Tag Archives: feminism

BIAS: It’s not just a catch word.

There’s this talk being held today, “Must women lead differently than men?” and I wanna talk a little about how this title frames the discussion and enforces status quo.

This title establishes “male” styles of leadership (I use the quotes because I don’t believe there is an innate “male” way of leading. I think anything we ascribe to “male leadership” is probably largely influenced by heavy gender construction throughout a person’s life. We teach boys and girls to behave differently through social conditioning and perpetuating gender essentialism.) as the standard against which leadership is measured. Is that correct? Is it appropriate? Is “male leadership” the bar we should all reach for? According to this title, yes.

What if we reframe the title and ask, “Must men lead differently than women?” Here the standard is set by women, and frames “women’s leadership” styles as the norm. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything other than things related to child rearing framed with women’s action as the standard.

This is bias. This is how we teach people that feminine is bad, or weak and masculine is good, or strong. This title doesn’t use the words, “Women are bad leaders,” but it certainly plants a seed of doubt. Because the title accepts that how men do something is what we consider normal. So if the norm is how men do it, however a woman does it must be wrong. People read this and, without even thinking about it, understand that men must be better leaders. And then figure this is why there aren’t many female presidents of financially powerful companies. And then offer up the “men are just more suited to positions of power than women” because —> leadership styles. 

Bias y’all, it’s a thing. 

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Don’t give me this “small government” stuff.

Rachel Maddow on small government. Transcript after the video.

Small government is a great political brand. It looks great on a bumper sticker. People who don’t want the government to help unemployed people, or the elderly, or people without health insurance, who don’t want the government to create jobs , they say it’s because government has to be small. They also want government to be monitoring every pregnancy in the country to make sure the government’s chosen outcome is the result of that pregnancy, under penalty of jail. So, make your case that you don’t want the government to help the economy, but don’t give me this ‘small government’ stuff, c’mon.

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These are for boys and those are for girls

A few months ago I was standing in line at the craft store,  there was a short wait and the woman behind me was with her son, who was, predictably, grabbing all the stuff at toddler level and asking for it. “How old is your child?” I asked. “He’s almost 4,” the woman replied. Me, with a chuckle, “I have an almost 3 year old.” How nice, two women sharing the bond of parenthood.

Until the boy picked up a bright pink foam tiara and asked his mom to buy it for him while putting it on his head. “PUT THAT DOWN,” she hissed at him, reaching to take it out of his hand, “that’s for girls and you’re a boy.” He whined that he wanted it and she repeated, “PUT IT DOWN, you’re NOT a girl and that’s for girls.”

And my heart broke a little.

Kidlet’s favorite shoes are his “sparkly sneakers.” They have pink and blue glitter on them, and light up when he walks. He picked them out a few months ago and wears them all the time. Yesterday, outfitted in a t-shirt, shorts, a pair of baby legs with helicopters on them, purple socks, and his sparkly sneakers, we headed out to the park after I picked him up from school.

And it happened. One of the moments I’ve been dreading. Another child, a little boy, ran up to us and asked, “How old is she?” I said, “He just turned 3, how old are you?” And the boy said, “He? But he has girl shoes on!” And I died a little. Here it was – kidlet’s first direct challenge to his choice of footwear. I tried to find a smile and gentle tone as I replied, “They’re pink and blue sparkly shoes, they’re for anyone,” but my mind raced. Had kidlet heard this? Would he remember it some morning while getting dressed for school? Would I hear him refuse to put them on while explaining that they were “for girls”?

Shoes

We live in a binary world. I understand that. I understand that when I go shopping for my own clothes I shop in the “women’s” department. And I understand that 9 out of 10 times I buy kidlet’s clothes in the “boy’s” department. I participate in gendering him. But, as I said to Alison Piepmeier here, “If my penis-having child wants to wear a tiara WHY IN THE EVER LOVING HELL WOULD I STOP HIM?” If he presents me with something that HE WANTS, that doesn’t fit our culture’s gender binary, why would I refuse him?

I guess that’s a terrifically complicated answer. I mean, I wouldn’t refuse him. But I know parents that would, and I don’t fault them for it. We are taught to conform. And we’re punished, literally maybe, and socially often, when we don’t. We tease, or are teased, we laugh, or are laughed at, we use words and body language to directly or indirectly remind people that non-conformity is suspect and will not be tolerated, outside the safest of spaces.

So I want my kid to have a safe space. And I will do everything I can to provide him with a safe space, both in our home, and in the communities I choose to introduce him to. It’s a terrifically privileged position to have – that I have the ability to choose his communities – I recognize that. Not everyone has that option. Maybe the mom standing behind me at the craft store doesn’t have that privilege. Maybe she has a family or a community that would punish her for allowing her child to express himself how he wanted to. I don’t know.

I was blessed with 2 parents whose bedrock principle of life was non-conformity. They encouraged me, from birth basically, to question everything, to challenge the status quo, to demand an explanation when I was told that something was supposed to be a certain way. I was expected to form my own positions and opinions based on the answers to questions I asked. And I was supported. Which was the most important gift of all.

Yesterday the little boy who challenged kidlet’s shoes turned out to be a pretty nice kid. He and kidlet spent the next 20 minutes or so playing football, which mostly amounted to the older child letting kidlet chase him around and tackle him. It was really cute to see them playing. And while they were playing, another mom said to me, “It’s really great to see his creative expression” as she gestured to his clothes, “you don’t see a lot of parents who will let their kids do that.”

All the patterns

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My friendships with women

I used to say that I got along better with men than women. I used to believe that women were “catty” or “overly dramatic” or any of the other adjectives the world likes to use to interfere with women forming bonds. I used to think that being friends with men (or, when I was younger, boys) was easier.

And then I looked around and realized that nearly all of my closest friends, the people I sent texts to at 3am, or sat down and hand wrote witty cards to, whose birthdays I remembered, and who I trusted with my greatest confidences, were women, and they had been for my whole life.

BUT WAIT. I’m sure I get along with men better than I do women. After all, it was a popular refrain that I’d heard from movies, and television, and other women my whole life. It was dangerous to be friends with other women. You had to be careful who you talked to, because you never knew which one of them was going to try to steal your boyfriend, or stab you in the back (what does that even mean in friendship, really?), or talk about you behind your back. Women would hurt you.

I’ve been hurt by women. It’s part of having friends. Of any sex, or gender. Human relationships, true, honest, vulnerable friendships leave room for pain. It’s not a bad thing. It can be a scary thing, but it’s part of friendship. The risk of being hurt.

My friendships with men have left me open to hurt, too. I’ve been hurt by men I counted on to be kind with my emotions. But when those hurts happened, I forgave and worked to get back in their good graces. It’s kind of sick, really. I had so completely bought into the idea that, as a woman, my value was tied to the approval of men, that I quickly and easily buried my misgivings and pain, in an effort to have that male validation.

One day I figured it out. I wasn’t a “guys girl,” I didn’t get along with men better than I got along with women, I didn’t feel safer with men than women; I was parroting some social bullshit that I thought made me cooler than other women. I thought it made me a better woman because I eschewed the “drama” of female friendships. It really just made me kind of a dumbass.

I guess women can be more dramatic than men (though I’m not really convinced of this as a gender stereotype. My husband works with all men, and they’re just as damn dramatic and gossipy as any group of women I’ve ever known), but I think a lot of that is simply a result of parroting the misogynistic language that swirls around us to describe women’s relationships with other women. Let’s be honest, women’s friendships can be dangerous to male supremacy, right? If women start recognizing the value and power of strong relationships with other women…well, there’s power in numbers.

I’m grateful for all of my friends. But it will be my women friends, those I’ve known since I was 14, and those I’ve met in the last few years, who have cried, and celebrated, and grown with me, who I will grow old with.

* I wrote this post for submission to the Feminist Odyssey Blog Carnival that Ashley Lauren is starting and hosting on her blog, Small Strokes  on Wednesday. Head over then and read the rest of the submissions and submit one of your own next time around.

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Thinking about Dr. Tiller

I drop something heavy and then disappear for weeks and then come back with this. I’m all abortion all the time lately!

Three years ago today, I was 6 months pregnant sitting on the couch with the windows open. My husband was in the kitchen doing dishes from the brunch that we’d just finished eating. I had my laptop open on my lap, and said, “Holy shit,” as I reached for the TV remote.

“What?” my husband asked as he peered into the living room. “Fucking anti-choice zealots just fucking assassinated Tiller,” I said.

I spent the rest of the day yelling about violence against providers, and clinics, and methods of intimidation, and obsessively refreshing the news. CNN, Yahoo, AP… all of them. I wanted to know everything about what had happened.  I thought about Barnett Slepian, who was assassinated by a sniper in his home in 1998. I shed tears.

I was angry. I’m STILL angry. Acts of violence against providers and facilities that perform abortion happen ALL.THE.TIME. They are acts of terrorism.

They are committed in an effort to stop a legal practice from a occurring. They are committed to remind doctors and clinic workers that they aren’t safe. They are committed in the hopes that they will do enough damage, or take enough lives that people will get sick of being harassed, hurt, and living in enough fear for their lives that they will pack up and go home.

It’s absolute bullshit.

What Drs. Tiller and Slepian did, what Dr. Carhart does, what Dr. Means is trying to do is heroic, and I’m grateful to them for their persistence.

 

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What women deserve.

Yesterday I talked about what I demand. Today, take a listen to what Sonya Renee has to say about what women deserve. She’s powerful, and in your face about it.

There is a mostly accurate transcription here.

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Activism in spoken word

This is…I don’t even have the words to describe how amazing it is. Goosebumps. (h/t to Radical Doula – where I saw it.)

[ETA: Trigger warning – the video and transcript contain discussion of rape, and non-consensual sexual violence.]

“If you want to write your Bible on my organs, then you better be there when I am down on my knees pleading from relief from your morality.”

(I typed a full transcript after the video in case you want to read it. The formatting is awful, but I think I got all the words right.)

Lauren Zuniga, To The Oklahoma Law Makers: a poem

To the Oklahoma law makers who will force all women to receive an ultrasound prior to an abortion.

Why don’t you print out the ultrasound pictures in pastel frames.
Make me take them home and hang them on my wall as a souvenir of the night that is branded like red coals to flesh on my memory.
The night when his hand pressed so hard against my shoulder blade I felt more intimacy with asphalt.
Why don’t ya knit the baby a sweater?
Make me take it out and smell it on the anniversary of this day for the rest of my life to remind me that I chose to be a murderer
instead of bringing a child into a world where we kill people in the name of freedom, but imprison people in the name of life.
You could pass laws for that too, you know?
It’s bad enough that I can still see his handprints on my thighs.
But now I can see your probing eyes scraping across my cervix, tattooing my womb with shame.
Why don’t you send me a card every Mother’s Day to remind me of how wretched I am? Sign it, ‘Your friends at the state capital making sure you know we actually do something all day with your tax dollars. “
Look, I know it can get boring, between the porker’s association breakfasts and the oil and gas industry lunch.
And I know you need something to do, between screwing up our election system and passing off your racism as an immigration bill.
But I need a little more from you than a piece of paper.
I mean, if you really want to show me that you believe in faith, family, and freedom, then why don’t you come along for the ride.
I could’ve used you that night.
After the football game.
Him finally showing me attention
Me grasping for acceptance
Tell me I’m special
So when he hands me the next drink, I don’t look to the bottom of it for approval.
Tell me to scream louder
So someone might find us
Wrap me in a blanket when he’s done
Take me home.
My body a tapped keg
My heart the grimey gym floor after the pep rally
Give me the words to say to my parents when I come out of the bathroom with a plus sign on the stick
And he won’t even talk to me
The school hallway is a canyon
Silence echoes in my skull
And I don’t even know what to do.
Tell me what to do.
Sit with me at the clinic
The ticker plucking away at my innocence
Give me the revelation
That the blip on the screen
Is actually a baby.
Take me home when I change my mind.
Take me to the doctor every month
Hold my hand in the delivery room
I will name him after you, if you will help me do my homework
When he’s crying in the next room.
Give me food stamps,
Pay my gas bills,
Put him in an afterschool program
Where he learns he can sell my pain pills
Have mercy on him when he goes to court
Give me strength when they sentence him
If you want to play God, Mr. and Mrs. Lawmakers,
If you want to write your Bible on my organs
Then you better be there
When I am down on my knees
pleading for relief
from your morality

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