We should all be bad feminists

Guess what!? No, I didn’t get a new tattoo or piercing – I am a Feminist!

No doy! You say, of course you’re a feminist! You have a vagina and believe you should receive equal pay for equal work!

Well, yes, I suppose that is true, but I never labeled myself a feminist before. In fact, I spent most of my life not thinking about feminism, and if I did think about it, it was to rejoice in the fact that I did not have to fight for the rights that generations of women before me did. But, as I get older, I realize there is still a lot to fight for as a woman. I talk about it with friends and loved ones and I hear their stories of sexual harassment and inappropriateness. It seems there are a lot of men out there who think it’s just fine to make sexist comments or jokingly refer to their female staff as their whores.” Then, when complaints are made, they say, “Lighten up” and “Get a sense of humor.” I now declare that if you ever say those two phrases you probably need to take a sensitivity class.

My revelation about the need for feminism started when I heard about Gamergate.

If you are not familiar with Gamergate, let me try to summarize it for you: Gamergate emerged when female gamers, game designers, journalists, etc. criticized the gaming industry’s treatment and portrayal of women. A bunch of guys then went completely apeshit and made rape and violence threats against these women in droves. I am leaving out about a gajillion parts of the story here, including vengeful ex-boyfriends, accusations of trading sex for good game reviews, social justice, journalistic ethics, and Adam Baldwin (whom I used to love and now, tragically, firefly is permanently ruined). I recommend you read the story for yourself, Wikipedia has an excellent article on it, although it is rather long-winded.

This story perked up my ears to related stories and, soon after, I was listening to a Book Riot podcast (#97) where they discussed feminism and the harassment of women online. Rebecca Schinsky is my new hero. She is able to passionately articulate intelligent arguments about the need for discussions about diversity, including feminism. She talked about how, whenever she publishes an article on Book Riot about women’s issues or diversity she never fails to get vicious responses from the trolls. Some of these responses include threats of rape and violence. I was shocked. Silly me, I thought we lived in a more highly evolved world. Particularly on a website devoted to the love of books.

Now, whenever I see an article about women standing up for themselves I go straight to the comments section to see what the responses are. I have yet to see outright threats, those are hopefully removed by a watchful moderator, but I do see some pretty mind-boggling responses.

For instance, I read a TED article titled: “This is what it’s like to be a woman in competitive gaming” by Lilian Chen. I didn’t find it a particularly controversial article, she wrote of some harassment online and at conventions and how it caused her to struggle with self identity issues as a gamer and a woman. She discussed how her self-identity skewed how she viewed other female gamers. Interesting but hardly threatening to anyone, right?

Well, here are some of the responses:

“I’d imagine it’d be a lot like being a man…..
Only you’ve got another X chromosome.
Seriously ladies, by posting these ridiculous “what it’s like to be a woman” posts… you’re actually taking steps FARTHER AWAY from gender equality.”

“Arrrrghhhh my god. This again.

“The millenials are wasting time with this crap and are failing to build real assets.

“Yeah. Trailblazing journalism. Susan B Anthony would be proud.”

And, probably my favorite: “All the women I know don’t like to play games.”

There were a few other responses but not as many positive ones as I would like, so I added a few nice words in support of Ms. Chen and other female gamers. I felt compelled to write something because I watched the Monika Lewinsky speech she recently gave at TED and I fully agree with her about the need to bring the positive to battle the negative. And I read the article TED posted afterwards that spoke of the horrendous and wonderful responses to the speech that eventually restored the writer’s faith in humanity and I’m down with being a part of that.

All of this brings up the subject of moderating conversations. Should I ever receive troll-like comments I will certainly delete them. No, it does not impinge on anyone’s first amendment. That amendment is in regards to the government controlling speech. You’re not going to be prosecuted by the law for saying mean and stupid shit. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be consequences. Moderators can stop abusive comments and other commentators can turn the conversation around. It would be ideal if, whenever we see a hateful comment, we outnumber it with positive messages by at least ten to one. I believe that is a good way to start bringing about change.

This is a (excuse the old-timey reference) ‘Read more about it’ subject! I highly recommend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” (based on her TED speech) and Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist.” Both books are wonderful but “Bad Feminist” is one of those books that just makes you see the world differently, especially if you are not used to critically thinking about feminism and racism in popular culture. I will certainly be on the lookout for more books on this subject.

In conclusion, we have a ways to go as a society, but I’m an optimist so I’m going to quote MLK: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

The Slut Shaming Avengers

I’ve been reading with great interest about Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans calling Scarlett Johanssen’s Black Widow character a “slut” and a “whore.” I was not outraged by this, I’m certainly guilty of jokingly using these words. But I’m trying to clean up my act because I know better now. The statements were a genuinely dumb thing to say, especially in an interview, but I certainly don’t hate these men and I will be one of the first in line to see Age of Ultron.

“Slut” and “whore” should be the “s” and “w” words that we never use again. Words can hurt. That’s why it was particularly upsetting to find so many comments telling people (particularly women) to “lighten up” and “get a sense of humor.” No, get some sensitivity and education. The world will not stop being a funny place if you stop using these words and other mean-spirited epithets.

I’m currently reading Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and when this controversy started I had just read the part where she describes being brutally gang raped (as if there was another way to be gang raped) as a teenager. To make matters worse, the boys told everyone at school that she had sex with them. Guess what the kids called her from then on? Yup, “slut.” Even her teachers looked at her with disdain. No one stopped to think about how out of character this was for her, they just mindlessly joined the shame train. And what if she had voluntarily had sex with all those boys? Should she be ostracized for it? Someone should have reached out to her either way.

I’m not proud of it, but there was a brief period in my life when I loved watching VH1 reality shows such as Charm School, I Love Money, etc. It shocked me how the women would call each other “whore” when they fought. I mean, all of these women were sexually promiscuous, what were they accusing the other one of?

The question of whether a woman called a slut is actually using her sexuality for gain is irrelevant. She gets to do that whether you like it or not. Yup, in the comics Black Widow uses her sexiness over men. James Bond does the same thing with women. Other characters use their physical strength or superpowers and nobody calls them names. What is it about sexuality, specifically a woman’s sexuality, that makes it okay to use insults? Is there something particularly unfair about it?

In any case, I am glad that this subject is being discussed. In some places I see it being discussed maturely and in other places I see it devolve into some ugliness, but it won’t be going away soon.

 

Note: Please excuse the disjointedness of this post. I wanted to get it up while the topic was being discussed and it usually takes me days or weeks to properly edit my writing.

The time my mom faked a heart attack at Disneyland

Recently, my sister and I took my daughter on a secret trip to Disneyland. This was not Lily’s first trip. This was a way to make-up for the first trip which went horribly badly.

Disneyland has a special place in my family’s heart and for my three-year-old’s first trip everyone wanted to be there.In the weeks leading up to the big trip there was a flurry of emails from various family members stating their needs, wants and various demands. I didn’t worry too much. I knew it would be a difficult trip with so many people going, including two elderly parents, one toddler and one disabled sister. I knew drama would be on the menu.

A few days before the trip, my mother tells me she’s been having chest pains. It didn’t appear to be a heart attack, but the doctor recommended she not go on the trip. Well, she had no intention of listening to him and stated so quite firmly. Stubbornness runs in my mother’s side of the family – my grandmother once drove herself to the hospital while having a major heart attack. So, I sighed and after a quick family powwow we decided that my mom could go if she used a wheelchair. But in the back of everyone’s mind was the question: Are we doing the right thing? Should we just cancel the trip and wait until she is in better health?

We knew we should, but we’d been looking forward to this trip for too many years.

The first thing we upon arrival was rent a wheelchair. My mom sat down on it and promptly started crying. She was upset about the hardship she was placing on us. My mother is not an overly emotional person, so it was startling to see her tears. We reminded her that all we cared about was her health and couldn’t give a fig about pushing her around. Unfortunately, it turned out to be nearly 100 degrees in Anaheim that day and everyone was especially hot and miserable. But we persevered and made it through the day.

My daughter was quiet for most of the day, despite everyone incessantly asking her “Are you having fun?” “Did you like that ride?” etc. She just looked around with her big eyes, taking it in in awed silence. She ended up falling asleep early and I somehow got stuck taking her to the hotel by myself which sucked a lot thanks to a group of women who didn’t want to share their tram seats with me, an unconscious toddler, a stroller, and a huge backpack. I was freaking out until another woman helped me by grabbing my stroller and yelling “get in there!” I obeyed, bitches be damned.

The next day was just as hot, but half of our group went home so it was a bit more relaxed. We spent the day at California Adventure and my mother was in good spirits. That night we took a long drive that nearly ended up in the desert as we looked for a restaurant. We ended up turning around and eating at Mimi’s Café. I glared angrily at my mother as she ate a greasy hamburger instead of something healthy.

That night my phone rang at 1:30 in the morning. I never sleep with my phone on but my spidey senses were tingling ever since my mom told me about her chest pains. I jumped out of bed and immediately answered the phone.

“Help! Help! Help!” My mom shouted. “I’m having chest pains, Dad called for an ambulance.”

I grabbed my things and raced down the stairs. I put on my calm demeanor and entered their room. My mom was laying down on the bed while my dad slowly put himself together. At this point I should mention that one of my dad’s peccadillo’s is that you cannot rush him for anything. Ever. Even if someone has died. For instance, my grandmother died and my mom was desperate to get to her house. We just left him behind to get his OCD shit together. Fortunately, on this night he had his shit together by the time the hotel employee arrived with a wheelchair.

Later on, I asked one of the EMTs if he thought my mother was having a heart attack. He looked at me discreetly and shook his head.

We spent the entire next day at the UC Irvine hospital. I had a reservation that morning for my daughter and myself at Goofy’s Kitchen and it broke my heart to tell my husband to take her. I wanted to be there to see the look on her face when the characters appeared. Instead, my husband sent me pictures and I had to go to the bathroom to cry my eyes out. I would be completely absent from her special memory of Disneyland.

I had a constant flow of self-talk with myself that day so as not to get angry with my mother, who was clearly not having a heart attack.

It’s not her fault, I told myself.

But she refuses to take care of herself, despite a family history of heart disease. My inner bitch argued back.

She’s not doing it on purpose. These things are going to happen. Face it, you are going to miss out on some big moments of Lily’s life.

But I’ve been looking forward to this since before she was born!

Welcome to parenthood. Now suck it up. Besides, no trip to Disneyland is complete without some sort of drama.

Grrrrr!

I felt like a bad person for getting upset with my mom. The self talk continued and I kept telling myself not to be an asshole and keep supporting my mom. I’ll be honest though, I’m not the best person to handle these situations. I’m impatient, judgmental and have a low tolerance for frustration. You know, the main qualities you need as an adult. Either of my sisters would have been a much better choice. But they were gone and I was the one there.

My mother took numerous tests that day, but the only firm conclusion was that it was definitely not a heart attack. It was most likely acid reflux. We had one more day before going home and I told my mom to spend it in bed reading and relaxing. Instead, she went with my husband and father on a trip to L.A. while I took Lily to the park by myself.

This is why my sister and I took Lily back to Disneyland three months later without telling anyone but my husband. The trip was much shorter than our previous one, but it was infinitely better and more relaxed. We will certainly be taking many more trips back to Anaheim, but hopefully none will be as memorable as her first.

Growing old ungracefully

A couple of days ago I had an epic fall. I was racing around the house in a frenzy of pizza delivery excitement and my feet betrayed me. I slipped on a step and landed on the ground like a 135ish lb pancake. I would have ended up in the hospital if my hand hadn’t been in the exact spot my head came crashing down on. “Please don’t tell anyone at the pizza place that you saw me fall,” I pathetically begged the delivery guy. It was traumatic and awful and all I have to show for it is a couple of purple spots above my knees.

It felt like one of those falls that happen as you get older and results in hip replacement surgery. Even my nearly 75 year-old father, who witnessed the event, commented that it reminded him of one of his falls. He’s been falling with some frequency of late and, although I never witnessed him fall, it’s scary when I hear they’ve happened. Part of it is scary because you hate to see your parent get so fragile, but part of it is realizing it will be you before you know it.

I’m 42 now and things seem to be going downhill rather rapidly. It takes me forever to recover from injuries and I have to watch my diet like a freaking swimwear model. In my youth I would eat at several fast food joints a day and never gain weight, now I run about 20 miles a week and pray to break even.

I’m a lot like my dad. He got his hearing aids a couple of years ago but my mom insisted he needed them long before that. I have my dad’s same  hearing issues. I, too, suffer the pain of a short attention span combined with an inadequate interest in what most people are saying. I’m luckier than my dad though, I can pretend to follow a conversation better than he can. Sometimes, though, I just stare blankly while trying to decide if I should people to repeat themselves. I may as well say, “slow down sonny, yer talkin’ too fast!” Perhaps I could start whacking things with a cane for emphasis.

While taking pictures of my nose for last week’s post, I went through dozens of pictures of my face and really noticed the (not-so) fine lines around my eyes and mouth. I was hoping the wrinkles could be delayed for a few years if I spent a small fortune on moisturizers and face masks. But we know they don’t really do any good. Ironically, I also have highlights that cover the natural grey so many young women are paying big money to color their hair these days. It’s awesome, they’re dying their hair full-on grey. Perhaps one day wrinkles and saggy boobs will be hip too. 1 Of course the one thing I want to deteriorate (a little) is the one thing taking its damn time. Ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to wear glasses. It’s borderline Body Dysmorphic Disorder – I always felt like my face needed to have them in order to feel complete. I finally just bought some fake glasses and wear them all day at work. I love them so much that I have taken to wearing them at home when I write because it makes me feel more “writerish.” Don’t judge.

So there it is, our eternal human conundrum: The unfortunate consequence of growing up is growing old. Not that I’m in any danger of becoming fully mature – this morning I left a Jenga tower on a co-worker’s desk because I found out she is terrified of the game. Since I’m apparently going to be an immature old person, I’ll try not to be a whiner and remember the adage: Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.