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Posts Tagged ‘women’

Ladies, let’s have a chat.

We live in a culture – as my last post stated – where, as a female, not only do I not feel grounded in being female, but that I’m surrounded by expectations of what a female should be based on what men want me to be.  There is no shortage of rants we can go on about this topic, about male ignorance, male chauvinism, male ego…

But guess what?  None of that excuses women being sexist, either.

None of that excuses ranting against all men as if all men do anything, because men, being roughly half of the entire population of the world, don’t all think with the same head.  (Nope, not even that one.)  Just like women, men are individuals, with their own ideas, their own ways of being, and especially here in the US, they have sadly short circuited many of their own natural tendencies in the blind pursuit of what they think  it means to be male.

Women, let’s not fall into the trap of following in the footsteps of those whose actions we ourselves didn’t like!

We don’t like being marginalized, let’s not start marginalizing men.  We don’t like being harassed for our sex, let’s not start harassing men for theirs.  We don’t like all being lumped together as being whiny, emotional, manipulative, unfaithful, or  irrational, let’s not lump all men together as being overbearing, sex-crazed, misogynistic, predatory, or emotionless!

Why not you may ask?  Why not, when it seems “only fair” to fight fire with fire; when we do it, it doesn’t “hurt them like it hurts us”?

But it does.  It does, not because men are afraid to walk down the street alone, not because men get harassed at tech conferences, not because men are less likely to be perceived as intelligent or get hired…

But because us treating them like they have treated use does NOT restore balance to our culture, it just makes it even more unbalanced.  I don’t mean that we should just take it.  We absolutely should stand up against it when we are dismissed, marginalized, harassed, threatened, and objectified.  But using this as an excuse to bash men does not solve the problem.

Women are still largely the caretakers of children, whether as mothers, teachers, nurses, daycare providers, babysitters, and more.  Women largely hold these roles in society, to greater or lesser degrees, and therefore our actions and attitudes have a profound effect on these children who may still be searching for where their place in the world is.

That means when a female teacher stands in front of a class of girls and boys and bashes men, she is not restoring balance to a culture out of balance, she is damaging male and female students alike who hear her words and feel her anger.  As women, we do need to have conversations with girls and boys, but it should be in the context of why the negative words and actions are negative, and why they’re damaging.  The conversation should not be shaped by talking about why men are bad or wrong.

Boys don’t just need to be slammed over the head with how awful they are and how horrible they will be when they grow up.  They need to be shown a better way of being, be taught why the current social views are harmful, not just to women but to themselves.

“Why can’t men do that?!”  That’s a good question.  Why can’t they?  We should ask them.  But that doesn’t mean we get to wipe our hands and say “not it.”

Why?  Because it matters more to us!  We’re the ones ultimately affected the worst, so like it or not, we’re the ones who have to keep pushing and keep fighting and keep working toward it.  We’re the ones who have to adopt the most effective means to do this, we’re the ones who have to force the change for the better, because if we sit back and say that’s men’s responsibility, it won’t happen.  And we all know it.

Girls need to be taught why the current social views are harmful, also!  They need to be helped so they don’t just absorb all the negativity and stereotypes.  They need to be encouraged to follow their dreams in the face of opposition – from both men and women!  Even if those dreams are to grow up, get married, and stay home with the kids!  That is a perfectly acceptable dream to have!  And I’m tired of women who want to belittle other women for it.  I’m tired of men thinking they get to dictate my thoughts, thinking I owe them my body, thinking that being angry is the same as being ‘whiny.’

I’m tired of women treating each other like competition, using boys as scape goats, dictating what are or are not acceptable “female aspirations”.

Men being sexist hurts women, girls, boys, and anyone who does not fit a binary gender or biological sex identity.

Women being sexist also hurts women, girls, boys, and anyone who does not fit a binary gender or biological sex identity.

We need to know better than to perpetuate it.  We need to realize that copying negativity does not cancel out negativity.

We need to realize that many, many men don’t know any of this is going on.  That when they do things that are harmful, they aren’t consciously being sexist, they are following the examples that have been taught by society; they’re following the rules they’ve been brought up with; they’re following other men.  So when we confront men about doing something harmful, it isn’t *him* we’re fighting.  It’s the society that taught him, the culture that shaped him, the men that modeled this behavior for him.

A lifetime of learned behavior is not undone in a day.  A lesson of this depth is not understood in a single conversation.  Not for men, not for women.

It “takes a little time to turn the Titanic around,”  Patience and perseverance are things we need to hold to.  It’s personal to us, but we can’t make it personal against them.

Anger, resentment, and bitterness are all understandable feelings to have, but they will not solve this problem, either.  With thousands of years of momentum, we can *want* but we really can’t *expect* even a hundred years to be enough to reverse that course.  We just need to hold to patience and perseverance.

Keep working, keep fighting, keep pushing: but remember we as women are not fighting against ‘men’… we’re fighting against a society and culture that has been shaped by a form of masculinity.  Neither men nor masculinity are the enemy, just the society and culture we’re in.

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Yes, I’m totally stealing the quantum physics term because… well, it fits.   Or maybe yarn theory would be a better term, since I spin yarn 😉

This isn’t anything new, in fact this is probably retold, rehashed, regurgitated from 10,000 years of existence, but isn’t that what blogs are for?

Take any random ball of knotted string, yarn, thread, rope,… and untangle.  At the end, assuming you succeed, it’s all one continuous string.

Sometimes it’s so hard to discuss one area of life without getting so caught up in every other connected area of life.  But should we even try?  Like that ball of string, there is no area of life that *isn’t* connected.  You can’t tug on this without altering that.  You can’t understand that without looking also at this.

I love watching documentaries.  Even the completely wild crazy Ancient Alien theory documentaries.  I love watching history documentaries and psychology documentaries and sociological documentaries.  And I know I’m not genius, I don’t have multiple PhDs in a wide range of areas… but it’s funny how watching these documentaries it sometimes seems like if they had only brought in experts in some other field of study, that they probably could have figured out whatever it was that had plagued their research a lot earlier and a lot more accurately.

That’s not to accuse them of not doing so.  I’m sure many researchers, scientists, and such often cross fields of expertise to form conclusions.  But it also seems that it isn’t as routine and expected as it should be.

We do this kind of segregation in our own lives far too often.  Sure, sometimes we connect the dots all too clearly (my frustrations at work affect my relationships at home, for example) but sometimes we can’t see the connection, or don’t want to see it…

work – finances -stress – weight – sleep –  gardening – pets – house keeping – allergies – diet – exercise – creativity – relationships – self esteem – work

It doesn’t matter how segregated we try to make these areas of life, they insist on all tying themselves together into a single string, knotted and confused, tugging one affecting the others… there is no such thing as one area of my life… it’s all the same string.

My relationship with my mother affects my house keeping, my housekeeping affects my self esteem, my self esteem affects my work, work gives me a paycheck which affects my finances, which affect my stress levels, which affect my diet and weight, and all of it affects my sleep, which creates a feedback to my diet and weight and stress, which affect my creativity, which affects my self esteem… every aspect of my life is inexorably bound up with every other aspect.

It makes it really hard to focus on certain areas because ultimately the roots have spread so far that I end up having to look at every area which becomes overwhelming.

I watched a documentary on the worship of feminine in the earliest records of Egypt, how the society was matriarchal at the very beginning.  And it got me wondering about how my own views of what it means to be a woman, what “feminine” is, because today we aren’t really surrounded by feminine, we’re surrounded with the masculine idea of feminine.

But then asking what feminine is makes me question if I can even arrive at an answer, precisely because we’re surrounded by the masculine and the masculine idea of feminine, and I can’t be sure that my own opinion hasn’t been so colored by that as to be unreliable for an answer.

Which makes me wonder if that’s why I’ve always had such a hard time writing women in my stories, because somewhere inside I don’t really know what it means to be one, and when I try to write it it comes out wrong because somewhere inside I know that much of what I think I know is wrong, but I don’t really know where to go from there.

I can’t even write “me” in my stories, because I find I really don’t understand myself, or I get lost between what I would do and what I wish I’d do.

And having a hard time writing women only makes me want to do it more, because I feel there’s this gaping hole that I need to explore, this dark chasm that I’ve been afraid to step foot in because the light doesn’t shine far enough to see where I’m going once I start.

That fear, if I’m really honest with myself, keeps me from doing a lot of things that I feel I need to do.  But it also makes me wonder if some of the things I *do* do to try to be feminine aren’t missing the mark, or even misleading myself.

So I have been trying to answer the question “what does it mean to be feminine” and in doing so I’m exploring what other cultures have defined as feminine, or how matriarchal societies worked and were structured.  Because in my culture, I’m told I should compete with other women for a man, I should dress in a certain way to be attractive, I should be a certain weight to be attractive, I should be a certain color to be attractive.   I live in a society that tells me what I *am* isn’t good enough: it sells me clothes and magazines and movies, diet pills and tanning beds, whitening creams and hair straighteners, fake nails and false pretenses.  It sells me “power suits” and teaches the 5 masculine traits to succeed in business.  Nothing about my culture tells me what I am is good.

I work in a male-dominated industry, in a male-dominated department, in a male-dominated industry, because I followed in the footsteps of my father.  Whom I adore without question.  But all of it builds up.

So the string so far is that the question of femininity affects my job, my creativity, my stress levels, my weight, my relationship with my mother, my house keeping… there isn’t any aspect of my life that isn’t touched by my sex and gender, how society views it, how I’ve been taught to view it…

That is my string theory.   Everything is connected.   And it can make it overwhelming to address anything because everything is involved, everything is affected.

But ya gotta start somewhere, right?  So perhaps where I’m going to start is recognizing that I can control certain things, and I can partially control certain things, and I can’t control certain things.

I can’t control what grocery stores and restaurants offer.  I can partially control where I shop and what I buy (finances being a factor, availability being a factor, seasonality being a factory).  But even after all that, I still can control what I eat.  What I eat isn’t just about ‘diet and weight loss’ as some people think.  It’s about physical health.  It’s about *mental* health!  It’s about finances (physical health may mean less doctor trips to pay for).  It’s about creativity (mental health – while often seen as detrimental – I think is critical to creative expression).  It’s about stress (how I eat affects how I feel affects how I deal with things affects my stress) and also affects my sleep.  And all that feeds back into what I eat, because food and stress are far too often linked, craving unhealthy foods or eating too much when stress is highest.

I can’t control what I have to do at work.  I can partially control how well I do it (time frame being a factor, resources being a factor, outside input being a factor).  But I can totally control my *attitude* toward work.  I really do have that choice.  I can either choose to be bitter and resentful, disagreeable and pessimistic, or I can choose to do my best with every job, even if I’m grossly underpaid, even if I think my bosses are insane.  I can bring a positive outlook to myself and my coworkers and help bring my department up instead of down.  That is within my control absolutely.  Which leads to lower stress, and better eating, and… see above.

And now… I can’t control how my society and my culture have chosen to define femininity and women.  I can partially control how much of that I consume.  But what I can control is my choice to seek out other definitions, other views, other ways of thinking.  Even if I can’t change one other thing, I can choose to find this knowledge, to better understand myself.  And who knows… maybe in doing so, every other area of my life will be altered – just a bit – for the better.

Stress at work, lead to the greater consumption of media to distract myself, lead to watching documentaries, lead to hearing about different ways “feminine” is and has been understood in different cultures, lead to a desire to learn… which leads to greater acceptance of myself, leads to reduced stress, leads to better health, leads to improved creative expression, and maybe, just maybe, that might lead to reaching someone else with a message that might help them, also.

We aren’t all different balls of yarn, after all.  We’re all connected.  Tug on me… who knows who else may be affected.

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Wearing high heels is like drinking until you throw up.

There are many reasons you do it: peer pressure, an attempt to fit in, maybe you just think you like doing it… but it always ends the same, face down in the toilet swearing to yourself you’ll never, ever do this again.

And then a little bit of time passes… the headache goes away and the nausea subsides and you can eat normal food again.  And a bit more time passes and you sort of forget how bad it was.  And then you find yourself toying with the idea of doing it again.

Only to end up remembering – when it’s far too late – exactly why it is you promised yourself last time you were never going to do it again.

Wearing heels is like that.

There’s the pressure to be ‘fashionable’, or maybe to add height, or you just like the ‘click-clack’ sound of walking on linoleum flooring in them.

The day wears on, and you’re walking a little slower, a little more gingerly.  And soon you realize your little toe has that really painful blister forming on it, and you have to run hobble to the first aid kit to get a bandage.

By half-past lunch you’re cursing whoever made these shoes and wondering what possessed you put them on that morning, and why on earth didn’t you think to bring a simple pair of flats to change into after that big meeting?

And yet what happens?  You go home, and kick them off and oooohh it feels so good, and maybe you give yourself a foot bath and drink a glass of wine and even as you swear you’ll never wear them again, you find you’ve put those shoes back into your closet… where they’ll lie in wait, lurking for the next time you forget, and slip them on…

Tonight when I get home, these things are going in the ‘donate’ box for the local thrift store!

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I was gonna write this whole wordy rant about this, but really, that’s all it comes down to.   I am not lacking.  My biology is not impaired.  My physiology is not dismembered.   I am not a deviation from the norm.  My vagina is not the lack of a dick.  It’s an organ in its own right.

My worth is not diminished.

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Don’t touch me.

No, I don’t have to explain why.  This is not a subject for discussion or debate.  Don’t touch me.

Why can’t I say those words?

When someone touches me and it makes me feel uncomfortable, I shut down.  I freeze up.  I laugh with overflowing anxiety and try to step away, and yet they want to know why I don’t want them to touch me.

If I say please stop, they ask why.

If I try to come up with an excuse because the words I really want to say are stuck in my throat, they argue with me as if they can somehow prove that I really do want them to touch me, proven I am wrong.  About my body.  And whether I want them touching me.

Don’t touch me.

I should not have to tell you no for you to stop, you should have to gain my yes before you start.  Why can’t you understand the difference?

Why do you start when I haven’t said you can?

Why can’t you stop when I say stop?

People think I’m strong.  People who know me think I’m so strong that they don’t understand this is where I’m weak.  This is where I seize with fear and try to get away but they won’t let me because if I really wanted to get away, surely I’d *make* them stop.  Because I’m so strong.

Get me off this fucking pedestal, I’m afraid of heights!  Stop putting conditions on me, stop acting as if the burden is on me to make you stop.   Just stop touching me.

Why won’t you just stop?

Why should I have to dress for battle because I decided to leave my house?  Why should I have to wage war for the right to own myself, my body?  Why should I have to make you stop touching me?

Why can’t you just stop?  Why can’t you prevent yourself from violating my boundaries?  Why can’t you understand that when I pull away, it’s because I don’t want you touching me?  Why can’t you understand that if I don’t enjoy this, continuing it isn’t going to make it more enjoyable.

Why can’t you understand that the default condition of my permission is not yes.  Why can’t you see that you don’t own a single part of me, you aren’t entitled to my body, you aren’t entitled to receive one ounce of pleasure that I don’t want to give you.

Stop touching me.

Why can’t I say it?  Why can’t I be that strong?

Just stop touching me.

Sometimes my PTSD gets in the way of the words I want to say.  You don’t need to know my whole history to know that when I stay stop touching me, you need to stop touching me.  This isn’t about what happened to me when I was 6, or when I was 14, or when I was 17, or when I was 27.  This isn’t about my last relationship or my relationship with my parents.  This isn’t about therapy or your best friend or the last one who wronged you.

This is about me telling you to stop touching me.

So don’t touch me.

No, I don’t have to explain why.  This is not a subject for discussion or debate.  Don’t touch me.

There is no excuse to touch a person who does not want you to touch them.  I don’t care if it’s a hug, if it’s a tickle, if it’s a caress, if it’s hit, if it’s sex, if it’s you trying to force them to touch you.  I don’t care if it’s a man to a woman, a woman to a man, a man to a man, a woman to a woman. There is no excuse to touch a person who does not want you to touch them.

How do you know if someone does not want you to touch them?  Ask.  If they can’t answer, assume the answer is no.

Yes is not the default.

Okay is not implied.

Permission is not unspoken.

Consent is not silent.

Victims are not at fault.

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Throughout history, across cultures, there have been marriages for love.  Marriages that threw off tradition and social acceptability and proved that bonds forged between two people can triumph over all adversity.

These were the exception, the rare events.

More often, marriages were arranged, and love may or may not have followed the wedding, but it didn’t always matter.

Husbands were meant to support their families.  Wives were meant to raise their children and make their husbands look good.  This was all understood as the proper way to do things.  Love was nice but hardly expected or required.  Divorce because you didn’t love someone was silly, it was usually because of abuse, abandonment, affairs or inability to support the family, and even then it wasn’t terribly common or expected.

Husbands pretty much treated their wives like children, punishing them for ‘wrongs’ and expected to guide them from falling into bad ways.  So yes, children.  I don’t know how a society can expect children to be raised by a person they see as no more than a child herself, but society is often a funny, illogical and downright maddening thing.

As Jane Austen put it, “Happiness in marriage is a matter of chance.”  and “It’s better to know as little as possible of the defects of a person with whom  you are to spend your life.” (Ah Charlotte, I love you.)

The idea was that marriage was not the fulfillment of a bond with another person, a deep, spiritual bond that made you feel complete, your “other half” as it were.  Marriage was a social contract of you do your part, and I’ll do mine.  Let’s not focus too hard on the details, hm?

Women didn’t need men for our self esteem, support, guidance, approval, or even love.  That’s why we had our girlfriends.

The bond between women was the bond that mattered most.  Women had one another to understand, to lean on, to learn from.  Like Anne of Green Gables and her bosom companion, women sought out the closeness and intimacy of other women for things that today we expect men to provide for us.

The idea of gender roles in society and marriage has undergone extreme changes in recent decades, and it saddens me that one of the casualties of this change has been the bonds between women.  I’m not saying no woman today has her deepest, closest friends.

While all people are individuals, there is a trend that can be observed.  Since women became liberated, men aren’t necessary for being bread winners and home providers.  Women have careers and their own places, and the necessity of friendship between women has shifted.  The dynamic of being fulfilled has shifted from girlfriend to man.

Now our friends are everything from casual to convenient, with only one or two deeply close friendships, if we’re lucky.  Instead of sewing circles and knitting groups or other social community gatherings for women, it became girl’s night with the gals from work.  The group got smaller but the intimacy and closeness got less.  You didn’t necessarily *like* the women in either case, but your ability to find support from them became less certain.  The ladies at work were as likely to talk about you behind your back as to help you through a difficult time.

Gossip is age old, of course.  The sewing circles spread rumors (both true and lies) in their day, but there was more certainty of finding support in the sisterhood of your community.

Now it seems that women exist as competition for other women: for men, for jobs, for advancement.  We already promoted one token women, let’s not go crazy here!  Women don’t go to new mothers with a week’s worth of casseroles because the men are expected to pull their weight as the fathers and make dinner while the wife is recovering from child birth.

Is that wrong?  No, of course not.  But it does weaken the bonds between women.  And that is a loss.

Men are great.  I like men.  I don’t have one, but it’s not quite like running down to the Humane Society and adopting one, is it?

But I have my women friends and I have a job and I have a house and maybe that’s why I don’t have that burning sense of needing a man to complete me or justify my life.  My life is pretty good.

This isn’t just one way, either.  I think men desperately need to be with other men for their own support.  (insert anecdotal story of a boyfriend who didn’t think either of them should ever need another person, they should be able to be the only ones required for love, support and comfort worked out very badly for both of them…)

Women need other women.  Men need other men.  Women shouldn’t expect men to replace the close, intimate friendship of another woman, and men shouldn’t expect women to replace the close, intimate friendship of other men.  Neither one of them should expect the other to act as their therapist to just dump all their bad feelings and experiences onto and expect the other to ‘fix’ them or be perfect and unwavering in their support.

So this has been a very rambling opinion of why love in marriage is nice, but the closeness of friendship is essential for personal well-being and I feel a deep sense of sorrow and loss over the decline of women banding with other women for mutual support.  It may still happen, but as a society, we’ve lost that.

(without discounting for one second that some women marry women and some men marry men, I still think women need female *friends* even if they have a wife, and men need male *friends* even if they have a husband.)

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