation is that Collins does not mention queer oppression which is especially important given the astronomical rates of violence that trans women, especially trans women of color, face.The ways in which gender is policed affects those who are non-binary the most.
Personally I prefer to work through intersectionality as a bisexual woman from an impoverished background, I feel that the white feminist movement does not pay enough attention to voices outside of cisgendered middle-class mainstream.
WARNING: Probably all spoliers for Girls Season three Episode three “She said Ok”
Okay first thoughts. I think it’s interesting that this season is continually addressing mental illness, whether it is Jessa’s addiction or Adam’s sister’s issues (which seem to me like some type of personality disorder). People complained about Hannah’s OCD in the last season being abrupt (which I didn’t think was an issue at all, because mental illness can just get severe out of the blue), this season is kind of addressing that by normalizing it. It’s everywhere, and unavoidable.
On that note, it’s also interesting how Adam’s tolerance of his sister’s issues were so low. Understandable, but also makes me question the stability of his relationship with Hannah. Though a lot of things make me question that.
I agree they are working a lot with mental illness. I don’t know how to feel about Adam he seems like those guys you start dating that all of a sudden never want to go anywhere. He HATES her friends (but in the last episode she said liking friends wasn’t what friendship was about).
I’m never fully on the Adam train. He’s an excellent character because he is so unusual and intense. But he’s not particularly good to women, and I can’t forget the way he violated his girlfriend last season. That was really upsetting.
I think with his sister he’s probably built up barriers after being taken advantage of as an addict though. I can understand being cautious.
I agree, Adam’s behaviour toward his sister makes perfect sense. Nonetheless, it makes me wonder how he is going to respond to the next time Hannah has a serious struggle. And there will be a next time. There always is when it comes to mental health.
My favorite line in this episode was when Shoshanna said “It’s really amazing that you all have accomplished so little since college
That line by Hannah about friendship in the last episode was one of my favourites in the series. About not liking your friends. I get that, even though sometimes I wish I didn’t
Shosh is always perfect. She’s kind of on the fringe of the group because she is the youngest, but this also gives her the advantage of being able to observe them in a more critical, honest way. The three older girls are definitely drifting, and if Shosh didn’t call them on it I don’t know if they would have acknowledged it. Even then they were quick to brush it off. But it is also true that it takes time to find your way. It’s not just a matter of the economy stunting options. Growing up doesn’t just happen all at once. It’s a process.
We all have friends we just don’t like very much
What did you think of David? He seems supportive I was surprised to see him playing a larger role in this series I wonder what that is going to mean?
I’m not sure how I feel about David yet. He’s kind of aggressive and stand-offish, but he masks it under eccentricity. I keep expecting the other shoe to drop with him, like something is going to go wrong with Hannah’s book.
Maybe! In television and movies when an editor shows up it’s like when the main character coughs in the first act–foreshadowing that something bad is going to happen.
Oh he’s totally a cough! Nothing has happened yet to make him likable (or as likable as anyone can be in this show) or suggest that he is a stable figure. Especially with his interaction with Ray, he seems kind of explosive to me.
AND JUST FOR CONTEXT RAY AND DAVID GOT IN A FIGHT WHEN DAVID ASKED THE DJ TO SWITCH SONGS TO “I’M SEXY AND I KNOW IT”. RAY WAS VERY OFFENDED.
Caroline though. What a mess. I was distracted by the bush and then she broke the glass and was bleeding everywhere. It was all very confusing!
Caroline really hit the nail on the head for me. That scene was upsetting because it reminded me quite a bit about the self-destructive tendencies that come along with mental illness. Also I hate to say it but from the first scene I did not like Caroline.
It was confusing. A lot of things that happen in Girls are so abrupt. But that adds a layer of realism to it.
By confusing for me I mean the scene makes sense, but I think I fell for the bushy misdirection. Maybe discombobulating would be a better word there.
That whole scene made me cringe. Ray is not in a good place yet. Better, but he doesn’t really have it together.
Discombobulated. Excellent word for it. The bush was so startling it actually distracted from some of the violence of the scene. What does that say about the way we consume female nudity on TV?
Oh that’s a good point. It was nudity in a dysfunctional scene not nudity for the purposes of arousal. I like that Lena Dunham is doubling down on the non-sexual nudity in the show after she came under so much criticism for it.
You know I’ve found very little of the nudity in the series to be sexual. Which is one of it’s biggest strengths. Did you see Soraya Chemaly’s Salon article on the power of non-sexualized female nudity? Dunham’s really harnessing that.
Yes and the push back Dunham receives is so telling.
I loved Ray and Shoshanna’s conversation outside. It may be wrong, but I’m still rooting for the two of them.
(Throwback to the first time)
I don’t know she deserves someone less spazzy.
I agree, she’s deserves better. I’m just hoping that Ray gets his shit together and becomes that better.
Oh! Can we talk about Adam giving a tooth for a present? Teeth are not presents.
I get how and why that was super weird, but as an alternative weirdo I kind of loved it. I don’t know how exactly I would feel about that if it happened to me in real life though.
I’d prefer a card I think A handmade card? I mean we don’t even know if it is his tooth or his sister’s tooth.
You know what it reminded me of? Saint Catherine of Siena once received a vision that Jesus gave her a wedding finger made of his foreskin.
Foreskin is a little too much for me.
St Bridget claimed that she had orgasms when bits of foreskin were dropped on her tongue by an angel.
But I digress.
You mentioned to me before how you were not going to feel guilty about watching Girls anymore. Tell me about that.
Well I was thinking about all the totally valid criticism I see about girls, such as the class privilege and the absence of people of colour. I recognize and agree that there are ways the show falls short and can improve. But a lot of people completely dismiss the series of the basis of these things, or that the characters are challenging to like. This ignores the value of the series. Just because it is flawed does not mean that it doesn’t matter. The series portrays women as human beings who make mistakes, antiheroes who don’t always do the right things or care about how they look. Considering the serious lack of depth we get with female characters on film and television, this is deeply transgressive and kind of revolutionary. Also people are too easily overlooking the body politics of the series. Dunham is fighting sizeism and the conventional Hollywood ideals. She’s fighting them with people who are still pretty, but not the glossy, botox-ed, heavily photo shopped Hollywood standard. These things matter too. When it comes to pop culture, if we totally dismissed things because some aspects were problematic then we wouldn’t be consuming any culture at all. Small victories matter. Doesn’t mean we should just blindly ignore the problems, criticism is necessary. But it’s also important to value the things that work.
I love Girls. It’s entertaining, it’s refreshing, and it’s thoughtful. I’m done defending and justifying how I feel about it to people that aren’t willing to listen.
There was this horrible article going around last year about five great reasons to date a woman with an eating disorder. In reality, no one who has had a partner with an eating disorder would find anything positive about their illness. You can’t love someone and be willing to watch them suffer so much. But, one of the things we never talk about, because it isn’t popular, is that we harm women in little ways by continuously holding up figures that for some (I would argue for most) are nearly unattainable. And we do it through casual glimpses through The Chive or the constant praise of thinness or hotness over any other achievement in a woman’s life. We reinforce this contempt of women’s bodies by allowing sites like 4chan—sites made to troll, to define beauty standards. 2013 was the obsession with the thigh gap and 2014 there’s now a viral hoax about the bikini bridge. I’m preparing to get to hear my male friends talk about how hot this is while plastering a smile to my face and trying not to think of what I look like in a swimsuit.
I am of course only one person and cannot speak for, nor embody the opinions of all women, but in my life the body issues I have faced have been so intense they have almost killed me. I don’t think it’s funny, or not a big deal and I doubt that if you were like me—if you spent an inordinate amount of time being so disgusted by your own appearance—that you would be able to shrug this off. If you don’t know what this is like, I honestly hope that you never have to find out.
Going back to a minute for that article about dating someone with eating disorders, the fact is that no one (well no one who is capable of feeling compassion anyway) who has had a partner with an eating disorder would find anything positive about their illness. Know why? One of the alerts for bulimia or anorexia is that we talk about food all the time. Obviously not only people with eating disorders focus on food, but it is a tell. We think about. We look at pictures. We talk about it. Even if you don’t talk about it very often it affects you. For myself, I’m an emotional eater as well as someone predisposed to starving herself. I am a total mess about food.
Right now, I am in the grips of awful body dyspmorphia. I don’t even know if it is really dysmorphia because for me it isn’t a perceived flaws—it’s real. I will admit to being preoccupied with the shape I am in. Just two years ago everything was going well and I was pretty thin. My partner told me he was proud that instead of just whining about putting on weight I went out and did something about it. I was proud too. I also felt like I still wasn’t doing enough. He never pressured me, never told me I looked better than before. I had long since internalized these messages elsewhere.
At the time, I still didn’t see the results. I was working out three times a day and eating about 500 calories. I thought this was ok because I went to a diet clinic. I was seeing a doctor and nurses several times a week! Part of this included having to get a shot of vitamin B in the stomach twice a week, and bring in samples of pee to confirm that I was in ketosis. In order to stay in ketosis, you can’t have any sugar. Even the simple sugars in carbohydrates are a no-no. There were weeks where I must not have followed the eating schedule strictly enough because the weight was not sailing off. I plateaued even while eating almost nothing but steamed vegetables and chicken.
Just keep going, the nurses told me. It has to come off eventually. But the only thing adding up was the judgement I felt and the loss of income from paying out almost $1000 per month to receive treatment at the clinic. A few people would raise their eyebrows at work when I was eating a bag full of steamed zucchini so I started eating lunch at an irregular hour and staying in my office to eat.
I carried pee in my bag, such was my dedication to thinness.
I’m not sure what happened to cause me to just give up. Partly was I am just too burned out from working full time and going through a Master’s program. I wasn’t seeing the result of this hard work. It’s not because the results didn’t exist, I mean I was starving myself you can tell, but because I literally cannot see anything worthwhile when I look in the mirror.
So I stopped. I justified it. I work 60-80 hours a week–I’m tired. I wanted to be able to let go a little bit. Now I am faced with another insurmountable task of making my body tolerable to live in.
Sometimes I cry when I look in the mirror. I cringe when friend’s put up pictures of me. When they call me beautiful I shake my head. Other women are beautiful and not thin–I know this. I have seen them.
It’s me. It’s my body. I am the problem. I’m the one who can’t be lovable because of the jiggle in my thighs, the stomach that is not flat and the hip bones that will just not show through.
I started dieting when I was about nine because other kids made fun of me for my weight. A group of girls once forced their way into the bathroom I was changing in so that they could look at me. The only way I could rationalize this in my mind was that there must be something wrong with me because they were not doing this to other girls. Just a few years later a guy I went to school with told me on the playground that my rolls were smaller than my tits. It still burns, to think of that comment.
In my early 20s I used purging as a way to keep my weight down. My boyfriend at the time tried to forbid me from throwing up, but that doesn’t really work. When it got to the point that I wasn’t allowed to lock the bathroom door I just stopped eating all together when I could get away with it.
Through all of this the thinnest I’ve been at in my adult life is about 148. Not thin. I don’t even know how I can dip below that. I have at times, felt like I fail at even having an eating disorder. I felt for the longest time that I didn’t even have a disorder because, you know, those people are skinny. It is insidious.
It stuns me that anyone can even make light of this. They can’t know the constant nagging in my head, the satisfaction of the light-headed feeling I get when I have successfully not eaten by 1:00 PM. I hate it and I crave it. I love the lightness of an empty stomach and I hate the feeling of being full.
I’m probably this way forever. It’s a desperate situation trying to work up the courage to eat—even healthy foods because I feel like my body doesn’t deserve them. Inevitably, this resolve crashes and I comfort myself by eating large amount of food that is unhealthy. There’s cognitive behavioral therapy tactics that have helped me, but I still want to puke every time I catch a glimpse of my body in a mirror, or when someone takes a photograph of me.
It isn’t right that I think this way. I know that. Intellectually I understand that women are valuable and beautiful (or even that we don’t have to be beautiful). I know that women are worth more than this. I just can’t see that for myself even after years of therapy. It’s going to take many more years. Myself, and those like me endlessly seek the external validation for our bodies to make up for the acceptance that never happens from our own hearts.
I’ve suffered with it forever, and I’m not even lithe, just tortured.
Early 2013 Selfie
I have something to tell you. Somewhere a long the way this year, I became a liberal feminist. A choicey choice feminist. You know, the type that gets annoyed when there’s an insistence about what feminists should or should not do. I don’t care if some ol’ feminist thinks that feminists look silly in heels. I don’t believe you can prescribe a set of values for women to live by when our lived experiences are so different. It might be a sign of aging—I have heard that it is—but I’m coming to terms with the reality that things are rarely as easily divisible as right or wrong. In many of the circles that I exist in “Liberal” is an insult. In conservative Alberta, among anarchist-communists, and especially within feminism the term is almost spat out. Which is why this year I defined Paradisien feminism. That is Feminism through an epistemological lens. The thing is outside of academia that doesn’t mean very much to people.
Valentines Day 2013: Passing out Love Letters to Strangers
2013 was such a busy time for me. I officially got my bachelor’s degree and began my Master of Arts in learning and technology. I met a lot of new people in my cohort and I hope to have them around always. I turned 26 in July.
My University, I went to visit some friends on Vancouver Island in March and stopped by.
As a twenty-something I think about what it is to come of age in a society that seems so sure Millennials are completely useless. I’ve come to reflect that not only do we get to make mistakes in our young lives, but we still have time for our youthful, joyous, exuberant stupidity to be forgiven. The important thing is knowing when to fight, and when to say you are sorry.
Speaking of coming of age homilies, Ira Glass, speaking to Goucher college as the keynote for their graduation something that still bears a lot of relevance to me, in this year of personal growth.
There’s a show on HBO that I admire a lot called Girls. It’s about what it’s like in the years after college when you’re trying to make a life for yourself. It’s about what you guys are about to launch yourselves into. Every single fact about that show is completely different from my life when I was in my 20′s, but the essence of that show feels exactly the same. What’s great about that show is that it’s a completely unromantic view of what your life is about to be. The young women on that show, they flounder, they pretend to know what they’re doing when they absolutely don’t. They strongly believe things that are transparently untrue. I myself spent years- YEARS- in a terrible kind of politically correct phase where I travelled to Nicaragua and called it ‘Niquragua’ to observe the Sandinista revolution firsthand.
You will be stupid. You will worry your parents as I worried mine. You will question your own choices. You will question your relationships, your jobs, your friends, where you live, what you studied in college-that you went to college at all-and the thing I want to say is: That is totally OK. That is totally normal. If that happens, you’re doing it right.
Simply put, life is terrifying and no one knows it quite like a twenty-something.
This past year has been explosive for me. Both feminism and writing really took off. I went from my little blog read by maybe 40 people to publishing articles with a much wider spread. How did this happen? Well firstly, I decided I would pick a fight with MRAs around an ill-defined debate of whether or not “Feminism is Hatred” that I eventually gave up on owing to the fact that I didn’t feel like watching six forty-minute videos for every eight minutes of mine. I really had no idea what I was wading into, but I learned that the internet has strange little corners I hadn’t yet met, and the difficulty of taping and sending a debate over You Tube.
Instead of support I got endless, ENDLESS trolls and people with too much time on their hands taking to this blog to demand I argue with them everything from matriarchy to patriarchy, and the biological determinism of marmosets. I had a lot of men, and a sprinkling of women, telling me how stupid I was, how cowardly I was, and how hopelessly pathetic I must be. A few thought I was pretty hot too. That just goes to show you everyone is either a critic or a creep!
I’d just begun my Masters program a few months earlier and I had to remind myself that real life was more important that being right on the Internet (I have to remind myself of that almost daily). I let others crow victory and just sort of shrugged the debate off. I’ve been on their radar ever since and even got a nice mention beside the Prime Minister and Kate Harding on an A Voice For Men article titled “Fuck You”.
For a few months after that, everything I wrote would get the words MAN HATER smeared across it. The attention to my blog was a little overwhelming as prior to that I mostly toiled in obscurity. Around the same time I decided, hey, I can write more about this feminism thing. I began writing for Fem 2pt0 covering the international problem of street harassment, and the French feminists of La Barbe. I wrote about rape and party culture, and then I wrote about why the term “Grey Rape” was actually a problem. I changed my mind on ever, ever providing safety tips to women so they can avoid being raped. I wrote for Policy Mic and XO Jane. I wrote a blog post about a really stupid advertisement where women were told “only hoochies drink hooch” that attracted a lot of attention and got me on Alberta PrimeTime. I was profiled as Pundit of the Week and on Stylings and Stories
I also found a litany of feminist friends, womanist friends, and writers, ne’er do wells online. There’s too many to list here, and I would do something stupid like forget one and then hurt feelings all around. Y’all know who you are, anyway. I learned a lot from listening to people. That is probably what contributed the most to my shifting perspectives. Through following the work of writers like Lauren Elk Chief, Trudy Hamilton, and Feminista Jones.
My sister and I put together a “Spite Charity” donation when a man who calls himself Vox Day made the really idiotic comment that it would be better for a society to encourage men to rape women than it is to encourage women to work. I didn’t debate him however because come-the-fuck-on is that ever a ridiculous thing to even need to argue. This caused his followers to fantasize about me being orally raped and wonder how many of the circle-jerkers I had engaged in anal sex with (HINT: none, and also LOL).
Gay Pride 2013
I helped to organize Edmonton Slut Walk. I guess technically I was lead organizer, but it wouldn’t have been possible without a team of really amazing people who were dedicated to seeing the march through to conclusion. I ended up on television and radio a few more times, including CBC Radio—which was an interesting experience. I got to say slut on all the local news broadcasts AND I made Rick Harp say it too!
I went to Idle No More rallies and From H8 to Hope. I drummed, I smudged. I attended a rally put on by my sister called the Festival of Acceptance. I discovered that in order to do good social work you have to work on yourself—and find both self-love, a desire for improvement, and a willingness to keep your heart open. I tried to be valuable to my community.
My heart was torn by the death of Rehteah Parsons, Audrie Pott, the five year old girl in India, the twenty three year old gang rape victim in India, the many other men and women who suffered sexual assault this year, and the many many stories of rape survivors I came across from both Slut Walk and Take Back the Night Marches.
Through writing about all this tragedy around sexual violence, I actually came to terms with calling what happened to me rape. This was neither healing nor traumatic. One of the saddest things I came to terms with is that I would never again encourage women to share their stories of sexual violence in the public sphere. Both the media coverage of Slut Walk with the outspoken rape survivors later being harassed, and the way my rape is now used as inflammatory fodder to hurt me or point to the reason I am so oooo ooooo bitter. You open yourself up to a lot of hurt and for many people that can be triggering. People can be kinda mean, yo. It is never fair to expect someone to share, some stories are private, but that makes you no less brave.
The year was many things. Expansive, heart breaking, joyful. It was too much for one sum-it-all up post, and I’m going to start keeping a journal again in the New Year. Until then, I love you old friends, and new friends and I endeavor to spend more time with you in the New Year, because life is precious.
Me now, blowing you a kiss for the last selfie of 2013.
An excerpt from a piece I published by author Kristina Wright at GMP
They said it wouldn’t last. I had just arrived at Norfolk International Airport in Virginia the first time I ever set eyes on the man who would become my husband. The first thing I ever said to him was, “Please tell me your name is Jay.” I was dating his roommate and Jay was doing him a favor by collecting me from the airport since my then-boyfriend had to work. (The two of them were serving on the USS Virginia.) We had spoken on the phone and I had seen one picture of him—beyond that, I didn’t know Jay at all. Eight months later, after a whirlwind courtship and spending less than three weeks together, we were married. That was twenty-three years ago.
The naysayers no longer have anything say as we have weathered over two decades of marriage, several military moves, close to a dozen deployments and made a home wherever we were, first with a menagerie of pets and then adding two babies to the mix in our forties. Life is busy and chaotic. He is at the tail end of his naval career and contemplating life post-retirement, I have a thriving writing and editing career that I cobble together with part-time childcare and late night caffeine-induced writing sessions. The kids are growing like weeds, the house is in constant need of some kind of repair and there is always a holiday or birthday or trip around the corner.
The latest victim of the professionally outraged, Col. Lynette Arnhart, was until very recently in charge of a team tasked with helping women get past barriers to combat roles. Arnhart came under fire ofter an email she sent pleading for The Army to use photos of average-looking women, as opposed to pretty-looking women in photos, was leaked to Politico. The troublesome tidbit:
“There is a general tendency to select nice looking women when we select a photo to go with an article (where the article does not reference a specific person). It might behoove us to select more average looking women for our comms strategy. For example, the attached article shows a pretty woman, wearing make-up while on deployed duty. Such photos undermine the rest of the message (and may even make people ask if breaking a nail is considered hazardous duty),”
According to the National Post, Arnhart has now agreed to step down from her position after the outrage generated from her suggestion. A pity, because I agree with Arnhart, not about calling women ugly, but about more attractive women being simultaneously viewed as less competent while also crowding the market of female visibility. It would be nice to see images where the women aren’t conventionally pretty. Everyday we drown images of flawless lip-sticked women with elusive mona-lisa smiles.
At NY Mag, Emily Shornick, in a great moment of Internet verisimilitude, displayed the bland images that come up when one searches for “empowered female” including cleavage bearing, clueless looking women holding drills, women in heels climbing ladders, and gorgeous women holding up boxing gloves. These images are mostly white women, all thin, and all attractive.
This made me recall a project I worked for developing education material in the trades. It was impossible to find an image of even a woman engineer that was even sort of reflective of women in the trades. Instead, most of the images feature simpering long-haired blondes wearing a hard hat on top of flowing locks and the kinds of earrings that would never be seen on a construction site. Both my mother and sister work in the trades and never in my life have I seen them dress up to go tape walls, or paint.
While Rashinda Jones opines on the sexism in via pornification of pop stars, glaringly missing any racial interplay in her criticisms, many women find that neither Mr. Jones or Ms. Miley Cyrus are relatable to their lived experiences. While Jones is finding popular women a little too visible many other women are never visible. This is the same myopic focus introduced by Jezebel on the criticism of the selfie as a cry for help. (and by the way Hood feminism said most everything that needs saying on that).
I’m sure Arnhart would agree that whatever the method, at least we are actually seeing a broader range of femininity. Hopefully in time she’ll learn to stop calling women ugly–we have enough of that elsewhere thank you.
Still, the fact is we could use a broader representation of images of women. Women who are not white. Women who are not thin. Heck, we could probably go out on a limb and include women with flaws; women with wrinkles, or barring that, at least pores. Perhaps Arnhart’s sin was suggesting that all women are not beautiful, but seeing as society does that every damn day Arnhart was just saying what everyone was thinking.
The Nazis had begun their campaign against modernist art as soon as they seized power. Expressionist, cubist, abstract, and surrealist art—anything intellectual, Jewish, foreign, socialist-inspired, or difficult to understand—was targeted, from Picasso and Matisse going back to Cézanne and van Gogh; in its place traditional German realism, accessible and open to patriotic interpretation, was extolled
People think that it is hard to love when you’re sad, but the truth is that it is painfully easy. It’s so easy to love too much, too hard, too fast, and this reckless loving is what undoes you in the end.
I’ve just finished the loveliest book. It’s by my friend Anne Thériault. The e-book is a vignette, a snap shot of her life as well as dealing with major depressive episodes. That’s what makes it so wonderful to me. There were many times that I found myself nodding along with her experiences. In reading, I immediately recalled other times I’ve connected with a books about depression, or mental illness. The book reminded me a lot of William Styron’s Darkness Visible. Both are discovery of the type of deep and foggy Sadness characterized by depression.
I think if you’ve never experienced a truly depressive state, it is hard to comprehend. The name “depression” is so misleading, it describes a minor dent, when you feel more destroyed than discontent. Anne uses metaphor and invites us to think of Sadness, a place some visit and others come to live. For her, she owns a shoddy ramshackle vacation house in Sadness. She illustrates how this sadness is so much more than just being a little blue. Oh you winter in Florida? How nice I, myself, winter in Sadness, writes Anne.
She details her time as a young teenager that is both depreciating and tender. The mixture of youth and deep sorrow makes you feel as though you are not only alone but special and unique in your suffering. It is one thing, almost an expected thing, to be a moody teenager–it is quite another when this malaise follows you into adulthood. As the reader we follow Anne through treatment where, familiarly, you are often met with more judgement than compassion. It’s an impossible situation to be treated with disdain by the people who hold the keys to help you.
Anne reminds us that with something like depression (or in my case bipolar disorder) there is no cure. There is only remission. This isn’t a dire warning but an important reminder, especially if dealing with a partner who has a mental illness like this.
You might think you can make it to the root of Sadness and back safely, but that is an illusion. All voyages inside are equally dangerous.
Anne is at her best when she is at her most intimate, and while reading this I felt like she was right beside me, commiserating with my own experience through the description of her own.
“I’ll buy you a drink if you show me your tits,” a man said to me. It was amateur strip night at the local peeler club. I turned to look at him, surprised that in a place full of women being paid to perform for him, he had to come and bother me.
I had come to observe, to figure out why this old boy’s club was being infiltrated by women and claimed in the name of grrrrl power. I didn’t plan to participate. But a lot of people were not content to let me observe from the sidelines. The MC told the servers to talk me into it. The servers told him (and me) that I didn’t look like the kind of girl who would do this, anyway.
“You can tell ‘em as soon as they walk in the door — they’re desperate for attention,” she said with a laugh.
That night at the strip club, I wanted to see if being sexy, raunchy, willing and wild felt empowering. I wasn’t convinced. That’s how I felt watching British singer Lily Allen’s new video, “Hard Out Here” — not quite convinced.