Saturday, July 27, 2013

On Burning Bras

Dear Everyone,

I am a feminist.


Now, coming from a Macalester student and in all likelihood, going to a Macalester student, this is not all that shocking.  (This means I am about to preach to the converted, as I do just about every time I talk about important social issues, but I don't know what else to do, so I am doing it.)

But where I come from, I just said something controversial.  It is also controversial in Hollywood, and in circles of overly polite Minnesotans, it seems to be regarded as a political issue.  It is not.  It is none of the above.

In fact, I'm just going to go out there and say that if you are not a feminist, I do not want to be friends with you.*  You might be thinking, now Mariah, that is pretty harsh and judgmental.  It is not.

I understand that self-identifying as feminist means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  To me (and I would dare to venture, most educated feminists) at the most basic level, this means that you recognize that women face oppression simply because they are women.  Beyond recognizing this, you believe that women deserve to live in a world free from this oppression.

So, if you are not a feminist, to me, this signifies that you don't care that 1 in 4 college-aged women experience sexual assault, and one of them could be me. You think it isn't a big deal that women do not receive equal pay for equal work, and feel the same way about the fact that someday, I will face struggles and judgments in the workplace if I choose to have children.  You refuse to recognize that women face violence, both physical and structural, each and every day, for no other reason but their body parts/ gender expression/ both.  This affects me.

Of course I don't want to be your friend if you are not a feminist.  If you are not a feminist, you don't- you can't- care about me.

Luckily, I'm good at giving people the benefit of the doubt.  You see, when Taylor Swift says she's not a feminist because she has never really thought about things as "guys versus girls,"  I understand that she isn't a feminist because she has no idea what a feminist is. And just because it is a totally stereotypical "feminist" (and mean, and not helping the cause at all) thing to do to hate on Taylor Swift, I'll highlight some other famous ladies who are evidently not feminists.  Actually, I'll let them do it, and add Katy Perry to the list.  As you will see in the link, even Lady Gaga (sex positive, generally empowering) once said she was not feminist because she loved men, but she turned it around and started using the label.  Presumably, once upon a time, Gaga thought being a feminist involved hating on men and not shaving your legs.  Each of these quotations proves to me that these ladies may not be whatever idea of feminism they have, but they probably are actually feminist.

I've been there.  I refused to identify as as a feminist for a long time because of it's association with the above, as well as general craziness.  I didn't feel like that label really worked for me.  "Like I'm really into women's rights, but I'm not going to start burning bras anytime soon."

I also thought that people would judge me for saying I was feminist because they would have even less of an idea than I did as to what it meant, and immediately jump in their minds to a pyre on which to roast all of the bras.  Where I'm from, that was probably true.  And yet, I, from a young age was yelling at my conservative male classmates about things like women's ability to hold any job a male could or empowering women to provide for themselves and not depend on their husbands.  So really, from the moment I understood even the slightest bit of the world around me, I have been a feminist.  But I had no idea. (And, for the record, I like my bra.  It is supportive.)

So I think it just needs to be cleared up, for everyone, that yep, I'm a feminist.  It isn't about politics really.  It isn't controversial.  Stop saying it like it is a dirty word or a group of extremists.  Do you love your wife, your sister, your mother, your best friend, your aunt, your grandmother, yourself?  Congratulations, you are over halfway there.

I'm a feminist.  You are probably one too.  Thank goodness.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go  take away the rights of some men, judge some women for shaving their body hair, and burn some bras.

*I feel it is necessary to clarify, I am not a jerk, and I am not at all exclusionary about who I keep company with.  If you like me (which maybe isn't always easy), and I'm not afraid you are going to harm me or others, I will probably like you and hang out with you.  (Unless you have at any point made unwanted sexual or romantic advances towards me, but that is a blog post for another day.)

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I have recently learned that people are calling my little sister a NAF.

NAF, means Non-athletic "F-er," as my sister termed it.  

She is taking this small and annoying development in stride, but it makes me sad.

First of all, because nobody messes with my sister. And why is the f-word necessary there, really? But more importantly, because my sister is actually pretty athletic.  She dances, runs, and swims, and even if she is not amazing, she can play virtually any sport you throw at her.  So this makes me upset and confused.  If my beautiful, rather popular, and undeniably actually pretty athletic younger sister can be called a NAF because she doesn't have perfect hand-eye coordination, where does that leave the rest of us?

I was made fun of a lot (back when people cared) for not being good at sports, but I was never called a NAF, probably because the term was not in use back then.  And thank goodness, too, because if my little sister is a NAF, I'm a SNAF (Super Non-athletic Fucker).  

Or better yet, a SNAFU, where the U stands for "Ugh! The ball just hit me in the face!"

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Small Talk

I recently read Lisa Bloom's article, "How to Talk to Little Girls" in the Huffington Post.  I loved it, and if you haven't read it, you need to.  Go on, this stuff will still be here when you get back.

It made me reflect more on the things we choose to say, and why they are important, ESPECIALLY in the day-to-day life, little conversation moments that might not be as important at first glance.

I swear to you, if I lived with my grandmother, the be-all-end-all of my life would be to fall in love, get married, and have some kids.  The only thing that seems important to her about me is my relationship with a man.  She has, of course, never told me this.

But when I was a young teenager, we sat out by the pool, and she spoke wishfully of a future summer, when I would be "falling in love." I rolled my eyes, but I secretly felt excited and hopeful.  Wouldn't it be nice to have summer love?  She said it like it was a sure thing.  A done deal.  I had that to look forward to.

Fast forward to a summer where I am more than old enough to be falling in love by some social standard I don't know who made, and I am not.  At all.  My grandmother has dutifully asked me about my relationship status every time I have seen her in the past year, at least.  The questions have ranged from, "So, are you in love this week?" to "Are any of your coworkers attractive?" Once, she asked me what was up, as if she meant in general, in life, but I asked her what she wanted to hear about, and of course, the answer was "boys."

Once you get past the awkwardness of a grandmother nosing into her granddaughter's love life, you might notice that there is more to feel uncomfortable about than that.

Now, I love my grandmother, and I do not blame her for the narowness of her interests.  She started dating my grandfather in the 10th grade.  And it was the 50s.  These are the things that are important to her, and I will admit, boys are one of my absolute favorite topics of conversation as well.

However, her husband, my grandfather, always makes it a point to ask me how school is going, how my classes or my job are.  On the day my grandmother was asking me about cute coworkers, my grandfather asked me to tell him more about my program and the kids I work with.

And even though it is mostly small talk on both sides,  my grandfather's questions make me feel empowered.  They make me feel like a complex human being.  They make me feel valued for the things that are important to me.  They make me feel like my family is proud of me.  Plus, with my grandfather's questions, I always have a good answer.  I always have something to say.  They make me feel more interesting and more accomplished than having to simply answer, "No, no boys" all the time to my grandmother, as if that ought to be really disappointing.

And yeah, I think I am the type of person (or I have enough outside influences- I'm still debating about just how much my environment can affect me, and it seems to be a lot)  that is strong enough not to just start thinking the most important part of my life is my relationship with a man based on a few comments from my grandmother.  But like I said, I have plenty of other influences, and a possibly inherent feminist side (is there a gene for that? haha).  I don't know what I would be like if that was all I ever heard.  And even when it isn't, I can still identify that other ways of relating make me feel better and more valuable.

Small talk.  It can be really big.