3 Reasons Why I Need Feminism (And Why You Do Too)

Last week, I wrote about why you should thank a feminist. I wrote about a few of the incredible things that feminism has accomplished that, more than likely, you and I don’t even think about on a regular basis; things like our right to vote and to an education. What I didn’t write about though are the things feminism still has to change, and why it’s still so important today even with everything we’ve already accomplished.

I Need Feminism
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Rape Culture

One in six American women has been sexually assaulted in her lifetime. That’s a statistic that probably doesn’t surprise much of anyone and we can all agree that rape is an absolutely disgusting crime. And yet, of the rapes which are reported and taken to court, only two percent of rapists will ever spend a day in prison for the crime they committed. And that’s just of those rapes which are reported. An average of 32 percent of sexual assaults are never even reported.

No other crime in America has that low of a conviction rate, and that fact alone is alarming for a crime that destroys so many lives. Largely, this is because of the way our country treats rape victims – immediately asking what they were wearing and whether they’d been drinking rather than how we can help. Even if the victim manages to make a report, the defendant’s counsel will ask her the same questions the police officers did when she reported it; and while that’s understandable – it’s the attorney’s job – the fact that jury members and the media will also ask those questions is not.

Equal Pay

I mentioned in my post on what feminism has accomplished that the gender pay gap has decreased dramatically in recent years. While this is a fantastic accomplishment though, it’s not enough. While the gap varies based on age and state, the average American woman can expect to make $.77 on the $1.00 that their male counterparts make – for the same jobs, with the same level of experience and education, and the same number of hours worked. In case you need a recognizable example of this, Angelina Jolie is the highest paid actress in Hollywood. She makes the same amount of money as the two lowest paid actors. That means that every single actress can expect to be making less than their male counterparts.

Not only that (as though it’s not enough), but when you bring up the gender pay gap an alarming number of people will tell you that it’s a myth, no longer a problem in modern America. In fact, when I turned to Google for statistics the first suggestion that came up, even before the search term I was actually looking for, was “gender pay gap myth.” The fact that we have this gap is enough of a problem, but the fact that nobody believes the problem exists makes it that much more difficult to do anything about it.

Representation

In 2013, of the 535 total members of congress only about 18 percent were female. In news media such as journalism and television news, the number of female employees is dwarfed by the number of (old) white men. Of the 71 countries throughout the world that have been lead by a woman, America is not one. As recent as 2011, only 11 percent of lead characters in movies were female. When you discuss a male politician, you discuss his political views; when you discuss his female counterparts, you discuss how great her arms are or how out of style her suit is. Last week I asked my Facebook friends whether they’d vote for Hilary Clinton as president. Of the seven people who responded, five said absolutely not; and none of them had a single political reason. Instead, they all said she was “crazy” or “terrifying,” with no explanation as to how or why. And finally, the rampant sexism portrayed during the Superbowl – arguably the most popular day for advertising throughout America – has become so well-known that it’s joked about on shows like SNL. Without even watching the Superbowl the other night, I saw four commercials and three of them were centered around naked or half-naked women (as in Carl Jr.’s ad where we’re not even pretending that women are seen as anything but something for men to consume).

For all these reasons and so many more, I need feminism. Because without feminism, we never would have made it this far; and without feminism we won’t move any further. Because I even need to write this post to counteract all the MRAs trolling the Internet talking about men not being allowed to wear dresses. I need feminism because denying that need is like sitting in a pitch dark room trying to read and swearing you don’t need to turn a light on to do it.

But even after all that, I’m sure plenty of men are looking on and thinking well okay, but what do need feminism for? It’s not doing anything for me. But the fact is that without equality, we can never move forward together. Without equal representation and acceptance for both sides, we can never succeed as one great country because we’ll always be engaged in a silent war with one another. You need feminism because every day, feminists fight to break down the gender roles requiring men to never cry or show emotion. Because the LGBTQA community of which feminists are a large part is fighting not only for women but for men as well.

You need feminism because if women are in the dark so are you.

I need feminism

4 Reasons to Thank a Feminist Today

I’ve said before that I cannot fathom how there are people – women especially – who don’t understand the need for feminism. That we’re all equal and all feminists really want is to be above men. It drives me crazy every time I hear or see it, because it feels like a smack in the face to every woman who has ever fought for anything. So today, I want to talk about four things that feminists have done for you, without ever receiving so much as a thank you.

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The Right to Vote

Perhaps the most obvious, feminists are the sole reason behind your right to vote, whether or not you choose to use that right (which, by the way, is another thing I can’t fathom – having absolutely no interest in the men and women leading your country. But that’s a post for another time). Up until 1920, women were not allowed to vote on the basis that they were not as smart or reasonable as men, and therefore were incapable of making such an important decision.

Right now, it may seem incomprehensible that there was ever a time where there was that large a gap in equality between men and women. Something that clear that men were allowed but women were not. The right to vote is a relatively recent one for women though, and without feminists we still would not have it.

Marital Rape

It wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape was illegal throughout all of America, and the campaign to make it illegal hadn’t begun until the 1970’s. Just think about that for a moment – marrying a woman gave a man full legal rights to have sex with her whenever he pleased, regardless of whether or not she wanted to. In a sense, she became his sexual property and to deny that was not recognized by the law.

For many women this may seem like a non-issue, either because you’re either in a loving relationship where your partner would never consider forcing you to do anything, or because you’re sure that you’ll never end up in an abusive relationship (although, for the record, nobody imagines themselves ending up in an abusive relationship. It’s not exactly a planned experience. But again, another post for another time). Just because you are not personally effected by something though, does not make it an unimportant issue and without feminism, there is a chance marital rape would still be legal.

Equal Pay

As of 2014, women throughout America could expect to make roughly 77 percent of what their male counterparts make – in any profession, with any level of education and/or experience. This gap varies from state to state, with women in Washington making roughly 90 percent of what men make, and women in Louisiana making 66 percent of what men earn. For women of color, the gap is even larger. Throughout the country though, the average gap is 77 percent, meaning that women earn roughly $.77 for every $1.00 that men earn. No matter what you may think, and regardless of what you believe your personal experience is, this gap does exist. It is very real, and a huge problem throughout America.

Despite this 23 percent gap though, women have made huge strides in achieving equal pay. Seventy-seven percent is an enormous growth from 1980, when women could expect to earn roughly 60 percent of their male counterparts in any field. Median salaries are not something most people can expect to see on a regular basis. For the most part, none of us know what our coworkers are making; so it can be incredibly easy to dismiss the pay gap as a myth or something that doesn’t effect you. But the fact is that it exists, and feminists are the sole force behind making it smaller.

The Right to an Education

Based on a survey I held towards the end of last year, most of my readers are college-educated women, meaning that you have feminism to thank more than anyone. Women have been attending college for years and today, there are all-female universities throughout the country. That wasn’t always the case though, and despite the fact that women were allowed to attend college, many universities continued to discriminate against women until the early 1970’s when Title IX was passed by President Nixon.

For a lot of people, that signature means very little. It’s something that for the most part, we don’t think very much about and when we do, we consider the sports teams that women were now allowed to play on. Title IX was also responsible for ending gender discrimination by all publicly funded schools and activities, meaning that universities (among other programs) could no longer reject an applicant based solely on their gender, a fact for which I’m willing to bet you’ve never thanked a feminist.

These are just four out of hundreds of reasons, so let me know in the comments or on social media what your reasons are to #ThankAFeminist!

A Few Thoughts, vol. 2

In October, I took a page out of Kelly’s book and decided to start a (apparently rare, since I haven’t written another post in months) series of posts for those thoughts that I can’t quite flesh out into a full-length post, but still want to talk about. Lately my notebook’s been filling up with these ideas again, and while I’d like to hopefully flesh out one or two of these ideas, I’d like to get them out there as much as I can now.

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Freedom of Speech

The Constitution is not your catch-all excuse to be a jackass. You don’t get to cry “freedom of speech” every time someone calls you out on your racist/sexist/homophobic/otherwise offensive and demeaning jokes, particularly when those “jokes” are contributing to a culture which continually puts down and both mentally and physically harms the people they are offensive towards. I can guarantee you that when the Constitution was written, that was not the intention.

I understand that a joke is oftentimes just a joke and that right now, this is probably a particularly controversial topic given recent events in France. However, making incredibly racist statements like “I got arrested for punching someone on New Years Eve. My instincts just kick in when I hear an Arab counting back from 10″ (this was an actual meme posted by one of my Facebook friends over the weekend) does not serve to prove your freedom or assert your right to free speech. What it does is prove is that whether or not you want to admit it, you’re incredibly bigoted and that you have no real understanding of either the Constitution or of relatively current events.

Friends

While watching Friends yesterday, I noticed that the guys’ Etch-a-Sketch changes throughout certain scenes. For example, in a scene I was watching yesterday, it flipped back and forth from “Get out” to “Poop” three times in one scene. Oooo the things you notice when you’re binge-watching Friends on Netflix.

That, and that Ross’s son would be about 20 years old right now. Just sayin’.

Cassandra C.

On Thursday, a Connecticut court ruled that a 17-year-old girl could be taken into state custody (despite having a good mother who had done absolutely nothing wrong), sedated, and tied to a hospital bed so as to receive cancer treatment she did not want.

Many people in support of the court’s decision to forcefully treat Cassandra are saying that she’s only 17 and therefore, a child in the eyes of the law. I’ll look over the fact that at 17, if Cassandra had committed a violent crime she’d be tried as an adult and that also at 17, she’s expected to be deciding what she wants to do for the rest of her life. If the overwhelming opinion is that she is an incompetent child unable to make her own medical decisions (which, later this year, you’ll all decide that she is magically capable of making on the day of her 18th birthday), then that would leave the decision up to her mother who also rejected chemotherapy, in accordance with her daughter’s wishes. Just because you do not agree with someone’s medical decisions does not mean you get to reject those decisions and replace them with your own.

Cassandra’s body is Cassandra’s body. Not her doctors’. Not Child Protective Services’. Not the state’s. Hers and hers alone which in America should be more than enough to mean that she gets to determine her own medical treatment. Even if the doctors are right that without this treatment, Cassandra will die in two years, that’s her decision to make.

Forcing treatment on someone who doesn’t want it is assault and a ridiculous violation of basic human rights, and I just cannot fathom why we need to be having this discussion in America. Why the doctors were ever able to call CPS and have Cassandra taken away from the only family she has. And why ultimately, the court sided with those doctors.

Crying Wolf

Obviously, I’m an outspoken feminist. It’s something I write about consistently on this blog, and regularly debate or discuss on social media and with people in my life. However, I recognize that there are limits to the things you will hear me say or do for that cause.

One thing that I see done constantly which I believe is hurting the case is feminists who speak out – loudly and with refusal to hear any opposing opinion – about “sexist” problems that frankly, just don’t exist (see: autocorrect is not out to propagate a misogynistic culture). While I understand the basic purpose of pointing out misogyny and sexism in everyday life (and absolutely agree with it!), finding sexism everywhere – even where it isn’t – only serves to make people stop listening (and is probably making you pretty miserable).

I am all for discussing any and all feminist issues – big or small – because they are all problems within our society which contribute to a much larger problem of continuing to hold men up over women. However, there has to be a line somewhere that people stop crossing just to discuss issues. Just to hold something up and call it sexism. The more you cry out about non-issues, the more people will decide that feminism must not be very serious because all of the issues you’re bringing up don’t exist. And that is a serious problem. 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

I’m (slowly) working on reading this book, and while I’m really enjoying learning more about myself and that I’m certainly not the only introvert in the world (it can sometimes feel that way), I’m also becoming a little discouraged.

Susan Cain does a fantastic job of discussing the amazing achievements of introverts throughout American history, and of the contributions we make to society, but none of that can mask the fact that, despite all of that, introverts are not only undervalued but avoided in mainstream society. In fact, Cain discusses a relatively long history of introverts being “bad” because they don’t want to spend every waking moment in the company of others, being deemed antisocial and therefore unhirable. We teach children that to not want to socialize is to be unsuccessful, and that position carries into our post-graduate lives when we start applying and interviewing for jobs in offices.

While I truly am enjoying Cain’s book (slowly, because it is filled with research and can be a little difficult to get through in a regular reading sort of way) and the things I’m learning from it, and I recognize that she can’t change the reality of the situation, the book is a little more disappointing than I’d been hoping for. In short, I’m still struggling with my identity as an introvert more than I’d been hoping I would after reading this book.

Feminism in 2014: What Feminism Accomplished in One Year

It’s that time of month again, and I couldn’t be more excited to be taking the F-Word Link-Up into 2015. Kelly first e-mailed me about starting this project back in August, and I’ve had so much fun with it since then, and with getting to read all of the great posts you link up with us each month. So to celebrate making it to our sixth month of this link-up, today I want to talk about what happened for feminism in 2014.

For years, feminists have had to prove themselves throughout the world – prove their necessity, prove their purpose, prove what they aren’t… With voting rights achieved, women all over the world working outside the home, and important changes in the law, it seems like modern feminists are constantly trying to convince the rest of the world that our presence is still necessary. Explaining that even with these incredible accomplishments, the world is still far behind in terms of making sure women aren’t left behind can seem impossible sometimes, but these advances in gender equality throughout the last 12 months have served as substantial proof of that continued need.

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No Photoshop

In January, the popular lingerie chain Aerie announced their decision to stop retouching their models. They were the first American business of their kind to make this decision, and were met with support from all over the country as women began to see more realistic body representations in advertising for that company. While the women featured in these ads are still considered beautiful by conventional standards, and are likely much thinner than a great majority of women, the vow to stop photoshopping women’s bodies for magazines is a giant step towards body positivity.

#YesAllWomen

In May, feminists everywhere took to Twitter armed with this hashtag and explained that while not all men rape, harass, or otherwise suppress women, all women have experienced these things at one time or another. In less than a week, the hashtag reached the top of the charts with nearly two million total tweets, educating people everywhere on one of the primary reasons for feminism in modern society.

Emma Watson

The United Nations named Emma Watson a Goodwill Ambassador in July of this past year, placing her alongside Nicole Kidman, Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, and Farhan Akhtar, meaning that the board is made up of three women and one man. Watson immediately accepted this honor and took to the UN to deliver a powerful speech on what feminism is and why we need it – regardless of whether you are a man or a woman.

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox became the first transgender actress to receive an Emmy nomination in July, when she was nominated for her continued (and incredible) performance as Sophia in Orange is the New Black. She then went on to spend the rest of the year showing the world what an incredible woman she is.

Malala Yousafzai

In October, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, as acknowledgement for the incredible work she’s done in fighting for the rights of Middle Eastern girls to receive an education. This was an amazing stand for a teenage girl in Pakistan to take when she’s surrounded by people in charge telling her that, because she is a girl, she does not need or deserve an education, and it’s a stand that didn’t go unpunished. Since then though, Yousafzai has continued advocating for girls’ educational rights throughout the world, and the Nobel Committee recognized that this past year.

Congress

Despite democratic complaints of having lost their advantage in congress, the 2014 Midterm Elections this past November made history. In the upcoming congressional term, just over 100 women will be serving – a record high and an incredible accomplishment for women in Congress.

Lammily Doll

Also in November, the world finally saw a realistic alternative to Barbie – Lammily, a doll modeled after real girls and women, providing a healthy body image for girls to look up to.

Feminism in the Media

Several women in Hollywood took to their typewriters and published feminist memoirs, like Amy Poehler’s Yes PleaseOther well-known women, like Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Ellen Page spoke out about their identity as feminists, and in Page’s case as a member of the LGBTQA community. When an anonymous group hiding behind the Internet released hundreds of illegally obtained nude photos of (primarily female) members of Hollywood, actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, who was targeted in the attack, took the opportunity to speak out about sexual assault which gets glorified rather than punished oftentimes, a fact for which she was not willing to apologize.

So now I want to know – what important strides did feminists everywhere take this year that I didn’t mention in this post? Or on the other end, what setbacks do you think we suffered?

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Sexist Media Beyond the Mad Men Era

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Elle and I talk a lot about feminism, sexism, and everything in between.  But one thing neither of us have mentioned too much is how the media contributes to that.  The media is such a huge part of our culture though that it only stands to reason that something which is so pervasive in our daily lives would be rampant on TV, in advertising, and online.

In fact, I’d argue that sexism in the media is a big reason behind sexism in our daily lives because, believe it or not, advertising and the media do affect how you look at the world around you (I know, I know. You’re impervious to advertising. You don’t notice it and it has absolutely NO effect on your daily habits or beliefs).  From the time we’re children, we’re bombarded with advertisements, TV shows, movies, tabloid covers, and everything in between telling us that women are good for one thing above all else: sex.  Somehow though, that same thought process doesn’t apply to men.  You could flip through a magazine and find plenty of examples of women being degraded, but almost none of men, and this fact shows in our cultural norms and beliefs.

As far as the media goes, we’ve come a long way in recent years, and if you don’t believe that just watch one episode of Mad Men and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Still though, we have a long way to go – and the reason most people don’t realize that is because it has become so normalized over time so that we can’t even see it when it’s right in front of us.

These examples though, show exactly how far advertising has gone in using sexism to promote their products.

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BMW
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PETA
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Burger King

So what about you? What sexist ads or other parts of the media have you shocked that they made it out of the advertising office? Do you think these ads have an effect on our culture, or the other way around?

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Feminist Role Models

feminist role modelLast month when Elle and I started trying to think of topics for this month’s link-up, I started to wonder what had gotten us both where we are: writing about feminism and other things we feel strongly about on a regular basis.  What inspired us to action on this point, and made us believe what we do?  I started to wonder about our role models, and those of all the other women who share with us in this link-up each month.

It was a difficult topic to write on, because there are so many women I look up to: Harriet Tubman, Malala Yousafzai, Hermione Granger (because fictional or not, she was awesome) and her real-life counterpart Emma Watson, Hillary Clinton… Each of these women has something I can’t help but look up to: an undying motivation, strength to do what so few women have, or an undying belief that we all deserve something.

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The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that my role models are the men and women who stand up for what they believe in, and nothing makes me think of that more than the women who first fought for our rights in this country and in so many others.  Without those women who started the battle for feminism, I don’t know where we’d be today, what we’d be fighting for.  They stood up when no one before them had, when there was no precedent to work off of or role models to look up to.  They fought for our most basic rights and without that, we wouldn’t be here today fighting for the end of more ingrained inequalities and injustices.

These women – the first-wave feminists and suffragettes in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s – are my role models because without them, I don’t know where we’d be right now or what we’d be fighting for.

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A Few Thoughts, vol. 1

Today, I’m taking a book out of Kelly’s book and writing a sort of summary of the blog posts I’d like to write, but can’t seem to put into words. These are post ideas I’ve had floating around my notebooks, Evernote, and WordPress drafts for months, but I can’t seem to write them out fully.

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Is College Worth It

It wasn’t until recently that I ever questioned the worth of my college education, or whether I’d change it if I could.  I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t know I’d be going to college one day, even though I’d be the first in my family.  All the money I knew I’d owe one day seemed somehow not quite real, and of course the things I’d learn would be worth it.  The importance of having a college degree seemed undeniable to be honest, so questioning its worth never even occurred to me.

That was, until last month when I received my first loan statement and realized that my monthly loan payments are more than I pay in rent each month (and I honestly wish that were an exaggeration.)  Staring down these last few weeks before I have to make that first payment, I’ve questioned more and more whether getting a college degree was worth it, and I know I’m not the only one.  Last month, Philadelphia Magazine thought it was a big enough question to warrant an entire issue dedicated to it, and more and more students are electing to go right from high-school graduation to working full-time.

I know that the four years I spent as a college student made me an entirely different person, and that the education I gained is worth more than words can say; to the point where, if I were to run into my 14-year-old self today I might hardly recognize her or the opinions she holds, and that’s something I wouldn’t give up for the world. But looking down the barrel of nearly $100,000 in debt, I wonder if I wouldn’t have experienced the same changes or become the same person without a university to guide me there.

But for all this doubt, it’s also undeniable that a college diploma garners you something. That 90 percent of my co-workers have college degrees, and even people with a diploma are having trouble finding a job today. Without a degree, even if I were the same person, where would I be? Would the lack of debt make it worth it?

What Do Rap Lyrics Even Mean?

But honestly though, I can’t remember very many rap songs where I thought “now that is a great message” or even, if not a great message, at least that there was one there (well, other than the not-so-subliminal message that being gay is the crime of the century, drugs are the best thing you could do with your life, and women exist solely for your sexual pleasure).  Over the last couple months, I’ve spent a few nights in the university’s art studio with my roommate, listening to the rap that a classmate of hers plays loudly and incessantly for hours at a time.

And do you know what I realized?  I could not tell you the “meaning” behind a single one of the songs that student played; and I think that’s my problem with rap.  I’ve always believed that music reflects us as human beings, and that there has never been a single moment in history that music did not permeate.  I believe that music is our way of thinking, of sharing, and of learning and that all good music has something to it, some meaning to be felt or new idea to be thought through.

I don’t know that I’d enjoy the style even if were a different topic being sung about, but my biggest problem is that there’s no point to rap; that is, unless your idea of a “point” is to encourage high-school guys to treat women like shit. Am I missing something, or is there really not a theme to any rap music?

On Confidence

Okay, let’s be honest: every single person in the world suffers with a lack of confidence in themselves. I can guarantee you that even President Obama and Beyonce have moments where they’re unsure, think they’re not good enough, or imagine that everyone they know can’t stand them.

Somehow though, for women a lack of confidence is an expectation and at the same time, something we are constantly telling little girls is “unattractive.”  We plaster the media with unachievable goals in the form of photoshopped models and insane success stories about that one 14-year-old in back-woods Ohio who started her own business without any sort of an education to help her along. We tell girls and women all the ridiculous pedestals they’re supposed to step up onto and, when they’re unsure of their ability to reach our expectations for them, we tell them that their lack of confidence in themselves is unattractive.  On the same token though, a woman who is confident in her abilities and her appearance is full of herself.

While a lack of confidence is something everyone in the world suffers from, boys and men are not expected to suffer from it.  A 24-year-old man who brags about his accomplishments is confident and enviable where a woman bragging of the same accomplishments is full of herself and vain.

You are More than Beautiful

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Over the last several years, campaigns focused on the beauty in every woman have started to pop up everywhere.  Dove has made an incredible advertising campaign out of the idea, regularly using their brand to make every woman feel better about herself.  In 2009, Caitlin Boyle founded Operation Beautiful, an organization founded on the idea that every woman is beautiful and deserves to know it.

It’s an idea that’s as pervasive in our society as it’s counterpart – the idea that beauty is a level that only certain women have risen to; and it’s an idea I’m certainly not immune to (the number I’m constantly hoping to see on a scale and the three outfits I try on each morning before settling for one are proof of that).  I think it’s an amazing campaign, and I love the idea that every woman is beautiful – because she is.

But here’s the problem with that thought: beauty is entirely subjective and doesn’t say much about a person beyond their ability to appear physically attractive enough to meet someone’s vague standards. “Beautiful” does nothing to define the absolutely hilarious jokes you tell, or how amazing of a friend you are. “You’re beautiful” does not define your accomplishments or your strength. “Beautiful” does not define you. 

Tweet: beauty is entirely subjective and doesn't say much about a person beauty is entirely subjective and doesn’t say much about a person

From a young age, girls are taught that “beautiful” is one of the best things they could ever hope to be. The media depicts women swooning over men who tell them just how lovely that dress looks on them, and of female powerhouses like Hillary Clinton being decried because her suit isn’t in style this year.  Most channels are inundated with makeup ads and beauty products promising that you’ll look 30-years-old until the day you die, and weight loss regimens “guaranteed to help you lose those last five pounds.”  Rarely do you see men complementing their dates on a meaningful conversation, or a television show encouraging young girls to pursue their dreams of working in politics.

As women, as human beings, we are so much more than a frankly meaningless observation about our appearance.  We are smart, talented, driven, human.  We are powerful and strong, and beauty is far from the most we will ever amount to.  Of course we are beautiful, and having the person you love tell you that is an amazing feeling.  But first and foremost, I’d rather we strive to be admired for our wit or our strength, complemented for the amazing ideas we bring to a conversation or the lengths we will go to in order to help a friend.

I’d rather teach girls and women to strive towards those things than towards a level of attractiveness that the media defines as beauty.

Why “I Don’t Want Kids” is not Your Cue to Say “Yes You Do”

I can’t remember the first time I was asked how many children I want.  But I can remember the last time, and the several-hundred times before that, by every family member and most friends.  The question is a close-second only to “so are you seeing anyone yet,” which is of course, another favorite.

As a woman, you can probably easily answer the question of which of your friends most want children, because it’s a conversation you’ve all had several times.  Family members, friends, and sometimes people you hardly know all want to know how many children you’ll one day pop out, whether or not you’ve expressed any interest in doing just that.  And as someone who can say I personally don’t want kids, my response usually elicits plenty of well-intentioned insinuations that I simply don’t know what I want.

don't want kids

But what if your future husband wants kids?

My favorite thing about this question is the idea that I’ll never have any sort of an important conversation with my husband-to-be before our wedding day.  I don’t know about you, but personally – if a relationship is getting serious – conversations about marriage, where we want to live, and yes, children, will come up.  If by the time I’m ready to get married I still don’t want children, I can guarantee that’s a conversation I’ll have had with my boyfriend; and if he does want children, there’s a good chance we won’t be getting married.

And while I understand that love is a thing, and sometimes you don’t fall in love with the person you’d like to, I also know that certain things about my life are incredibly important.  Of course there are some things you have to sacrifice in a marriage -where to eat dinner, what to do on Friday night, even where you live.  But something as big as having children – something that is going to completely change your life – is a deal-breaker for most people, including myself.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that I will not marry a man who desperately wants children if I desperately do not.  And if you pose that question one more time, I’m going to flip the coin and point out that maybe you’ll fall for a man who doesn’t want children.

You’ll change your mind.

This has always been my favorite (most infuriating) argument, because it’s as though I’m a 5-year-old who can’t decide what she wants to dress up as for Halloween this year.  Maybe you’re right – maybe I will change my mind some day down the line.  But that’s my mind to change, and as someone who’s been told this more times than she can count, take it from me that it is disgustingly and humiliatingly patronizing to be immediately told that your opinion is invalid because it’ll change at some point in the next 10 years.

I am NOT a child.  I do not need for your immediate response to my choice about my life to be “well, you’ll change your mind and agree with me one day.”  You can not know that.  “My former co-worker’s friend’s niece’s daughter used to say she didn’t want kids and now she has triplets!” is not proof that I will change my mind.  It is proof that people change and evolve and sometimes, that means that certain major life decisions change.

Well what if you…you know…get pregnant?

Based on other comments I get, you’d think these people are of the opinion that I am myself still a child.  Which is funny, considering that they’re trying to convince me to get pregnant and have babies.  But seriously, do we live in a dystopian (or Tea Party dominated) society where birth control, condoms, and abortion are all illegal?

While I understand that no form of birth control and safety precautions are an absolute sure thing, I can say with a pretty damn high level of certainty that if I don’t want to get pregnant, and I take the necessary precautions, I won’t get pregnant.  Again, just because your co-workers sister’s best friend’s cousin got pregnant at 22 when she didn’t want children, does not mean the same thing will happen to me.  And no, I don’t want to hear your statistics about all the unwanted pregnancies in America.

But thanks for the vote of confidence.  Or was that just a mild threat?

Isn’t that kind of selfish?

To not bring another unwanted child into a world filled with unwanted and unhoused children?  I don’t think so, but maybe we have different definitions of selfish. Doesn’t this sentiment kind of suggest that a woman’s only purpose is to have children, and that if she chooses not to, that’s the “wrong” choice? Believe it or not, I don’t find making my own choices about my own life to be selfish in the least bit, especially considering that this particular decision is not effecting anybody but me.

So what about you? Do you want kids, and if not – what fun responses have you heard to that decision?

The F Word: The Power of Language

The Power of Language

We’ve all heard it said before: “man up,” “that’s so gay,” “don’t be such a girl….”  And for the most part, it just seems like pieces of our language, phrases that mean no harm.  You pick these words up in middle-school, and they become a part of your vocabulary in the same way that SAT prep words and the lines to your favorite songs do.

You’ve seen me say before that “no matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”  Not to get too communication major on you, but language is the entire basis of our culture.  It’s how we communicate, how we get a handle on the things we want and need.  It’s how we provide social contact for ourselves, and help for others.  Without language, our society would be an incredibly lonely one: we wouldn’t be able to know or be close to anybody.

So it only makes sense that of course these phrases mean something, however insubstantial and meaningless they may seem.  They all came from somewhere, from a more sexist, racist, hateful world than the one we currently live in.  They’re reminders of a time when Mad Men were real, and somehow managed to trickle down into our everyday language all these years later.

Without our ever meaning for them to, phrases like “man up,” have an impact on our culture, and the way we view our roles in society.  We say “man up,” because at one time, women couldn’t be expected to handle anything beyond the house-duties.  We say “that’s so gay” because being gay was (and in some parts of society, still is) considered to be an awful thing, something to be ashamed of.

Changing our language seems small, especially when there are bigger problems like marriage and pay equality to be concerned with, but language is our basis.  It’s where we start from each day, and unless it matches our beliefs, we can’t be expected to move forward.