Monday, September 27, 2010

Love Is Blind (And Stupid)

Recently I have been involved in an intervention of sorts with a friend who is (as far as I am concerned) in an abusive relationship. Until last week I would have considered it only emotionally abusive and then he put her in a choke hold and locked her out of the house... but we should start at the beginning.

M broke up with D after a few months of dating and was miserable for weeks. She took him back after a few months apart and they decided to "start fresh". Things went downhill quickly. D would manipulate her feelings so that she blamed herself for any problems in their relationship. She was constantly making changes and working on their relationship, he was doing nothing. She bent over backwards to accommodate him and he kept demanding more. I considered M a strong independent women. She was outspoken and feisty. She loved jumping out of planes and was usually just "one of the guys". After almost a year with D she was just an hollow version of her old self.

I am definitely on the outside looking in and obviously don't know the whole story but it is so frustrating to watch this happen. To start how can someone even allow to be violated in such ways? I understand love and the complexities that come with it so maybe you do forgive. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing in a relationship and people can change for the better. However, when it continues to happen again and again what compels a person to stay?

So back to the intervention. Last week she caught him in a lie and was distraught. A friend and I tried to get her to realize the situation she was in. We sent her a list of signs of emotional abuse and discussed our concerns with her. She finally left him, hooray! right? All seemed well for a few days but now she is back to talking to him and they spent time together on what would have been their one year anniversary. This leaves me with so many questions. How can someone have such low self-esteem and allow to be treated in such a way? Why does love make you so stupid? Once you have called the cops on someone how can you possibly even consider taking them back? And the biggest question of all: How can I help her?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When I Grow Up...

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Children are commonly asked this question and can provide some very entertaining answers. Today I turn 26 and I am farther from childhood than I have ever been, but this question has been on my mind a lot lately. By societal standards I am considered a grown up. I am the owner of my own small but awesome home and with that large but less awesome debt, I am involved in a very grown up relationship, and I took my first "adult" vacation about a year ago. Part of being an adult (and paying off that massive house debt) is having a full time job. Forty hours of my week are spent in a cubicle working along side all the other grown ups. Day after day I find myself wondering is everyone as dissatisfied with their job, is this just part of being an adult? Is it naive to believe I could get paid to do something I love? I know there is no wrong or right answer to this and ultimately these thoughts don't have much to do with this blog... what I am trying to get to is a more relevant issue.

I currently work in a predominantly male field. The career paths I think I would really enjoy are more typically female (teaching, human resources, non-profit work, etc). Obviously, I am not a fan of gender roles and stereotyping but when I think about what I want to be when I "grow up" I get a nagging feeling that I am surrendering if I leave my current field. Part of me wants to be a woman that makes changes and does great things in this male dominated field. I would love to work through the ranks and make the path a little less rocky for younger ladies that come after me. I would really like to mentor other eager female engineers and know that I helped to change some of the stereotypes of this field. The problem is the longer I spend in the field the more I realize this work is just not something I can get into and be passionate about. I will never love my job if I continue doing what I am doing. I need to make a change but I struggle with the feeling that somehow I am letting those stereotypes win... what to do?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines.

Can a 20-something in 2010 relate to the first women to settle in America? Surprisingly after reading this book I can say with no hesitation; most definitely! There are so many elements I loved about this book. The depth of information Gail Collins offers in America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines is amazing, but what helps you really identify with these women is the personal stories interspersed throughout. Collins paints a picture of the typical American women at various points in history but then allows the women to share themselves in their own words through diary entries, notes to friends and family, speeches, and interviews. Throughout the book I found myself shocked at the living conditions, obstacles, and opinions women faced. Sometimes the shock was at how different life used to be and other times the shock was at how little has changed. In many ways we have come so incredibly far in others ways life is no different than it was for the first women sailing over to the New Land. With every positive change women saw new prejudices developed and that continues today.

Collins doesn't just present the history of women but also tells an intriguing story. Every women she chose to highlight was unique, but in so many ways they were all the same. Women throughout history have struggled with body-image, finding husbands, raising families, workplace issues, and on and on. These are the common threads you will find in the pages of Collins' book and your own life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Truly Defines Sexuality?

Case Study 1: I am reading "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides author of "The Virgin Suicides". I am not too far into the book but the concept has already got me thinking. In a nutshell the book is about a Greek-American hermaphrodite. Calliope later known as Cal was raised as a girl. At some point (and this is what I haven't gotten to yet) she discovers she is not in fact female. She then lives out the remainder of her life as a man. Anyone that has just met him would have no doubt he is male. This made me start turning over in my head what truly defines sexuality.

Case study 2: African sprinter, Caster Semenya had to undergo tests to determine her gender after blowing the other competitors out of the water at a competition. It was determined that she was essentially an undeveloped male, though these reports have not been completely confirmed. It was finally decided she could keep the medals she won in the women's sprint races. However, it is still not known if she will be allowed to continue to compete in women's events.

Case study 3: I just finished "Cunt" as mentioned about a week ago. Absolutely loved it! The book was a newly released version of the original. In this version the author added a very lengthy afterword. She addressed a concern she had recieved lots of complaints, emails, letters, and questions about after the book came out. In the book she many times referred to a cunt as being the one thing that ties all women together. No matter our nationalities, our histories, our salaries, our sexual orientation - all women have cunts. Many people from the transgendered community for obvious reason took offense or simply did not agree with this statement. They asked her why she so blatantly left them out. In the Afterword which was the length of probably a third of the original book she first explained why she didn't include trannys (her word not mine). She said she simply didn't think about it, but that this reason didn't make it ok. After getting all these comments she began years of research and began writing this follow up to address the concerns.

So now I wonder... what does make someone a women? In the first two hermaphrodite examples both were raised as female (which is common for hermaphrodites) but one clearly identified as male while the other chose to remain female. A transvestite is physically one gender but emotionally another. And then there is the issue of a complete sex change.

This brings me to my next question. While a man who identifies as a female will face many many hardships and prejudices (and I by no means want to downplay or disregard these). This man was still raised in a male dominated society as a boy. Can this man ever understand the fear of walking the ten feet from your car to your building late at night? Can this man know the loss of freedom that comes with feeling the need to inform friends where you will be and with who when you go out on a date with someone new? Is it our genetics, physical makeup, emotional makeup, or experiences that determine our gender?

Personally, I don't think there is one answer. As with all of life nothing is black and white. I still haven't decided my opinion on this but I have enjoyed pondering it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cunt: A Book Review

Apparently this word is supposed to invoke anger and outrage in me. This is supposedly one of the most offensive words I could be called. I can't say I want to be called this anytime soon, but I have never considered it any worse than other derogatory words. Maybe our culture has just come that much farther since this book was written (1998). Regardless of my feelings about the word, the book Cunt was incredibly thought provoking.

Some things I learned:
  • You can induce a miscarriage naturally. This BLEW MY MIND, there is such thing as essentially a homeopathic abortion. With the right combination of herbs and pelvic massage I could force my body to reject a fetus. If this isn't empowerment I don't know what is.
  • I have new views on feminism and lesbianism to be first more fully defined and then later discussed here on this blog.
  • So much of my life is controlled by white men. So very much of it.
  • Our culture very much supports rape. Rape of women, rape of the land, and sadly rape of our children.
I struggle with what to rate this book. I struggle with even how to describe it. So much was discussed. The bullets above pretty much summarize what I took from it. That might not seem like much but trust me it was very powerful. I kept finding myself looking forward to having some time to read a little farther. I stayed up much later then I should have many nights because I just wanted to read "one more paragraph". Inga Muscio is a great storyteller. I could feel her emotions throughout the book. I could envision myself in the situations she shared. I felt her anger, her happiness, her disdain, and her frustration. Most importantly I learned.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Female Objectification

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wow, I fail...

I decided I was going to go big or go home, I got some new contributors on board (hi Chi!), did a ton of brainstorming (I am good at that) and then of course lost momentum when it came to follow through... no real surprise there.

I plan to be back for real this time. I do have some of what I feel are solid ideas... I also found this book list of essential feminist readings, my goal over the next year or so is to read as many as possible.
So far I have read the following:
2. The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan
(Haven't quite finished, but I have started it multiple times)
8. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used... - Naomi Wolf
(Also haven't finished, I am so bad about reading multiple books at once)
9. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
(See above, I suck at life)
10. Full Frontal Feminism - Jessica Valenti
(Horrible book, see review in a previous blog post)
15. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture - Ariel Levy
(Excellent, highly recommend!)
18. Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power... - Jaclyn Friedman, Jessica Valenti
(My most recent read, will post a review soon)
31. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting Ahead in America - Barbara Ehrenreich
97. The Color Purple - Alice Walker

Eight out of one-hundred isn't a bad place to start... I suppose.

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